Obudu serves as a template for the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria

By Ayo Akinfe

[1] Over the last 48 hours, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (Macban) has come out to disassociate itself from the odious Ruga settlement policy. Not only did Macban say it was not consulted before the policy was announced, it said that it was not in support of the ill-thought out, irresponsible, inflammatory and reckless measure

[2] More interestingly, Macban president Alhaji Abdullahi Bodejo, said that he would be happy for Fulani herdsmen to relocate to Sambisa Forest with their cattle so long as the amenities they need to run their businesses such as water and cattle are provided there

[3] Essentially, what Macban is calling for is the creation of a mega ranch in Borno State that will serve as Nigeria's primary beef production centre. Personally, I think the new Borno State governor Professor Babagana Zulum, should seize the initiative here and use the opportunity to turn his state into one of Nigeria's major cash cows. He should maybe aim to match the European Union's 8m tonnes of beef production and generate say $20bn in foreign exchange earnings from cattle related products

[4] As we speak, about half of Borno State's population of 4m people is living in the capital Maiduguri. Most of their villages have been deserted by people fleeing from Boko Haram, meaning that there are huge acres of farmland unoccupied at the moment. This land can easily be converted into plantations to grow animal feed ingredients to supply this massive Sambisa Forest Cattle Ranch

[5] Borno is Nigeria's second largest state by landmass with a total of 57,799 km². Sambisa Forest is surrounded by towns like Mafa, Gwoza, Madagali, Bama, Marte, Leje, Boboshe, etc, that could all serve as major animal feed production centres. On the outskirts of all these towns we should have plantations that grow molasses, millet, sorghum, groundnuts, maize, cassava, etc, that supply animal feed compounders, who in turn supply the Sambisa Forest Cattle Ranch

[6] Do you know that this was actually how Obudu Cattle Ranch was founded in 1951. A Scottish rancher named Mr Caughley, came to Obudu, liked the area and decided to build a ranch there. He first explored the mountain ranges in 1949, as he camped on the mountaintop for a month before returning with Mr Hugh Jones, a fellow rancher, in 1951. After then, they built what we have today

[7] At independence the Obudu Cattle Ranch was handed over to government of the old Eastern Region and to his credit, Michael Okpara decided to develop it after he took over from Zik as premier. You know, sometimes, I wonder why Michael Okpara is not regarded as the greatest ever Igbo man as if you look at most of the infrastructure in the southeast geo-political zone today, they are his handiwork

[8] After Michael Okpara left office, the next person to really give Obudu serious attention was Donald Duke. It was he who installed cable cars, built modern lodges at the facility, constructed an air strip, introduced the mountain race, built a gym there, attracted restaurants, etc. Now, this is exactly what Macban and the Borno State government have to do in Sambisa

[9] Given the intellectual laziness of those around President Buhari, we do not want any of them near this project please because they will destroy it. They have no idea of what we are talking about, so I would appreciate it if Governor Zulum, a professor of soil and water engineering and a master's degree holder in agricultural engineering deals directly with Macban. They should tell him what the Fulani herdsmen require and he should proceed to either supply in or attract private investors who can provide such facilities

[10] Sambisa Forest covers an area of 2,258 km2, so there is no reason why it cannot be home to 1m heads of cattle, two feed compounders, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions like hiking trails. Maiduguri can then be the location of meat processing plants, leather tanning factories and all the other industries that use the by-products of cattle. It is time to use this Ruga nonsense as an opportunity to move Borno State forward, create full employment and turn it into a major revenue earner for Nigeria