‎OPINION | The RUGA Controversy: A Forgotten War?

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By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan


Lest we forget, there is this popular saying that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Our general attitude to life in Nigeria is however, akin to our behaviour to the sore – once it heals, the pain is forgotten. All the same, the scar remains permanent.

At the very peak of the farmers/herders controversy the herdsmen adopted various measures to obtain land for their cattle business. At first, they spoke of cattle colonies – an idea that was repugnant to most people. Them toward the middle of 2018, they came up with the idea of the RUGA. We soon got to know that RUGA is an Hausa term that means cow settlement.

This was greeted with a storm of indignation across the country. The feeling of Nigerians did not prevent the Federal Government from doing what it wanted to do. We were told that the Federal Government made available to the cattle breeders’ association, a whopping sum of N200 billion to scout for land for the RUGA business across the land. People easily considered this as a summation of all that is wrong with Nigeria being elevated under the Buhari administration.

Opponents of the RUGA idea soon issued a Red Alert to their people, warning them of the danger in giving out their land. All people of goodwill sent messages to all the nooks and crannies, warning communities to guard against Shylocks who might come and offer them money and take away their land under different guises. Your land is all you have and once it is gone, all else is gone! So ran the message. In essence, land is life.

As soon as the campaigns for the 2019 general elections started, hostilities ceased on the RUGA front. Up till now, hostilities have not resumed. Uneasy calm now pervades the entire land. This is the time to be extra vigilant! When the sore appears healed and the pain is gone, then, it is time to be vigilant! More so, your opponents are not sleeping.

Outbreak of investors: Indeed, at no time did we expect the Fulani herdsmen to be going round our localities with bags of money looking for land for their nefarious enterprise. They would normally go through unscrupulous agents within the indigenous population. These agents are highly placed leaders, so-called, who will sell your land to some sham investors who will now pretend to plant some phony crops on the land. Indeed, that land could be for onward transfer to the RUGA adventures at a later date!

The agents are at work and luckily, the people are resisting them. The truth remains that you can cheat some of the people some of the time; but you can’t cheat all the people all the time.

In the particular case of Edo South, it is not by accident that in whichever direction you look, you see the people resisting the so-called leaders who want to take away their land. This is as it should be. The best time to resist them is now – not after they have successfully stolen your land and transferred same to their devious co-travellers. At that late hour, the battle will become more expensive to fight! In local parlance, not every fight must be left for the next generation! “Better as e dey hot”.

In the forgoing, we must quickly warn that your approach must be within legal bounds. Your struggle must not degenerate to violence. Do not kill or maim anybody. Drag them to court. Remember that your worst enemy today could still be your best friend tomorrow. If all else fail, drag them to the palace of the Oba of Benin. There, you will find that there is a Supreme Commander and his able lieutenants who are totally allergic to injustice. They will listen to you, and show you the best way to retain your land.

RUGA is evil. It will be a capital error to assume that the idea is dead. At best, it is merely incubating. So, you must not relent in your resistance of those who want to take away your land. Unarguably, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. So, Nigerians, be vigilant! 

Caveat emptor: let the investor beware!


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