EXPOSED!! Top Govt Officials Brought Foreigners To Build Colonies, Not Ranches Dr. Bala Takaya
Shortly before his demise, the former President of the Middle Belt Forum, the late Dr. Bala Takaya, spoke on a live Television Continental programme, ‘The platform,’ anchored by the Chairman of Editorial Board, The Nation, Sam Omatseye, on the security situation in the country. Excerpts:
I want to start by asking you your sense of the recent incidents of killings, herdsmen, Fulani herdsmen as some people would prefer to call it and the locals around the middle belt. What is your sense of what is going on right now?
Well, Sam, it’s a very sad situation that is happening in the middle belt region. Something we never expected is happening. We understand by the pronouncements of government officials, particularly the security agencies that some foreigners are crossing our borders with sophisticated weapons and it is they that are coming to despoil our people, to kill our people in their sleep, to chase our people out of their farms, to destroy their farm crops and feed the harvested ones to their animals. And they are behaving with impunity, something we never expected. Things of this nature are happening over and over – in Adamawa, in Nasarawa, in Taraba, in Kaduna, Southern Kaduna, recurringly – shed blood as if there is anything that they have done that is criminal. These people are not beyond us. Like has been demonstrated in Numan and other places. They are not beyond us but the government is always not interested in us defending ourselves. There is a clear example that we can defend ourselves successfully when Boko Haram invaded northern Adamawa and Borno areas. The local hunters with their dane guns and double barrel guns together with the help of the youths were able to roll back the Boko Haram and liberated the cities that they took over. And it was after our people were able to do that that the military who ran away came back and then recognised the fact that the vigilantes are good. But what did we hear? Later on, they began to say the vigilantes should be disarmed. Disarmed to do what? So that our people would now remain empty-handed and easy prey? And now after the present administration demonstrated some possibility that it could roll back Boko Haram each time there is an incident of this nature, sometimes MACBAN would come and own responsibility and begin to accuse the local community and even suggest that the killing is deserved like the 70 people that were mowed down in Benue, MACBAN said they deserved it because this is their response to the anti-grazing law. And how can a people go and kill human beings because they are protesting against a law when there are clear methods of settling disputes of this nature. Why can’t they take the government to court if they think that what the government is doing is wrong? And why even promise that more killings are coming unless that law is rescinded? Can anything like this happen in a civilised country? And therefore, there are people behind this. And security agencies are not asking questions. I believe they also read the MACBAN stories. Why shouldn’t they go and call MACBAN to come and explain?
Do you think that the MACBAN men or officers should be prosecuted for what they said? Do you think they have become complicit?
Of course if you have a security breakdown of this nature involving lives concerned, nobody should be spared. Everybody that has some remote connection should be properly interrogated to be absolved or be inculpated.
The issue that it is foreign bororos that are doing these things is a point that you have been stressing. I want you to clarify if there is actually a distinction between the foreigners that are coming and the locals? Is it that the foreigners do the damage and the locals just look the other way or there is some kind of complicity?
I may not rule out the possibility of complicity in certain areas because this is a complicated relationship altogether among them. But the local Fulani, we have lived with them for hundreds of years very peacefully. Normally, the local Fulanis would move, identify a community land where they can graze and they would go to the chief of the community and request for permission to graze their cattle around that community when the land is not under cultivation, and or to graze on the offal of the cultivated crops. And when the land is needed during the rainy season, they move apart. And we have co-operated in that manner such that they depend on us for the crops that we produce, they supply cattle products like milk and butter and also the cattle droppings which is considered useful as manure for the crops. By arrangement they would raise their cattle on our land during the fallow period so that the manure can fertilise those lands and when we need the land, they would move away. They also send their children to the schools that we go. And some of their children today are civil servants, some of them are professors in even veterinary medicine (in) faculties in universities, some of them are medical doctors and some of them are even local government officials.
Now, you’ve said something very interesting. The question now is, who are these people in the north who are doing it? I heard a story that in those days, the Fulanis who were herdsmen tended to move from place to place and they saw it as their lifestyle and they passed it to their children and then to their children’ children and it became so over generations. But what happened in the intervening years has been the encroachment of capitalism where some people had a lot of money, had to get a lot of cattle and therefore employ fewer herdsmen. So, this has put a lot of the families and the herdsmen out of jobs and they have become of no use to themselves and the society and they’ve become angry. And that has created part of the problems that these so-called cattle capitalists have become the source of this problem. How would you assess that argument?
The analysis may not be too correct though there may be some facts behind it. The truth is the influx of the Fulani is not as a result of any local businessman or bourgeoisie acquiring more cows and putting the local ones out of business. No. if anything, the local acquisitions opened opportunities for the families of the local Fulani to take care of the cows that are bought by the local bourgeoisie. Instead, what is happening is that there is a lot of influx from across the border because desertification meant that they lost their cattle out there because you cannot graze cows on sand. You need grass, you need water. And the drought which they helped in creating by chopping down trees and damaging the surface of earth has made it difficult for their cattle to multiply. On the other hand, our local Fulani politicians who don’t have the numbers when it comes to the electoral contest want to populate their own kind by bringing them from Mali to come and settle them in Nigeria without following due processes. There is an ECOWAS protocol of movement of persons. They do not follow that. There is a natural method of how people can migrate into other countries and naturalise. They don’t want to follow that. Instead, they want to bring them in concentrated forms and house them or settle them in some kind of colonies. And when you talk about colonies, colony by nature is a settlement of persons that are loyal to somewhere else but not to the local community. And which will therefore spread their influence and take control of the local place that they have settled. This is my understanding of it from political science point of view. And I believe this is the analysis that fits into the situation that we are facing today. It’s a matter of politics. But that government looks the other way worries me.
So, you’re saying earnest that it is absence of water that has caused this problem because of the desert encroachment and the death of their cattle. Because many of their cattle are now dead, they’ve become homeless, they become jobless so they have no cattle anymore. So, they are now looking for what to do with their lives and their idleness have been taken advantage of by the northern politicians
Do we owe them responsibility in Mali or in Chad or in Niger? This is their country. Nigeria is Nigeria for Nigerians. The Fulani that have chosen to settle in Nigeria are Nigerians and we have taken good care of them. And they are doing very well. Why should the politicians among them now begin to think of populating their numbers by bringing such persons from those countries in order to settle them? I mean, Israel is a country in the desert. It’s one of the countries with the largest herds of cattle in the world. It produces beef and exports to Europe beyond what it can use at home. And they are desert areas. They are not more desert than Niger. They are not more desert than Mali. They are not more desert than Chad. Why can’t Chadians, Malians and Nigeriens find a way of raising their cattle the way the Israelis do? Why can’t they tap the groundwater? Why can’t they formulate the cattle fields the way that they are doing in advanced countries? Why is Australia not crossing into Nigeria to come and graze their cows on our grass? Australia is a desert area just like Chad. Why are they not running away from Australia?
What you’re saying in earnest sir, is that the argument being advanced by those in the north, including the recent argument by the minister of defence that the building of infrastructure, the building of roads and the occlusion of the routes that the herdsmen usually took in the past was the cause of the problem is actually a red-herring. You’re saying that that is not the real problem. The real problem is that these people who come from outside the country have no jobs and they have been taken advantage of by the politicians to populate the area. So the problem is not that they are looking for grazing routes. The problem is that they are criminals and jobless people who politicians are taking advantage of.
That’s my take exactly.
How popular is that your take among the elites in the middle belt, in Adamawa, in Plateau, in Benue. Is it a position they hold?
That’s the explanation that we can only have for what is happening. And that is why we are being cleansed out of our own land so that our land can be freed up for these people. That is my own take on it. And I believe that the politicians that are doing that also seem too have so much influence over government that government cannot use its security structures and powers to control the influx of these people and look the other when our people are being killed. That is my position.
So, does that not contradict the necessity for the anti-grazing law because it is not an issue of grazing or not grazing because those who want to graze and who are prevented from grazing are actually not the problem. Because the problem are people who are not even grazing at all but idle men with Ak-47 who are hiding in the bushes
Precisely, but it doesn’t negate the anti-grazing law. The anti-grazing law is a law that modernises cattle breeding. Anti-grazing law would enable the local Fulani who asks for permission to get some swathes of land to settle on by our communities, to own and certificate these lands in forms of ranches so that during the dry season they don’t have to move far away, during the rainy season they don’t have to move faraway. They would stay in one place and we would have quality beef. And we will have quality cattle products. And in the process, the cattle economy would be more productive for Nigeria. And when our local Fulani are properly settled, they would be adding value to Nigeria, not killing their host the way that the foreigners are doing now.
So that means the crises has nothing to with grazing. That’s what I want you to clarify. It means that the crises of killings in the middle belt, in Benue, in Plateau, in Adamawa, in Taraba, the killings have nothing to do with grazing. It has to do with criminals running rampant in the bushes around the north. So, why are we talking about ranching? Why are we talking about colonies when the problem has nothing to do with that?
Ranching and colonies are two different issues. Ranching came about as a solution to the open grazing which they are hiding behind. And they are hiding behind the fact that because the local Fulani also move a little bit apart from the communities they are settled whenever the land is required for cropping. And therefore, the people that have created this situation for us are hiding behind this fact that the Fulani that are coming are coming in transhumance to pass through grazing routes and they need some lands of their own to settle in pure type, not with our communities this time. But the cattle Fulani that are ours settled by us have been part and parcel of our communities. In local government elections, in national elections, they participate. But what the miscreants that are trying to import criminals to come and settle them in pure type in various states want is some kind of colonies which is different from ranches. They want to create colonies. It is not the cattle that matters but a settlement for the people that they are bringing over. And they would now use federal government resource of Nigeria resources to build infrastructures for them, to build roads for them, to build facilities for them. These things that have never been provided for our local people, they want to do that for the criminals that are coming from outside without proper documentation. So, why should Nigeria do that kind of thing to itself? So, the issue of colony is different from ranching. And if the Nigeriens or Malians or whatever that come, if they come legally and they still want to do cattle business, they can behave like our local cattle Fulani and acquire animals and settle by our communities and they can put them under ranch, not necessarily in concentrated form to colonise 5, 000 hectares or something like that in each state. That is larger than most local government areas. And that is acquisition or expropriation of people’s lands without explanation. And cattle economy is a business, cattle rearing is business, why should other peoples’ land be taken away for somebody else’s business? Why should federal government money be used to develop piece of land for the business of somebody else? And to the disadvantage of former local owners? These are some of the questions that are being asked.
Now, the question is, when the president met with some elders of Benue State and he said, let them accommodate their countrymen, he couldn’t have been referring to foreigners. So was the president not aware that this is a problem fomented by foreigners or did he believe that the people who were Tiv or who were locals were the ones doing the damage?
My understanding is that the president was not even well educated about what was going on and he was not even aware probably that…
He owns cattle.
He owns cattle but they are in a ranch
But, he is in the business
Why should other Fulani like him not ranch their own? Is it because they are not president? Is it because they are not elite? And he is not aware at that time that he met with the elders, he was not aware that the people causing trouble for Nigeria were the invaders, the infiltrators, the criminals from across the border. The Sultan of Sokoto drew the attention of security and the government in a very subtle manner to show them that those who are doing the killings, serial killings and mass killings in the middle belt are foreigners that have crossed the border, not the local Fulani that are settled with us.
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