Ruga Project: The Ganduje exemplary option
By Muhammad Isa Bilal
Initially I didn’t intend to make any comment as regards the issue of the (now suspended) Ruga Project initiated by the federal government. However, seeing that the proposed Ruga Project had generated a lot of heated debate amongst the protagonists and antagonists of the idea leading to discriminatory, maligning and inflammatory statements by supposed elder statesmen and political leaders from across the Southern and Northern Regions of the country, we are all witnesses to the ongoing media war, for and against the Ruga issue.
It is rather unfortunate that in Nigeria every local or national issue, no matter how sensitive, is being hijacked and politicized as well as viewed with primordial lens rather than with rational reasoning.
In other climes, issues such as the Ruga proposal could have been approached based on its merit or demerit irrespective of the region, ethnic or cultural affiliation of the envisaged beneficiaries, perhaps the motive behind the ranching, cattle colony or more recently the “Ruga” idea was conceived to checkmate the frequent violent clashes between mostly the farmers and pastoralists, as well as the high rate of kidnapping, banditry and acts of terrorism which are rightly or wrongly associated with the activities of the herdsmen virtually across the four walls of the country.
It therefore means; The Ruga Project was conceived to permanently domicile all itinerant herdsmen in a particular place or area to tame the rampant gory tales of communal violent conflicts between farmers, pastoralists and landowners. I am yet to be convinced that the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria are not compatible, but I am convinced we need each other, socially, economically and politically if Nigeria would ever be a great nation.
In any case I don’t blame our farmers who are ancestral landowners; meaning, the resistance of the especially Southern parts of the country against the Ruga settlement, stemmed from the fact of the prevailing security challenges around the Nigerian State; our territorial borders are porous and not secured, which paved the way for the infiltration of alien AK47 weilding herdsmen, and once in our territory hardly do you differentiate the Nigerian and foreign herdsmen.
Perhaps, that is the fear of our Southern brothers, thus; they are against Ruga settlement policy initiated but suspended by the Federal Government. I am optimistic, if the federal government had convened a stakeholders meeting before announcing its envisaged Ruga Policy, the above explanation would have been the submission of our Southern brothers.
Clearly, the factors that are militating against our progress as a nation is social and economic corruption; if our leaders can jettison sectional, ethnic and regional differences; when the Igbo would fight for the interest of the Hausa Fulani and the Yoruba fight for the interest of the Igbo and vice-versa, Nigeria would have become garden of Eden, that was the catalyst that made the United States of America (USA) what it is today in the comity of nations.
On the raging Ruga issues: may I admonish other Northern State Governments to emulate the commendable and nationalist approach of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State. From all indications Ganduje has set out to change the negative perception of the ordinary Hausa-Fulani man, from that of naivety, backwardness and poverty to that of a socially integrated, enlightened and progressive society.
For instance, prior to the contentious ranching cattle colony and now Ruga issue, perhaps Governor Ganduje was conscious of the fact that, social integration and assimilation are a gradual process and thus; you can’t impose your traditional ways (nomadic) on others through executive legislation, coercion or intimidation and expect the people to be silent. There would surely be a kind of backlash or outright rejection in that direction.
Following the frequent violent conflicts between herders and farmers across the country, Governor Ganduje had since 2017, sought the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to deploy military personnel to one out of the five identified unutilized forests in Kano State, to scare away kidnappers, armed robbers and cattle rustlers in the Falgore Forest where Governor Ganduje is planning to create a sort of settlement for thousands of herdsmen.
Already, the Kano authorities have assisted the military by erecting and providing some facilities for their use in the forest.
I am also aware that the Governor has directed feasibility studies to be carried out in the forest with the aim of developing the exciting rivers and streams in the forest to a sort of dam status for the use of herdsmen in the forest, which according to Governor Ganduje would include: Identifying spots where social amenities such as schools, police post, health centres and transformers can be sited in the forest.
In his determined effort to ensure that the project becomes a reality, 140 children of the core herdsmen, both males and females have been sponsored to go and study the science of artificial insemination in Turkey.
The only qualification for these beneficiaries was: you must be the son or daughter of a herdsman with a minimum of secondary school certificate. These 140 children of the herdsmen have since returned to Nigeria and some of them are even degree holders, while the state government has on their return provided them with the necessary tools for their profession.
Governor Ganduje’s actions are no doubt commendable, coming at the right time–because, the truth is that, available land for grazing is not increasing but diminishing, because developments have sprung up in hitherto open lands, just as human beings populations are daily increasing in mass proportion. With such prevailing realities there is bound to be a conflict between farmers and herdsmen and indigenous land owners on the other hand.
In time past, farmers were inclined to invite the herdsmen to their farmlands to spend days or weeks there, to obtain the dung from the cattle while they fed on the available grass in such farmlands, (you see) it was then a cordial and win-win situation from both sides, but today we have a situation where cows are destroying people’s crops, which is a development that is not acceptable.
In line with the progressive ideas of Governor Ganduje, when some Northern youths and elders called for the Fulani herdsmen to leave Southern Nigeria, which was obviously a disgruntled response to those opposed to the Ruga Project, Ganduje was the first Northern governor to flay those making such unwarranted and inciting comments.
To quote Ganduje: ”We don’t share the same feeling with them; people have a choice as far as Nigerian constitution is concerned, to live wherever they choose to, Nigeria is a heterogeneous country, with diverse religions and nationalities which calls for mutual respect among its people.” (Daily Sun 22-7-2019). Coincidentally, Governor Ganduje made the above assertion during the 10th year anniversary (ofalla) of the Eze Ndigbo Kano, HRM Igwe Boniface Ibokwe at a dinner which Ganduje personally organized to honour the Igwe.
Such are the qualities of Ganduje which made it possible for him to douse ethnic or religious tension in Kano State.
It is also this peaceful inter-ethnic harmony that explains his success story in other people-oriented policies and projects, such as the ongoing massive social infrastructure, urban and rural development, as well as his human development and employment generation scheme, education etc. It was for that reason many organizations had in the past bestowed on him several awards of excellence.
Ruga Project: The Ganduje exemplary option
For instance, The New Telegraph Newspaper gave him the Governor of the Year (Education) Award, The Vanguard Newspaper ‘Man of the Year’ Award; an award of excellence by the Kano State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and more recently, crowned as the Agu Na Eche Mba I of Ndigbo (Lion that protects the Igbo people) bestowed on him by the Chairman of South East Council of Traditional Rulers, His Eminence Eze Eberechi Dick, in appreciation of his numerous efforts toward caring, integrating and protecting the Igbo and other non-indigenes in Kano State.
I hope others would emulate Governor Ganduje’s peaceful endeavours in the North.
Bilal is author and publisher, M.D Royal Publicity Publishing Company, Jos, Plateau State. No.8 Shendam Street Jos 08167989085