...Northerners in East defy leaders’ advice
…Southerners in North shun Ohanaeze too
The initial panic elicited by the Northern Elders’ Forum and Coalition of Northern Groups’ (CNG) advisory to Fulani herdsmen based in the southern part of Nigeria to return home, and similar fear generated by the ultimatum issued by CNGs over the suspended RUGA initiative, may have thawed and gone unheeded after all.
Reports from several states of the country have not only confirmed that the majority of both southern sojourners in the North and their northern counterparts in the South are reluctant to return to their ancestral homes. They believe that the calls have been made under rising tempers.
Consequent upon the suspension of Rural Grazing Area, RUGA, proposal by the Federal Government in the aftermath of its widespread rejection by southern leaders, a coalition of northern groups had issued a 30-day ultimatum to the Nigerian government and governors who are opposed to the programme to reverse their decisions.
Although, the group did not state what its next line of action would be should the government fail to comply with the ultimatum, the threat was believed to have generated some degree of panic among southerners who live in the North with many southerners calling on their kinsmen to return to the South.
Similarly, the Northern Elders Forum issued a counter-advice to their people living in the South, citing widespread opposition to the suspended RUGA initiative, a largely pro-Fulani herdsmen project, as basis for their call.
At a press conference after a meeting of the NEF with the Coalition of Northern Groups in Abuja last Tuesday, where the youths demanded the return of all the Fulani herders to the North, the NEF’s chairman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi said the northern elders were in support of the position taken by the northern youths.
He, however, noted that the call on the Fulani herdsmen to return to the North was borne out of the belief that their lives could be at risk due to the recent actions and utterances of the southern governors.
“We are worried about their well-being. If it is true that their safety can no longer be guaranteed, we rather have them back in areas where their safety is guaranteed”, Abdullahi had said.
But findings by Sunday Sun have, however, shown that the Fulani herdsmen in the South are not under pressure to beat a retreat to the North as directed by their leaders even as the southerners in the North are equally not in panic mode to return home. We serve you blow by blow account from the states concerned:
We are well accommodated in Anambra –Northerners
In Anambra, the directive is not giving the northerners in the state any sleepless night as they claim they feel at home and well accommodated by their host government and communities.
However, as human beings, they said they felt somehow disturbed by the call despite the belief that the statements were made out of annoyance. They called on leaders of various ethnic nationals in the country to be mindful of their utterances.
Insisting that they were not thinking of heeding the call, the South-East leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Sarkin Fulani in Anambra State, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, said that what Nigeria needs is peace and not inflammatory statements that will breed disunity among ethnic nationalities in the country.
“You know when you hear the call that people should return to the North, everybody knows that there is fire on the mountain. But somehow, for us here, we know that it is out of anger that these statements were made.
“We have not seen anything that will make us to go. We have heard such statements before, so we know it is out of anger that the statement was made. But we wish to tell our leaders that if they are annoyed they are not supposed to make it open like that. Rather, they should sit together and discuss their problems to ensure peace in Nigeria because we are all under them.
“Our stand on this issue is that the leaders from the South, West and North should sit together and discuss this matter. People are suffering; the misconception on Fulani herdsmen is too much,” he said.
Also speaking, a leader of Hausa community in Onitsha and Anambra North Senatorial zone (Seriki Hausa), Alhaji Iliyasu Yushau, dismissed the call, saying that he was born and brought up in Onitsha and could not leave Onitsha where he has established himself and has lived in peace with the host community.
“My parents came to Onitsha in 1890, I was born and brought up with Igbo boys, attended my primary and secondary in Onitsha. Governor Obiano is my schoolmate at CKK Onitsha. So, I can’t see reason I should be ordered to return to the North. We are living peacefully with our Igbo brothers here and the governor of the state. Willie Obiano is a very good man, Anambra State people love everybody irrespective of where you come from and we have been living as brothers. We do business together and celebrate Christmas and Sallah together. That relationship is cordial and nobody will divide that relationship. Nigeria belongs to everybody irrespective of religion, tribe and ethnic affiliation and we are free to leave anywhere.” Yushau stated.
We are prepared for the worst –Igbo leaders in Kogi
Some prominent Igbo leaders in Kogi State have expressed their readiness to remain in the state despite the call to return to their zone. Chief Felix Enamoh who claimed that the nation has refused to integrate the Igbo into the country despite the reluctance to grant its secession bid in the ‘60s, said his people are prepared for the worst. “We are undaunted. Let the worst happen we are prepared. What they think is that we cannot abandon our numerous property in the North and leave, but we shall close our eyes and forget everything and in four to five years time we shall acquire that we have lost. The Igbo people are enterprising, give them a desert they will build it into a city,” he said.
In his own submission, Chief Joseph Anikwe, an Igbo community leader in Okene said that his people would not leave the state as the state governor as assured them of adequate security.
“We are not going anywhere. Governor Yahaya Bello has assured us of our security. More so, the Igbo people in Ebira land have good relationship with our immediate host communities. We have no problem whatsoever. Although we have told our people to be on the alert, we urged them to dismiss the latest threat, especially now that President Muhammad Buhari has urged us to ignore the threat,” he said.
Return home directive must be investigated
–Kaduna Igbo leader
Following northern elders’ call on their people in the south to return home, the President, Igbo Community Welfare Association (ICWA), Kaduna State chapter, Mr Chris Nnoli said that such call should be investigated. This is even as he said that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth lacked the authority to ask Igbo resident in the North to return home
Speaking to Sunday Sun, Mr Nnoli said that the call is condemnable because it is meant to create instability in the polity.
“My take on this is that there is no basis for such call as nobody from southern part of Nigeria has made any threat to the Fulani herdsmen to return to the North.
Asked whether the Igbo in the North would heed the call of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths for them to return to the East, Nnoli said: “I am not aware of any such call from the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths and which may not have due authorization of the main body led by His Excellency, Chief Nnia Nwodo.
“Every Nigerian is bound by the ground norm of our laws to reside in any part of the country to carry out any legitimate business.
“So to my mind, such call is uncalled for and meant to create instability in our polity. Such calls and others should be condemned and investigated.”
We’re ready to die in Enugu; it’s our home
Leaders of the northern community in Enugu State have dismissed the call by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) for herdsmen to leave the Southeast and return to the North.
One of them, Alhaji Idris Ado Suleiman, the Sarkin Hausawa, said that such call was uncalled for, saying that they have lived peacefully with their host communities over the years.
Suleiman, who said that many of them were born in Enugu, said that some of them did not have any other place to call home except Enugu.
“Some of us were born here; I was born here in Enugu and I have my business here. So, I don’t know what they are talking about. We have houses here so we are surprised about this thing. It doesn’t concern us and we have not complained of any problem here,” he said.
We won’t heed the call –Ebonyi Hausa leader
In Ebonyi, the leader of Hausa community in the state, Alhaji Danjuma Mamuda Gambo, told Sunday Sun that the leadership of Hausa community does not support the call.
Danjuma said: “I think the directive is baseless because we are all Nigerians and the constitution of the country says that every Nigerian has the right to live anywhere he deems fit in Nigeria.
“So, I don’t see any reason any person should tell us not to live in certain part of the country we wish to live in. It is not good and I don’t support it.
“So, this is a call that will generate nothing, but problem in Nigeria. So, it is not good and we don’t support it. Everybody has a right to stay anywhere in this country.
“Ebonyi State government is trying to see that there is peace between the host community and the Fulani and we the Hausa people. So, I don’t think it is a good idea for somebody to call someone else to return. We don’t support it”, he stated.
Insurgency, uncertainties in North frighten us
–Northerners in Lagos
In Lagos, some northerners residing in the state have called on their leaders to reconsider their stance on the directive urging them to return home. This is even as some of them expressed their dilemma over the advisory.
Sani Ibrahim, 40, is one of those in dilemma since the directive was issued. When he decided to dump his hometown in the North following continued activities of insurgents for Lagos in 2015, the thoughts of how to survive pre-occupied his minds.
But with the support he received from his kinsmen, he is one of the many northerners in Lagos, roaming the streets as a cobbler to provide for his basic needs and also send money home from his proceeds.
Speaking with Sunday Sun, Ibrahim said: “When I heard of the news, I didn’t take it seriously because I know it is not feasible. Since I came to Lagos in 2015, I have not gone back home. It will, therefore, be difficult to just wake up one morning and bid this area farewell. This is where I feed myself and send money to my family in the village. I am not against the directive, but I am scared that if that happens, life will be difficult for me and my family because that would mean starting all over again. What will I be doing if I suddenly go home?”
Like Ibrahim, Abdullahi, a motorcyclist resident in Lagos State, remains pessimistic about the directive. He told Sunday Sun in a voice laced with disappointment. “My only means of surviving now is through Okada. How do they expect me to carry my motorcycle to the North because of activities of herdsmen? I have never been in support of the killings going on in the country. Such attitude is against Islam as a religion. So, the leaders should reconsider their stance.”
On his part, Shehu a businessman in Lagos said he would only take the advisory seriously if leaders in the North disclose their plans to engage those asked to return home.
“I agree that clashes between herdsmen and farmers are major problem aside from other security challenges we are facing. The only thing that should engage our leaders’ attention now should be how to tackle the challenges confronting the nation. If we all northerners should return home, what happens to the southerners in the North too? If we still claim to be a united country, we must avoid fanning embers of disunity. If our leaders are asking us to return home, they should show us their template of plans to welcome us.”
Withdraw return home order –Northerners in Imo tell NEF, CNG
Northerners in Imo State have rejected the call by their leaders to return to the North. Rather, they called on them to withdraw their return home order.
Speaking to Sunday Sun, the Sarkin Gida to Sarkin Imo, Hausa community, Alhaji Muhammadu Ali, described the call as crazy.
He noted that the southerners and the northerners have been living in peace and harmony for the mutual benefit of one another.
“This is a crazy idea. They are trying to destroy Nigeria. If the southerners in the North say the same thing to their people there, what do you think that would result to? So, they should withdraw the order, we are okay living in the East here. Besides where are we returning to? The same place we hear our people are being killed on daily basis? We have become slaves in our own place, so we are fine living here,” Ali said.
Another northern leader, Seriki Zani of Katsina, Alhaji Idris Kabir frowned at the order and called for the dissolution of the youth body, which he said are behind the threat to the peace and unity of the country.
He pointed out that the northern elite were selfish in their demand. Kabir said: “The youths behind this do not know anything about unity. They don’t know the essence of national unity. So, we are not going anywhere.”
We’ll work for unity of Nigeria –Plateau Igbo
The President General of Igbo people in Plateau State, Chief Christopher Onu (JP) has cautioned his members against any attempt to return to the South for fear of the unknown.
He said he was pleased with the proclamation of President Muhammadu Buhari on the contentious issue.
He is of the view that Nigeria is one indivisible country that gives every citizen the right to reside wherever he or she wishes without trouble and that nobody should compel anyone to leave.
Chief Onu frowned at the statement that directed herdsmen and Hausas from the South to return to the North and the Igbo in the North to return to the South.
He said that the status quo should be maintained and called on leaders in the country to join hands to find the solution to the security challenges bedeviling the country.
“We are one Nigeria and if we are one Nigeria, what does it mean for an ethnic group to tell another to leave? That is not a good idea. What we are supposed to do is to make peace with one another, but to tell some people to leave is not the best.
“I don’t see any reason the northern elders will tell herdsmen to leave the South. If there is no peace in the country, we should look for a way of restoring peace together, we have people in government and they should champion that.
“I advise that we should stay together no matter what and find solutions to our problems. I am in support of the statement made by the president. He is the Commander-in-Chief and if he kicks against such orders who will oppose him?” he queried.
Ultimatum, a bad signal
–Sarkin Igbo Sokoto
On his part, the Sarkin Igbo III, Sokoto, Chief Tobi Gbaghara, said that the ultimatum given by northern groups is capable of causing further problems among Nigerians.
According to him, “the way and manner the message was passed is capable of causing chaos and disunity among peace loving Nigerians. We are all one Nigeria and all of us have businesses in different regions in the country.
He urged Southerners living in the North not to panic, but to go about their legitimate businesses. He also asked them to shun any act that could disrupt the existing peace and co-existence in the state.
He recalled that the ultimatum was not the first to be issued by any Arewa group against their southern counterparts.
“This is not the first time the ultimatum is given to us, but we have always remained calm.”
Chief Gbaghara, however, commended the efforts of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Muhammadu Abubakar III, for ensuring peaceful co-existence between the host communities and the visitors, saying that “he has given us assurance not to panic over the ultimatum. In fact, the Sultan’s words have always been our strength in the face of such ultimatum.”