An atmosphere of incertitude and bewilderment currently pervades the Plateau-sphere with regards recent pronouncements by the Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong about grazing reserves. The incertitude stems from two ambiguous and deliberately obfuscating statements made by Governor Lalong at two different times this week.
Firstly, during his May 29th broadcast where he rightly and vehemently debunked rumour mongering with regards seizure of lands and establishment of grazing reserves, but subsequently (and cleverly) through the use of words, subtly asked Plateau people to key into the policy because it will be for the use of everyone and not just for a selected people and I quote
“Furthermore, it is important to note three fundamental issues: First, acquisition of a reserve is at the pleasure of the state because the Land Use Act, which gives government control over all land still subsists. Secondly, customary rights over land are still recognized and therefore nobody is going to seize anybody’s land to set up a grazing reserve. Third, the establishment of any reserve is for the use of everybody, who wishes to, but not for a particular set of people as being erroneously insinuated. There is no compulsion in the establishment or usage of any grazing reserve. It is wholly and completely volitional and at the pleasure of the State and the land-owner “. See full transcripts of the speech at: http://www.viewpointnigeria.com/9242-2/
The second time Lalong made ambiguous statements was during a separate media parley with journalist (i.e., after the democracy day broadcast). At this parley, the governor let his guard down and made clear pronouncements to DailyTrust Newspaper (Note: The use of DailyTrust as the medium to disseminate this information is strategic –and I shall explain shortly). His statements were not just passive affirmations, but they were concrete and far reaching with verifiable facts – he stated that:
#1. Traditional rulers are currently being lobbied and many have signified interest in donating lands so as to access CBN and World Bank loans
#2. Langtang South and Wase LGA’s have already informally agreed to provide lands for the policy.
Now, like I said earlier, the choice of DailyTrust is strategic. It is the medium through which the Grazing Reserves policy has been extensively proselytized and sold to the Nigerian state. Several articles about the pros of the policy and its benefits to the Nigerian state were ran on the Frontpage and so most proponents of this policy subscribe to this medium. Opinion even has it, that it is Buhari’s medium of choice for National news.
Now back to my analysis. The key question on most people’s minds is – Does Lalong truly believe in the implementation of grazing reserves? My honest opinion is that he doesn’t (I may be wrong). Lalong fully appreciates how herdsmen have decimated many villages across Plateau and knows fully well that the grazing reserve bill is simply a political tool that will not solve (but exacerbate) the current crisis. So you might ask – why then would he be passive or subtly endorse such? –well sit tight, keep reading and I’d explain.
Lalong came into power through the goodwill of Rotimi Amaechi (not Buhari). Rotimi Amaechi single handedly funded and financed the campaign of governor Lalong (not to discount immense contributions of Chief J C Dariye). Lalong has since shown appreciation for this, by giving Amaechi several cabinet and commissioner-ship positions (Tamwakat Weli – the current commissioner of Finance and others). Unfortunately though, Rotimi Amaechi’s political influence in the APC government is not growing – if anything, it is becoming clear that there is only one boss whom everyone needs to keep happy – and that person is Muhammadu Buhari. Now, given that Lalong has been in the outside circle of Buhari’s trust zone, he has to do a lot to gain the confidence and trust of President Buhari. Therefore a policy such as the grazing reserve policy is a great opportunity to demonstrate loyalty to the president’s policies. However, and unfortunately for Lalong, Plateau citizens do not subscribe to this policy – as such our governor is caught in the middle of this challenging situation. Who would he serve? President Buhari or Plateau citizens?
To add salt to injury – Solomon Dalung is constantly lurking in the background, trying to exploit any and every opportunity to demonstrate higher levels of loyalty to President Buhari. Evidence of this – is that Langtang South and Wase have already given verbal confirmation that they would key into the Grazing Reserves policy. So I ask you the rhethorical question, who do you think would have brokered the deal in Langtang South? Surely not the traditional institution of Langtang –else the same confirmation would have been obtained from Langtang North.
And so if Dalung was instrumental in brokering such a deal –can you imagine the amount of pressure that puts on our Governor? If Lalong rejects the policy having gotten verbal approbation from Langtang South & Wase – then reports to President Buhari would be that Dalung got his locality to endorse the policy, but the Plateau Governor turned it down. This would be damaging to Lalong’s political future. Remember, currently there is only one person to satisfy in APC –and that is President Buhari.
So essentially the quagmire leaves Lalong with two very difficult choices. He either rejects the bill in totality (which means he will face a difficult political future or he takes the slightly easier stance of obfuscating (i.e., taking an unclear stand on the policy) like he has currently done. By obfuscating, his position remains unclear and he does not make a final decision, but the Plateau people do through rigorous debates, where they either reject or accept the policy. Well, that is what has been happening now on the Plateau –particularly on social media and other outlets. We have all been debating the policy over the last few days and the verdict is clear.
As it stands, all watchers of the president will see that the Governor tried to push the policy, but it was aptly shot down by Plateau citizens – that is a better position for the governor than him rejecting it himself.
See previous reports by DailyTrust at: http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/agriculture/why-suswam-ortom-and-i-supported-grazing-reserves-creation–lalong/148833.html
By Dr. Chinan Mclean
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