Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has insisted that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable and has asked that comments saying otherwise should be disregarded.
Cardinal Onaiyekan made the statement at the weekend, while reacting to the persistent herders/farmers crisis in the country, at a courtesy visit with the TIV Professionals Group (TPG) in Abuja.
He said: “we must admit that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable. Negotiation means you give and take. In fact, right now, Nigeria is up for negotiation. I think that is where different groups come in to make their demands.
“The truth is that the nation is in danger and whatever anybody can do to prevent the worse, they should do it. There must be a way that we can save ourselves from self destruction. We cannot continue like this. Very few people are happy with the status quo. If we do not talk, we might end up killing one another.”
The Archbishop also accused the National Assembly of neglecting its duties, stating that the role of the National Assembly is to discuss pressing issues plaguing the peace of the nation and to find possible solutions.
He said: “under normal circumstances, it is the National Assembly that should handle these kind of things. The system is set up so that the National Assembly can challenge the government. But we have reached a situation where we have a National Assembly that is proud to be a rubber stamp.
“Somehow every member of that house has remained silent. We realized that there is no difference between the political parties. Whether PDP or APC, nobody complains. Which means the things that are serious are not discussed.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a stage in Nigeria where we cannot trust politicians. TIV land, where are your politicians, what are they saying? What are the issues that they talk about in political gatherings? Are they blind to the fact that there’s a bigger thing than who will win the next election?”
During the visit, the chairman, TPG, Prof. Zachary Gundu, alleged that the Nigerian Army, sometimes, supports the herdsmen attacks, as they look the other way instead of protecting the people.
Gundu, who described the Fulani livestock trade as a Trojan horse used to masquerade the true intentions of the herders, explained that the Fulanis are merely riding on the back of the cow to grab land at the expense of indigenous crop farmers for the Fulani of the whole world.
He said: “Much of what is happening is Fulanis across the border coming to take our fish and kill our people. Many Fulani groups have come out to openly claim responsibility for the attacks on our people. They must be prosecuted”.
On the way forward, the TPG advocated for all lands occupied by the Fulani tribe, illegally, to be vacated.
Gundu said, “we want the return of displaced people to their ancestral lands and full compensation be paid to those who have lost lives and properties. The strategy to violently subsidize open grazing by blood and ancestral lands must stop”.
Furthermore, the group called on all patriotic Nigerians to intensify advocacy against nomadic pastoralism, as ranching will break the Fulani monopoly of the cattle industry, which they have badly mismanaged.