Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday met with the leadership of Fulani cattle breeders in the Southwest states, Kogi and Kwara, over the spate of kidnappings, banditry and general insecurity allegedly being perpetrated by the 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 herdsmen were happening across the Southwest, the development, he pointed out has portrayed Fulani ethnic tribe in a bad light.
Obasanjo, who said the meeting was a family one to jaw-jaw with the group on security challenges in the country, especially the Southwest, explained that members of the public, including policy makers in Nigeria have been in the dark over the wave of banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery across the region. He expressed the hope that the meeting would afford himself, leaders and representatives of the Fulani ethnic tribe to ask questions and put the records straight before the public without being judgmental of anyone.
Obasanjo observed that solutions to Nigeria’s security challenges, for which the Southwest is inclusive, should not be left for one person to address, stressing that such can come through collective efforts without “passing of blame here or there”.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a communique issued and jointly signed by Obasanjo and Bayari at the end of the meeting, the participants resolved that joint community responsibility must be established among the Yoruba and Fulani leaders at the community levels.
While it was agreed that those who perpetrate crimes are both non-Fulani and Fulani, the parley submitted that new approach must be adopted to tackle insecurity and ways should be found to sanction perpetrators.