By Biodun Jeyifo
First, there was the Asaba Declaration which banned open pardon in the 17 southern states. Then there was the statement by Mallam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity. The firestorm caused by these two statements has not yet subsided. In social media, usually slanderous in the extreme, the fury has been completely exaggerated. However, the implications of these two declarations for the future of the country are so crucial that we must catch our breath and bring rationality, genuine patriotism and social justice to the ongoing national conversation on the issues raised by the two declarations. In the next main body of this article, I raise questions about Garba Shehu’s statement in FOUR key areas: economic; Procedural; Social; Ethics.
Mallam Garba Shehu insists that by moving from open pastures to ranches in “willing” states, the federal government is now on the same page as the 17 governors of the southern states. I guess that’s because the federal government is no longer concerned with banning outdoor grazing; he moved on to the creation of ranches in “voluntary states”. Well, could Mallam Shehu answer the following questions about this “Marshall Plan” of ranching in “willing states” in these four key points of the? economic, procedural, social and ethics implications of the project?
- The ranches to be built will be modern, self-sufficient communities with amenities that are likely to include not only water and electricity supplies, but also schools for the children of the shepherds. How many ranches across the country will the project involve?
- Is it unfair to the government to suggest that the project appears to be the biggest act of economic restructuring that we have ever had in this country, with the probable exception of the reconstruction of the eastern states after the end of the civil war (which lasted for decades and was never completed)?
- How will the project be funded?
- Given that the nation finds itself in such dire economic conditions right now that fuel subsidies are on the verge of being phased out permanently, what other areas of the national budget will have to be sacrificed to finance the project?
- Will the “farmers” have their own project, their own “Marshall Plan”, their own new farmland and if so, will they be on the same scale as the ranches to be built for the herders?
- The government is currently implementing a massive privatization plan for the nation’s major corporate sectors, public assets and resources: well, how will the ranching plan affect this privatization windfall? In other words, will the ranchers of the brand new ranches be owners and / or tenants? Regardless of the answer to this question, how will the new ranches fit into the existing structure of land and landlessness in our country, one of the most unfair and exploitative in the world?
- Presumably, contracts will be awarded for the construction of brand new ranches and the purchase of equipment for these ranches; if so, how will contracts be executed to avoid endemic corruption and corruptibility of our “contractocracy”? Or is it true that the project is only a pretext for another series of gigantic dispossession of the masses of our peoples by the ruling class?
- We are told that the breeding project will begin in June. June 2021 or 2022? Is it a joke that a project of this magnitude starts barely a month after its announcement?
- Has the project already been discussed in meetings of the president’s cabinet with his ministers?
- Has it already been discussed at the National Economic Council?
- At the Council of State?
- Within the organs of the ruling party, the APC, such as the National Executive Committee?
- Indeed, does this project have an ideological and planned link with the programs and policies of the party in power?
- Who is the original idea behind the project and who will be its “czar”?
- Regarding Mallam Shehu’s mention of so-called “consenting states”, have any states already indicated their willingness to be “consenting states” in which the ranches will be located?
- What will it take to transform “herders” into “herders”, conceived as two separate and distinct modes of collective social identity and human community?
- As in many other parts of the world, the practice already exists in our country of “shepherds” working for and with “herders”: how will the existing models connect with the new models that the government has in mind in the new project ?
- In his statement, Mallam Shehu speaks with contempt of “terrorist shepherds”: will they be separated from non-terrorist and peaceful shepherds? If so, will the “terrorist herders” be disarmed? If so, how will this be accomplished, through persuasion or through the use of institutionalized instruments of state force and coercion?
- Are there academic and professional experts who will guide the socialization processes through which “herders” will be transformed into “herders”? If so, who are they? If not, does the government think the processes will run naturally the same way an acorn turns into an oak?
- The creation of brand new “breeders” from the old “breeders”: will the process be free from the great injustice and pervasive predation of our current way of life?
- Is there a ethics basis of this project or is it in fact designed to hide or disguise the monumental moral and humanitarian void which has allowed thousands of our compatriots, mostly “farmers”, to be slaughtered without their murderers prosecuted?
- This project follows the worst security crisis in the postcolonial history of our country, a crisis whose foundation is also ethics because it is also political, with rotten politics at its heart: will the project be free from political rot?
- Lies, deception, insincerity, fundamental lack of ordinary human sympathy – these have been the overall ethical environment for the response of the government (and the ruling party and the ruling class as a whole) to the pastoralist-farmer crisis. : Will this project cast the specter of all these ethical breaches at rest?