Chief Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti state in this interview, speaks on solution to the farmers-herders crisis, developments in South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other issues.
The herders, the farmers have always been there. This land on which I built my house had been there before I built the house. The house was adjusted to this land. It is the herders that are migrating and moving to the land on which farmers plant their crops. Either in the North or South, land, on which farmers plant their things, is a constant factor. That is why you cannot hit a car at the back and be right because it offers you opportunity to see clearly. The man in front cannot see clearly those at the back. Therefore, it is the herders that are the issue. They must learn, like every poultry farmer, that modern life calls for modern grazing; grazing that is controlled; grazing where you do not use your business to destroy the business of others.
If we say it is good to graze anyhow, then, in Ikoyi, highbrow Bourdilion, Victoria Island and top streets in Lagos, is it right for dogs to stroll around? Is it right for goats to move around? Because civilisation has come, unending open grazing is no longer feasible. Everybody must respect the rights of others. Where your right stops, the rights of others start.
The current situation is not herder/farmer clash. The farmer’s land doesn’t move. It is permanent. It is constant. It is the movement of cows and herders that is causing discomfort for farmers. Whether the farmer is from the North or South, that is the standard position. Herders or cattle rearers should control and contain their cows. Today, there is a mix up. There is herder/farmer crisis. That is one. Some people now are kidnappers. They are not herders. They are outright criminals. Is it herder that is jumping from the bush to the road, stopping vehicles and leaving their cows?. I don’t believe that. Some call them bandit. I don’t know. Bandit is a group of people doing something. The actual criminals are the ones that are operating indiscriminately and destroying the lives of people. The money you hold people to ransom and ask them to bring money, you are not herders. Herders, most times, don’t leave their cows. You can tell me herders are crossing the road with cows. You can tell me herders are encroaching on land farms. Herders sometimes hold guns, cutlass and whatever. You cannot tell me that herders are the ones stopping vehicles on the road, hijacking vehicles and all that. These are another set of hijackers, criminals that are taking an advantage of a society that is not well protected. Are herders the ones that are going to abduct children in schools? No. They are not herders. It is because they have taken it as a lucrative business. I have said it. Nobody will convince me that government does not have hands in that. The former Head of State, Abacha, once said that once terrorism goes beyond one day, it is to the knowledge of the government. Government has everything to stop it. The moment government looks away, terrorism develops and grows. Most people using them for political gains, they know what they are saying.
If I become President today, the Nigerian Police will not be like this. The issue of police not being enough will not be an issue for me. When they are well paid, they won’t take bribe. It is the bribe that is the problem. That means a criminal can give you money and gets away. When you have honest police, living according to their brief, they are feared and respected. They will not condone crime.
How did Ekiti State handle the herder/farmer crisis triggered by indiscriminate grazing when you were governor?
It is not about indiscriminate grazing alone. There are criminals who could be children of herders. There are criminals who came to live with herders and herders do not know that they are criminals who had committed crimes somewhere. They came to settle with them for a period of time and they are terrorising the neighbourhood. I am not saying herders are doing the right thing. But, not all of them.
But, the leadership that does not rise up to deal with the criminality will bring evil upon its people. The moment you check it, the moment you don’t get away with it, and there is no directive to release criminals, all will be well. Today, people cannot come and give testimony against kidnappers or whatever because they can be released and go back to deal with their victims. But, the moment they cannot get off their hook, they know they are caught and they are in trouble, there will be no crime.