•It’s uncalled for, we remain neutral—Dan-Ali, Army
•Fayose, Sani, Adebanjo, Rita Lori-Ogbebor, PDP, IPOB, others back Danjuma; I disagree, says Junaid Mohammed
By Emeka Mamah, Kingsley Omonobi, Anayo Okoli, Charles Kumolu, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Gbenga Oke, Peter Duru & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—Defence Minister, Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali, and the Nigerian Army, yesterday, took on former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (Retd), over a statement credited to him, calling on the people of Taraba State and Nigerians in general to take up arms and defend themselves against killings by herdsmen.
While the defence chief described Danjuma’s statement as an invitation to anarchy, the Army said it was unfortunate that the elder statesman could make such a statement at a time it was struggling to hold the nation together.
The Army also said the attack from General Danjuma was occasioned by its decision to be neutral in the herdsmen/farmers’ crisis.
Speaking at the maiden convocation and 10th anniversary celebration of Taraba State University on Saturday, General Danjuma had alleged that the military was conniving with herdsmen to kill Nigerians, which he further described as ethnic cleansing.
“The armed forces are not neutral, they collude with the armed bandits. They facilitate their movement; they cover them. We must resist it, we must stop it. Everyone of us must rise.
“If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will die one by one. This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State. It must stop in all the states of Nigeria, otherwise Somalia would be a child’s play,” Danjuma had said.
His call has, however, elicited strong support from some Nigerians and groups, including Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Senator Shehu Sani, former Minister of Steel, Paul Unongo, the Yoruba socio-political and cultural group, Afenifere, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign state of Biafra, MASSOB and Ohanaeze Youth Council, among others.
It’s uncalled for — Defence Minister
The Defence Minister in a statement, entitled: “Re-Armed Forces Collude with Bandits to Kill People”, said: “A recent comment by one of the nation’s elder statesman, alleging that the Nigerian military colludes with bandits to kill people and, therefore, calling on them to rise and defend themselves outside constitutional provisions, is highly uncalled for and is an invitation to anarchy and should be disregarded by well-meaning Nigerians.
“The efforts of the Nigerian Armed Forces towards restoration of peace, security and order in Nigeria continue to receive appreciation for changing the security environment from what it was before.
“The Nigerian Armed Forces is well organized and highly professional in discharging its constitutional mandate. Therefore, if anyone has evidence of wrongdoings or dereliction of duty against our troops, he should please bring forward such evidence through appropriate channels for necessary action.
“For avoidance of doubt, the military will not be distracted from performing its statutory duties in accordance with the rules of engagement.”
We remain neutral — Army
In its reaction, Nigerian Army said in a statement signed yesterday by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Texas Chukwu: “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to the unfortunate statement made by a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, during the convocation ceremony of Taraba State University on Saturday, March 24, 2018, in which he categorically asserted that the Armed Forces of Nigeria was colluding with militias and other criminal elements and unable to provide security for the citizens of Taraba State.
“He further called on the people of Taraba State to take up arms and defend themselves. The Nigerian Army views this statement made by the former Chief of Army staff as most unfortunate at this critical time that the military has embarked upon de-militarization of the North Central region of the country.
“While Nigerian Army would not want to join issues with the elder statesman, however, certain facts need to be clearly stated in the interest of Taraba people and Nigerian public.
“The Nigerian Army is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to aid civil authority whenever called upon to do so.
“In this regard, Operation Ex-Ayem Akpatuma was authorized and troops deployed to curb menace of herdsmen/farmers conflict and other criminal activities in the North Central, among others.
“It is on record that the successes so far recorded in Ex-Ayem Akpatuma have been recognized and accepted by Nigerians.
“The public is notified that Nigerian Army personnel have had to pay the supreme price for ensuring the sustenance of security in Taraba State. For instance, a gallant non-commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army was beheaded on March 16, 2018 in Takum, Taraba State, by criminal elements.
“It is noteworthy to state that at the start of Ex-Ayem Akpatuma, Taraba State government did not cooperate with the Nigerian army due to the Army’s stance to remain absolutely neutral in the herdsmen/farmers crises. The Nigerian Army will continue to remain as such.
“For avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian Army advises the people of Taraba State and, indeed, all Nigerians to continue in their day to day activities and be law abiding as anyone caught with arms and ammunition will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.
“Every law abiding citizen is assured of equal protection and security of lives and property irrespective of his or her person.”
However, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, directed enquiries to the Army and defence authorities for reaction.
I made the call a month ago — Unongo
In his reaction, former Minister of Steel, Wantaregh Paul Unongo, said the call by Gen. Danjuma had been made by him over a month a ago during the mass burial of 73 Benue indigenes killed by herdsmen in Logo and Guma local government areas of the state.
In a telephone interview, yesterday in Makurdi, Unongo said: “I had that same strong statement and it was printed in the press. It was dramatized when we had a mass burial in Makurdi. I made that statement.
“Why do you want me to repeat it or is it because Gen. Danjuma my friend, my schoolmate and brother made a similar statement?
“I made that same statement minimum of a month ago in Makurdi or is it that you want to hear that Paul Unongo supports Danjuma? I don’t support anybody. I just support that things in Nigeria should be done properly.
“I made a very long statement to that effect which was taken by the media. I don’t just make statements because people made statements.
“I am very concerned and worried about absolute loyalty to Nigeria. Nigeria is a wonderful country where I have spent my life, hoping that it will grow to be a great country. Anything that is trying to destroy Nigeria or distort it, I always make a comment about.”
Shehu Sani, Fayose react
Reacting, Senator Shehu Sani, tweeted “You can’t claim to know Buhari more than Danjuma does. You can’t claim to know Danjuma more than Buhari does. You can’t lecture Buhari and Danjuma about war and peace.
“Buhari has heard Danjuma’s radio message and I believe he has decoded the message.
“The nation is tip toeing through a minefield, the two Generals are experienced to know better that its fate lies in every step.”
Also in his twitter handle, Governor Ayodele Fayose wrote: “Gen. Danjuma’s position is not different from what I have said in the past. For him to have broken his silence at this time should be enough warning to President Buhari that it is time to go back to Daura. He should leave honourably or be disgraced out of office.”
I disagree —Junaid Mohammed
Second Republic Lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said he cannot debate much on the issue because he has no knowledge about the accusation levelled against the military by General Danjuma.
He said: “I must say I don’t see how Nigerians will protect themselves when we have the security apparatus in place. If protecting ourselves have been this easy, then various coups that have taken place in this country would not have happened. So, on protecting ourselves, I strongly disagree with what Danjuma said.”
In his reaction, Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said: “I’m happy Danjuma has spoken out. It’s not only the military aiding and abetting herdsmen, I think President Muhammadu Buhari is guilty of the same charge.
“If the military and the President are not guilty, there are things to be done. They should find out if they (herdsmen) are licensed to carry arms and ammunition. How many people have been arrested so far?
“Danjuma has said the obvious. I congratulate him for saying it, though it came rather late. Where was he during Agatu killings and other attacks? He has accommodated them rather too late. If he had spoken out early, it would not have degenerated into this situation we found ourselves today.
“The situation now is purely ethnic cleansing. The Fulanis do not want to rule alone, they want to dominate. So, I express my 100 per cent support for Danjuma’s statement and for not keeping quiet.”
On its part, spokesperson of Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said: “I think for a reticent man like Danjuma, who is also an establishment person to have made such a statement, it should not be dismissed. He is not a politician and he is not an activist. For him to have said so, shows how deep Nigeria has sunk under this administration.
“Killers are being protected while security agencies hardly do anything. The cheapest thing in Nigeria today is human blood. I believe that is why someone like Danjuma had to make that statement because so many people will be killed if this ethnic cleansing is not stopped.
“This government should wake up because if it fails to do so, Nigeria will find itself in a precipice. When someone like Danjuma starts speaking like that, it shows that there is danger.”
It must be serious —Rita Lori-Ogbebor
Similarly, rights activist, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor said: “For somebody like Danjuma, who is not known to talk carelessly like other politicians to warn us, it means that the situation is very worrisome.
“As someone who is a cautious politician to have said that we should defend ourselves, we should not ignore his statement. Now that he has spoken, our fears have been confirmed. We have been worried over the rate of insecurity in the country, for somebody like him who has been a key player at critical junctures in this country to speak out, the statement should be seen as a call to address the rate of insecurity in the country. It is a statement that nobody should dismiss with a wave of the hand.”
Also reacting, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, praised the former Defence Minister, Lt General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, for his courage in speaking the truth.
IPOB said that what Danjuma said was predicted by its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, but nobody listened to him.
IPOB’s statement read: “Today, what the supreme leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu said in 2014 is being re-echoed across the political landscape of Nigeria by no other than the very influential Lt. Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, who can be rightly classified as part of the northern ruling elite.
“Every categorical statement, prediction and utterance of our leader has come to pass. What is happening before our eyes today was foretold by our leader many years back and had those in power in Abuja listened to him, rather than lock him up without trial, thousands of innocent lives would have been saved across Nigeria.
“We state without any equivocation that all those killed by marauding herdsmen and the Nigerian military that provide them covert support died in vain because people like TY Danjuma initially supported the oppressors and vilified Mazi Nnamdi Kanu instead of paying careful attention to what he was saying.”
In a similar reaction, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign state of Biafra, MASSOB, expressed strong support for Danjuma’s call for Nigerians to defend themselves, saying the call became necessary as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to secure the lives of Nigerians against the evil activities of herdsmen.
In a statement issued by its leader, Comrade Uchenna Madu, MASSOB said though the self defence call came late, Gen. Danjuma should be commended for his courage to speak.
“Though it was unfortunate that Danjuma’s call came totally late, MASSOB still appreciates his courage in speaking out against the grand plot to execute genocide against his people of middle belt.
“Ndigbo are not surprised that the people of Middle Belt suddenly woke up from their slumber and political domination by Hausa-Fulani people.
“Danjuma and his Middle Belt people have suddenly realized that they were used against the Igbos by Hausa Fulani people during Nigeria/Biafra war, and now they have realized that we are brethren by virtue of religion and culture.”
Ohanaeze Youths Council, OYC, also supported the position of Danjuma on self-defence, saying the marauding herdsmen were political terrorists out to destroy the Middle Belt, South East, and South South, which must be resisted.
According to the President General of OYC, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, Igbo youths have already mobilized vigilante groups in all the 95 council areas of the South East zone to handle them.
“OYC commends T. Y. Danjuma over defence against herdsmen attack. We have already mobilized vigilante groups in 95 local governments of South East. It appears that the Federal Government is developing cold feet on herdsmen.
“Every Igbo man should be armed, especially now that farming season is about to start.
“Herdsmen are political terrorists aimed at destabilizing the Middle Belt, South East and South South ahead of the 2019 elections. OYC has also gone ahead to declare them terrorists and will do the needful,” OYC said.
Evidence of Buhari, APC’s failure — PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has said the call by General Danjuma (retd), that Nigerians should defend themselves against killers, is yet another testimony of the tragic situation which the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have dragged the nation since their assumption of office.
The party said General Danjuma’s statement justifies its stand that the Buhari Presidency must be held responsible for the pain in the land, adding that Nigerians are now daily paying the supreme price because of “the failures of a grossly incompetent leadership and a deceitful ruling party.”
The PDP, in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday, said the pronouncement, coming from a former Chief of Army Staff and former Defence minister is weighty and directly reflects the ugly situation in the country under the APC.
“It is instructive to recall that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, both former military leaders, army generals and patriots, had earlier raised the issue of unabating bloodletting and pogrom in our country under the APC and the Buhari Presidency.
“Painfully, the APC-controlled federal government has not only failed in finding solution but is also contending with allegations of conspiracy and acts that are believed to have emboldened attacks against innocent Nigerians.”