Yoruba, Northern elders fight over Fulani herdsmen

The Nothern Elders Forum (NEF) and the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) on Friday exchanged hot words over the lingering security challenges posed by criminal herdsmen in the country. 

NEF, in a statement signed by its director of publicity and advocacy, Dr Hakeem BabaAhmed, accused YCE and other similar southern groups of eroding the security and integrity of Nigeria through what it called unfounded allegations of genocide. 

“Allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon, and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.

The latest communication by the Yoruba Council of Elders to the United Nations is an example of lamentable desperation of some groups to erode our security and integrity as a country, and it is more regrettable that it is the handiwork of so-called elders who should forfeit all rights to that honour.” 

But the YCE fired back through its secretary general, Dr Kunle Olajide, describing the northern elders as reckless and unfeeling, keeping mum in the face of mass murder in the South West by their children. 

NEF also said that there were plans by elites and some elected individuals to incite people against one another and cause breakdown of law and order. 

NEF said the individuals had gone as far as lobbying the international community in an effort to sell the fiction that some groups were intent on mass extermination of other groups. In a statement signed by its director of publicity and advocacy, Dr Hakeem BabaAhmed, NEF alleged that there were ongoing efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials with the aim of inciting people to act violently against each other. It said “now the nation is facing imminent threats from persons who are bent on pushing all of us nearer to disaster, to help them achieve their nefarious goals.” 

On herdsmen, NEF said: “We repeat our demand that Fulani who have broken no laws must be protected from abuse wherever they are. 

“We ask all governments to identify criminals among the Fulani and subject them to the laws of the land. 

“Similarly, we demand the cessation of threats and attacks by local ethnic defenders on Fulani communities. “People who have broken the law by attacking and harassing Fulani for just being Fulani must be brought to book.

“We encourage all law-abiding herders to stay put and seek protection, and if they cannot be protected, to relocate to safer areas in the country.

“We urge northern governors to prepare to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate. We urge all northerners to assure Nigerians from other parts of the country that they are safe and welcome to continue to stay in the north.

“The Forum repeats: it is not a crime to be member of any ethnic group, and no one has the right to attempt to expel any Nigerian from places where they live lawfully.”

On the alleged destabilisation plot, the statement said: “The Forum particularly notes that continuing narratives and threats, including comments from seemingly responsible Nigerians and even elected officials who swore to protect the rights of all citizens and the survival of the country, are raising fears and passions that could make it easy to break more laws of the land and pitch citizens against each other.

“There are efforts to create multiple sources of falsehood in videos and other inflammatory materials in the media clearly targeted at inciting people to act violently against each other.

“Allegations of planned or actual genocide are being made with reckless abandon, and even the international community is being lobbied in futile efforts to sell the fiction that some groups are intent on mass extermination of other groups.

“Northern Elders Forum commits to continue to work to retrieve the country from the dangerous cliff where it has been placed by irresponsible people, many of them in positions of responsibility.”

NEF said it had plans to meet with governors in the North and South to improve collaboration and synergy and it also intends to visit communities where it has influence to lower tensions and provide assurances and comfort.

The forum, however, advised President Muhammadu Buhari and governors to consult and explore measures that would lower tensions and assure all Nigerians that they live in a country where laws have meanings, and all citizens have equal rights to live under secure environments.

“The fight against armed criminals must be pursued on all fronts and with a lot more seriousness. The criminal must not reap from the suspicions and fears which his activities also generate,” the statement added.

The NEF had, earlier this month, issued a similar advice to Fulani herdsmen asking them to move to northern region if their security could not be guaranteed in their host communities in the South.

Northern elders reckless, condone mass murder in S/ West —YCE

Dr Olajide of the Yoruba Council of Elders, reacting to the statement by the Northern Elders Forum, said: “The YCE is by far more patriotic and nationalistic than the Northern elders. In the YCE, we believe in a truly federal republic of Nigeria where equity fairness and justice will be available for all citizens of this country and where no citizen of this country will be regarded as inferior and where appointments will be based on merit; where there would be no ethno religious sentiments openly expressed by those in power.

“In the last three to four years, it actually started in 2016, the criminal herders have been so brazen in their invasion of Yorubaland, carrying sophisticated weapons, raping our women, kidnapping for ransom and murdering our people, destroying farmlands; the economic means of survival of our farmers. We have been shouting at the rooftops almost on a daily basis and the Federal Government seems to turn deaf ears to these complaints, giving gross insensitivity to the plight of our people here.

“So, we had to appeal to the global community to intervene in restoring normalcy into the Nigerian nation state. it was becoming obvious, especially in the last two years, that this country has been polarised along ethno-religious lines. In fact, we have never been so divided like this. We have made several appeals to Mr. President to speak to Nigerians to reassure us that he stays committed to a truly Federal Republic of Nigeria where justice, equity and fairplay will reign supreme, but not a word from the presidency. The statements coming from the presidential aides, in fact, polarise the nation the more. You hear all sorts of things, like ‘farmers should obtain permission before going to their farms’ when 43 farmers were killed in Borno State. And we don’t know where farmers take permission and who from… so we have such statements that give credence that this government is only for a particular ethnic part of the country and when you get to this particular situation, we have to appeal to the United Nations because virtually all countries in the United Nations have citizens in Nigeria and they must be made aware of the level of insecurity in this country in the interest of the entire world.

“So, what YCE did was to call attention of the global body to what appears to be the insensitive nature of the powers that be in Nigeria to the plight of Yoruba farmers, women, children and citizens. It is because we believe that a truly federal, united Nigeria will be the best for every part of the country. It is not because we want to secede. No, we have made too much sacrifice to keep Nigeria one. We are not into wanting to divide it at all because all parts of this country would feel the pain. On NEF’s advice to Fulani to come back to the North if they felt unsafe in the south, Dr Olajide said “there is freedom of movement. Anybody can go anywhere. We have not said Fulanis should leave. We said the criminal ones… we have Aliko Dangote in Lagos for example; nobody has said he should leave. We have some Fulani in the universities here who are contributing and adding value to society. But those ones killing and maiming citizens, raping women and kidnapping for ransom and destroying the means of livelihood of our farmers are the ones we said should vacate our forests.”

“They are in power today and they are in charge of all the security. If the security agencies allow what they call ‘genocide’ to go on, then whose fault is that? They should talk to the commander in chief of the armed forces and the Inspector-General of Police. In fact, if anything, we should accuse them of keeping mum and maintaining silence in the face of genocide and mass murder in the South West.


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