How To Turn The Herdsmen Crisis Into An Oppurtunity
The herdsmen crisis has arisen because of a failure of leadership. Nations are not static. They grow and change. Fifty years ago, desertification was not an issue in northern Nigeria. Now it is an issue. The changing environment has placed a great strain on people who live off the land like the herdsmen. Leadership is essentially about anticipating the consequences of these changes. When I gave the keynote speech at this year’s Silverbird Man of the Year ceremony, I addressed this issue. I said Nigeria is caught up in a Malthusian trap where population growth has far exceeded GDP growth. For the specific issue of herdsmen, in my private capacity, I established a company called Rico Gardo that provides animal feeds at very affordable prices to pastoralists so that they do not need to graze their cattle on private lands. This firm has been very successful in reducing herdsmen-farmers clashes in its area of operation. John F. Kennedy said, ‘When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.’
I think our current set of leaders are too focused on the danger side of crisis and are not as focused on the opportunity side of it. Turn this crisis into an opportunity. New challenges require new thinking. If I were to advise the Federal Government, I would counsel them to learn from Rico Gardo. Just as Nigeria has built government and privately owned fertilizer plants, the government should build and encourage the private sector to build animal feeds factories. Sell the feeds to the herdsmen and make money from them. The value chain this industry will create will generate jobs for Nigerians and revenue for the government. But most important, it will end these clashes. I am not telling you of what I have heard. I am telling you of what I am doing. And what I am doing is working in the area where Rico Gardo is operational. My plan for the future is to expand nationwide. However, let me also say that it is a misnomer to use the term ‘killer herdsmen of Fulani extraction’ or ‘killer Fulani herdsmen’. When kidnappers kidnap, we do not identify them by their ethnicity. We identify them as kidnappers, pure and simple. The vast majority of Fulani people are peaceful and live in harmony with other ethnicities. There may be fringe elements with criminal tendencies. Some may be Fulani. Some may not even be. Let us identify them by their activities and not by their ethnicity.