By Charly Agwam – Bauchi
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed has reacted to critics of his statement purportedly supporting Fulani herders to carry AK47 rifle, saying that his statement was not intended to support criminality but to put the herders sufferings in perspective.
The Senior Special Assistant on media, Muhktar Gidado made this known on Sunday in a press release he sent to Vanguard.
According to him, the primary objective of the governor was to avert the dangerous prospect of nationwide backlash as tempers were flaring up, and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
“First, at no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic nationality. Rather, he admonished us, in the interest of national unity, to avoid wholesale branding of any ethnic group as it is inconceivable that any one group can be made up of only criminals. By extension, the Governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to label any one tribe based on the crimes of a few members of the ethnic group.
“Second, to the extent that not every herdsman is a criminal, the Governor’s reference to AK47 was simply to put in perspective, the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding Fulani herdsmen who, while carrying out their legitimate cow-rearing business, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping and assassination…….As a constitutionalist which he has proved over time, all through his political career, Governor Bala Mohammed will be the last person to advocate a subversion of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He did not do so in the past; he will not do so today.
“Third, Governor Bala Mohammed’s description of forests, as “no man’s land”, (please read as gift of nature), is a carry-over from his own geo-political environment where a pastoralist could set up camp, in any forest, for a few weeks without causing any uproar or opposition. To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen is completely incorrect. Bala Mohammed is very familiar with the Land Use Act, including the criteria for land acquisition and cannot therefore seek to undermine the statute which, as Governor, he has sworn to uphold.
“Fourth, the Governor would want it placed on record that his statement was intended to caution all stakeholders to guard against escalating the tension, just as many patriotic stakeholders, particularly from the North, have ben working round the clock to avert reprisal actions that could throw the entire country into a cauldron of unimaginable proportions,” the statement reads.
The governor further called for reasoned circumspection in handling inter-ethnic hostility of the nature that the ejection of herdsmen from parts of the country is degenerating into.
“It is his fervent wish that, together, all stakeholders will work towards re-establishing inter-ethnic trust and harmony that has been so badly dented, within the past few weeks or months,” the statement adds.