By Bukola Olasanmi
A former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, has urged the federal government to take appropriate measures to end the conflicts between farmers and herders across Nigeria before they degenerate into religious conflicts.
Mr. Shekarau warned that the rampant conflicts are already affecting the unity of Nigeria.
He made the remarks on Monday while speaking with journalists at a two-day round-table discussion on herdsmen and farmers conflicts organised by Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SABAM) in Kaduna.
Mr. Shekarau, who is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, said it is worried about the conflicts in the northern regions of the country.
The former governor who was also a former Minister of Education warned that unpatriotic individuals were already trying to give the conflicts a tribal colouration.
“The conflict is affecting the unity of the country. You see, there are suspicions. Herdsmen being suspected, farmers being suspected to the point of killings.
“It is not just the issue of herdsmen/farmers. You can see in some communities it has degenerated to tribal. Very soon, some people will make it look religious or sectional and therefore it will become a problem for the country.”
He said the foundation does not want the conflicts to be politicised.
“We will not allow anybody to politicise the issue because it is a matter of life and death. Lives are being lost, properties are being lost. Even if you want to come and govern people, if people are dying, their properties and houses being burnt; who are you going to govern?
“So this issue is very important to all of us because it can even affect the economy. If there is no peace there can be no buying and selling, which means poverty will increase.”
He attributed 90 percent of conflicts in Nigeria to suspicion among different groups of people in the country.
“As a trained teacher in Guidance and Counselling, I know that 90 percent of conflicts are as a result of suspicions. When any group suspects that it is being denied its rights and nothing is being done, it will take the laws into its hands.
“This is partly the reason government must see these things as its own business in total. And the communities too themselves, the traditional institution, local governments and everybody must take it serious.”
Mr. Shekarau said the Foundation organised the round-table discussion to listen to the views of the issue from the representatives of different groups affected by the conflicts and how to come up with practical solutions.
“We are not here to call names or apportion blames to anybody. This herdsmen and farmers are in millions and there is no way you can reach out to them at a time, but they have leaders and groups.
“So we decided to bring in their representatives like Miyetti Allah, we have farmers associations and other organisations that do relate with them on almost day to day basis.
“We have involved the governments and local governments, civil societies. So it’s like going through all the organised bodies through their leaders to discuss the problem.
“I am sure at the end of the day we are not going to live it at that, because last week we were in Benue and we asked the government to assemble all stakeholders and we listened to all of them.
“The same thing, about three weeks ago, I was in Ekiti in the delegation of the Kano Emirate Council. We even went to the extent of signing agreement between the government, herdsmen, communities, farmers associations, etc. We identified the causes and where the problems are and we are making progress.”
Asked if the foundation was getting the cooperation of state governments, he said: “Yes, because from our experience from all states visited the governors gave us their cooperation, they gave us their understanding.
“This matter goes beyond legislation. Yes, there should be a law but laws don’t operate on their own. You have to make the people understand why the law is being introduced because you are dealing with human beings.
“In some of the states that made the laws, the people don’t even understand the law. This is why we are trying to carry the governors along. But we decided to leave them out of this meeting now so that the people here will talk to us freely.
- “But definitely we need the governors and the federal government and we are getting their cooperation,” he said.