RUGA and the Obasanjo Connection

Olusegun Obasanjo

By Albert Oladapo Ogunwusi

The UN World Habitat Forum was held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976. A principal outcome of the conference was a resolve that governments should as much as possible provide land for citizens to build homes. 

Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Brigadier Shehu Yaradua decided to implement that decision by seizing land from its traditional owners and vesting it in the state.

They approached the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research, NISER, to give them a formula for seizing private property.

NISER in its report advised against it.

The duo was undaunted.

A seven-man panel was set up to formulate a land policy in the desired direction.

Six of the members advised against it.

Obasanjo invited the remaining member to write a minority report which later became the Land Use Decree which was later entrenched in subsequent constitutions as the Land Use Act.

On the auspices of the new legal instrument, Obasanjo and Yar’adua became the largest land owners in the country.

Land was vested in the state governor. The citizen owner became a mere occupant holding a lease signed by the governor allowing his occupancy for a tenure of years.

That minority opinion writer,Augustine Nnamani, later became Attorney-General and subsequently a judge of the Supreme Court.

It is an irony that the same Nnamani became a prince among the judicial activists who salvaged the rump of private power that still exists in our land tenure system today.

NISER and the majority of the Land Use panel canvassed very similar reasons.

The Fulani are traditionally itinerant herdsmen who rear cows all year round from  the Gambia to the Cameroons. They have no attachment to land.

For this reason, when Usman Dan Fodio lead his Jihad in 1804 and had established Fulani reign in several Hausa and non-Hausa states north of the Niger, it was easy to impose a land tenure system similar to what we have in the Land Use Act. Land was vested in the community in northern Nigeria.

In the South, it was a different story.

In the West, land was vested in private ownership through purchase, war, settlement etcetera.

In many Yoruba families, the father is buried within a few meters of the son. Ownership devolved through the generations as private property. The major traditional occupations were land based farming, hunting and war.

In the East it is even worse. Land is a prized possession and a major mark of progeny.

In the South-south, it is pure gold. The Atlantic shelf is in constant competition for the little land available-12,000 square kilometres of the region is mangrove, useful only for fishing.

The attitude to land is justifiably different in various parts of the country.

Obasanjo imposed the Land Use Act in this most fraudulent manner. Our courts have risen stoutly to the challenge preserving some traditional hold on land and creating what is at best a bifurcal land ownership system.

In 1976 before Obasanjo and his deputy started the peripatetic coup detat against private land ownership, the state needed to buy land or pay compensation for development.

Significantly however the words of  my Lord Olajide OlatawurA, JSC, thus: “alienation of private property without compensation is a fraud” echoes even after his death. In those words, the courageous judge called Obasanjo and Yaradua by their true names: land thieves.

It was their theft that created the framework for anybody to hallucinate about appropriating land owned by others for strange, hostile people to domicile on. 

This is one great example of how men create problems they cannot solve.

-Albert Oladapo Ogunwusi, a former editor of Nigerian Tribune is a lawyer based in the UK

View Comments (18)

  • Albert Oladapo,well-done for doing this research work for your paymaster. You reside in U.K. Is there any idea of recolonisation? The Land use decree you talked about is not the same thing as Fulani colony proposed under various guises mentioned Ruga,herder route,etc. Live OBJ out of this. He has spoken the minds of millions.If you care so much and love Nigeria as you seem to claim come home and if possible volunteer your own personal landed property or heritage to Boko Haram to inherit. "Adie to nje ifun ara won. " OBJ we know who is this historian?

  • Strange writer this fellow called Albert Oladapo Ogunwusi? How did the Land Use act which made it possible for ordinary folk to acquire land suddenly make Obasanjo and Yar’Adua the “largest land owners” in the country. That is so disingenuous!! The Land Use act though imperfectly implemented - was a bold attempt to democratise land ownership in Nigeria.
    Again this writer further twisted logic by making the dubious connection between the Ruga scheme and the Land Use act. The federal government never mentioned the Act anywhere in its policy. So where is the connection.
    This write up looks more like a spurious attempt at character assassination. I expect better from a UK based journalist.👎🏾

  • All these land wahala is due too much greed from people who are hell bent to see that Nigeria don't have peace so that they will appropriate all our money on security vote. Shame !!!!!

  • Buhari and his cabinet should stop this evil. We all should unit and reject this bad dream from coming to reality.

  • So are you suggesting that OBJ and Yaradua "illegality" should be extended by PMB? This neo-jihad/ colonization agenda cannot work. You simply write divert our attention to your scapegoat to wit Obasanjo/Yaradua

  • Trouble dey Sleep like Mumu, but Yanga go wake him up. You started what you can never finish. That's why as soon a move is made you know what is next. Oya Sir, proofer the remedy to cure your Very Sick baby. Long long time ago the Wuru Wuru began. na was oo

  • That Obasanjo and Yaradua committed this treachery in 1976 is not enough reason for any halucinating idiots to ever think of forcefully coveting people's lands to establish cow LGAs accross Nigeria.
    "The SUN must accept the dire consequences of arrogantly choosing to forcefully displace the MOON by appearing at night"
    "It is better to die that to allow BAD thing to happen"
    These are strong proverbs from Igboland
    and let no one dare think he has monopoly for violence because of free AK47 as that may turnout to be catapult when they strike as threatened.
    SAMBISA forest is large enough for MIYETTI ALLAH ,RUGA COLONY AND COW TRADE which are all private business ventures that mustn't be funded from our common wealth while millions are starving to death, moreover we can do without cowmeat.
    Enough of this organised bloodletting and insulting rubbish on peace loving Nigerians by imported migrant Fulani killers,we may kiss Nigeria goodbye if this madness is not halted immediately and the invaders and their cows sent back to wherever they migrated from.

    The people's patience is being stretched to its elastic limit.

    • Your comments and observations are just the truth, no ruga in the south, carry it out in the core north leaving out places like Plateau State and Benue state.

  • This writer totally misinterpreted the story. We're it not for the land use act, getting land in Nigeria now especially in the south would have been a bigger problem. Till today govt does not take land without compensation so where's OBJ guilt in this.
    If not for the land use act these futa jalloni people will just come and claim land. Even at that the federal government is telling us it has illegally gazetted land in 36 states of the federation.
    We don't have to help all Nigerian problems on OBJ, he did his best let others try. Some import foreigners to come and appropriate our lands.

  • The courageous judge name is My Lordship Olajide Olatawura JSC not Olajide Otawura. Thank you