From Paul Orude Bauchi
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has criticized his Benue counterpart, Governor Samuel Ortom for what he terned the latter’s poor handling of the herders-farmers clashes in Benue.
Mohammed opined that Ortom’s lack of foresight has triggered the current negative perception of Fulani herders in the country.
He made the disclosure while speaking at the closing ceremony of the 2021 Correspondents’ Week Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Bauchi State council, held at Command Guest House, Bauchi, on Thursday.
Responding to the theme for the Week entitled The role of the Media in Promoting Peace and Unity in Nigeria, the governor cautioned Ortom and some governors from the southern parts of the country to guard against utterances and policies that threaten the peace and unity of the country.
He said: “Unconstructive criticisms bring a lot of hatred and sometimes we are quick to go to the press on issues that are dividing us. I will tell you something that I tell my colleagues about the farmers-herders clashes in Nigeria.
“You have seen what are colleagues in the southwest are doing and some of them from the south east are doing. We have told them with all modesty that they are wrong. But the person that is most wrong is the governor of Benue State, my brother and my colleague Governor Ortom.
“He started all these. If you don’t accommodate other tribes, there will be challenges because we also accommodate other tribes in Bauchi and other places. We have many Tiv people farming in Alkaleri, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro in Bauchi State. Has anybody told them to go? No because they have inalienable rights to be here. We have people living in Bauchi for over 150 years, even before the birth of Nigeria., nobody is talking to them to go and some of them have risen to become Permanent Secretaries in government in Bauchi, Borno and so on”
Governor Mohammed lamented that pastoralists in the country, particularly Fulanis were being maligned even though most of them have become victims of cattle rustlers who have dispossessed them of their common wealth and they “have no option than to carry AK47 because the society and the government are not protecting him”
Mohammed, who shot to prominence when he moved the Doctrine of Necessity at the Senate in 2009 which eventually paved the way for Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President, and later President when Umar Yar’ Afdua died in office, called on Nigerians to stop labeling Fulanis as criminals because every ethnic groups has criminals
He called on journalists to be cautious in their reportage and exercise restraint and avoid takings sides in the issues of herders-farmers clashes to safeguard the unity and peace of the country.
“Something that is so bad and can destroy us, something that is threatening the peace and unity of the country, we must not toy with it. In this regard I must commend the Governor of Plateau State, Governor Simon Lanlong for promoting the peace of the country.
“Despite Lanlong’s minority’s background, he is leading the northern governors forum, Lanlong is focused and unity driven. We need people like Lanlong because the fights between herders and farmers in Plateau State has stopped because of justice and equity, because of patriotism and comFulmunity engagement and fostering understanding between the diverse ethnic groups and that is what we are doing in Bauchi. Everybody is important and so the media must make sure they promote unity and peace of the country,” he said
Earlier in his address, Chairman of the Correspondents Chapel, Malam Ahmed Mohammed, cautioned journalists against misusing their constitutional power to promote disunity and disaffection among Nigerians.
“I want to yet again appeal to my dear colleagues to be cautious in their reportage. One wrongly-worded headline can spark a fire that may burn down the entire nation or cause irreparable damages to the society or the person(s) affected. One of us may feel that he can retract a story, but news stories are like oil. You can attempt to wipe the spill but you may never get it all back,” the Chairman said.