Dr Law Mefor is the Chancellor, Igbo Bu Igbo and Director, Igbo Leadership Development Foundation. In this interview with RAPHAEL EDE, he speaks on the threats by the northern traders to stop foodstuffs and cattle supply to the South-East followingng the Indigenous People of Biafra’s directive to the south-easterners to stop consuming beef from the North
Northern traders have threatened to stop supply of food and livestock to the South-East after the IPOB order on consumption of Fulani cows. What do you think about it?
I read about the IPOB order on stopping consumption of Fulani cows or ban of it, which they said would come into force on April 1 or so. It is wrong for several reasons. There are no readily available alternatives. Besides, that is not how Ndigbo organise their lives. The Igbo thrive on competition. The Igbo have native cows, called Efi Igbo. The logical way would be to replace the so-called Fulani cows by promoting mass production of Efi Igbo but there is no such a plan. Today, Efi Igbo is in such a gross short supply. What is more, banning of Fulani cows does not address the root causes of herders-farmers conflict and insecurity in Igbo land. The solution lies in political will both at the President and governors’ level. The herders who trample the farms and feed their cattle on the farms, killing, raping and maiming whoever challenges them are not spirits. The fact is: there is no political will to deal with the situation. We hear that it is the fundamental rights of the herders to move in Nigeria. Yes the herders can move where they may as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, but there is no place where the law says their cows have such rights as humans. They dare not try that in Ghana.
Can South-East be without the cows and food from the North?
The threat to cut off food supply from the North to the South is equally a rash counter-action. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Everybody will suffer it; perhaps the North may suffer even more. They do not supply their food to the South for free. They produce and send to the South for money. A great economist, Adam Smith, tells us that it is not from the benevolence of the butcher that we expect our dinner but for his consideration for his own stomach. The Igbo are very creative and resilient people. They survived a food blockade during the war. They will certainly find alternative protein sources if Fulani cow meat vanishes. I also expect the Northern farmers would find alternative supply routes. But this will cause further division of the country and promote mutual hate. In fact, if allowed, it will be a classic case of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) because the relationship between North and South is symbiotic and interdependent.
The Arewa Consultative Forum has said the IPOB decision to ban foodstuffs from the North and consumption of Fulani cows in the South-East amount to a declaration of war. What do you think of what ACF said?
The ACF is always threatening war. You know, those threatening wars were not quite involved in the Nigeria- Biafra civil war. We know the parts of the country that fought that war. When war becomes inevitable, it has to be fought, just like Biafrans had to fight the war of survival when Gowon abandoned Aburi Accord and enacted Decree 34 instead, arrogating to himself the power to declare state of emergency and to make laws for the regions with support of only three regions, which meant whether the Eastern Region liked it or not. Sixty years after, can we say Nigeria has got over the Biafran war and the ACF is threatening yet another? Nigeria just lacks statesmen who can unite the country and give everybody a sense of belonging. It is these kinds of leaders that created the latitude for confusion and conflict. Now, we are saddled with Boko Haram terrorism, Bandit terrorists, herdsmen terror activities, militancy, insurgency, name it. Nigeria now ranks among the topmost of most terrorised nations of the world. Despite all these, the ACF is threatening more wars. I cannot but advise that we all try to give peace a chance. Nobody has monopoly over violence and no war has ever ended exactly as predicted. Nobody needs war. Let the ACF work with their Southern counterparts to de-escalate the tensions in the land. They carry on as if they enjoy any particular advantage and must talk down on the rest of the country. That is not helping anybody. In fact, North is a greater victim of all the shenanigans. The horror that the North has become should worry ACF more and get them to talk peace and not war.
The Coalition of Northern Groups has also threatened that northerners will not vote for an Igbo for the presidency in 2023. What is your take?
I am deeply involved in the campaign for a Nigerian president of South-East/Igbo extraction. What I found in the field is weariness and reluctance on the part of the North. You see, since the first military coup, which the North conveniently tagged Igbo coup of hegemony, the North has not forgiven the Igbo for the deaths of some northern leaders in that coup. But it is most unfortunate that the Igbo ethnic group would be blamed and punished for a coup in which all regions of the country participated. Major Adewale Ademoyega one of the five majors is not an Igbo man. Yet pogroms and civil war were visited on the Igbo, wiping out over two million of them. I brought this in for you to see the threat of the CNG didn’t start today. But the fact is that the Nigerian President of South East/ Igbo extraction is a win-win. The CNG must be advised that unless Nigeria puts the civil war behind, there will be no unity and development. And as the Igbo would say, he who holds another down must stay down with him to ensure he stays down.
The CNG has threatened that if IPOB goes ahead with its threat, it will call for the boycott of Igbo businesses in the North. What is your view?
In reciprocal diplomacy, it will be in order for the North to boycott Igbo goods and services if IPOB goes ahead to make good their threat about banning Fulani cows in the East. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. It will be mutually assured destruction for both economies and the nation’s economy will also take further nosedive. Which side will suffer it more remains to be seen. But I advise again, both sides must sheathe their swords and stop this war of attrition. Nigeria is still a good project, with a super-ordinate goal to engage all parts of the country. What we lack is leadership and proper workable structure of the Nigerian federation. For now, both are lacking and that calls for urgent remediation. ,,