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Cattle grazing crisis calls for national dialogue – General Jemibewon

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The recent attack of some villages by Herdsmen in Benue State is still the talking point in this polity. In this interview, a former minister of police affairs, Gen David Jemibewon, calls for a national dialogue on the desirability or otherwise of the creation of grazing fields for the herdsmen.

As one of those who fought to keep this country united, how do you feel watching the present state of insecurity, especially the recent killings in Rivers, Kaduna and Benue states?

All these things are political. It is just part of the problems of Nigeria. Other nations also have their own problems. So, hopefully, with time, we will learn to live peacefully.

As you must have observed, this trend has been on for quite some years now. What do you think is responsible for the inability of the government to nip some of these crises in the bud?

If anybody considers what is happening as a failure on the part of government, then I will say it is failure on the part of generality of the population. Government in a democratic setting is the government of the people by the people and for the people.  If the government comes up with great ideas and such ideas are not bought by the citizens, it will not work. So failure of government is the failure of the society.  Nigeria has failed in certain aspects particularly in the area of security. But it is not necessarily the failure of government; after all, government is the structure people put in place to administer the society or a country. It is part of God’s commandments that no one should kill another fellow human being.

But people disobey God and kill their fellow beings. If you disobey God’s law and disobey human made law, how do you achieve peace? So it is the failure of the society. In any case, when you talk of government, have you seen a case where a group of animals comes together to constitute a government?

To be more specific on the Benue State recent killing, do you see the establishment of grazing field as a way to end these incessant killings?

First of all, anything dealing with development of human beings should not and cannot be static. So, all rules and regulations should be subject to periodic review. For instance, in Nigeria, no particular area has been designated as grazing area for over a hundred years. But development has reached a point where such needs to be reviewed. So, there is a need for national discussion on the issue. If rearing of cattle is a profession, we should be able to have a defined area where people can practice such profession. Also, where there is a disagreement between two persons, there must be an avenue for people to discuss and agree on a solution to the problem.

There is an insinuation that Boko Haram insurgents might have infiltrated the ranks of the herdsmen who are unleashing terror on the local communities. What do you have to say about this?

I don’t know how Boko Haram started; I don’t know how herdsmen started their killings. But like I said, if many years ago there were no grazing lands, the population of cattle was less, and people were not as politically conscious as they are now, the situation we are at present calls for a review so that we can continue to live in harmony.

The sudden regrouping of Boko Haram insurgents who were said to have been decimated sometimes ago is another problem this government has to grapple with. Do you think the government is on top of the situation?

I have no reason to believe that the government is not on top of the situation. One, merely reading something in newspapers does not confirm to me the true situation of things. And I am not too sure that any good government will just go out and give wrong information to its citizens. So I want to believe that the government through its forces is on top of the situation. But, of course, when an incident occurs, publicity is given to it. And people tend to come to the conclusion that certainly government is not in total control.

So, authentic information should emanate from the Ministry of Information. Whatever comes from the Ministry of Information, to me, is mainly what I believe in. By and large, I want to believe government is on top of the situation.

Taking a holistic view of the incessant clashes among different communities, what in your own opinion is responsible for this worrisome trend?

The reasons might be many and they are likely to vary from one locality to the other. For example, it could be as a result of lack of sufficient information. It could also be as a result of deep rooted animosity between one community and another. It could also be lack of knowledge and understanding. It could as well be as a result of bad leadership. So, the problem may not just be one single reason. There could be multiple reasons. And except you are on the spot, you cannot say this is the particular reason. For all the areas where we have problems, it doesn’t matter where in Nigeria, trust is very important.

Can dialogue be a solution to all of this?

As they say, all roads lead to the market. When there is a problem, you don’t just look for one solution to solve the problem. You look at many possible solutions and weigh them against one another, looking at the advantages of each solution and then you come out with what you consider as the best solution. Even when you come to what you consider the best solution, you also have alternative because what you consider the best solution may fail. If it fails, you should have a fallback position. But where you have only one solution, that one solution may fail.


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