…‘You cannot eject people who have lived for 100 years in Ondo’
As someone, whose platform had demanded decisive actions against banditry in the North, what does the quit order given to herders in Ogun forest reserves mean to you?
It means different things naturally to different people. To us in the CNG, the expulsion order is not an isolated incident but is linked to a grand design to destabilise Nigeria and in particular bring the North to its knees by targeting a major component of its population, the Fulani and their livestock assets.
It is no longer in doubt that for too long, enemies of the North both foreign and local have worked strenuously to ensure that the region remains backward, divided, weak, confused and bewildered by myriads of challenges and problems.
It is no longer in doubt that the general and pervasive insecurity currently being experienced across the Northern region are part of a mega but clandestine plot spanning several years.
Today, everyone can see a clear pattern drawn from the strategies employed to achieve these results; namely the diminishing of the Northern viability and in particular, bringing the Hausa/Fulani population down by direct annihilation or political and economic incapacitation.
Unfortunately, this conspiracy is actively perpetrated with the connivance of some leaders from the North and accommodated by the cowardice of those that present themselves as northern political leaders. It is also a situation that feeds on the negligence and the lack of neutrality and fairness of the federal authorities.
Akeredolu is only playing the script for a wider clandestine plot that has its roots and pattern in history.
We wonder how the Presidency and the National Assembly would have reacted, were a state governor of northern extraction to make such a pronouncement against other tribes and people that are non-indigenous but live and flourish in the North.
No matter through which lenses we look, therefore, we only see in this fast-phased agenda a manifestation of a system that tends to deploy a warped application of the law solely for the protection of a certain category of citizens and endangering others. This manifestation of gross inequity is also one that portends the danger of even more grave conflicts.
Ogun State government has explained that the action was a culmination of several failed attempts at ensuring some of the herders shun criminal activities…
That does not in any way justify the sacking of an entire ethnic group from a place they have legitimately lived in for hundreds of years. It is simply a glaring calumny and a mischievous way to deliberately distort the narratives and shift the blames from those directly involved in the commission of a crime to the entire Fulani tribe.
It is just one aspect of the plan to antagonize the North and decapitate it which began with an orchestrated onslaught in the form of cattle rustling introduced in the North-West to set the stage for the final undermining of the region’s economic viability.
This agenda grew in dimension and scope by way of carefully crafted stories of herdsmen attacks to justify the mass targeting of the Fulani and leading to stereotyping, stigmatisation and paving the way for the forceful expulsion from states in other parts of the country.
This is why such an expulsion order from Akerodolu and his ilk does not attempt to draw distinctions between the Fulani as a race, or cattle herding as an occupation, from criminality.
It does not matter to them that most Fulani are not cattle herders or that although most cattle herders in Nigeria are Fulani, others are not; or that just because some herdsmen commit crimes does not make all cattle herders criminals.
They deliberately refuse to recognise that the vast majority of the Fulani – including those who are cattle herders , are peaceful everyday people with the same needs, anxieties, and hopes as the rest of Nigerians.
In doing so, consciousness appears to be eroding that for decades, different tribes in Nigeria have been accommodated and tolerated in other parts of the country without their hosts enacting discriminatory policies specifically to intimidate, harass and endanger them, their families, their properties, or their trades.
This is even after hard evidence shows how some of these people who are comfortably accommodated by the North take undue advantage of the region’s tolerant culture to pursue illicit trades that include introduction and promotion of the mass supply and spread of hard drugs, fake drugs and other harmful substances that are threatening the lives of people in the North and crippling the potential of the younger generation.
Despite these realities, no attempt has ever been made by the North to discriminate or label any people beyond seeking solutions through legitimate and civil interventions.
This is notwithstanding glaring pieces of evidence of the notoriety of these settlers in the perpetration, commission, spread and promotion of various crimes and anti-social behaviours within the communities of the North.
Don’t you think the state decided to safeguard its people against an imminent replication of the spectacles in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger and other northern states being terrorised by bandits?
To base the expulsion of an entire ethnic group that has lived its entire life at a certain place on such an excuse is not realistic. There are criminals in every community. Even the incidences in parts of the North cannot be entirely blamed on a particular ethnic group. A certain group may be directly involved in the commission of certain offences but is being complemented by other groups through the supply of arms, drugs and so on. It is something of a matrix, a syndicate.
This cannot in any way justify the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason which is why we deem the targeting of the entire Fulani in Ondo for vilification, systematic dehumanisation, profiling, alienation, or any action that will render them objects of attack and persecution, not only immoral and illegal but also abhorrent to our sensibilities and ordinary decency and therefore unacceptable.
We are quite aware that targeting any ethnic or religious group and singling it out for any negative action for all intents and purposes, is against both our laws and international law.
Such acts are the prelude to genocide and ethnic cleansing and therefore, are actionable under international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as international criminal law.
As someone whose group has been at the forefront of raising awareness on the insecurity in the north, don’t you think the state government’s action serves as a stitch in time?
There is no question of stitching anything here. The ideal approach would have been where those saddled with the responsibility of securing the nation are seen to be failing, respective state governments should reasonably engage every component of the communities within its territory to collectively confront the issue by isolating the real criminals and not by indicting and the entire community and singling it for irreverent treatment.
You often accuse northern governors and other leaders in the region of failing to secure the North. Does this action of a South-West governor represent the kind of protection you talk about?
Not at all. If that is what we mean, it would then translate into identifying an ethnic group whose members are believed to be involved in the supply of arms and drugs to the bandits and sundry criminals in the North for general molestation. What we are urging the northern governors to do is to come up with a collective and unified approach to the situation by involving the communities positively. This approach would give better results than the present isolated efforts they are pursuing.
The Northern Elders Forum and a few voices from the North have condemned the action of Ondo State government, making people say that the North is “pampering bad elements among herders the same way Boko Haram and bandits were pampered in their early days”…
I don’t believe that is the case. What they are saying is that criminals should be identified and isolated without dressing them in sweeping gowns of ethnicity, religion, or section. This is the decent thing to do. No civilization anywhere in the world would endorse the attribution of crime to tribe or race.
What do you make of the Presidency’s position on the matter?
We see the position assumed by the presidency in this regard as weak, upresidential and pacifist. The federal government needs to be decisive when issues that affect certain classes of Nigerian society which also potentially affect the well-being of the country in the end arise.
Some voices in the North believe the stock of herdsmen perpetuating criminality in the South are the same people killing and kidnapping people in Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Niger states. To them, so long as the action wasn’t targeted at all herders, it should be supported by all…
If the stock is identifiable then there is no harm fishing them out from the innocent breed rather than antagonise the entire Fulani stock irrespective of whether they are part of a crime committed or not.
Is the ethnic/regional dimension the issue is taking really necessary?
It ought not to have taken such dangerous contours but the governor ought to have been better advised against this approach which is certainly unhelpful.