From Okwe Obi, Abuja; Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure; Okwe Obi, Abuja and Gyang Bere, Jos
There appears to be a raging war between the Yoruba and Northern elders over the recent quit notice by Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to Fulani herdsmen in forests in the state, as part of measures to stem the rising insecurity in the state.
Pan Afenifere socio-political organisation, Coalition of Oduduwa Elders (CODUE), while supporting the quit notice, vehemently took exception to the statement released by the Presidency through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, opposing the quit notice and warned the presidency to stop meddling into issues within state’s purview.
Its National Coordinator, Dr Tunde Aremu, and the National Secretary, Folake Ajasin, in a statement, yesterday, contented that governor Akeredolu was in a better position to know how to protect life and property in his state.
Aremu warned the Presidency and the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) against weeping up sentiments and urged them to respect the order of the governor for the sake of peace and tranquility.
“We, the Yoruba elders under this noble umbrella body known as Coalition of Oduduwa Elders, have watched with great concerns the turn of events in the South West, especially in Ondo, culminating in the notice to herders to quit forests by Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
“We have equally painstakingly watched the rushed statement by the Presidency through one of its spokesmen, Mallam Garba Shehu, cautioning the governor against his action and instead, declaring that the people who have been identified to be responsible for kidnappings, banditry and killings in the state cannot vacate the areas they use to carry out their nefarious activities.
“Akeredolu, to the best of our knowledge, is a sitting governor of Ondo State. Until he is out of office, he has the constitutional mandate to device the best ways possible in giving his people who voted him into office good and quality leadership.
“The quit notice to herders to leave Ondo forests is one of those steps he has taken to protect the citizenry. So,we ask the presidency to leave him alone.
“The marauders, who usually come without cattle, engage in kidnappings, attacking communities in guerrilla style of warfare, killings, burn houses and destroying other property! Should the governor fold his hands and look the other way while his people are being massively kidnapped, killed and their property destroyed? No, these have to stop now. And the only way to stop it is what Chief Akeredolu has done,” he said.
He added: “We observed that the Presidency’s statement came only shortly after the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) publicly called on it to come out with urgent reaction regarding the governor’s action.
“We are surprised that the presidency, which has not reacted to the cries of the people of Ondo or South West, leaving the region to form Ametokun security outfit to protect its people, would be so concerned to issue a rushed statement over the governor’s action!
“We had expected Miyeti Allah and all the Fulani bodies to rise against the criminal elements in their midst who are bent on tarnishing their reputation, but, instead, they have surprisingly looked the other way until the governor came up with this measure to stop the ugly situation.
“If they were not complicit in the acts, why were they not speaking out against these despicable acts of their kinsmen?
“We call on Garba Shehu to stop disgracing President Buhari’s government. We also call on the presidency to always vet Garba Shehu’s statements before giving consent for release to the public.”
Meanwhile, Governor Akeredolu said that his government only directed Fulani herdsmen who are not registered with the state government to vacate the forests in the state.
Responding to a statement released by the presidency on the legality or otherwise of the ultimatum given to Fulani herdsmen to vacate the state, Akeredolu said he did not direct all Fulanis in Ondo State to leave.
The governor, who spoke through the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said: “The Ondo State Government did not ask Fulani to leave the state. The governor said herdsmen who are unregistered should leave our forests. The statement from Garba Shehu is a brazen display of emotional attachments and it’s very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.
”We need to clearly defined actions on the part of the Federal Government to decimate the erroneous impression that the inspiration of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen is that of power. Our unity is threatened, no doubt.
“Shehu’s statement states, in a breath, that the governor fights crime with passion, while it is prevaricating on the atrocities. The question is, are the herdsmen who are perpetrating murder, kidnapping and robbery more important than government and even the federal government in this case?
“Ethnic nationality and activism on the part of anyone hiding under the presidency or federal government is an ill wind,” he added.
Quit notice unconstitutional, uncharitable- Northern elders
Reacting, Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has described the quit notice issued by governor Akeredolu to Fulani pastoralists as unconstitutional and uncharitable.
NEF Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement, yesterday, advised the governor to fish out bandits masquerading as Fulani pastoralists and deal with them, accordingly, rather than ejecting the entire Fulani community from the forest.
“Northern Elders Forum is shocked at reports that Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, is asking a Fulani community to leave its lawful location, in addition to other restrictions on activities of Fulani people who have lived in the State for a long period.
“The Forum had resisted the urge to comment since the reported quit order because this is an extremely sensitive issue.
“It has, however, become necessary to speak at this stage and offer advise before mischief makers capitalise on the issue to compound our existing challenges around security and co-existence.
“Governor Akeredolu is a senior lawyer who should know that the constitution does not give him the power to deny any Nigerian the right to live where he chooses if he does not break the law in the process.
“His duty to protect and improve the security of citizens and all people in Ondo State cannot be challenged.
“Indeed, all governors need more support to improve their responses to security challenges which citizens face.
“Nonetheless, no Nigerian has the power to take punitive action against citizens on political grounds.
“The Forum believes that the action of the governor is provocative and unhelpful. If there are criminal elements among the Fulani who live in the State, the governor should take appropriate steps to identify them and deal with them.
“What is dangerous and unacceptable is to profile and demonise the Fulani and treat him outside the laws of the land like all other Nigerians.
We won’t leave Ondo- Fulani Youth Association
Meanwhile, the National Youth Leader of Fulani Association in Nigeria, under Jondajam, Alhaji Adamu Saidu Maikano, said it is constitutionally wrong for the governor to ask all Fulani to leave the state.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the security agencies to investigate the matter with a view to resolving it, saying no Fulani will leave Ondo State.
Maikano, who made the declaration yesterday during an interview with journalists in Jos, said : “The Constitution of this country does not give anybody the right to send anybody away from a state. If there is a problem, we need to look at the constitutional way of resolving it.”