Opinion

This no food from the North matter

It should be one of the curiosities in a nation full of curiosities that northern traders are blocking the supply of commercial food stuff to the South-West of the country – not the other way round. One would, however, have expected the northern traders to block the movement of cattle – the crux of the matter. The problem had always been with cattle and herders who make it look like this country (flag, anthem, constitution, warts and all), belong to cattle. The sense that Nigeria belongs to cattle has been reinforced by President Muhammadu Buhari himself when he urged that cattle routes should be created by all states in a country in short supply of “human” roads.

Fancy creating cattle routes at a time agriculture had been so mechanized that ranching had become the standard practice! When that did not jell with Nigerians who expect roads not cattle routes, Buhari did not give up. He had another bright idea – each state should establish a cattle colony. Sure, instead of a housing scheme, create a colony (some kind of housing estate) for cattle. Why this much ado about cattle? Buhari owns cattle and he comes from a cattle-rearing community.

Buhari has had bright ideas in government and nearly all of them had to do with how to make life better for cattle. Of course, he thinks about human beings too and has talked about Nigerians in between talking about cattle. As a proof that he also thinks about Nigerians, here is something noteworthy he once said about Nigerians, “More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education for free.” What the great statesman failed to add is that youths cannot even get their ancestral farmlands for free.

Only cattle can have everything for free – not the lazy youths. Meanwhile, Miyetti Allah had always given everyone within earshot the impression that the North is a region of cattle, by cattle and for cattle. In quantitative terms, they seem to think that one cattle is worth the lives of a hundred Nigerians. Many Nigerian societies have been laid bare and wasted by irate cattlemen for standing in the way of their grazing cattle, particularly in the Middle Belt and southern states, which, had always given me the impression that there is something fishy (or if you prefer, “cattley”) about this cattle matter.

Cattle do not vote and they do not elect presidents, so why are they somehow more important in the priorities list of government than human beings? Why should the rest of Nigerians be pleading with the powers that be to treat them like they are treating cattle? Why are all cows in Nigeria sacred cows to be protected at the cost of human lives? But there is more to it than all this cobweb issues of cattle democracy. So, we have farmlands in the North, where foodstuffs are produced? You need to understand the plot.

You need to accept that there are farmlands in the North where farmers plant in the planting season, nurture the seeds planted and reap at harvest time – in peace and tranquillity. Herdsmen do not drive their cattle into these northern farmlands, so that the farmers would have a good harvest and send their foods to the South for profit.

These northern farmers and herders co-habit, live together in peace and have mutual respect for each other because blood is thicker than profit. The moment the herders travel down South, all farmlands become grazing fields. There is a matrix which works for them. The herders destroy farmlands in the South and force the South to depend on food supply from the farmers up North. It may not have been designed this way on purpose, but it works out as if it was so designed. What with the Federal Government showing no interest in the protection of farmlands but rolling out policies to protect cattle? Those who initially thought Buhari was “cattle symph” (had a soft spot for cattle as a cattle owner) had a rude awakening when it was realized that the Federal Government was actually pro-cattle (cattle fanatic).

So pro-cattle that it has never had any interest in prosecuting the murderous cattle herders who killed and ravaged with impunity. Now that the herders have been told to take their cattle home (back to the North), the traders are afraid that their farmlands in the North may come under threat and are fighting to protect their farmlands by refusing to sell to the South-West.

The northern groups, however, claim they are holding back their products to the South-West because the Federal Government has declined to meet their demand of being paid compensation running into billions for their members and properties killed in different riots in the Western and Eastern parts of the country. The most curious aspect of all these is that a body which members ought to be prosecuted for multiple genocides in Nigeria are asking for compensation for their members. If you can understand that then you are a much better man than yours truly.

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