By WORDSHOT AMAECHI UGWELE*

As a patriotic citizen, I earnestly want our government at all levels to succeed as such would benefit all. But, on this ranching matter being pushed by the Enugu state government, I beg to seriously disagree. While the government can locate any project anywhere it desires in the state, one expects it to pass all the feasibility tests. And the most germane of all is viability. The number one consideration in this regard therefore is security. Any project that would rather than tackle but would create insecurity is an affliction. It is bound to be rejected by those concerned. For instance, who complained when Peter Mbah took the “New Enugu” project, a modern city with all life-giving appurtenances, to Nkanu East?

Conversely, when values were inverted and the government sought to impose (because there was neither consultation nor consensus on it) a government-sponsored “cattle ranch”, a clear time-bomb the Fulani expansionist agenda can take a hundred years to prime for an eventual cataclysmic explosion that would obliterate the local population, the people promptly raised their genuine objections.

The motive behind Enugu governor Peter Mbah’s love for RUGA is strange and yet not so strange. When he was assailed by an NYSC discharge certificate forgery scandal, he ran to some emirs to help him talk to the corps’ chieftains. When he was clearly losing the March 18, 2023, governorship election, he pleaded with emirs to prevail on corrupt INEC chieftains. And to successfully navigate through the corrupt judiciary, he needed help from emirs. What concessions could he have accepted from his helpers? Barely eight months in office, Mbah has now made moves to build RUGA in two places in his state. At Isi-Uzo LGA, he is fiddling with “Produce City” on 3,000 hectares of land. Now at Uzo-Uwani LGA, he has sent surveyors to map out 5,000 (Nimbo Town Union says it’s 500,000) hectares of Nimbo land at the town’s border with Kogi State. What is Peter Mbah up to?

Is there anyone in Nigeria today that doesn’t know that any such sharing of space is not a favour, not even a business, but an affliction to the host community? Ask Plateau people what they have come to endure since Babangida created Jos North local government area to ostensibly settle, once and for all, the wrangling between the settler and indigenous populations. From Jos North, the Fulani have conquered Jos South and are currently besieging others for their annexation too.

Ask the Southern Kaduna people about their experience in falling for the tricks of donating lands for cattle businesses to the Fulani who would eventually lord it over them. To this day, the Zangon/Kataf people are reeling from the aftermath. El-Rufai would go on to create emirates from these places with brand new emirs, and before he left used fiat to dismantle the surrounding chiefdoms of the local Christian communities.

What he did to the people of Southern Kaduna was akin to what happened to the Super Eagles during their match with South Africa in Ivory Coast last week: it cost the lives of some fans. It was hard enough that our goal was disallowed, a penalty was awarded and a goal scored against us from that. The people donated land. They soon became emirates with Sarkis that lorded it over them, before the eventual dismantling of their own local political and cultural authorities, the chiefdoms. For Benue, it is barely clinging to life.

The Fulani in Africa are desperately looking for where to permanently settle their people and their cattle, not as visitors or even tenants, but in their overlording terms we know how it goes. Nowhere in our state, not to talk of anywhere in Enugu North that is sharing incursion-prone borders with places they freely operate, deserves this.

Forget the Enugu government’s beautiful words of assurances. Forget all the deceptive terminologies used to redefine and present it as an innocuous, modern ranch with meat and diary processing facilities; that it is just a space for cattle business. And the fact that the government is providing this — when such is not done for other businesses that require their promoters privately sponsor their own business premises — makes it even more obvious. It is a script that is mimicking the much-detested Buhari’s RUGA and all the deceptive aliases with which that government had wanted to surreptitiously sell Nigerians a monkey for a dog, and impose the Fulani on indigenous Nigerian populations. Thus, there is no difference between this government-sponsored ranch and the Fulani-desired RUGA! The difference is just semantics, which varies in its tags for six and half a dozen.

Ordinarily, one ought to support any genuine effort of the government to promote the enabling environment for business in the state, just as the government should in reciprocity listen to genuine issues citizens raise concerning these efforts. Right now the people are finding it extremely difficult to be persuaded in support of this entire ranching business. Rather, they would always find it extremely curious that the governor would go for something like this that, even if it is indeed the way he had envisioned and presented it, has the tendency of being exploited in practice by the Fulani to the detriment of the people of the state. What do you think would happen when you give a mile to those who by nature are wont to demand a yard when given an inch? It could take a century, but they must annexe the remaining space, and drive you away. This is the looming strife and war many have seen and are raising their voices against. We should be able to learn from others’ past foolishness, especially now we are witnessing their mortal struggles for survival.

So, this is no time to be politically correct with any nice talks to the powers that be in the state. This is something that clearly presents an existential threat to our people, which means it is imperative for the sake of our survival as a people that everyone with a voice must be heard shouting his and her rejection of this obvious Greek gift to our people, until the government backtracks. We clearly prefer the government neglects us for the entire time it would hold sway to bringing us something that would leave us in a permanent state of war and certain death. There is no wisdom or profit in bringing home a viper to share your bed with you except you want to soon lie in state in same.

Finally, the Enugu government should remove its political lens to truly see what the people are seeing that is causing all the disquiet trailing the proposed ranching project. The government should rethink this because it cannot promise a fast-forwarded blissful tomorrow and go on to deliver the dawn of the dead. It is for this reason that the Ninth Senate as well as Southern governors rejected RUGA under any guise.

*Ugwele writes from Enugu, Enugu State.

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