Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, on Tuesday warned the Federal Government that it’s handling of Ruga herdsmen settlements could spark an explosion in the country.
Soyinka, at the inauguration of the United Nations Solutions 17 SDG program in Lagos, said the Ruga project of the Federal Government was not the best approach to resolving the herders-farmers’ clashes.
The Nobel laureate said this just as the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum and other groups clashed with the Presidency on Tuesday over the project.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Monday on The News at 10 on Channels Television, had said Benue was not among states where the Ruga project would be sited.
Shehu said the decision of the Federal Government to keep quiet about the project was deliberate because of the manner in which politicians were exploiting the Ruga controversy.
But Ortom, through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, said Shehu was not saying the truth when he claimed that the state was not included in the project.
In Lagos on Tuesday, Soyinka faulted the Federal Government over the project. He stated, “Ruga is going to be an explosion if not handled with care. But why do we not take our policies from good models?
“This is not the way people and countries deal with issues of cattle. I travel everywhere. It has to be handled in a way that is logical, comprehensible to the environment. When a cow walks up to the window of my house in Abeokuta, a house which is located in a residential area, then there’s a problem.
“When a cow goes to Ijebu Ode and eats up their seedlings and so on and you expect people to be quiet? People have been killed in hundreds just because of the failure of leadership at a critical time.
“And the cattle herders have been given a sense of impunity. They kill without any compunction, they drive away the farmers who have been contributing to the food solutions in the country, the cattle eat their crops and then you come up with Ruga.
“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 take priority over human life is definitely at an elementary stage.”
In the interview with Channels Television on Monday, the presidential media aide, Shehu, had said opposition to the Ruga project was based on politics and blackmail.
The presidential aide said, “My agreement with the officials that have given us information in the ministry of agriculture is that we would keep silent about it. One thing I will tell you is that the most outspoken critic of this policy, who is the governor of Benue State, is not invited, is not a part of it. He has no business meddling in this affair and if he has work to do, let him stay on his job and do it.”
When challenged with the fact that Nigerians had a right to know about any government policy, Shehu responded, “I agree with you. In any case, the Federal Government has approved funding for this project. So, already, in some of these states, work is going on.
“They have started mobilizing in Niger. But because the entire opposition to this is based on politics and blackmail and the promotion of ethnic hatred, our decision is perhaps to protect those people who are cooperating with the Federal Government in solving a problem that worries everyone.”
All the 12 states that have signed unto it have done so by application and they have met the given criteria. Every opposition to this is politics.”