We read one write-up published online by one Tunji Ajibade in which the writer attempted to whittle down the significance of the stand of Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom as it concerns the need for Nigeria to embrace ranching and phase out open grazing of livestock. Ajibade made frantic but fruitless efforts in his piece which he titled ‘Governor Ortom, this thesis can’t fly’ to convince the reading public that the argument of the Governor, especially his comparison of the number of livestock in other countries with that of Nigeria is not realistic.
He was apparently acting the script of those who do not want the country to tackle and end the menace of herdsmen attacks. Ajibade wanted to prove Governor Ortom’s presentation wrong on the unacceptability of open grazing but only ended up making a fool of himself. He could not contradict the Governor in any way. His submissions lacked quality and substance.
Whenever Governor speaks about the need to pave way for ranching and end open grazing in Nigeria, he copiously quotes the United States Department of Agriculture and other credible sources which have empirical data on livestock across the world.
On 7th May, 2019, at the Princess Alexander Auditorium, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Governor Ortom delivered a public lecture organized by the Political Science Department of the Ivory Tower. The theme of the lecture was ‘The Challenges of Mitigating Herdsmen Attacks on People of Nigeria: Lessons from Benue State.’ The Governor stated on that occasion that:
“Today we live in the 21st century and open grazing is extinct in most countries of the world. In Europe, America, Asia and in many countries in Africa, pastoralism has long given way to ranching. How can Nigeria then still be battling with a problem of pastoralism that in other countries has been solved over a century ago? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, India has 303 million cattle, Brazil, 226 million, China, 100 million, USA, 93 million, Argentina, 53 million and Australia 27 million. All these countries ranch their animals. Nigeria has less than 20 million cattle which could also be easily ranched. Unfortunately, the cows are allowed to either roam the streets freely or encroach on people’s farms and other investments. A ranching policy in Nigeria will provide an avenue for both crop farmers and those involved in animal husbandry to increase production using modern technology.”
In a keynote address at the 2021 Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association, Makurdi Branch, Governor Ortom again made reference to global sources to buttress his advocacy for ranching as the best form of animal husbandry when he stated thus:
“Statista Research Department in its January 29, 2021 Report, stated that Jihadist Fulani herdsmen activities in Nigeria from 2015 to 2020, led to the killing of over seven thousand four hundred Christians particularly in the Northern region. The Report further indicated that over five million people were displaced and their properties destroyed.
Open grazing of cattle leads to destruction of farm lands and environmental degradation. This has resulted in resistance from communities whose lands have been negatively affected by the activities of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle roaming across the country. Consequently, this has had a negative impact on socio-economic life of the country and is also fueling ethnic tensions.”
From the above, it is clear that Ajibade, in a haste to please his paymasters failed to take a proper look at Governor Ortom’s outings regarding his advocacy for ranching. Only the likes of Ajibade who care just about their stomachs constitute a tiny colony of naysayers when the majority of Nigerians have embraced ranching as the global best method of animal husbandry.
Whenever the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom speaks, he does so on behalf of millions of voiceless Nigerians. Ortom is not a glib. He is not flippant. He doesn’t focus on frivolities. He goes for substance. He sees what others only get to see weeks or even months later. He is a leader with uncommon depth whose utterances are guided by divine foresight. Governor Ortom is forthright. He says it as it is. All his predictions and warnings, particularly about security and economic matters, have come to pass.
The Benue State Governor is a voice of conscience and reason that must be taken seriously, even if Ajibade and his kind do not like Ortom for who he is and what he does, they must learn to separate the message from the messenger. The message may be the saving grace to avert the looming national calamity that stares us in the face.
In times of national turbulence, proactive measures are key to nipping in the bud the impending danger and on this, Governor Ortom acts like the gadfly to sting the Federal Government to consciousness to act earlier than it should be late. His advocacy against open grazing of cattle should be taken seriously as a time bomb that is already exploding to consume the country.
Another important lesson to mention here is that Governor Ortom loves his fatherland and desires to see things function correctly because he has chosen to remain undeterred in the face of even threats to his life for speaking against the myriad of social problems that are eating deeply into the fabric of our nationhood.
Let it be known that posterity will be fair to those who braved the odds to sustain the state of our national sovereignty and spoke as well as acted in defence of citizens of this great country. Governor Ortom has already secured a place in the annals of Nigeria for his bold, firm and courageous stand towards ensuring that the country works to protect the interests of all citizens irrespective of their backgrounds.