Despite the suspension of the planned implementation of the Federal Government’s Ruga Settlement Policy by President Muhammadu Buhari, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bitrus Kaze, said its suspension has left Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who has been in the forefront of championing the course “in public disgrace.”
Kaze, who is a stanch critic of unpopular government policies not only in his native Plateau State, but the country at large, disclosed this in an exclusive interview with DAILYPOST in Jos, the State capital.
He said, “In the first place, I have said that the federal government pretends that it wants to end the crises between herdsmen and farmers but unfortunately, all its multiple policies were pro-herdsmen.
“Remember the military under Buratai started something like the army ranching business and appointed a Brigadier-General as the General Manager.
“Shortly after that, we started hearing of cattle colony, ranching, but after that the name fizzled out and we started hearing of Ruga.
According to Kaze, who represented Jos South/Jos East Constituency in the 6th and 7th National Assembly, said, “Our quarrel with this is that the crises between farmers and herdsmen are crises between two equal stakeholders and citizens of the federal Republic of Nigeria, then what informed the federal government taking a position in favour of one against the other. Government should be a father to all and unbiased.”
Speaking on the plans to implement either the ranching or Ruga policy in Plateau State by the Governor Simon Lalong-led administration, the former legislator said, “Over the years, I have observed that one of the greatest undoing of our Governor is what he says. These are things I will call the ‘Lalong gaffes.’
“There was a time he said he gave appointment to Hausa people and there was peace; unknown to him; that was an indictment to the Hausa people.
“On this Ruga issue, Governor Lalong had even started drumming support for it and called opponents of it mischief makers, while he was drumming support for the policy, President Buhari suspended the policy. To me, he left Governor Lalong in public disgrace, even the President himself had felt the pressure and I can tell you that the Governor would have felt much more pressure because we know that in our constitution, the Land Use Act says that Governor Lalong holds the land of Plateau State in trust and the reaction against Ruga policy in Plateau State would be spontaneous.
“I’m sure you saw during the Ruga issue, that the Police had started issuing statements against public demonstration because government suspected that the people would react.
“This wouldn’t be the first reaction, you would recall that there had been several demonstrations against unpopular government policies, Plateau people have been forced to be accustomed to public protest to unpopular government policy.
He further explained that, “It wouldn’t need anybody to organize, to sponsor, to mobilize because there is widespread antagonism against the Ruga programme in Plateau; the people have rejected it at the State level, at the federal level, it has been suspended.
“Governor Lalong and everyone who has started drumming support for it on the Plateau are left in shame”, he maintained.
“But if Governor Lalong insists on implementing the Ruga policy, I can assure you that we will do everything within our power to mobilize public opinion against it, and not only Ruga but any unpopular policy in the State.
“I can tell you that the people of Plateau would not accept, if he wants to test the waters; I believe like the people reacted previously, he will see even much more. I will suggest that he should yield to the people’s opinion and tow the path of the people as far as the Ruga policy is concerned.
“Some people have said that he should take it to Ajikamai, his village or Shendam, his local government but I say no, Ajikamai and Shendam are parts of Plateau, he should not take it to any part of Plateau.
“The point is simple; Plateau people are not interested in Ruga, if the Governor wants to serve the interest of the people, why is he asking for cattle colony not pig or dog colony which are also legitimate businesses that Plateau people are involved in? He asked.
“What is his crave in pacifying the herdsmen and not his people on the Plateau?” He further asked.
“Be it Ruga, ranching or cattle colony, it is one and the same thing; all of them are pro-herdsmen and aimed at ‘Fulanization’ of the country.
On claims that Governor Lalong said some parcels of land had been gazetted for ranching in Kanam and Wase local government areas, among other places and that there is a budgetary provision of N250 million, the former lawmaker said, “Even if government is providing justification, there had been no time at all that government has subjected this budgetary provision or allocation to public opinion via public hearing in the State Assembly to ask from the Plateau people if this is their wish.
“Wherever he wants to site it in the State; let it be tested in public domain and let it be seen that it is the people that say take this land not government using the force of law like gazetting and budgetary allocation and taking over any land, and shutting out anyone who is opposing it.”