How an ex-Niger Delta militant became a herder in Nasarawa
Story from Ibraheem Hamza MUHAMMAD, Lafiya
Mr Retson Tedheke was born in Jos, Plateau State but hails from the Niger Delta region. He grew up in Barnawa, Kaduna state and attended a higher institution in Zaria and did his national youth service in Ondo. The former militant who admits to destroying crude oil pipelines is now a livestock herder, farmer and community leader in the Gaate village of Kokona Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. He disclosed that President Buhari transformed him from a militant to a law-abiding citizen.
Mr Retson Tedheke was born in Jos Plateau State, his farmer is an Urhobo man and his mother is an Ikwerre woman, his wife is from Anambra, she grew up in Kano and they met in Ondo and married.
In Kaduna, his father was a Professor and a lecturer in Nigeria Defence Academy, NDA Kaduna, he due to youthful exuberance, walk from NDA staff quarters in Barnawa to Narayi, cross river Kaduna and attend lectures in Rimi College and follow the same road back home during the dry season and find alternative routes during the rainy season.
The Livestock Herder and modern farmer said he started business in Ondo, and when it failed, he came to the ‘land of milk and honey’ and when he could not find a source of income, he left the country’s capital and relocated to the creeks of the Niger Delta which the main source of the country’s income earner–crude oil.
From 2012 to 2013, the then move was to remove former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who is from the Niger Delta, because we felt that he was making much effort towards developing Nigeria despite the abundance of many resources in Nigeria.
Mister Retson Tedhek said, “When I could not find milk and honey in Abuja, I joined Niger Militants where I and my group burst crude oil pipeline, we established local refineries, refine AGO otherwise known as a diesel or gas and sold to retailers throughout the county, especially in the North.
On what is his nickname as is the case with many militants, he said he does not have any. I was just a hustler or if you would mind a businessman bunkering, refining and trading locally refined diesel.
Mister Retson also said he doesn’t have a rank, as most of the militant commanders are called ‘General’. He said, “My militancy was not premised on guns for cash, it was guns, burst pipelines, build local refineries, refine local AGO and move them to stations nationwide.”
On the name of the group of this former or repentant militant, he said, “We operated from the Bernet Island/Otegele through to Escravos Route. We dotted the route with camps running into tens of millions of investments that targeted pipelines to siphon crude that was the raw material for our operations.”
On how he dumped his former ‘business’ for a straight one, he said, “I was never arrested as a militant when we got intelligence that our camp was going to be raided, I left in the cover of darkness and never returned.” He said laughing wryly.
As a convener of #OccupyNass and #OccupyNassUnltd, “I was arrested in December before the election in 2014, I and Dr Ahemd and Bunmi Adewumi demanding for the passing of the budget. As one of the leaders that wanted to change the country for the better, I realized that it will not be from Abuja but from you and I. We realized that when we wanted to raise 100,000 people to protest in Abuja, it dawn on us that we had to feed them and that happened to dawn on me that we missed a great point, food.”
He said, “We realized that the poor people that will come from different states and Local Government level for the occupy National Assembly among others. I then started searching for land and Gaate Community hosted us in Nasarawa State. They provided the land and we established what started as Farm-Comrade or shortened as Farm-Rade and we started a project with 1.5millon naira which we sourced from a company called Kiakia, a peer to peer lending platform that gives support to businesses without collateral but based on mutual trust. I am not only a community member, but a traditional titleholder, as I have been honoured with the traditional title of Sarkin Yaki or literally Generallismo of Gaate community.
“One thing many people don’t see in this country is that politicians are not nationalists, as they prefer taking what belongs to the people for their selfish use, they are like a curse.”
But an exception is President Muhammadu Buhari who was a Governor in his 30s, commanded major military formations, was a minister, chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, (PTF), and he was not rich in the Nigerian contest when he said people should go back to the farm, I jumped at the call and I am growing from a job seeker to an employer.
Mr Retson said that the Nigerian policymaker who said history should be removed from our curriculum should be imprisoned. A notion that does not know its history and roots can never have a bright future. You know where you are going, but you have to know where you coming from.
“The foundation of Nigeria did not commence with crude oil, no-no. It was based on agriculture and the foundation of human growth is agriculture.
“In the history of the World, the West came to Africa to get slaves to work in their plantations. Agriculture has always been the root of growth and industrial growth and sustainable development. It was easy as my grandfather and father and community were farmers.
“I was introduced to Gaate by Mr Andrew Johnson whose brother has some land, he said, I have a place where you can lease some land to farm. The elites don’t consider farms as some of our people are looking for a white-collar job. We have lost it as a people as we have forgotten how to plant trees. In our villages, you see oranges, mangoes, palm trees among others.
Forefathers planted trees that long after they were gone it would feed their families. The plan then was long term plan longevity.
“Our forefathers planted for today and we, their children are not planting for tomorrow or the future. Because a man that plants 100 hectares of cocoa, his family will never be hungry in a million years.
The man that works in Central bank of Nigeria, (CBN) today with a salary of one million nairas, in the next 10 or 20 years, that work or income will be nothing to him or his family.
On how he acquired the land for the big farm, he said, “I did not acquire the land, I bought some and lease some. I grew up in Kaduna, a typical Northerner or a Hausaman for generalization is very friendly, homely, you get in trouble with him when you touch his religion.”
If you go to Warri for the land you have to buy drinks for the Chief, buy a coke for his wife and biscuits for his children and meat for his council members to appease them. We spend one million nairas and the land was not shown to us. I am not denigrating my people, but I am saying the reality. When he came to Gaate, the chief heard our mission and welcome us with the land without demanding anything, but we gave him kola nut at will.
Similarly, on January 5th, 2017, we registered Nigeria Farmers Group and Cooperative Society, (NFG-CS) and on September 4, 208, was incorporated into a limited liability company.
The farm is divided into three sections: Animal husbandry, crop cultivation and grains processing and packaging.
The only agency we benefitted from is the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, as it sold subsidized rice mills to us.
He alleged that CBN has funds for ‘political farmers’ who have access to the money. Many farmers cannot access the fund due to many measures.
He said, “We have just taken 1000 hectares of rice farm from United Farmers Association in Awe Local Government of Nasarawa. Recently, Senator Babafemi Ojudu visited the farm and was angry that no government agency was partnering with us.
The attackers along the Kaduna to Abuja highway are victims of neglect of people in the rural areas. People initiated them from rural to urban areas. Olam and Chivita are reaping profit in Nigeria, they secured loans on a 3 to 4 per cent ratio and CBN gives loans at 9 per cent and commercial banks at 27 per cent and that means we are not ready for business in Nigeria.
“We are spending 50,000 daily on diesel, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, (AEDC) said we have to pay 25 million nairas to be connected.”
While Nasarawa State Government came to collect tax, signage and tenement rate amounting to 1.7 million. I said if they provoke us, we go to National Assembly as I provided a caterpillar, grader and ruler that provide access road on a state government road and they did not pay me. We are setting up rural healthcare with a single bed outpatient bed for treatment free of charge and a community centre, we built a primary school and installed a Television for the community, we didn’t have tax relief and we need it.
Similarly, a youth leader of Gaate and a staff of the farm, Adamu Baba Gaate who took our Reporter round the big farm said, “He is a good convener, he is respecting our people and we are happy.”
The three Fulani men who are taking care of the livestock said they have 500 cows and 600 sheep, while there is a section that deals with Turkey.
Mr Retson said they are about to start dealing in Chicken broilers.
Malam Adamu who is a staff of the farm said the farm is into farming rice, yam, soybeans, beans, maize, Ginger, Tumeric, Sorghum, Egusi, and Ruzi grass for feeding of livestock.
Adamu said the farm is divided into three sections: Animal husbandry, crop cultivation and grains processing and packaging.
A cooperative Clerk who deals with the record said she doesn’t know the total number of the members of the cooperative as they are on shift duty and they are increasing by the day.
On how to end the menace of militancy in Nigeria, he said, “Make the wealth of the people a source of pride and not a source of the curse. Peace would be achieved when government reduce battle the elites who believed they can loot for their interest and do not allow those who ravaged our commonwealth to go free.
Mr Retson did not disclose the net worth of the big modern farm.
Recently, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Abdullahi Sule visited the farm and pledge to support it.