Since the Asaba declaration against open grazing in the southern part of the country by the governors, many have expressed their views. CHIDI UGWU writes on the words of advice for the governors and other stakeholders by former President Goodluck Jonathan on the matter.
There is no gainsaying that the growing crisis resulting from open cattle grazing in Nigeria calls for interventions from elder statesmen and people of goodwill across the country.
The system of open grazing practice in the last few years has triggered conflicts between host communities and migrant herders, leading to several deaths in many states.
It has also led to the loss of properties worth millions of Naira and food shortages due to neglect of farmlands and the destruction of crops.
The common way through which open grazing is done in Nigeria is that cattle are taken through thousands of kilometres in search of forage by herders who are allegedly armed in recent times.
This practice often results in conflicts between farmers whose crops are often destroyed by marauding cattle and the herders whose concerns are the welfare of the cattle.
Several efforts have been made by stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the conflicts to no avail, as the situation appears to be getting out of hand. However, penultimate week, the governors of 17 states in Southern Nigeria resolved to ban open grazing of cattle in their states.
The ban was part of the 12 resolutions reached by the governors at their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
Following the incessant conflict, between herders and communities, the southern governors held a four hours meeting in Asaba recently.
In a 12-point communiqué read by its Chairman, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, at the end of the meeting where the governors agreed that open grazing should be banned.
They affirmed that the people of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity, and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.
The governors said the incursion of armed herders, criminals, and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives.
They, therefore, resolved “that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria; noted that development and population growth has put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South.
Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot).
The controversy that followed is threatening to tear the country apart digging up ethnic sentiments and forcing stakeholders to toe regional lines in their actions.
If there are issues affecting one or two states, I think the governors should see how they can collectively come with a way to address those issues
Southern governors’ position did not go down well with some notable northerners with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, immediately rising in defense of herders saying the decision to ban open grazing by southern states is unconstitutional.
Also, Babangida Aliyu, the former Niger State governor, described the southern governors’ declaration as ‘overreacting’.
As the tension keeps rising, former President Goodluck Jonathan has again risen to the occasion to say that the Nigeria Governors Forum remains the best platform to discuss issues affecting Nigeria.
Addressing journalists in Benin recently, former President Jonathan said the antagonism between governors was uncalled for, stressing that the coming together of all the governors in a round table to discuss and proffer solutions to issues affecting Nigeria would help President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Governors themselves should continue to meet, I don’t really love a situation where the Northern governors will meet then the Southern governors will cry foul. Then the Southern governors will meet then the Northern governors will cry foul, that will not help our country,” Jonathan said, stressing that the coming together of all the governors in a round table to discuss and proffer solutions to issues affecting Nigeria would help the President.
“If there are issues affecting one or two states, I think the governors should see how they can collectively come with a way to address those issues,” he added.
Many Nigerians believe that former President Goodluck Ebelle Jonathan’s wisdom did not come with age but with experience. Jonathan’s popular cliché: “my ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian” has become part of Nigeria’s lexicon.
The Otueke born former President has come to be known to speak when tension is at the peak or at the boiling level.
In 2015, Jonathan made the congratulatory call that brought calm and tranquillity during the election that ushered in Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Analysts say that by making the call the former President saved Nigeria a great deal of pain. If the PDP had insisted they won the election and the APC said the same the country would have been in chaos. Lives would have been lost and properties destroyed. That call showed that in Nigeria, people can still put the country first.
He has taken his peace effort to other African countries where there are crises to mediate for peace under the auspices of various international organisations. Such peace initiatives have earned him international recognition, applause and awards.
Former President Jonathan was honoured as the African Peace and Security Leader of the Year 2020 by UK-based African Leadership magazine early this year. He was among the African leaders who were honoured by the UK-based African Leadership Magazine for his outstanding contributions to peace in the continent.
“Today, at the 9th edition of the African Leadership Person of the Year Awards, I was honoured as the African Peace and Security Leader of the Year 2020. I thank African Leadership Magazine for recognising my modest contributions to peace in Africa.
The award presented to him during the virtual investiture ceremony titled: ‘Intentional Leadership: Rethinking Development Priorities in Africa” is not the first time the former president would be honoured for playing a similar role.
He was awarded in 2015 by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) as its “Peace-Loving Global Citizen” for his decision to accept the result of the 2015 Presidential poll.
Since he lost out of the 2015 presidential race, Mr. Jonathan has embarked on different peacekeeping missions to countries in the continent, one of which was his appointment by ECOWAS to head its mediation mission to Mali after a military coup.
Besides, the former president has also visited many African nations on Election Observation Mission for the Commonwealth, African Union, National Democratic Institute, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) since he left office.
He led the 2019 African Union (AU) continental body’s Election Observation Mission to Mozambique and Tanzania, a role he replicated for EISA in the last South Africa election.
Other persons also named as the magazine’s Persons of the Year 2020 in different categories include the Ghana President Nana Akufo Addo, ex-President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, and South Africa’s former first lady, Graca Machel.
Today, as similar tensions have engulfed the nation following the need to find a common ground that will engender lasting peace among cattle herders and local farmers in almost all Nigerian states, there is the need to again listen to the former President Jonathan’s words of wisdom.