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For Aliero, it’s time to share citizenship with cows By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

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INSTEAD of being angry with Senator Adamu Aliero, Kebbi Central, for resolving the disputes over rights between citizens and cows, in favour of the animals, Nigerians should be grateful to him for his candour. He has introduced more meanings in the animal rights conversations that have dominated the country’s farmers-herders crises from the previous century.

Unlike others who befuddle the same point, Aliero was direct, tackled the otherwise impatient Senator President Dr. Godswill Akpabio in a back and forth to stand his grounds that cows had citizenship rights. He put it more succinctly, cows are citizens and should be accorded the rights that the Constitution awards Nigerians.
Aliero is an astute politician if that means anything. He was Governor of Kebbi State for eight years, was elected a Senator in 2007, a position he left to be President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s Minister of Federal Capital Territory for two years. He has had an uninterrupted tenure in the Senate since 2015.
An anti-open grazing bill that Senator Titus Zam Tartenger, Benue North-West, sponsored was what prompted Aliero’s rigour to share our citizenship with cows. Tartenger’s constituency bears a big part of Fulani herders’ attacks which have resulted in loss of lives, displacement of people, and food shortages due to the insecurity in the farms.
Aliero was over-ruled several times as the mini debate on the citizenship rights of cows went on. Aliero was insistent that cows were citizens of Nigeria. Akpabio was persistent in trying to retrieve the constitutional human rights of Nigerians and fending off chances of allowing us share them with cows.
Why was Akpabio shutting down Aliero? Had he been allowed to ventilate the elevation of cows to citizens, we would have learnt more and been placed on a better stand to interrogate cow citizenship of Nigeria.
It was a great loss. While the actions of governments, particularly the one that Muhammadu Buhari led, accorded cows the unconstitutional rights as citizens of Nigeria, and in most cases favoured cows in their decisions over humans, we thought these were arbitrary policies that would have died with such governments.
The likes of Aliero stand for those rights. They are convinced that Nigerians whose lives, lands, and generations are being wasted by Fulani herders should curtail their rights to accommodate cows and the tendencies of their herders.
“Cows are not citizens of Nigeria, Senator Aliero, are you arguing with me? The Section you are referring to is talking about citizens of Nigeria. And cows are not citizens of Nigeria. Cows can come from Niger, Chad or anywhere,” Akpabio said as he brought that contention to a close.
Aliero is well-educated. The 1980 graduate of political science knows Nigeria well enough and the damage that open grazing of cows has done around the country.
His service in the Nigeria Immigration Service and in the the Customs and Excise Service took him to different parts of Nigeria. He wasted the experience in preference for a parochial, dim debate about our shared citizenship with cows.
If the debate had continued, he could have reminded Akpabio that as human beings, that we were also animals. Akpabio kept repeating, “cows are not citizens”, so much that his shock that this contribution at the Senate he leads must have shocked him.
Aliero had a strong point to make about the sufferings of Fulani herders. Their victims would not be interested in that. He messed things up by lumping the freedoms of herdsmen with the rights of cows. He piggy-backed the rights.
A law that treats cows less than human beings, he suggested, without human rights, citizenship, would affect the citizenship and constitutional rights of Fulani herdsmen.
How we moved from ranching as a measure to curb farmers-herdsmen clashes, provide better security for Nigerians, and make cattle-rearing a profitable business, to the citizenship of cows, is one of the wonders of democracy. The freedom of speech, among similar liberties, can take us to unimaginable parts.
Thanks in part to Akpabio’s abbreviation of the ridiculousness of the arguments, we were spared an exposure of the type of positions that stall attempts to treat issues of this nature importantly. Aliero came ready to delay the passage of the bill.
Open grazing endangers the herders, their animals, and the communities where farmers yearly lose their lives, lands, and crops to the cows. The herders are often armed. Akpabio alluded to that in agreeing that freedom of movement was for those who were not dangerously armed, mentioning the AK-47 that herders log as unacceptable.
Nobody should think that Aliero does not know that six is half a dozen. He was out to set a certain agenda in the bill. Leaders of the herders had asked for ranches for years and here was Aliero advocating for no ranches. Whose interests was he protecting? The same questions should be asked Danjuma Goje, Governor of Gombe State for eight, whose tenure ended in 2011. He has been in the Senate since then.
Ranching would be a great step in curbing insecurity, stopping farmers-herders clashes, retrieving some of the citizenship rights that we have awarded cows that emboldened Aliero to ask for more. Food supplies in the country would improve. Herders often complain that their animals are rustled. Ranches will deal with the challenge.
With the law, herders and farmers will enjoy their citizenship rights fully. Certainly, citizenship rights are too human to be conferred on cows. Aliero would need a constitutional review to sustain his agenda.
Nigerians can suffer more indignities. One of them should not be to share citizenship with cows, or any animals for that matter.

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.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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