Governor Hope Uzodimma is right! An anti open grazing law may be desirable but dialogue and understanding are better in addressing the conflict. However, this issue requires compliance not dialogue.
Governor Uzodimma’s reluctance to join fellow Southern Governors to ban open grazing of Cattle is understandable. From what we see and hear, it is dangerous to rock the boat on a matter that means so much to the Presidency. If in doubt, ask Governor Ortom of Benue State. What makes political sense is to agree with the “Oga at the top!” But we know that the Governor loves Imo and will not sacrifice the people’s interest. We believe for sure that his hands are not tied in anyway in this matter.
The Governor said he was misquoted by the media on the contentious issue of open grazing. According to him, there is an existing law on it and another is not required. Again, the Governor is right! But he was wrong in claiming that there is “peaceful coexistence,” between farmers and herders in Imo State, which makes us wonder if the Governor lives here: Owerri, Omuma, Emekuku, Irete, Mbaise, Agwa or any other.
Governor Uzodimma probably does not know that one of the most scary words in the country now is “herdsmen”. Fulani herdsmen or “herders,” have made themselves unwanted visitors in many states. They are viewed with understandable suspicion and trepidation because of what they do nowadays. Today’s herdsmen no longer carry sticks and stones but guns. They rape, shoot, kill and literally disappear. The police do not arrest them and courts do not try them. Little wonder a local comedian declared that, “the fear of Fulani herdsmen is the beginning of wisdom!”
Herdsmen activities in Benue, Plateau, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Zamfara and Enugu are known. Perhaps Governor Uzodimma does not know about the Agatu killings in Enugu State or the fact that a part of Irete has been suffering from herdsmen attack. The people’s trauma was reported widely in the local media. Women and girls were assaulted and molested in the farms, bringing farming there and several other communities to a halt due to fear. Recently, as occurred in Ondo State, a community in Emekuku discovered a Fulani herdsmen hideout in their bushes and raised alarm. Where then is the peaceful coexistence the Governor spoke of?
It is said that 600 Frenchmen cannot be wrong and that should apply to 17 well informed Southern Governors, including several lawyers and a Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), who took the decision to ban open grazing. They must have studied the law and read the times.
On August 31, 2021 Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State took the lead and signed the bill. Earlier, Akeredolu had issued an ultimatum to killer herdsmen occupying the state’s forest reserve. That move upset the Presidency but Yoruba leaders did not mind. They have resolved not to share their patrimony with killer-herdsmen so should we. Let’s save the future generations, Governor Uzodimma, please sir, sign the bill!