By Isaac Shobayo | Jos, Johnson Babajide | Makurdi and Yekini Jimoh | Lokoja
A pan-Fulani group, the Gan Allah Fulani Development Association (GAFDAN), and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore have cautioned Southern governors against banning open grazing in September and employing what they called intimidation tactics in their bid to get power to return to the South in 2023.
The Southern governors had come out with some serious resolutions at a meeting held in Lagos on Monday. The resolutions include the September 1 deadline to end open grazing in the southern part of the country and the rotation of presidency to the South in 2023. The Fulani groups described the open grazing deadline handed down by the Southern governors as a call for anarchy and a factor capable of frustrating the prospect of the south producing the next president.
In a reaction to the position of the Southern governors, the National Secretary of GAFDAN, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, told Saturday Tribune in an interview that the Southern Governors Forum failed to consider the implications of what he called its spur of-the-moment decision on open grazing.
Alhaji Abdullahi said: “You don’t just play politics. Some people want power to return to their region and they believe that the only way to go about it is to intimidate others. You want power to return to the South and you are driving people, about 17 million voters (Fulani), away. This step will definitely jeopardise the chances of the South to produce the next president come 2023.”
He added: “The position of the forum is very unfortunate because you don’t stop a system unless you have provided an alternative to it. We are not against any new method of animal husbandry because we believe that the present system is outdated but then you don’t stop it overnight without providing alternative. So, the position of the governors is practically impossible under the present setup in Nigeria.
“The statement of the governors is more political than realistic. It is unfortunate that people can play politics with the livelihood of millions of Nigerians. If you stop open grazing in the South, you are simply saying that those people should move to the North or they should move to other parts of the country. What happens if those in the North also ask the Southerners to leave?
“Are we promoting unity or hatred? What the governors are saying is practically impossible and it does not promote the unity of this country.”
He stated that Benue State had not experienced peace since the government there banned open grazing, a decision which, he said, led to the displacement of the entire Fulani cattle herders.
He warned that peace would “definitely elude” any state that takes such a decision.
“You don’t stop people’s means of living and expect peace to reign. So, the implication is that the unity of Nigeria is going to be in question. You don’t expect those that will be affected to return to the North and live in peace with people from the South living in the North. It is double standard.
“It is a call for anarchy. If the governors had provided alternative and set aside an area to practise ranching, it would have been better. The present situation does not favour herders themselves and then for you to start a thing without providing alternative is wrong. This is a call for anarchy,” he noted.
The GAFDAN national secretary claimed that genuine herders doing legitimate business also abhorred any act of criminality which was why the association formed a unit christened ‘Fulani Intelligence Squad’.
He said the squad had since been working with security agencies to fish out bad eggs within their ranks and make them to face the wrath of the law. To arrest violence and killings, Alhaji Abdullahi urged the federal and state governments to resuscitate the over 400 abandoned grazing reserves in the country, particularly in the North, gazette and develop them to eliminate conflicts between pastoralists and farmers over grazing lands.
He equally charged different cattle breeders and farmer associations in the country to embark on sensitisation of their members on the need for peaceful co-existence and to accommodate their differences and realise that those who tend to cow must be of age.
He said: “The southern governors need to reconsider their position. It is not possible and it is not feasible. If you frustrate their business and force them to flee back to the North then expect the same treatment from the North also. I think this is not helpful for the unity of this country. I would rather advise them to embrace dialogue.”
Alhaji Abdullahi urged the governors to sit down with critical stakeholders and devise a means to flush out the bad eggs and their collaborators.
“There is the need for dialogue. We also need to engage one another to arrive at an amicable middle ground. It is wrong to enact a law without consulting those concerned. If it is well intended, I think it should be discussed,” he said.
Miyetti Allah blows hot
The National Secretary of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, in his own case, said that Southern governors were only playing politics with their resolution to end open grazing in their territories by September 1. Speaking to Saturday Tribune during the week, Alhassan said the Southern governors should not blackmail the North to get the presidency.
But Alhassan described the Southern governors of being hungry for power in 2023 and submitted that the Fulani herdsmen have nowhere to go because the governors had not made any alternative provision for them.
He said: “They (the Southern governors) are hungry for power. Why are they making open grazing an issue? Is it the only problem in the country? They may not even get the power.” Alhassan said herdsmen could not leave because the Southern governors did not make any alternative arrangements before slamming a deadline on open grazing.
“Fulani herdsmen cannot move to anywhere. The Southern governors have not made any alternative (provision) for them. You cannot just drive away an economic group,” Alhassan said.
He stated that the outcome of the Southern governors’ meeting might be to heat up the polity, saying, “It is like they had some feelers.”
Alhassan said herders were not concerned about where presidency is zoned to in 2023 but warned the Southern governors against blackmailing the North to get the presidency, saying that such might be counterproductive.
“For herders, it doesn’t matter where the president comes from but if they want power to move to the South, should it be through blackmail? It should be by negotiation, campaign and strategy as well as political understanding. And mind you, this thing is based on numerical strength.
“If they (Southern governors) want to blackmail the North, they may not get the presidency. They are only hungry for power with the direction they are going,” he said.
He advised those interested in vying for the presidency to start building their campaign structures instead of resorting to blackmail.
He said: “Let them begin to build structures, come out and campaign. “Is there any serious Igbo man that wants to be president? Have you seen any? It is not that people will just carry power and give you, you must work for it by building structures.
“So, if Tinubu wins the APC primary tomorrow, it is because he has built the structure and we will vote for him. Is he not a Southerner?”
Why we oppose call for Southern president – Northern Elders Forum
Also, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) said the next president could emerge from any part of the country insofar as the person is truly devoted to one Nigeria and places the country’s interest above all other interests.
The spokesman of the forum, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, stated this on Friday morning during an interview programme on Arise TV. Baba Ahmed, in a reaction to the Southern governors’ position on 2023 presidency, said it was out of place for the governors to make such “dangerous comments,” noting that the North Central has never produced a president.
He, however, urged Nigerians to resolve to produce leaders that are different from the current crop of leaders who he said had mismanaged the country.
The NEF spokesman said: “Our position is that the next president must be a Nigerian president, someone who would do the opposite of what [President Muhammadu] Buhari is doing – dividing the country and alienating a vast number of people.
“What if the next president is elected from the North? What then happens? The North has the figure.
“In 2023, Nigeria must produce leaders who are very different from the current crop who have run the country aground.”
Zoning unconstitutional – Bello
Similarly, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, described zoning of the presidency as undemocratic and not in conformity with the Nigerian constitution or that of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Governor Bello stated this on Friday at the first annual ‘GYB Seminar for Nigeria’s Political and Crime Correspondents’ held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. He urged Nigerians to be concerned with having leaders with the capacity to solve the nation’s challenges.
The governor noted that zoning of political offices had not solved the country’s problems, saying rotation of the presidenc1y is not the best practice as, according to him, it prevents the best candidates from emerging and disallows people from making free choices. He said Nigerians should be allowed to freely choose their president in 2023, describing rotation and zoning as undemocratic and unconstitutional.
He added that since the return of democracy in 1999, the North Central and the South East had never had the opportunity of producing the president or vice president. (Tribune)