Anti-open grazing stakeholders meeting: The needed harmony in Edo

Anti-open grazing stakeholders meeting: The needed harmony in Edo
Godwin Obaseki

By MATTHEW OKUNSEBOR

A Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting on the proposed Anti-Open Grazing Law in Edo State was organized by the State Government at Imaguero College Hall in Benin City, essentially to foster collaboration in order to create harmony in the State.

The Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration deemed it necessary to engage stakeholders in a dialogue on how best to address existing critical issues that are threatening the peaceful co-existence of the citizens and residents of the State.

It is common knowledge that there has been mutual suspicion and unhealthy relationship between cattle herders and the people of the State for the past one decade. This hostility has often led to violent attacks, resulting in the loss of lives, destruction of crops and farm produce, kidnapping of unsuspecting victims and outright attacks on communities.

It is important to note that the issue at hand is not between Christians and Muslims; it is not between Edo people and Fulani people, and neither is the matter between the people of the North and the people of the South.

It is indeed disheartening to observe that the peace, conviviality and age-long affinity that once existed between cattle herders and host communities in Edo State for over a hundred years have been completely eroded and sadly replaced with distrust, hatred and acrimony. This development is certainly not healthy for the survival and progress of the people and the State at large.

At this juncture, it is important to isolate the prevailing issues and put them in proper perspectives. Cattle business is done by several categories of people. Cattle herders in Edo State are popularly known as Fulanis, and these Fulani herders have been in the State for several decades such that they see themselves as part of Edo people.

There is another group of herders who migrated from the Northern part of the Country and beyond through bush paths and they now stay in the forests in Edo. These herders allegedly engage in all manner of crimes under the guise of cattle rearing and unleash mayhem on innocent victims. Therefore, it may not be out of place to surmise that Fulani herders who are resident in Edo and doing legitimate business may not likely engage in any activity that is inimical to the host communities which they are part of.

Similarly, some Edo people are in the cattle business as owners of cattle, some operate cattle ranches while others engaged in marketing and sale of cattle. There are also Fulani and Hausa merchants who are dealers in cattle markets in the State. The cattle value chain further encompasses operators of abattoirs, butchers and meat sellers, those who operate restaurants, hotels, clubs houses and eateries, food vendors, including those who periodically buy cattle for specific ceremonies. Invariably, this huge business contributes immensely to the wealth of the people and boosts the overall economy of the State.

It is important to note that the issue at hand is not between Christians and Muslims; it is not between Edo people and Fulani people, and neither is the matter between the people of the North and the people of the South. Hence, it is needless to play politics with the issue. Instead, what should be done now is to deal with the matter honestly and objectively, exactly the way it is. It is necessary not to exacerbate the crisis, but to seek for plausible and acceptable means of mitigating the challenges.

To demystify this burning issue, the Governor Obaseki-led administration has aptly provided a veritable platform through the Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting for Edo citizens and residents to find a common ground and enduring solutions that would constitute a Bill to be forwarded to State House of Assembly for their consideration. Consequently, in a democratic society like ours, all stakeholders should collectively collaborate to fashion out a common position and find lasting solutions to the lingering crisis. To achieve this objective, leaders and heads of groups and communities need to urgently meet and interact with their members about the proposed Anti-Open Grazing Law so that they can come up with harmonized positions which they can present during the next Stakeholders Town Hall Meeting to be organized by Edo State Government in Benin City.

Therefore, stakeholders in Edo State need to judiciously utilize this opportunity to re-write the narrative that will usher in fresh and enduring peace and harmony in Edo State for the benefit of everyone.

It is democratic for everyone to be carried along, as what we practise in Edo State is the true democracy.

Obviously, Edo State Government has demonstrated a humane disposition such that it does not want to impose anything on the people. Instead, Government has opted for appropriate consultation with the people before making any law on open grazing. For Edo State Government, it is whatever the people want and decide that they will get, as Governor Godwin Obaseki will not do anything to the contrary. While other states which have faced a similar scenario hurriedly sent their bills to their Legislators and signed them into law, Edo State Government has decided to interact with the people and allow them to brainstorm and decide for themselves what they want before the bill can be sent to the State House of Assembly.

Furthermore, there is also a provision for stakeholders to attend a public hearing in the State House of Assembly so that stakeholders can be sure that it is what they have decided that is contained in the Bill.

Therefore, stakeholders in Edo State need to judiciously utilize this opportunity to re-write the narrative that will usher in fresh and enduring peace and harmony in Edo State for the benefit of everyone.