Cattle ranching as metaphor

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Sir: A post card fell off a book. It was dated 1-4-76 and bore a postage stamp entitled “Cattle Ranching.” The picture on the post card showed a man cuddling a calf and cattle grazing. There was no fence, no stall or anything to verify the ranchness of the “Ranch”. The “Ranch” was just an open range.

Today, more than 40 years after, ranching is still a mirage: the more you approach it, the more it recedes. Cattle herdsmen who have dumped their traditional herding sticks for sophisticated rifles, “must” move down South for greener pasture. As far as they are concerned, all that is green is pasture, especially well-kept farms. And as with ranching, so it is with every other thing – the economy, health, education, social cohesion, political architecture, roads, quality of life, everything.

The cattle ranching post-card is a metaphor for the sorry fate of Nigeria. For all those 40 years that the post-card and the postage stamp have endured, Nigeria has deteriorated geometrically – the economy, health, education, industry, agriculture, sports, social cohesion and so on. This degradation must have prompted the article in The Guardian of December 18, 2017, “UNILAG at 55: What Cheers” by Amoo Apampa who in the first paragraph lamented that when he was in UNILAG between 1975 and 1977 light and water did not fail the residents.

I affirm that when I was in UNILAG between 1963 and 1965, things were excellent. I belonged to the second set of students and Professor Eni Njoku was the first Vice-Chancellor. An internationally acclaimed scientist, he was able to magnetize professors and other academic staff in their prime from all over the world. At the Faculty of Law, we had Professor L. C. B. Gower (Gower on Company Law); Michael Nash (Okonkwo and Nash: Criminal Law in Nigeria), A. E. W. Park (Sources of Nigerian Law) and Mr Grove. There were foreign students too. My classmate, Sendze later became the Attorney-General of his country, Cameroun. Then the Nigerian factor set in and the bubble burst.

Njoku’s first term ended and by his contract of service, he was entitled to a second term to continue the good work he was doing. But politics and tribalism set in and two “learned” federal ministers vowed that since the university was in Yoruba land, a “shon of the shoil” must take over from Njoku. Professor Saburi Biobaku, Eni-Njoku’s former colleague at University College, Ibadan, was in Lagos en route East Africa where he was to take up appointment as Vice-Chancellor. The politicians asked him why he was going to Sokoto when what he was looking for was in his shokoto and he swallowed the bait. He was quickly announced Vice-Chancellor and the bulk of the university community – students and lecturers including the entire substantial contingent of foreign academic staff rose up in arms in the first University of Lagos crisis, 1964-1965. In order to avoid losing too many academic years, the “Rebels” had to abort the crisis and relocate to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka along with Njoku who fortuitously succeeded Professor Hanbury (Hanbury on Equity) as Vice-Chancellor.

The first University of Lagos crisis was in fact the precursor of the political turmoil of 1965/1966 that culminated in the coup of 1966.And so, Nigeria cannot but be the sorry mess it is today. In spite of the gargantuan natural endowments of the country, Nigeria is merrily ensconsed in the company of Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan – ranking over the years in the bottom category in every United Nations development and quality of life Index.

Meanwhile, Nigeria remains what an American visitor a long time ago described as a country where nothing works. Cattle continues to be reared in the wild whilst the issue of establishing cattle does not at all appear in the telescopic sight of the Federal Government which, ironically, is preaching return to the farms. Nothing seems to have changed from the days of the 1976 postage stamp.
P. C. Anaekwe.

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Cattle Ranching


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