The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday said ethnic groups must respect each other’s geographical space and culture to reduce rising tension in the country.
Gbajabiamila gave the advice while commenting on killings and kidnappings in the country during an interview State House correspondents after a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Speaker stated this as socio-political groups including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum berated the Northern Elders’ Forum for alleging that northerners were being attacked in the South.
They described as false, allegations by NEF and Kano Elders’ Forum.
According to them, on the contrary, it is Fulani herdsmen that are kidnapping, killing and raping host communities without any action by the Buhari regime.
But earlier on Wednesday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives after meeting the President said federal lawmakers would come up with legislation to address the current unhealthy relationship between herdsmen and their host communities, especially in the South-West and other southern parts of the country.
When asked for his view on the building tension in the country, Gbajabiamila said all concerned needed to embrace dialogue.
He warned against any ethnic group lording it over others. He said, “Everybody just has to come to the table and discuss and come to amicable resolution which I am 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 of crime, murder, all those things should be completely jettisoned.
“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 all nations that make up the nation such legislation will be put in place.”
Gbajabiamila said his discussion with the President was on the state of the nation and that they had a fruitful discussion.
He said the recent change of service chiefs was a welcome development and that the National Assembly would provide an enabling environment for them to perform.
He said, “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.
“The National Assembly will not in any way put hurdles before the service chiefs.
“We will provide working environment suitable for them to be able to discharge their responsibilities very efficiently.”
On the ongoing membership registration of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Gbajabiamilia urged all Nigerians, who are of voting age to join the party so that they can pick leaders of their choice in 2023.
He said he had not seen any alternative to the APC in the country for now.
He added, “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 “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 government and I say the party did this, this and this, they are in shock
Meanwhile, PANDEF, Ohanaeze and Afenifere, in separate interviews with The PUNCH faulted NEF and Kano Elders’ Forum on their statements on rising tension in the country.
NEF, other northern groups didn’t call killer herdsmen to order – PANDEF
Spokesman for PANDEF, Ken Robinson, during a telephone chat with one of our correspondents, noted that NEF did not call to order, elements who were parading themselves as herdsmen perpetrating killings, raping women and destroying farmlands in the South and Middle-Belt.
He said all ethnic groups must be treated equally and urged those in power to steer affairs of the country without bias a in order not to give room for suspicion that a section of the country was being favoured to the detriment of others.
Robison stated, “The fact is that you know the comments and reactions by the Kano group and the northern elders’ forum clearly demonstrate the attitude of arrogance and false security complex that are being displayed by these group of people.
“When these marauders, parading as herdsmen across southern states and the Middle Belt of Nigeria, went about killing innocent Nigerians, raping women and destroying farmlands, livelihood of our people, they didn’t make comments, they didn’t warn them.
“When Miyetti Allah, a trade group, cattle rearers relegated themselves and began to conduct themselves as if they were the lords of Nigeria and make provocative and vexatious statements, nobody called them to order or cautioned that what they were doing was going to cause problems because people were bound to react.
“There is no way people will allow their loved ones to be killed or molested, their livelihood destroyed and they will continue to fold their hands and watch these things happen.
“Now that government of the southern states are beginning to pick up courage and react and do what they are supposed to do and our people are standing up to their rights against these awful killings and these criminal gangs parading as herdsmen, they (northern elders) have started to make statements that clearly show they were tolerating or perhaps accommodating the criminal activities of these so-called Fulani herdsmen.
“So, their statements are condemnable. They are most unfortunate. We want Nigeria to continue to exist as a united country based on equity, fairness and justice. Not a country where anybody feel that he is superior to others.
“We want a Nigeria where everybody feels that he belongs to Nigeria and those who have been charged with the powers and authorities to conduct the affairs of state should conduct those affairs in such a manner and way to show that they are not partial, they are not nepotic or biased against any section of the country or any ethnic group, and that all the ethnic groups are equal. That is the position of PANDEF,” he maintained.
No attack on northerners, NEF’s statement inciting — M’Belt
On its part, the Middle Belt Forum advised northern groups to desist from making inciting statements capable of setting Nigeria on fire along North/South divide
In an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos on Wednesday, the National Publicity Secretary of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Isuwa Dogo, said it was wrong for the northern groups to make statements that could mislead other Nigerians on the security challenges facing the country
He asked, “Where has it been verified that northerners are being attacked in the south just like that or is it the general insecurity in the country? There is a difference between a deliberate attack targeted at certain people and when there is a security breach by criminals. Those threatening retaliation should learn to distinguish between the two and stop inciting violence between southerners and northerners because if there is retaliation, there will be counter-retaliation which will lead the country to nowhere.”
According to him, instead of threatening retaliation against southerners living in the north because of a perceived attack on their people in the south which had not been established to be true, northern leaders should prevail on the Federal Government to protect Nigerians and fish out those causing security breach anywhere in the country irrespective of any section of the country they hail from.
Show humanity on activities of killer herdsmen in South – Afenifere tells NEF
Also, the spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, stated, “The Northern elders have not shown the kind of responsibility expected of them over the activities of their people in the South. Have their people been killing cows and not human beings?… we must see their humanity on the killings in the south by their kinsmen first.”
On its part, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described as strange and unfortunate that NEF would not live by their name as elders and would turn round to allege that the southerners were attacking the northerners.
Ohanaeze spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said NEF should be in position to call on the Presidency to heed the persistent calls by the host communities to save them from the menace caused by the herders.
Ohanaeze spokesman stated, “The herdsmen/host community crisis in Nigeria has been a topical issue since over five years ago. The affected communities have appealed to relevant authorities to intervene to avoid degeneration into more awful situation.
Killer herdsmen: Allegation of attacks on northerners, contradictory, says Ohanaeze
“The farmers have repeatedly cried out. The women of the host communities are violated and debauched on a daily basis by the herders. The Federal Government in response has even contemplated Ruga as one of the options to curtail the crisis. It is therefore very strange that the Northern Elders’ Forum will not live by their name as elders. They have turned round to allege that the southerners are attacking the northerners. This is a contradiction.
“The NEF should be in position to call on the Presidency to heed the persistent calls by the host communities to save them from the menace caused by the herders.”
It, therefore, called on NEF to emulate the Ohanaeze Ndigbo in hospitality, nation building and creating the enabling environment for persons of diverse means to thrive in its localities.
Recall that the Chairman of Kano Elders’ Forum, Bashir Tofa, had in a statement on Tuesday warned that there could attacks on southerners in the North.
He stated, “Tension is beginning to brew, and if revenge attacks on southerners begin here in the North, it will be difficult to control.”
Also, NEF, in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, alleged that Fulani herdsmen were being attacked in the South.