The pan-Northern organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, lashed out at the Southern and Middle Belt Forum leaders, saying they should stop criminalizing the Fulani.
The ACF, at a press conference in Kaduna, said the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, and the Middle Belt Forum should rise above “such pettiness.”
The pan-northern group, at the end of a meeting of its National Working Committee, also attacked former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on the state of the nation.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, who addressed the press conference, expressed grave concern over a statement credited to the former President, whom he said, alleged that there was a plan to Fulanise the country.
Berating the southern and Middle Belt leaders, Ibrahiu-Biu stated, “The narration that every criminal, armed robber and kidnapper is now a Fulani herdsman because a Fulani man is President, has to stop. Criminals must be regarded as criminals without giving them any form of ethnic or religious coloration.
“The ACF, therefore, calls on PANDEF, Afenifere, Ohaneze, Middle Belt Forum and other similar groups to rise above such pettiness. We must realise that insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, and Boko Haram are our common enemies. We must join hands in finding a lasting solution to the menace.”
The ACF chieftain noted with sadness how Nigerians, especially southerners had succeeded in branding suspected criminals in the country as “Fulani herdsmen.”
He said, “The forum notes with sadness how the negative stereotype associated with the issue of Fulani herdsmen is gradually degenerating into a national crisis.”
“We find the assertion that every crime committed in, especially the southern part of the country, as being committed by Fulani herdsmen, irresponsible and deliberately aimed at achieving some certain diabolical objectives.
“The narration that every criminal, armed robber and kidnapper is a Fulani herdsman because a Fulani man is at the helm of affairs is a dangerous precedent which has to stop. Criminals must be regarded as criminals without giving them any ethnic, religious or regional coloration.”
“We must realise that insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery are our common enemies. We must join hands in finding a lasting solution to the menace.”
Obasanjo Has Diminished His Status As A Statesman – ACF
The ACF had said it was studying the open letter Obasanjo wrote to Buhari. The group, he said, also deliberated on the worsening security situation in the country and asked Buhari to re-jig the security apparatus of the country to tackle the security challenges.
“The ACF notes the efforts of military, police and other security agencies in curtailing the menace of insecurity. However, it urges the government to be more decisive in dealing with these security challenges, more so that unpatriotic forces are taking advantage of the situation to forge ahead their evil agenda of destabilizing the country.”
“The President, more than ever before, should re-jig the nation’s security apparatus for effective performance. Furthermore, the Forum appeals to the Federal Government to employ both security and political solutions to the various challenges facing the nation,” Ibrahim-Biu said.
According to the spokesman, the ACF is not in anyway holding briefs for Buhari, the former President should have a better way to communicate with Buhari.
He said as far as the ACF and indeed the North was concerned, Obasanjo lacked the moral standing to make any damning statements against any government considering his antecedents while at the helm of affairs as President.
Ibarhim-Biu stated, “Arewa Consultative Forum is constrained to comment on the letter dated 15th July 2019 by the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari on issues he claimed are ‘very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians’ hence the reason he made it open.”
“The ACF appreciates the freedom of expression and the right to hold opinion on all issues as guaranteed by our constitution by individuals or groups, as long as it’s within the confines of the law.”
“The forum therefore believes that Chief Obasanjo used this privilege to raise the issues which mostly border on insecurity in his latest letter, it must however be noted that the issues are not new to Nigerians as he had raised them in his previous open letters to the President, so also other Nigerians in different fora.
“All the same, in exercising our right to comment on the letter, it is our candid opinion that Chief Obasanjo being a former President and an elder statesman who has unfettered access to the President should use a better and most civilized way of communicating his views to a sitting president rather than going public to create unnecessary scene and try to bring down the roof.”
“It is true that Chief Obasanjo has become relentless in his self-appointed task of a Cassandra-in- chief for Nigeria, always proclaiming doomsday, predicting upheaval and bloodbath, which to say the least, has diminished his acclaimed status as a patriot and nationalist.”
“His statements and comments on national issues are neither driven by altruism nor by patriotism, but sheer self-aggrandizement,” he added.
He expressed grave concern over statement credited to the former President over his recent outburst on “Islamization”, “ Fulanization” and “Northernization”, noting that it was calculated at causing division and acrimony in the land.
“What, we must ask, motivates Chief Obasanjo’s current divisive activities? His recent outbursts on ‘Islamization’, Fulanization’, and ‘Northernization’ are clearly calculated at causing division and acrimony along religious, ethnic and regional lines which is most unfortunate.”
“The former President knows more than any other Nigerian that there is no such thing as Islamization or Fulanization in the North’s agenda. Enemies of the North chose to propagate such negative narratives only with a view to causing disharmony among undiscerning Nigerians.”
“Unfortunately many, including the highly educated and politically sophisticated elite have unwittingly fallen into the trap of believing in Obasanjo and his ilk.”
”ACF supporting Evil,” says Middle Belt
But, the National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said that only those who did not wish Nigeria well would condone the worsening insecurity in the country and the perpetrators.
Pogu, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Jos on Wednesday said, “If the ACF is saying that the Fulani are not the ones perpetrating these atrocities against Nigerians, then let them tell us those responsible.”
ACF’s Allegation, Rubbish – Afenifere
Also, the Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, dismissed the ACF, stating that the Yoruba group was not stereotyping the Fulani as alleged.
Odumakin, who described the ACF’s allegation as rubbish, argued that state officials had also identified the perpetrators of the killings and most of the kidnappings across the country as Fulani. He called on the government to curb the insecurity in the country.
Odumakin stated, ”The ACF and the Fulani should ensure the arrest of all those involved in kidnappings and killings across the country; and when they are sure they are not Fulani, then they can say they are not Fulani.”
“Even many of the officials have admitted that those killing people are Fulani; Governor Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna State) said he paid off Fulani who killed people in his state. When there was an insurgency in the Niger Delta, did we not refer to them as Niger Delta militants? Until the Nigerian Presidency under a Fulani man arrests them and identify them as non-Fulani, they can’t tell us that hogwash.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo said that the incessant killings, kidnappings and other criminal activities by the Fulani herdsmen in the nook and cranny of Nigeria altogether had become a national crisis.
Ohanaeze National Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, said the deliberate ploy to colour the widespread condemnation to appear as a figment of anti-fulani vituperations notwithstanding must be discarded.
He said, “Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum and allies are not the harbingers of the news. Communities, villages and families of the victims cry every day with undeniable proofs.
“The conventional and new media are awash with video evidence of the Fulani herdsmen caught red-handed in their kidnapping and other criminal activities.
“We expect that at this time, the ACF should advise the Presidency to employ the same swiftness with which they marshalled the Army that rolled her tanks against harmless IPOB members on the supposed bandits and miscreants.
“You can tell a blind man that there is no oil in the soup but not salt.
We have been told that the herdsmen killing Nigerians are foreigners. They have not been declared terrorists. Instead, the government wants to take the people’s land, in the guise of Ruga, and give to the same people that they described as foreigners.
“Note that another Holocaust is brewing. The Shi’ites are constituting a severe security threat at the Federal Capital Territory and unless the issue is properly handled, there will be trouble.
“Their argument is that the government has defied a subsisting court order and holding their leader to captivity, adding that they are ready to sacrifice many of their members in the course of fighting for the freedom of their leader.”
Fulani herdsmen should return to north if threatened, NEF insists
Meanwhile, the Prof. Ango Abdullahi led Northern Elders’ Forum insisted on Wednesday that Fulani herdsmen living in the southern part of the country should return to the north if their safety was not guaranteed.
The former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said he would not retract his earlier statement on the matter.
The Convener of the NEF made the statement while receiving former lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, Shehu Sani, in Kaduna on Wednesday.
NEF and the Coalition of the Northern Groups had last week (Tuesday) ordered the Fulani herdsmen to leave the southern parts of the country and return to the north where their safety and those of their cows would be guaranteed.
Sani said the NEF statement had generated a series of controversies across the length and breadth of the country.
“The nation of ours has passed through a series of crises; it is imperative that we speak with precaution. I appeal as your son that such recommendation, or position taken by you for such demands should be rescinded in the interest of peace and progress of this country and so that normalcy returns to Nigeria and miscreants won’t see this as a reason to exploit this for their personal agenda,” he said.
However, Abdullahi in his response, said there was nothing to retract from his statement and the herdsmen should return home if their security was not guaranteed in the south.
He also said that even the South-East governors had issued a statement that, “They don’t want to see cattle on roads, but they want to see cattle in lorries being taken to their market to buy.”
He said he was not fully quoted in the conference, maintaining that, “There was an ‘IF’ in my statement. I was only advising the herdsmen to return if there is no protection for them. Everything in Nigeria is politicized. In addition to politics, religion has filtered in. And now every headache you have in your house has now been caused by herdsmen. The insecurity of this country at every nook and cranny is now caused by the herdsmen. This is clearly politics.
“When the initial crisis started, largely from the non-grazing law established in Benue, we drew the attention of the Northern Elders’ Forum member who was Paul Unongo to it, that his state is about to establish a grazing law. We appealed to him to tell the Benue government to withhold the law until we make professional inputs. By the time we finished our gathering, our findings, Benue has already started implementation and crises erupted there.