The Group Managing Director, Odu’a Investment Company Limited, owned by the six state governments of the South-West, Mr Adewale Raji, speaks with MUDIAGA AFFE on possible solutions to the herdsmen and farmers conflict as well as the increasing wave of insecurity in the country, among other issues
As one of the biggest conglomerates in the South-West, are you worried over the state of insecurity in the region?
We should be worried because it is no longer the way it was in the past. I will view it from an economic angle. We must know that in any measure we are taking, we should also try to address the fundamentals behind how we are now getting this intensity, and most of this is rooted in the level of our human capital development. It is also rooted in the depth of unemployment level or underemployment; and in terms of a lasting solution, it must be multidimensional. Whereas there will be some responses in terms of how the issues are addressed, we must also try to look beyond just immediate palliatives to attend to the issues. So, definitely, we are worried.
Largely as a result of the clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers, would you reconsider revamping some of your ranches?
Looking at the South-West and the kind of vision our forebears had put into play in terms of addressing our socio-security needs, either in terms of crop or animal protein, what we call ranches were creations of more than 40 years ago, but somehow, instead of us complementing it to make sure that we have borders, the era of the oil boom literally distracted us from focusing on these value-added job-creating ventures and we are where we are today. From the Odu’a point of view, the issue about food security, whether at the crop side or animal husbandry, this is an area of interest. Our approach to it is that we do know that in today’s world, issues that constitute challenges to a polity are addressed from the technical expertise and skill points of view. So, certainly, we are looking at livestock and dairy. We are looking at it so that we can enter into very strong partnerships that would bring on board the latest technology and know-how in terms of managing it such that the yield that you get from such venture, not only satisfy protein need but will also satisfy what I will call the financial and economic dimensions for people going into business. So, we are looking to get back into livestock, ranching and making sure that this is done with competent and technical partners such that we can guarantee higher yields and make sure that we limit the current situation of tension between all farmers and people who are raring animals.
Between ranching and the proposed Ruga policy of the Federal Government, which would be the best option to address the herders/farmers clashes?
Nigeria is a capitalist economy, so, there is literarily nothing we are doing in Nigeria that the Western world has not done. So, the key question is this: Where there had been a success, what have they done? When you mention the name Ruga, we have got to be careful that there is a political dimension to it. There is politics that goes with it. So, it is an area I would not want to touch. Specifically, the issue is that we have a growing population that requires food that contains protein. How is it that we are able to provide adequate protein requirement for people? And that relates to getting productivity, higher yields. If it is crop farming, it means increasing outputs coming from the same earth range. So, when it comes to animal also, it is the element of how you ensure that you have quality beef, and good quantity coming from the same head. Elsewhere in the world, whether New Zealand or Latin America or the United States, what we have seen is a situation where animals are confined and they are fed similar to what we do in poultry. So, the question I will ask is that if we look at poultry today, we should compare it with what we do in our traditional homes; raring chicken at home to raring it in the poultry. Having poultry in sedentary locations have become common and between six to eight weeks they are ready for the table for eating and when you look at the meat yield coming from poultry chicken, compared with raring chicken at home, it is a whole world of difference. So, frankly, it is what has succeeded elsewhere that we need to do. We need to provide what the animals are going to eat and we cannot afford to leave them wandering in search of food. It is no longer done in the advanced world any longer- it is outdated in the advanced world. In addition, you will realise that in a fragmented situation, we are meant to take full advantage of the value chain related to the livestock industry. When people talk about animal slaughtering to provide meat, beyond the meat, there are a whole lot of things in the downstream in the abattoir and livestock industry. There are a lot of materials that are brought out beyond the meat. The waste coming from raring animal is enormous manure for farming. Animal bone marrow is processed to callow which is used in soap production. The leather industry, for example, gives us premium in terms of quality and this could be got from the same source. There is a whole lot of difference between leather and synthetic leather. Today, what is known as the Moroccan hides and skin is highly priced all over the world. We had it before, unfortunately, we are not getting all these benefits today in Nigeria. So, getting animals confined to a location like ranches and ensuring that we go through modern processing system will allow us to take greater value beyond just the meat. So, modern ranching is very vital as it has succeeded in creating multiple industries in different parts of the world out of the livestock sector.
How can we curb banditry, kidnappings and killings nationwide?
In order to address the problem of banditry and other forms of crime, we have to put in place proper identity management and documentation for all Nigerians. In the food industry, for instance, we talk about traceability. If you identify a batch that something has gone wrong with, you could see them withdrawing everything that is related to that batch. They are able to trace what they are recalling. Now, let us relate it to human beings. If we have the identity of human beings, we are traceable. This is one area where in terms of self-containment, people are going to desist from banditry and other forms of crime. There is nothing stopping someone from doing something wrong in a village in Gombe State and appears in another village in Delta State without any person knowing he is a wanted criminal in Gombe State. If we have proper national identity management, based on forensic, any day you put your fingerprint down here your entire history of good and bad is available. In the western world, as you know, the only reason why they are able to track criminals is that they have created a proper identity management system. To curb banditry and other forms of crime, we need to do this and rely on such database to know the track record of people. If we are not able to address it on a national scale, there is nothing stopping us from addressing it on a state by state basis.
At a period when other countries are advancing their economies, Nigeria is saddled with insecurity, what does it portend for us as a nation?
It is something that is disheartening, I must confess because some of them relate to what you call self-affliction. We need to begin to ask fundamental questions whether we have a common course, as to the direction the country should go and in my honest opinion if you recite the national anthem, after doing that, we should ask ourselves what commitment do we have to the wordings of that anthem as individuals. It calls for moral rebirth and fresh reorientation. We need to address that foundation and realign ourselves back in the areas that we have gone wrong.
Does this call for restructuring of the country?
For countries that have operated federal systems, the basis on which they were set up was an identification that there were individual differences, either from cultural, ethnic or experiential backgrounds. It will not augur well to pretend those differences don’t exist, in which case you tend to address conflict that will arise from those differences. As a 59-year-old nation, what we should begin to ask ourselves is that those differences that exist as a group; are they still in place today? Or whether over the years, we have managed each other and have blended? The truth is that that blend has not happened, implying that the viewpoints are still different. If there are different viewpoints, it means that there needs to be a consensus via dialogue as to how to live together in a beneficial way. In the business world, there are people coming from different backgrounds, educational levels, ethnic, culture, religious beliefs, functional disciplines and others, and yet at the end of the day, whether they are in sectors like the brewing industry, energy, oil and gas, they are still able to deliver the objective of the organisation. It is because there is a benefit that each of these components has that they derive from delivering the objective of the company. What you find out is that those elements that come together actually subsume most of their differences that are inimical to that business from achieving its objective. So, you find out that in a multinational, for example, you find people of all faith, gender, disciplines come to work and deliver the objective of the organisation. When we talk about the nation, it is defining that agenda and making sure we are able to mitigate the differences to achieve that objective. It is working in other climes, especially on the political side where we are having these difficulties, and it is high time we addressed them. The element of the system we have today is that it is centrally dominated and that is why there is so much focus on the centre. So, if they actually get things done at the lower level, then the demand on that centre will reduce. The centre has proven to be weak and incapable. The way it is today is that the centre has enormous resources at its disposal and enormous power, whereas it is not able to deliver; that is why we have all these agitations in place. Through engagement, we can identify the priorities of the different segments of the country and work out an agreement on how to chat a common course.