Insecurity, ban on open grazing: It’s time to renegotiate Nigeria – Mogaji

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Dr. Muazu Magaji, a former commissioner for finance in Kano state, believes that the rising insecurity in the country as well as the calls for ban on open grazing are clear signals that Nigeria needs restructuring to harness its richly diverse potentials as an industrialised nation. PATRICK ANDREW monitored his interview with the African International Television (AIT) during the week.

Mixed reactions have trailed the southern governors’ call for a ban on open grazing; what is your response?    

Is the narrative on the open cattle grazing ban based on the economic perspectives, that of promoting the industry? I think it came as a reaction to the security situation.  Shortly after that resolution, the other resolution – the restructuring suggestion – followed. The bedrock of that resolution is based on some form of push back and, therefore, people could read meaning because combining the open grazing ban and restructuring kind of sent mixed signals. My take is simple, both resolutions are important in their own rights and we need to look at them independently and basically treat them independently.

The problem is intent. Every time people read the intention in any action of the executive, they speculate and when it becomes a perception they translate it to reality and reactions. In the North, farmers,’ herders’ clashes have been with us for a very long time, but the South perceives these people as migrants coming to their communities and basically creating tension that leads to the loss of lives. This is a national dynamic of nature, the resources are up over and migrants and settlers bicker.  

The government has to step in now and I am glad that because of the tension people are taking constitutional mechanism resolution. This is a golden opportunity for the government because Mr. President had signed the Executive Order 10 long ago and it had made provision for RUGA. What we need is adjustment and concession because governors from southern and northern Nigeria have come with positions, the state assemblies have backed their governors and the National Assembly is now talking about how to restructure by giving autonomy to the local government, the judiciary and the state assemblies first. Then, they are also coming up with the constitution review based on the committee they have set up.

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Rearers Association is in agreement with the southern governors on the ban by asking the northern governors to activate the 400 cattle grazing reserves in their region; do you think that is the way to go?

I am also very glad that the operators of the industry, who have been very difficult partners in the discussion, have come to the table. Look, Miyetti Allah’s major interest is safeguarding their socio-economic and cultural life. However, because time is changing, culture must change. The domestication of animals does not stop cattle rearing.

They have come to understand that as an economic venture they will be better off if they embrace this idea of ranching and have come to realise that they will even be better off with ranching because they have the skills of managing the business; they will become business managers of the ranches, they understand the business, behaviour of the animals, feeding culture of cattle, and it is their social life.

But are the real owners of these cattle also on board the discussion on what should be the new norm in rearing cattle?

It is a cost-benefit analysis. I told you I had cows myself, I have ranched them; in fact, I am role-modelling the modernisation of the industry so the people will understand. The problem is that people are making a hell lot of money without spending their money to feed their cows.

This is an opportunistic business and for me, it is even exploitative. We have to have a business model around it. I think the economy must be restructured.

Ranching means that infrastructure will be built, jobs will be created, feeds will be produced so that feed mills will be built, people will have to run the farms so young people that are trained will be engaged, dairy industries, meat processing including soya will thrive, transportation and various other sectors will spring up. All these industries will be formalised. This is the value chain of one farm, so it is massive and the restructuring and when the domestication comes on stream, the economy and employment opportunities will be huge.

Many prominent Nigerians across board have insisted on restructuring, what does restructuring mean to you?

We have talked about restructuring without giving it shape and form. For me, restructuring means asking very important questions; is Nigeria working? Has it worked? Will it work? The way Nigeria has been structured has it ever worked? Will it ever work? Or is it working? Let me attempt to answer some of them.

Nigeria operated after independence as a parliamentary state. From 1953 to 1960 was the time we took to negotiate our corporate existence as a people. It took us seven good years going back and forth London to Lagos, back to our communities discussing with very credible representations from all nationalities in the country and we came to a consensus that we agree to co-exist in unity, but in diversity. That model led us to adopt a written parliamentary system which gave each region a sense of semi-autonomy belonging to the federation and commitment to civil liberty and patriotism. That was the only workable negotiated existence document that we have agreed on.

After the unfortunate coup of 1966, the country became a centralised government. The military centralised governance which was not our consensus, not our agreement and the centralisation continues over time with various military governments because that is their nature; the command and control structure. But when the civilian regime returned, we negotiated a constitution which was different from what we had negotiated in the parliamentary system.

We now have the presidential system which gives a president a bicameral legislature; the states also have their own organs. We have tested and operated two systems in Nigeria and the question is what works? What are we comfortable with? What can we adjust in the two systems? Can we redesign so that this country will in modern time work, like we are talking about ranching? Time has come for us to renegotiate the structure of this country and the ownership of resources, how we build, how we can be patriotic to the components and the larger parts of the country. 

Nigeria seems to be in an emergency ward in need of urgent surgery; isn’t it the right time and the more reason that discussion should happen now?

You can call it civil strife, though people are not in the streets as you had during #ENDSARS# protest, yet they are really, really agitated. In fact, this type of agitation is more dangerous than the one in the streets because it is cooking in our bedrooms, dining tables, churches, mosques, community meetings and when it erupts it will be spontaneous and we don’t want that. We want to be proactive and anticipate that this country can have a workable solution. We have sensed and have agreed that the 1914 amalgamation has expired, the 1960 Constitution has been abrogated, and the 1979 Constitution is not working right, meaning that we all have to discuss what next structure this country will work with.

What is your take on the call for resource control and devolution of powers in the advocacy of restructuring?

I have discussed some of these concepts that if we are going to adjust these two concepts we have to do it strategically and carefully. There are two major discussions on federalism now – fiscal and political federalisms – that is the overriding discussion. Every time the Nigerian elite talk about federalism or restructuring, the discussion centres on how much of the resources will come to me? And how much political power will I have? But I have also advocated the third arm of this discussion: Development federalism.  In my view that is the consensus between fiscal and political federalisms.

Development federalism recognises that each region of this country has its own component potentials and it also recognises that the required resources- development potentials- have to be agreed upon jointly in a consensus in an equitable and fair manner. It also requires us as a country to give ourselves some time frame so that we can work out a viability mechanism for each region. When I talk about each region, I am not referring to the 1960 region, but the adopted geo-political regions and the FCT. We now have six geo-political regions which we have accepted and agreed upon, though not yet in our constitution, but we should adopt them as development and political regions and Abuja (FCT) should now be our central government.

Major critical stakeholders have made inputs. I have heard the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, make a very strong position in favour of restructuring, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu discussed restructuring very clearly and so with every stakeholder involved. I believe an agenda has already started. However, the possibility of implosion is what is delaying the push. We must not rush it because of the secession threat due to the security situation we are facing now.

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