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OPINION

Lalong, Herdsmen And Peace On The Plateau

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Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’Forum (NGF) just like all humans cannot be said to be infallible as only God who created us can ascribe such to himself. However, what you cannot take from him are his uncommon humility, kind heartedness, frank disposition and integrity. These qualities have endeared him to a majority of people not only in Plateau State but beyond.

While the RUGA or herdsmen settlement program that generated widespread national debate and diverse reaction which eventually led to its suspension by the federal government is yet to fully settle down, it is imperative to put the matter in proper perspective. More especially concerning the position of Governor of Plateau State which has been laced with different interpretation in some quarters.

Gorvernor Lalong had in the past few weeks appeared on the electronic, social and print media stating in no uncertain terms the position of his government on the program but some notable mischief makers, political jobbers and tribal warlords have twisted the facts to suit their selfish desires.                                                       After a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari even before the suspension of the Ruga program by the federal government, Governor Lalong did not mince words when he told the State House Press Corp that as a member of the National Food Security Committee and also a member of the Herdsmen /Farmers Committee that the ONLY(my emphasis) solution to the insecurity issues between the herdsmen and farmers is the ranching policy.

Since then, he has never shifted position on the issue which is the global best practice or acceptable standard of animal rearing. He clearly acknowledged in the same intervew that ranching is not the monopoly of any one ethnic group which means he wants to adopt holistic approach to the program.  Also as a member of the National Economic Council and also the National Food Security Council both chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo, the governor can authoritatively speak on National Livestock Transformation Program which when fully implemented is the best way to pull us out of the socio-economic doldrum we have been enmeshed in.     Credit must be given to the governor who calmed frayed nerves of a panicky citizenry at the wake of the Ruga controversy when a group of youth under the banner of a  Coalition of Northern Groups gave the federal government a 30-day ultimatum to rescind the suspension of the Ruga program or southerners living in the northern part of the country would be expelled.

Governor Simon Lalong obviously demonstrated great statesmanship and diplomacy in the press statement he personally signed when he urged Nigerians to remain calm in the face of such threat and called for caution and decency from all quarters while expressing their views as the unity of the nation is non negotiable.

It is my belief that the governor’s maturity and dexterity in handling this vexatious issue which had put the country on its edge deserves commendation by all well-meaning citizens rather than his being vilified and castigated by those who always take pleasure in beating the drum of war all the time.

More worrisome are the raising of baseless allegations that the governor is planning to cede the ancestral land of some communities in the state to Fulani herders under the Ruga project which exists only in the imagination of its framers who can be best described as idlers whose stock in trade is to condemn every action of the governor. Unfortunately, some of those involved in these wild goose chase include a former member of the National Assembly whose pedigree is to condemn everyone and everything not in his or his benefactors’ favour.

Another wild allegation came from one Architect Macham Makut from Bokkos Local Government Area who recently addressed a press conference in Jos claiming that the land of over 7 000 Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) from nine out of fifteen communities forced out of their home in March 2018 have been earmarked for the Ruga Settlement.

This dangerous whipping of sentiments by this person purportedly on behalf of some Concerned Youth of Bokkos is as condemnable as it calls for proper investigation by security agencies. Undoubtedly, several communities in Bokkos local government area particularly in Daffo district have had the people killed and maimed with unquantifiable property destroyed.  However,  we have to exercise great restrain as some of these reckless comments are capable of causing restlessness amongst the already traumatised members of the affected communities.

There was also this press conference and purported protest by a particular ethnic group in Plateau State condemning the imaginary  Ruga program in the state. This is typical of this ethnic group whose leaders at all levels see nothing good about the governor in spite of the huge patronage its people enjoy from him.  It was a show of shame when they came out as the only group to protest even when it is no longer a secret that Governor Lalong’s immediate predecessor approved a gazette for the creation of grazing reserves in the state which they have never condemned.

The truth must be told that for us to reap the dividends of democracy, we should move with the changing trends of participation in the ranching program rather than to remain on-lookers and unnecessarily embittered and hapless citizens.

It is not a mistake that the governor’s colleagues from the north unanimously endorsed him as the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum. They must have been convinced that he is capable of pulling the north out of the numerous challenges especially the herdsmen/farmers endless crises. His election should serve as a moral booster which the state should leverage on. There’s no gainsaying the fact that Plateau State remains a miniature Nigeria where almost every ethnic nationality is found especially in Jos the state capital.

No doubt, the peace of the state has in the past 25 years been disrupted as a result of ethno-religious crises. That in spite of all these we still cohabit as a people is enough reason for us to be tolerant of of each other. Certainly these herdsmen attacks are not Lalong’s creation as they definitely predate his tenure.

On the incessant hersmen/farmers attacks, I firmly believe that the governor is more on the side of a sustainable solution hence he deserves to be praised and supported by all regardless of ethnic or whatever inclinations.

 

–- Dashe is a Jos -based agronomist and consultant

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