RUGA Cattle Colonies: The Federal Government Needs To Withdraw From A Private...

RUGA Cattle Colonies: The Federal Government Needs To Withdraw From A Private Business [MUST READ]

By Opinions | The Trent on July 20, 2019
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Jaye Mohammadu, Abdulateef Adebisi, Herdsmen
File Photo of Fulani herdsmen with their cattle | The Trent

All of us were nomads. Our forebears were all hunter gatherers who migrated in small hordes from place to place eating what they could find in the wild, adapting to their environments to survive. This was on for over 2 million years according to Historians.

Then man settled down following the Agric revolution. Interestingly, Yuval Noah Harari argued in his book “Sapiens” that it was wheat that domesticated man and not the other way round. To domesticate is from the Latin word for house “domus”.

He is of the opinion that wheat took over the planting fields, and by guaranteeing man rich harvest in due time, enabled him to refrain from nomadic life. This means that for about the last 10,000 years, each man could choose a style of living that ranges from nomadic to domestic, and even to monastic life. It is choice.

Agricultural revolution is said to have started about 10,000 years ago. Wheat and goats were domesticated sometime around 9000 BC; Horses in 4000 BC, and all of Rice, Maize, Potatoes, Millet and Barley were domesticated between 9500 BC and 3,500 BC. Our Yam, Cassava, Beans etc. followed the same evolution. It was very much in the same way that we started domesticating other animals a long time ago. We domesticated all the animals we have at, or near our homes today. Dogs, cows, goats, all domestic birds and cats etc.

Genetic studies of cattle breeds suggested that ancient domesticated African cattle originated from the Middle East about 10, 500 years ago. This means that human beings have been keeping cattle for over 10, 500 years.

Animals and plants have been domesticated either through both subsistent or commercial agriculture. But while some are suitable for subsistent rearing, some others are good for large scale rearing . For instance, people do not grow wheat in their gardens just as people do not generally build a cat poultry.

People choose the option that suits them. They do so because they are rational beings. Therefore whether one opts to keep a cattle at home, rear a herd of cattle across the universe or ranch any number of them is by choice. Any choice that’s seemingly economically unviable can breed rumors of ulterior motives and rightly so.

Therefore, I reject in its entirety, the lazy assumption that Fulanis are nomads. What is closer to the truth is that Fulanis prefer nomadic cattle rearing to settling down. Many Fulanis went to school and did well, got good jobs and raised families. This group is neither nomadic nor open to giving their children the freedom to choose from any of nomadic, domestic or monastic life. I will indeed argue that Igbos are the most nomadic people in Nigeria. There is hardly any part of the world you won’t find an Igbo man. They leave home and find businesses to do wherever they settle. They bear the consequences of their actions. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t. they have neither government protection nor incentive. In times of crises, they get killed. After the crisis, the go back and resettle because that is their choice.

The Fulani should not be different. They chose to be the cattle herders of the Federal Republic and there is nothing wrong with that. Like every other business, they are in it for profit and not because rearing cattle or living in the bush is in their DNA. Like I pointed out earlier, we were all nomads. Like every private enterprise, cattle herders should do their business without impeding the freedom of others or encroaching without authorization, on the property to which another have rights/title.

Government intervenes in businesses as may be required from time to time. But government interventions must be with governments’ resources. Government cannot give what it doesn’t have. The government of Nigeria can therefore intervene in cattle herding but not by legislating people’s land to others. It can give herders low interest rate loans etc. What the government needs to bear in mind is that helping a sector or businesses involves more than giving out capital and input. The first question the government of Nigeria should answer is whether it believes that nomadic cattle rearing is a sustainable business model. Government should answer this question from the point of view of pursuing an enlightened national interest. This is for government.

Now for the private sector. There are three broad ways money is made in Nigeria. Steal the money, exploit the loophole in the system and make money or solve a real problem and create value for people at a profit. My opinion here is relevant to the private sector players in the last group. If you are stealing the money or exploiting the loopholes in the system to get rich, stop reading. If you have the wherewithal to take on a problem and make money, you may want to read on.

The Miyetti Allah business model is not sustainable. Ranching is a more profitable business model than nomadic herding. Unfortunately only Zimbabweans are taking advantage of it. Why can’t Nigeria’s rich ranch cattle and solve this blood-spilling problem at a profit? Where are Nigeria’s entrepreneurs? Ranching will produce milk with all its value chain (Cheese, yoghurt, etc). Ranching will produce beef and its derivatives like sausages. Ranching will produce hide. Ranching will produce tallow etc. Therefore, it is not unintelligent to conclude that a proper ranch will render nomadic herding unviable and therefore solve some of our security problems at a profit. Where are Nigeria’s entrepreneurs?

If government can see the opportunities, it should be aiming to initiate a program that can lead to such a sustainable business model as commercial ranching. It can only earn government more money in the form of tax, conserve foreign currency at some point by limiting the foreign currency, FCY, spent on the importation of some of the Products and their derivatives and ultimately earn export proceeds in foreign currency when it matures to the point of exporting animal produce to other countries.

This government has a professor who can contribute constructive debate and a general who should be able to influence execution. Why is the goat delivering in tether when such elders are at home?

Chidi Ileka is a banker with 20 years professional experience. He was born the commercial town of Nnewi in Anambra State where he grew up. He is an alumni of All Hallows Seminary in Onitsha and University of Nigeria Nsukka, where he obtained a degree in Biochemistry. He holds an MBA from the prestigious Lagos Business School, and a diploma in International Trade and Finance from the Institute of Financial Studies United Kingdom. He has a keen interest in the dynamics of human behavior and progress. He lives and works in Lagos.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 

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