Southern leaders on Wednesday described the Northern Elders’ Forum and the Coalition of Northern Groups’ call on Fulani herdsmen residing in the South to return home as irresponsible, arrogant and an unpatriotic action.
The NEF and the CNG had, at a press conference in Abuja, on Tuesday, asked the Fulani herdsmen to leave the southern part of the country.
They said they should return to home where their (herdsmen) safety and that of their property could be guaranteed.
But on Wednesday, organisations and individuals, including the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Ijaw National Council and an elder statesman, Alhaji Tank Yakasai, reacted to NEF’s order.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has told his kinsmen living in the South to ignore the directive.
Your statement is insensitive, arrogant, Afenifere slams NEF
However, Afenifere accused NEF of heating the polity with its claims that Fulani herdsmen were not safe in the South, describing the statement as insensitive and arrogant.
The group said it was disappointed by NEF Chairman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi’s utterances, stating that the directive to Fulani herders to return home was a subtle threat against southerners living in the North.
The Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, argued that Abdullahi’s utterances clearly showed that “there are people who value cows more than human beings.”
He noted, “For us in Afenifere, that statement smacks of insensitivity of the highest order and arrogance of the greatest proportion. They are not talking about the shedding of human blood, we are yet to hear messages of condolences or regrets from these people only for them to be blackmailing the rest of the country.
“That shows clearly that there are some people who value cows more than human beings. If he (Abdullahi) asked the herders to take their cows back to the North, what about the sleeper cells? What about the militia who are armed, who are killing people in southern communities?”
Afenifere said it was expecting the forum to offer condolences over the bloodshed across the country, noting that it stance indicated that it was in support of the “threat issued by Coalition of Northern Groups against southerners living in the North a few weeks ago.”
Don’t overheat the polity, Ohanaeze warns northern elders
Also, Ohanaeze Ndigbo warned the groups not to overheat the polity and cause unnecessary commotion in the country.
Ohanaeze, in a statement by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Chuks Ibegbu, queried the group on who made them the spokesmen for the entire North and when the entire North sat to take such a decision.
Ibegbu noted that the call for Fulani herdsmen to leave the South was surprising and irresponsible on the part of those who issued the order.
He asked those making the call not to put the herders into undue hardship by their utterances and call.
“There are harmless herders here who have been doing their legitimate business over the years, but there are also those who are into crime and kidnapping.
“We must separate the two. And of course, we are not saying herdsmen are responsible for all the crimes in our society. But the government of the day is not helping matters by some of its lopsided policies on the issue,” Ibegbu added.
The Ohanaeze spokesman, however, said that it was up to the northerners in the South to decide whether to “listen to the voice of their self-proclaimed spokesmen for the North or the voice of reason.”
He added, “Nobody is against peaceful herdsmen who have maintained good relationship with their hosts but we are against violent ones that kidnap and cause havoc to innocent Nigerians and farmers.
“These irredentists just want to overheat the polity and pretend they are concerned about the plight of herdsmen. What solution have these people offered to herdsmen all these years. None. They just want to appear relevant and caring whereas they are the problem of the herdsmen.”
We won’t force herdsmen to leave Igboland —S’East govs
Reacting, the South-East Governors’ Forum led by the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, said that the call by NEF came at the right time.
He added that the South-East governors would not force herdsmen to leave the zone.
Umahi spoke to one of our correspondents through his Chief Press Secretary, Emma Ozor, in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
He said NEF must have carefully assessed the insecurity in the country before making the call.
According to Umahi, the cattle breeders were not in any form of compulsion to leave any part of the country.
He, however, stressed that their alleged inimical activities, rape and killings of innocent Nigerians, had indicted them heavily and thus, warranted their quick exit from the South to their native lands for a sober reflection.
NEF’s order, irresponsible —IYC
But the President of Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, described the call as irresponsible and against national security.
Omare said, “I don’t think that the order is practicable; I don’t think the call can be implemented by the herdsmen because the issue here has to do with the survival of human beings. Don’t forget that human survival comes before any other thing.
“The call is political and it is aimed at massaging the ego of those who made it. We consider the call as irresponsible, coming from leaders of a region in the country. They ought to come up with ideas on how to address the security challenges caused by Fulani herdsmen and not to call on all of them to return to the North.”
NEF relocation order: Stop giving crimes, ethnic coloration —ACF secretary
However, the Secretary-General of the pan-northern socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr Anthony Sani, cautioned against giving crimes ethnic, religious or regional colouration.
Doing so, he said, would further worsen the security challenges in the country.
Although the ACF chieftain said he appreciated the concern of the northern elders and the youth, he told one of our correspondents in Kaduna on Wednesday that giving ethnic or religious and regional coloration to all events, would only promote ethnic cleavages.
We don’t have problems with herdsmen —Anambra
However, the Anambra State Government described the NEF order as not binding.
The state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C-Don Adinuba, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the NEF order would not change the state’s relationship with herdsmen in the state.
He said, “We have 23 Fulani settlements in the state and we have been living peacefully with them. Some of them were born here and they speak impeccable Igbo. So, why would you force them to go now? What for? Some of them are into partnership with our people in their cattle business.”
Beware of unpatriotic elements, Yakasai warns northern groups, rejects call
Also, an elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, has rejected the NEF’s order.
He said, “I wish to condemn in the strongest terms possible the recent call by a northern group to the Fulani living in the southern part of Nigeria to leave the area and return to the North.
Yakasai stated, “The leadership of the northern group should be aware that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has bestowed a right to every Nigerian to live in any part of the country he or she wishes to reside and that no authority, group of people or an individual no matter how highly placed, can deny any Nigerian this inalienable right. Section 4 of the constitution has guaranteed the right for any Nigerian citizen to reside in any part of the country.
“That section has also guaranteed to every Nigerian right to hold and express opinion without let or hindrance. Like other Nigerians — Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and members of other Nigerian ethnic groups — know that the Fulani are indigenes of this country and are entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges other Nigerians are enjoying and nobody can prevent them from enjoying those rights.”
Yakasai, who described himself as a Hausa man, said he would defend the rights of the Fulani just like he would that of any other law-abiding Nigerian to enjoy all the rights he and other Nigerians were enjoying.
Don’t precipitate another civil war, Clark, Adebanjo, Nwodo berate Abdullahi
Meanwhile, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum cautioned Abdullahi, against precipitating another civil war in the country through “reckless and unguarded statements.”
The SMBLF leadership comprising Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Nnia Nwodo and Dr Pogu Bitrus, berated Abdullahi for making what it described as “reckless and unguarded statements on the state of affairs.”
The elder statesmen in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said they were shocked that Abdullahi, who is a member of the SMBLF, could join the call on Fulani herdsmen to leave the South “with all its implications without first consulting his colleagues on the forum.”
You’re free to live anywhere in Nigeria, Buhari tells Fulani herdsmen
Also, on Wednesday evening, President Buhari said the Fulani herdsmen were free to live in any part of the country.
He asked his kinsmen and all other Nigerians to ignore the recent call on Fulani herders by the NEF to vacate the South.
“All citizens of Nigeria are free to move and live within any part of the country they please, whether or not they are originally from there.