By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
A certain poor man was being oppressed by his siblings in their ancestral compound. The man in question was marrying two wives and had fourteen children. The ancient house left by their deceased father couldn’t accommodate all of them. He was the second among three brothers. By right it was the first son who was to inherit the house. They had no land elsewhere for expansion. The poor man with the two wives and fourteen children had neither land nor money to build a house of his own. He earned little from the gateman work he was doing. His nickname was GM. GM can mean either General Manager or Gate Man. On his own part, it was Gate Man. Some of his children slept on top of trees during dry season. During the rainy season, they slept with the goats in a make-shift house. His two wives themselves were at each other’s throats. In fact, the polygamous family was living in pieces. Abject poverty was living comfortably in their midst. He married the two of them so that they would feed him turn by turn from the little farming they were doing. He believed it is God who gives children. Therefore the fourteen of his children were God’s gift and not his own making. After all it is said, “God will provide.” But God did not provide as he expected. Hence they ate palm kernels morning and night. They only ate real food in the afternoon. Indeed they were living in miserable conditions.
It is said that a friend in need is a friend in deed. Thus, it happened that the GM in question had a good friend who was well to do. The friend had one wife and three children only. He built three bungalows in his compound, containing six rooms and parlour each. One day, the GM approached his friend to ask him for accommodation and food. His friend was really touched from what he heard and saw about the GM. For this reason, he offered him one of the bungalows for his two wives and fourteen children. Also he gave them three bags of rice, twenty tubers of yam and two bags of beans as a welcome package. In addition, he gave them an arable piece of land for farming. The poor man (GM) and his family heaved a sigh of relief.
Before moving into the bungalow, the two wives reconciled through the efforts of the generous friend. The fourteen children were as happy as the Saints. The GM himself grew taller and added flesh. The gate man later became a general manager in one of the companies of his bosom friend. Thus people began to call him “Honourable GM.” He came home with rich salary each month. The children grew up well and were educated. Later, the philanthropic friend had a fatal car accident and died at the spot. It was so painful. An iroko tree fell pitifully. He was given a befitting funeral. Left to mourn him were the ageing wife, two sons and a daughter. The daughter was already married while the two sons were about to marry when their father died.
As time went by, the Gate Man turned General Manager started to claim the house and the compound in which he was accommodated by his late good friend. He was also claiming the large acres of land around for his nine sons. The widow of his deceased friend and her two sons went to court. Because the GM has become a millionaire, he bought the judge over and won the case. As a result, he drove away the widow and her two sons and claimed everything. Thus the tenant drove the landlord away and became the landlord. One’s charity led him into hot soup. Injustice has overthrown justice. Would the God of justice keep silent over this anomaly? Humanly speaking, injustice prevails because good men keep silent in the midst of evil.
I have searched for the word ‘Ruga’ in English Dictionary but did not find it. Also I searched for it in the Encyclopedia of English Language, all to no avail. It is not an Igbo, Yoruba or pigin English terminology. Finally I discovered that Ruga is a Hausa word for cattle/Fulani settlement. Experts say that Ruga means ‘dominate’ in Northern language. Some say it means ‘fast’ or ‘with speed.’ Put together, Ruga means dominate/possess lands with speed or faster. However, the Federal Government says Ruga is the Agricultural settlement of the herdsmen and their cattle for the purpose of milk and beef production. According to the Presidency, it is an effort to solve the incessant bloody clashes between the rampaging herdsmen and farmers. Simply put, Ruga is a hidden agendum.
An Igbo proverb says that it is not a problem to give water to the monkey. Rather the problem lies in getting back the cup from him. If the Fulani herdsmen and cattle settle in all the 36 states of the Federation including Abuja the Capital Territory, is there any possibility of their leaving later? Or will they settle nationwide in perpetuity? This means that the Fulani people become automatic citizens of all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory. No wonder some adduce that Ruga means Fulanisation and Islamization. Someone says that Ruga is nothing but “building under gun attack.” Allow them opportunity and in two years time they will tell you they need basic amenities like pipe born water, electricity, mosque, market, better housing and schools for their children. In about five years later, their population will grow rapidly. Then the need will come to install an Emir in each state of their settlement. After many years of settlement, their children will say that they were born in that land decades ago and have nowhere else to go. They settle, occupy and take charge. In her article titled “The Ruga controversy” Wale Sokunbi writes: “It is basic common sense that as the cows are multiplying now and in the future, so also will the number of herdsmen, with a huge potential for conflicts and expansion beyond the grazing areas” ( Dailysun, Wednesday, 3 July 2019, page 17).The former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo accuses President Buhari of Fulanisation and Islamization agenda. This accusation is really coming to fruition by the Ruga settlement.
In the last two years, it was the demand for cattle colony in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The colony was to be as large as a Local Government Area. The Fulani people and their cattle would settle there. People saw it as Colonization and conquest. Before Independence, we were colonized by Britain. After Independence we are about to be colonized by the Fulani. Nigerians rejected the cattle colony agenda. Now it has metamorphosed into Ruga settlement. Cattle colony and Ruga settlement are the same. Whatever name you give to a dog, it remains a dog. A certain man calls his dog Darling. Another calls his own War. Whether it answers Darling or War, it remains a dog.
As the controversy of the Ruga settlement rages, the Federal Government announced that it has suspended the programme for now. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines Suspension as “the act of officially stopping something from continuing for a period of time.” When a student is suspended from school, he or she would be recalled later. But when he or she is expelled from school, there is no possibility of coming back. Hence the suspension of Ruga settlement entails that it will be implemented later in one form or the other. This is the more reason why Fani-Kayode in his Twitter handle addressed President Buhari in these stern words: “We do not want you to suspend RUGA, we want you to CANCEL it! Suspension means you are postponing the evil day, cancel means it is NEVER coming back. If you want peace in this country RUGA must be CANCELLED and you must CANCEL your Fulanisation and Islamisation policy.” According to Cardinal Anthony Okogie, the former Archbishop of Lagos, “The latest act of injustice is the proposed and now ‘suspended’ project of Ruga settlement. It amounts to the height of duplicity for the Presidency to tell Nigerians that this is the solution to the problem of violent herdsmen. We are dealing here with a strain of duplicity that is rendered more tragic by the arrogance of government spokespersons.” (Nigeriaworld.com, Headline, posted Thurs, July 4, 2019). The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, did not mince words when he says, “I think that there is going to be trouble in this country if this Ruga thing is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as priority. Any country where cattle takes priority over human life is definitely at an elementary stage” (Dailysun, Wed, 3 July 2019, page12). Indeed, the cloud is thickening. The truth is gradually manifesting. In the first level it was Change and Cattle Colony. Now in this ‘next level’ it is Ruga settlement.
In all honesty, if President Buhari wants to settle his Fulani nomadic people in all the states of the Federation including Abuja, then he must be ready to settle the Igbo, the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Tiv, the Ijaw, the Ibibio, the Efik and the other tribes that make up Nigeria. For peace to reign, one must give a set of triplets the same hair cut. Discrimination brings disunity and discord. If a father or a mother discriminates among his or her children, then trouble sets in. Equity brings peace. Cattle-rearing is a private business. It is not the duty of the Federal Government to provide for the herdsmen. If the Government settles the business of the herdsmen nationwide, then she must also settle commercial drivers with vehicles and houses to live in. The traders would be given shops and accommodation. Wine tappers would be provided with palm trees to tap and houses to live in. Butchers would be supplied with beef and where to live. Building material traders would be supplied with materials, shops and houses.
Wonders shall never end! As I sat in my office last week, a poor couple came into my office to register their newly born baby boy (BBB) for baptism. I welcomed them warmly and then enquired of the name they wish their child to answer. The father and mother in unison said, “His name is Ruga.” I cleared my eyes to make sure I was not dreaming. I asked the couple again what name they mentioned. They shouted, “Ruga!” I asked them the meaning of Ruga. The husband stood up and said, “Father, Ruga means the Federal Government will provide everything for our child all the days of his life.” I couldn’t control my tearful laughter until I fell down from my seat. The wife looked at me pitifully and asserted, “Father, it is not a laughing matter. The economy is biting hard on us. Therefore, our son’s name is Ruga, simple and short.” Laughter apart, I told them that I vehemently reject that name Ruga. They sighed, stood up and left. As they were leaving, I was stamping my feet on the floor,