Southern leaders on Wednesday described the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups’ (CNGs) 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 and the Ijaw National Council 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 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 —South-East governors
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.
He said, “The call by the elders forum to the cattle breeders to return home is a welcome development. It could be that the elders had carefully considered and weighed the activities of the herders and their implications and decided to call them back home in order to talk to them.
“The herders are not in any way being forced to leave any part of the country and are not in any form of compulsion to do so. They are Nigerians, too, and all of us own Nigeria. But, they themselves know that their alleged illegal activities, killings and others pit them against the law and they should heed to that call by the most respected elders from the North. So, if they want to go and heed the call, it is a show of civility and maturity on their part.
“There is already heightened insecurity in the country and Nigerians live in fear currently. We believe that the elders have a genuine agenda for calling their younger generations, who are mostly cattle breeders, home. So, let that perceived genuine agenda, guide the herders’ mind in answering that call.”
NEF’s order, irresponsible — Ijaw Youth Council
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.
This, he said, “is unhelpful.”
Also the Southern Nigeria Assembly comprising indigenous youth organisations in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones, called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to immediately arrest and prosecute the leadership of the Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association.
The statement was jointly signed by the President of the Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide, Oladotun Hassan, a representative of the President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, Obinnna Achionye, and Pereotubo Oweilaemi, President, Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide. – Punch.