You can’t tackle “herdsmen” terrorism without addressing rural poverty

Let us begin to unpick this one after the other. The current crisis in southwest Nigeria has exposed a fundamental problem in the almost total neglect of rural areas in development planning and implementation. It is a cumulative consequence of failure of successive governments. With next to nothing infrastructures and non-existing amenities, the rural folks have been basically left to fend for themselves, while at the same time fending for everyone else in the large urban areas- that is, in terms of food.

And so it became a jungle out there. The Yoruba hinterland became a fertile ground for mindless murder and rampant terrorism. With every unresolved kidnapping and murder, the criminals grew bolder in what has now become a lucrative destructive enterprise. A get rich quick scheme that is comparable to the slave trade. It eats at the very core of our essential humanity.

In spite of this, the elected governments are still grappling at the surface of things. This is not just a security issue. It is also fundamentally a development crisis that requires radical out of the box thinking to aggressively tackle the root causes.

Every rural farmer trapped in a cycle of desperate poverty, while striving to keep everyone else alive by bringing food to the market, represent a big dent on our collective humanity. And now the chickens are coming home to roost. You need a rural transformation strategy beyond the perennial lip service of yesteryears.

You need to empower the rural farmer to take control of the land, deploy technology to create value for the wider society and capture value for themselves. If you do that you solve half of the problem. Not all of it by any means, but a sizeable fraction. For in doing this you will leave little rook for criminals. Herdsmen will not only have to register to embrace a new business model (with sedentarisation) or go elsewhere.

Seun Kolade 31-01-2021

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