President Muhammadu Buhari has urged Fulani herdsmen and other Nigerians to ignore a recent call by the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) for herders to relocate from southern Nigeria to the northern parts of the country.
The controversial order, issued on Tuesday, was based on the claims that the safety and security of the Fulani herdsmen and their cattle could no longer be guaranteed in the southern part of the country.
The President, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, all Nigerians were free to reside in any part of the country.
The President, therefore, called on all Nigerians to help keep the peace in the country.
“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.59
“In line with our country’s constitution, the government of Nigeria and the administration of President Buhari will protect citizens of Nigeria wherever they find themselves.
“No one has the right to ask anyone or group to depart from any part of the country, whether north, south, east or west,” the President said.
The President questioned the intentions of the NEF and the other so-called leaders in delving into issues with unsolicited, ill-intentioned advice.
“They have no one’s authority to make such pronouncements. The polarising role of the Northern Elders’ Forum and all those other groups dabbling into issues of security to score cheap political points has, for long, been a sore point in Nigeria’s body polity. They should not be allowed to mislead anyone, least of all the Fulani herders.
“The Buhari administration is fully devoted to finding a lasting solution to the herder-farmer clashes in different parts of Nigeria – one that would be acceptable to all the parties involved,” the statement read.
Chairman of NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who gave the order on Tuesday, had said the order had become necessary following reports that the herdsmen have been exposed to some danger in the hands of some hostile communities in the southern part of the country.
“…If it is indeed true that their safety is not guaranteed in the places where they are residing, we would rather have them back into areas where their safety is guaranteed, and they should be coming back as much as possible to the North,” Abdullahi said.
Also, the spokesman for the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said “… we feel obliged to advise the leadership of the Northern Elders’ Forum to consider calling on the Fulani to forego their right to live and flourish anywhere in the South and relocate to their various states in the North to ensure their safety.”
But, there seems to be a split among the political elite in Northern Nigeria over the order directing the Fulani herdsmen in Southern Nigeria to relocate to their various states in Northern Nigeria.
A prominent member of the NEF, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, yesterday kicked against the move to relocate the herdsmen to the North over security concerns.
Yakasai, a former presidential adviser during the Second Republic, condemned it in strong terms and has asked the herdsmen to remain in their current places of abode in Nigeria.
In a response to the order, Yakasai argued that the proposed relocation would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution and a violation of the rights of the herdsmen to live anywhere they choose within the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, the Fulani herdsmen were bona fide Nigerians who must not be intimidated and harassed out of any community in Nigeria.
“Leadership of the Northern group should be aware that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has bestowed 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 to exercise this inalienable right.
“Section 4 of the constitution has guaranteed not only the right for any Nigerian citizen to reside in any part of the country he so wished, that section has also guaranteed to every Nigerian, the right to hold and express opinion without let or hindrance.
“Like other Nigerians; Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and members of other Nigerian ethnic groups, Fulani are indigenes of this country and are entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges other Nigerians are enjoying and nobody can put any hindrance to prevent them from enjoying those rights.
“I am a Hausa man, not Fulani. But I will defend the right of the Fulani and other Nigerian people to enjoy all the rights I and other Nigerians are enjoying. I appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to join me in this fight so that together, we shall make our country a place where our people can live in peace and enjoy peaceful coexistence with one another,” he said.
Yakasai blamed the mutual suspicion and conflict among the various groups in Nigeria on some unpatriotic elements who do not believe in the unity of the country.
“I call on all northerners and other Nigerians to be weary of the unpatriotic elements living within our midst, northerners and non-northerners alike, who do not believe in the unity and oneness of our beloved country not to allow themselves to be misled by the antics of those unpatriotic elements who have nothing positive to contribute towards making this country great. Our nation has all it takes to make it the envy of many.
“What we lack is good leadership. I believe we shall, one day, overcome this misfortune,” he said.
Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mo hammed, has agreed with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his recent letter to President Buhari over the security situation in the country.
Mohammed, who hardly agrees with Obasanjo on critical national issues, observed that the latest letter to President Buhari was right on point.
He said that while some Nigerians may accuse Obasanjo of mischief, the letter and its contents cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand given the reality of the security situation in the country.
“Obasanjo may have his own motivations, but the fact of the matter is that those who are supposed to answer to what he is saying have not been doing so themselves… People are going to believe Obasanjo and not the Presidency.
“I don’t know what insecurity means to this government, but what it means to Nigerians is that there is no peace, there is no security and without these, there can be no development. Whichever way you want to look at it or that you choose to handle it, this absence of peace does not go down well with the country.
“There is an undertone of blame game, but whoever you choose to blame, the fact is that this violence, terrorism or farmer/herder clashes, is nobody’s imagination. It is what is happening in the country. Whatever is the cause of it? It is the responsibility of this government to make sure that it handles it and handles it well. If it is not handled well, the government itself could come to an end in a very bad manner.
“The people of this country do not think that this government is performing as far as security is concerned and, of course, you should understand that in politics, perception is everything. If the government is perceived not to be performing in one area as it is doing, I can’t see how the government can survive,” Mohammed said.