RUGA, FG and the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers

Some leadership traits that were useful in the past might not be so today, because we are facing a situation that is totally different from the one that prevailed in the late 1990s or even in early 2000s. We must, therefore, find new forms of leadership, because the sophisticated ventures we are considering today requires a higher level of initiative and creativity

 — Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate.

The vast majority of Nigerians think the reason(s) fueling the growing insecurity, which leads to the daily loss of lives and property despite huge budgetary allocations, and has grown to assume new dimensions threatening the continued existence of the country is beyond the government. The simple answer to that assertion is no.

Except in a peripheral way, if we truly analyze the characteristics of excellent leaders regardless of their nationality, we will find out that they are both creative and innovative.

This sorry absence is our challenge.

By contrast, while the creative and innovative leaders are thinking up, and doing new things because they possess the know-how, energy and, power to implement ideas, those lacking in these attributes do not see the need for placing emphasis on planning or implementing policies that will liberate Nigerians from inequalities and exploitation or support the Nigerian masses with social programmes that will improve their life chances. Instead, they cherish such policies that promote elitism-they are generally unconcerned.

Indeed, there have been too many heartbreaking actions by our government fueled by traits that were initially useful in the past but not today.

However, there is no event in recent times that probably did more than anything else to convince Nigerians to take a different look at their government than FG’s relentless push on state governments to in spite of public outcry, make land available for the controversial RUGA settlement, while also revealing that  N2.258 billion was allocated for the initiative in the 2019 budget.

Going by reports, Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters to President Muhammadu Buhari had in Abuja recently, among other things insisted that the National Assembly members are not against the scheme because they are already aware of its modus operandi and have been approving funds for its implementation. And expressed surprise over the inability of some state governors to comprehend the policy.

Aside from the fact that cattle rearing in the country have been  proved beyond reasonable doubt to be a private business- a position which casts a question mark on government’s involvements with the establishments of  grazing areas, What I found most shocking in his claim that the National Assembly members are not against the scheme because they have  already been approving funds for its implementation is that it stands as the latest in a series of RUGA debate that shows the increasing capacity of our government not following  recognizable processes, criteria or mechanism or filtering policy ideas to capture citizen’s voices.

 But it appears that the time for excuses has passed for all of us.

Supporting this assertion is the communique issued by the Delta State Council of Monarchs at the end of their meeting in Asaba where the group among other things stated that; they have exhaustively deliberated on the issue of RUGA, and came to the conclusion that there was no land for RUGA project in Delta State. Noting that they have a land deficit in Delta State and cannot spare an inch of land for grazing as some parts of the state are riverine and their people are majorly farmers. While calling on the Federal Government to be more proactive, firm and decisive in clamping down on all forms of criminal elements in the country.

Now let us turn to the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers comments on RUGA and insecurity in the country.

Very instructive also, many may ask if the traditional rulers have such power as to detect which land should be sold or not, since the Land Use Act vested all lands in the state to a governor as a trustee for the real owners of the land. Whether they do or not, it is glaring that their position is evidence-based, laced with so much insight from its tone and capped with resemblance of past positions canvassed by other emminent Nigerians.

As an illustration, it was in the news that while commenting on RUGA, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state stated that; ‘while the idea for the establishment of RUGA settlements may be understandable, it does not however truly factor the interests of every state, former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his part expressed deep worries about four avoidable calamities listed as; abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram type; spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.

And in an effort to understand and mitigate the insecurity and criminality pervading the Southwest states and the country, he (Obasanjo) recently met Fulani leaders in the South West, Kogi and Kwara states.

Before the dust raised by Obasanjo’s comment could settle, that of Abdulsalami Abubakar was up.

The former military President during a roundtable organized to search for solutions to the problems we are currently experiencing as a nation, particularly issues and matters around co-existence and security declared that; Nigeria is going through a period of trials amidst growing tensions and resentments. Warning that there is danger in the land and the voices of reason is drowning very rapidly.

The Southeast governors just like their south-south counterparts are maintaining their stance that the contentious RUGA settlement would not be allowed in the zone no matter the pressure, as there is no land in Southeast for the programme.

This has two sets of lessons for the government.

First, history illustrates that there is no simple or enduring connection between climate or geography and economic success, in the same way, there is no way FG’s attitude of planning without consulting with the masses and stakeholders in particular can help the nation achieve its potentials.

Secondly, it is time for the FG to remember that the prime objective of democracy is the right to choose.  So, when we are convinced of the need to change, we can determine our pace towards change and set our priorities.

In the final analysis, it is obvious that as a nation, we are presently propelled by mutual suspicion, ethno-religious upheavals and misgivings from one region against another or powerful personalities against each other. And all these are happening because of the governments’ inability to create a system that is accountable, transparent and detribalized. And until we are able to do that, the nation Nigeria may remain but a wobbling tripod.

 Utomi (, writes from Lagos.

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