The Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) on Tuesday accused governors in Southern Nigeria of building “ethnic monsters and hiding behind them to whip up sentiments” in order to achieve their sinister motive.
It also alleged that the governors and some political leaders in the country, who swore to protect the constitution and protect the unity and integrity of Nigeria had surrendered to the secessionists.
In a statement made available to journalists by its spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the forum berated Southern leaders over their recent moves, saying they were making a desperate but futile attempt to split the North along fault lines.
Daily Trust reports that agitations for secession were gathering momentum in the South-West and South-East as exemplified by the unhindered activities of ethnic chauvinists.
For instance, Sunday Igboho, who is championing the actualisation of Oduduwa republic and Nnamdi Kanu who is the leading the agitation for the Biafra republic, were seen as getting the tacit support of some political leaders in the South.
While Igboho is freely moving from one state to the other and holding rallies in public places preaching separatists agenda without any resistance from the chief executives of those states in the South-West, Kanu, who jumped bail after he was accused of treasonable acts, is giving directives for militants loyal to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who are wreaking havoc on symbols of authority like police stations and INEC offices in the South-East.
The Northern elders believed that the “I-don’t-care-attitude” of the Southern leaders was giving oxygen to regional agitators and sundry criminals to perpetrate evil against the people of Northern extraction living in the South, all in an effort to dismember the region.
Our correspondents report that the 17 governors from the South-South, South-East and South-West had met in Delta State, on May 11, during which they arrived at the widely publicised Asaba Declaration which among other things banned open grazing in their regions.
Pundits believed that the declaration was in bad taste considering that while the governors were all out to frustrate the federal government’s livestock transformation agenda by refusing to give lands for ranching, they nonetheless banned open grazing and indirectly asking Fulani herders to leave all the states as against the letters of the 1999 Constitution.
While disagreeing with the position of the Southern governors, President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement by his media assistant, Malam Garba Shehu, on Monday, described the ban as “questionable legality” and cited the constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of the state of their birth or residence.
‘They want to divide Nigeria’
According to Dr Baba-Ahmed, “It is now clear that elected people sworn to protect the constitution and protect the unity and integrity of Nigeria have decided to surrender to deeply divisive or outrightly irredentist and secessionist tendencies and movements.
“Governors are building ethnic monsters and hiding behind them to whip up sentiments in a crude attempt to extract concessions no one is in a position to give or guarantee.
“A desperate but futile attempt is being made to split the North along lines that suit people who ignore its complexities and plurality when it is convenient to lump all northerners and submit them to humiliation or attacks,” he said.
NEF maintained that it was only national dialogue that could address some pertinent issues in the country.
“In the South-East, governors are yielding their political turf and mandates to secessionists, criminals and subversives who think they can exterminate federal presence and Northerners from the region and achieve dubious political goals related to 2023, or break away from the country.
“In the South-West, elected leaders and pampered ethnic bullies are closing ranks to provide a front that apes the the do-what-we-want-or-we-leave-the-country strategy of the marginalised leaders of the South-East.
“The South-South is squeezed between fear and uncertainty and its leaders are gambling that they can benefit from further weakening the federal administration and the North if it rides along with the rest of the South.
“The forum supports a citizen-driven national dialogue and a campaign to get the government to accord its outcome the respect it deserves.
“The forum extends its hands to groups that genuinely believe that Nigerians should demand and design the type of country we want and should not wait for people we elected to set the boundaries and conditions of our existence.
“The forum restates that the North will not be cowed and stampeded into escorting political ambitions of politicians at the cost of its rights, security and dignity,” the statement said.
The Northern group also advised President Buhari to assert the powers given to him by the constitution to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and its citizens.
Evacuate all herders from south, CNG tells FG
Responding to the position taken by the Southern governors, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, asked the federal government to evacuate all herdsmen and their families from the Southern part of the country. The CNG, through its spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in a statement, called on Northern governors to commence preparation to receive the returning Fulani communities and their livestock assets by identifying suitable grazing lands for them and making sufficient allowance for farmers at the same time.
“A study has shown that with all the overhyped hatred for the pastoral communities by the South and their leaders, only ten per cent of herders live in the entire South which can conveniently be accommodated in the North,” Suleiman stated.
The CNG called on President Buhari and the 19 Northern state governors to act now and protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities from falling into traps set by “the aggressive policy of the Southern governors who apparently believe that Fulani have no rights in Nigeria.”
Garba Shehu not speaking for Presidency – Akeredolu
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has said that what the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Malam Garba Shehu said on ban on open grazing was not the position of President Buhari.
Speaking through his Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr Doyin Odebowale, on Tuesday, Akeredolu said the “press statement purporting to represent the position of President Muhammadu Buhari, on the farmer/herder clashes and what he termed as deep-rooted solutions to the herdsmen attacks, is the position of Garba Shehu.”
According to him, “He (Shehu) also attributed a unilateral decision to the President who clears way for ranching and revival of forest reserves as part of the permanent solution to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding killer-herdsmen.
“Anyone who has been following the utterances of this man, as well as his fellow travellers on the self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy cannot but conclude that he works, assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the peoples whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria,” the statement said.
“Mr Garba must disclose, this day, the real motive(s) of those he serves, definitely not the President. He cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity. The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood.
“The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the lasting solutions, which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge,” the statement said.
From Lami Sadiq (Kaduna), Gbenga Adebayo (Lagos), Bola Ojuola (Akure) & Idowu Isamotu (Abuja)