Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday met with the leadership of Fulani cattle breeders in the South West states, Kogi and Kwara, over the spate of kidnappings, banditry and other acts of violence allegedly being perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.
The meeting, called at the behest of the former president and held at his private residence within the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidents Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, also had in attendance, Dayo Adewole, son of the immediate past Minister of Health, who was kidnapped on his farm in Oyo State, spokesperson of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, as well as a leader of a Fulani group, Alhaji Sale Bayari.
Speaking at the meeting, Obasanjo told the Fulani under the aegis of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN) that it was time to declare that criminal activities attributed to Fulani herdsmen were happening across the South West, and that the development, he pointed out, has put the Fulani people in a bad light.
Obasanjo explained that members of the public, including policy makers, have been in the dark over the wave of banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery across the region.
The former president expressed the hope that the meeting would afford himself, leaders and representatives of the Fulani in Nigeria to ask questions and set the record straight before the public.
He said that the people of South West desired peace, progress, and harmony in such a way that would enable every Nigerian to live together irrespective of tribe, ethnicity profession or religion.
Obasanjo further observed that solutions to Nigeria’s security challenges should not be left for one person to address, stressing collective efforts without “passing of blame here or there.”
He noted that other West African countries are worried about the current state of security in Nigeria, noting the countries may find it hard to get succour if the Nigeria they had looked up to as big brother fails to deal decicively with its own domestic security issues.
Obasanjo tasked the GAFDAN members to evolve a system that would compel the Fulanis to effectively police their own communities to enable them identify criminal elements among their herdsmen in order to sustain the relative peace that had hitherto prevailed across the South West and Nigeria in general.
The former president stated the following:
“Let me tell you some of the reasons for our meeting. What has been happening in Nigeria, particularly in this area, the Southwest, we have got a lot of bad things happening here, let us not deceive ourselves. We have got a lot of heat, not enough light. And without adequate light, we may not be able to deal with the problem the way we want to and find solution to it. We have got enough heat but we now need light to guide us so that we are all out there.
“Secondly, we are all in darkness, all of us. We need to be in the light. And those who may want to choose to be in darkness and want to deceive themselves, we can leave them in darkness. But majority of us have to be in the light and let the light shine upon us so that we can see our faces; we can see ourselves as we are. Where we are naked, let us see ourselves as naked, where we are half covered, let us see ourselves as half covered, where we are fully clothed, let us see ourselves as fully clothed.
“We are also going about among ourselves with history, some of the histories that we are going about among ourselves are the histories we need not perpetrate. We are going about with myths, we are not going about with reality. We are going about with lack of clarity so what we want to do is to push aside myth and talk about reality, we want yo talk about clarity. We want to see things clearly the way they are.
“There is criminality, there is insecurity and it has not been like that before. If this is what we have, what we wat to do at this meeting is find solutions to stop it.
“We want to interrogate and be inquisitive among ourselves about things around us but particularly about unusual things around us. We are not inquisitorial; we are not prosecutorial but we want to interrogate ourselves why is it, how is it, where is it and then we find solutions to it.
“We want to have peace, we want to have security, we want to have harmony, we want to have wholesomeness, we want to have progress, how can we have these? We want to move Nigeria forward, irrespective of tribe, religion, ethnicity, trade, profession, where I come from, where you come from. How can we together move Nigeria forward? And there is nobody else who will do all these for us, it is you, we, all of us here and all our brothers and sisters wherever they may be in Nigeria.
“It is not one man’s job or one person’s job or one group’s job, it is a job for all of us, all Nigerians and unless and until we see it that way, we should stop passing blame, everybody is wrong and everybody is right. Let us take what is right in one group and join it what is right in other group and throw away what is wrong in all the groups then we will move forward.
“Our brothers and sisters in West Africa are worried about our situation. They are wondering if Nigeria cannot manage her security, if Nigeria’s security is endangered, how can they look up to Nigeria who they normally see as big brother, that can be called upon to come and help them if they are in any type of problem. So they are worried and we are here to assure them, to assuage their worry to be able to say yes, we are Nigerians, we can deal and we will deal with our security problem and any other problem that we need to deal with.
“I was born in a village and grew up among all tribes that were in that area: Igbira, Egun, Igbo, Igala. We did not even called them Hausas or Fulanis, we called them Mallams because that is what we knew them as. We knew them as Mallams and we grew up friendly. Peace was reigning but what has now changed?
“From my own knowledge, when i joined the Army, I came back from training in 1959 to Kaduna. My interaction with the North and particularly with Hausa/Fulani is a different experience from the one that I hear and see today.
“Normally, you know it when a stranger into a community, the head of that community must know and it is the responsibility of the head of that community to maintain peace and security. So what is the problem with our community leaders, the chiefs while things are going wrong in your community? Is it that you do not have knowledge? Is it that you do not know what is happening, what exactly is the problem? Because this is what I know, this is what used to happen and part of what we have to do is what is wrong that we have to put right.
“We must be able to have what I will call take away from this meeting. We will have positive measures that are measurable which we will put timeline to and which will be actions by individuals and groups and which we can follow and see what progress we are making. And maybe before long, we can then have what I will call progress meeting to discuss what we have achieved, what is left to be achieved, where do we move to next? But we must have take away that will work for us individually and collectively.”