By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State on Sunday fired back at his critics over his comments in defend of Fulani herdsmen who suffers eviction and other forms of restriction orders by some state governments and other non-governmental entities.
The Governor had last Thursday carpeted some of his colleagues in the Southern part of the country who denies pastoralists their rights of movements or living in any part of the country as guaranteed by constitutional provisions in the wake of herders/farmers constant clashes in search of livelihood.
Senator Bala Mohammed has at the closing ceremony of the Press Week of Correspondents’ Chapel of the NUJ in Bauchi said that his colleagues in the South are wrong to have ordered Fulani herders to leave their respective states, singling his Benue counterpart, Samuel Ortom as the one who first fired the salvo.
Mohammed, in a press statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mukhtar Gidado said that his comments are primarily to avert the dangerous prospect of nation-wide backlash, as tempers were flaring up and
The primary objective of the Governor, according to the statement, was to avert the dangerous prospect of nation-wide backlash as tempers were flaring up, given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
It regretted that many of the reactions on the governor’s comments conveyed the dismay of their authors to what they erroneously considered, as the Governor’s presumed support for crimes, committed by some Fulani herdsmen.
Gidado explained that at no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic nationality, rather he admonished Nigerians 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 statement succinctly puts it thus, “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, 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”.
It added, “These are the people who, in the absence of any protection from the security agencies, are forced to resort to self-help, to defend both their means of livelihood and their lives”.
The SSA Media explained that Governor Bala Mohammed, as a constitutionalist which he has proved over time, all through his political career, will be the last person to advocate a subversion of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, pointing out that he did not do so in the past, and will not do so today.
Gidado stated that the Governor’s description of forests, as “no man’s land” (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.
The statement therefore described as completely incorrect to interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen, it is completely a wrong interpretation.
“In actual fact, neither does such temporary habitation of the forest inconvenience anyone nor does the itinerant Fulani sojourner, bother anyone about his plight in the forest characterized by life without assess to electricity, pipe borne water, good roads or hospitals”.
On the contrary, Gidado further explained, his boss 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.
Gidado places it on record that Governor Bala Mohammed’s statement was intended to caution all stakeholders to guard against escalating the tension, just as many patriotic stakeholders, particularly from the North have been working round the clock to avert reprisal actions that could throw the entire country into a cauldron of unimaginable proportions.
He said that rather than vilify Governor Bala Mohammed, it is incumbent on all those criticizing him to admonish those Governors whose lack of restraint is responsible for the escalation of the crisis, stressing that his boss’s antecedents as a bridge-builder, humanist and nationalist are well known that he will never, under any circumstances, deliberately fuel any national crisis or subvert the Constitution.
The statement strongly reminded all stakeholders in the Nigeria project, that the delicate nature of our diversity coupled with the fact that Nigerians are interwoven in many respects, calls 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 the Governor’s 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”, Gidado concluded.