From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for dialogue in addressing farmer-herder clashes which have recently resulted in the burning of houses and killings as a result of tensions between settled farmers and nomadic Fulani herders in some parts of the country.
He made the assurance that federal lawmakers would come up with legislation to address the current unhealthy relationship between herdsmen and host communities, especially in the South-West and South-East
The Speaker warned that no ethnic group in the country should seek to dominate others but respect each other’s history, culture and trade for the sake of peace and harmony.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, Speaker Gbajabiamila assured that on resumption from recess, the National Assembly would work on legislation aimed at resolving contentious issues in the country.
Tension is currently building in the South-West with Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, asking herders to leave the region following cases of kidnapping allegedly traced to some of them.
In Ondo State, the state government recently asked herdsmen to vacate the state’s forest reserves within seven days.
Asked about his views on the tensions, the Speaker said: ‘Everybody just has to come to the table and discuss and come to an amicable resolution which I’m sure we will.
‘I don’t think any ethnic group should lord it over any ethnic group. The South-West should not lord it over the North, the North should not lord it over the South. We should respect each other’s trade, geographical space, history, culture and more importantly the issue crime, murder all those things should be completely jettisoned.
‘But more importantly, we all have to sit on the table and discuss this matter and look for the way forward. I think everybody is willing to do that. From the National Assembly, solutions will come from talking.
‘I believe that now that we are about to start work on Tuesday, I know these issues will come up and adequate and proper legislation that will address the issue frontally and in the best interest of the country, and for all nations that make up the nation, such legislation will be put in place.’
Gbajabiamila, who described his discussion with President Buhari on the state of the country as a ‘fruitful and interesting discussion,’ speaking on the recent appointment of Service Chiefs, said the lawmakers will continue to support them to check insecurity in the country, saying their appointment has long been anticipated.
‘The appointment of new Service Chiefs is what everybody has been clamouring for, the House, Senate, the public and the President took his time and he studied the situation very well and did it at the right time that he thought he should do it and we are in support of what he has done.’
He assured that the National Assembly would give the new military helmsmen all the support required, saying: ‘Everything that is needed, we are all in this today. The National Assembly will not in any way put hurdles before the Service Chiefs. We will work the working environment suitable for them to able to discharge their responsibilities very efficiently.’
On the ongoing registration and revalidation of APC membership, he urged all members to participate in the exercise.
The Speaker said: ‘I will encourage all party members, those who are not even party members who have not registered before, those who have attained the each of 18, those who have seen the good works of Mr President and this party to come in and join the fold and register.
‘So that come 2023, you know politics is about numbers, they can pick whoever they want to elect to represent them as a party flag bearer.
‘Don’t forget registration serves a dual purpose, one is for primary and the second one is for election. You have to take ownership of the party and that is what we are asking people to do.’
Speaker Gbajabiamila said he has not seen any alternative to the APC in the country for now.
‘Show me an alternative with cogent reasons, then we can talk. For now, I have not seen any alternative.
‘The APC has done a lot and I want us to be very objective. But unfortunately, in life that is just how it is, if you have done 100 things and one thing probably you met on ground is not quite right yet, it has the tendency of muddling the waters and discrediting the 100 good things you have done.
‘That is the situation we have found ourselves but we will continue to educate the public on the things we have done.
‘The APC never really enjoyed propagating itself, we thought our work will speak for us. But for me, I have since learnt that you need to propagate yourself. Because, often when I sit down with some of the biggest critics of the government and I say the party did this, this and this, they are in shock.
‘I think it’s time we begin to market some of the achievements of the party and not allow one or two little…well, they may be fundamental, I quite agree, but don’t let those things overshadow what we have done.’