Buhari should’ve lost at the polls, RUGA may set Nigeria on fire — Soyinka

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Wole Soyinka

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has warned that the Ruga Settlement being planned by the President Muhammadu Buhari government was going to be an explosive issue, adding that the President ought to have lost the last elections on account of the “lackadaisical attitude which he took to the issue of cattle-rearers”.

He berated the federal government for introducing the Ruga idea, which he said could cause Nigeria to explode, wondering if there was any society where cattle take priority over human beings.

Soyinka spoke as Benue State Government yesterday disclosed its decision to approach the Supreme Court to stop the Federal Government from going ahead with the project in the state, even as the Rivers State Government vowed never to participate in the project. 

Similarly, Igbo National Council, INC, and Ijaw Youth Council warned that no land would be made available in their territories for the project, just as former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, faulted the timing of introduction of the project, saying it was suspicious.

Speaking in Lagos yesterday at the launch of United Nations’ Solutions 17 SDG Programme, Soyinka said: “Ruga is going to be an explosive issue and it had better be handled very carefully. Why is it that we fail to take our models from successful performers? And then, Buhari took such a long time. For me, he deserved — and I have written this down — to have lost the last election if only on account of the lackadaisical attitude which he took to the issue of cattle-rearers. People have been killed in hundreds till today and it is only because of the failure of leadership at the critical time.

“There are ways in which people deal, and have dealt for decades — for centuries with cattle everywhere. I travel everywhere. It is nothing so strange; there is nothing mysterious about cattle rearing. 

“Why should cattle become a problem just because we like to eat beef? I don’t understand it. There are solutions which are very simple. People have talked about ranching, but the ranching has got to be done in places which are environmentally congenial to that particular kind of trade and at the same time do not afflict humanity. 

“What’s the point in trying to provide food and the food chokes us; which is what cattle and cattle-rearers have been doing? We have a situation where cattle walk up to my own door in Abeokuta which is supposed to be a residential area. 

“There is a problem when cattle go to Ijebu-Ode and eat up Sodipe’s (a furniture maker’s) planted seedlings; and this is someone who is working towards a guaranteed environment by planting trees to replace the trees (timber) which he has used. Then cattle come and eat up all of that and you expect people to sit down and be quiet? 

“That is the most important thing and the cattle rearers have been given a sense of impunity: they kill without any compunction; they drive farmers also who are contributing to the food solution of the country away; burn their crops; eat their crops; and then you come with Ruga. 

“I think there is going to be trouble in this country if this cattle-rearing issue is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as the priority. There cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings. It is as elementary as that.”

According to the Nobel Laureate, the handling of the herdsmen issue by Buhari could have cost him his re-election at the polls.

He said: “President Buhari deserved to have lost the last election for the lackadaisical attitude he took to the issue of cattle rearing in the country.

“People have been killed in hundreds just because of the failure of leadership at a critical time. And the cattle herders have been given a sense of impunity. They kill without any compunction; they drive away the farmers who have been contributing to the food solutions in the country; the cattle eat their crops and then you come up with Ruga.

“I think that there is going to be trouble in this country if this Ruga thing is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as priority. Any country where cattle take priority over human life is definitely at an elementary stage.”

Meanwhile, the Benue State Government yesterday disclosed its decision to approach the Supreme Court to stop the Federal Government from going ahead with the project in the state. 

The Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the state governor, Terve Akase, who disclosed this while speaking on African Independent Television, AIT programme, Kaakaki said the state has contacted its lawyers to get their papers ready to begin the court process. 

He said: “The Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, came out to tell the world that the Federal Government has gazetted land in all the 36 states. We came out quickly to challenge the Federal Government to show us the document that gazetted land in Benue because the Land Use Act is clear that even the Federal Government will not and cannot invade a state and take land. 

“The land has to be given to the Federal Government by the State. Government can only get land of a project for general interest. We don’t have such gazette land in Benue State. What they are telling the world is not true. 

“Benue State Government has already briefed its lawyers to get their papers ready. The Federal Government has said the donation of land for the project is voluntary; that the state has its right to pull out of it and they listed Benue as one of the pilot states, and we are saying we don’t want to be part of the pilot states. But if the government insists on siting these Ruga projects in Benue State we will go to court.” 

He however called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow people around him to mislead him over the Ruga project being a man of integrity.

Similarly, the Rivers State Government said it would not participate in the Ruga settlements for herdsmen.

In a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, the Rivers government stated that the state had no land for the implementation of such a policy.

It said in his second term, Governor Nyesom Wike had prioritised commercial agriculture; hence all available arable land in the state would be needed to drive commercial agriculture across the state to create employment for the youths.

The statement added that the state government has not given any approval for the sighting of Ruga settlements anywhere in Rivers State. It said Wike would continue to defend the interest of Rivers people, who have overwhelmingly rejected cattle colonies, Ruga settlements and any such policy.

“Rivers indigenes are hereby advised to join the state government to protect all arable lands by reporting any form of encroachment under whatever guise,” the statement added.

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