A pan-Arewa socio-political organisation, Northern Elders Forum has raised the alarm over what it described as sustained attempts to raise tension and create fears among Nigerians, warning that such could lead to major crises involving groups and regions in the country.
The NEF, in a statement titled. ‘The need to de-escalate tensions in the country,’ and issued on Friday by its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, therefore, called on northern governors “to prepare to receive law-abiding Fulani herders who may be compelled to relocate.”
It said the recent comment 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.”
The statement read in part, “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.”
It added, “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.
“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. The NEF 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.”
When contacted, the Secretary General of the YCE, Dr Kunle Olajide, said the group believed in one Nigeria where there would be equity and justice, saying the letter to the UN was a demonstration of its patriotism.
Olajide said, “The impression that Mr President is giving is that he is a biased leader. It is the tiny political elite of Fulani stick that we believe are not interested in Nigeria. They want Nigeria where everybody will be their slaves and servants.
“The Yoruba are never a conquered people. We agreed together in the last constitutional conference before independence to stay together. But as it is now, the signal we are getting from the highest authority is not encouraging. We are the patriotic ones and the Northern Elders Forum is the ethnocentric one.”
Meanwhile, the Pan Niger Delta Forum has accused the Northern Elders Forum of playing to the gallery by calling on herdsmen in the southern part of the country to relocate to the north.
PANDEF’s spokesperson, Ken Robinson, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, urged the Northern governors to ignore the call by the NEF, saying such a call was irresponsible.
Robinson said, “The Northern Elders Forum, we have said before, is the one causing problems and creating tension in the country. What is happening in the south and some states in the southern part of Nigeria is people rising up to say no to the activities of herdsmen in terms of killings, kidnapping and molesting our women who go to farms and all that.
“So, instead of raising unnecessary alarm and trying to play to the gallery, what the northern elders should do is to caution their kinsmen so that they can conduct themselves properly by respecting the rights of communities and the rights of people in the areas they operate.”
Also, the Arewa Consultative Forum, South-South and South-East, have faulted calls by the NEF for herdsmen who feel unsafe in the south to relocate to the north, describing it as unwise.
The leader of the group, Alhaji Musa Saidu, said herders must find a way of living peacefully with members of their host communities and desisting from allowing their cattle to graze on peoples’ farmlands.
Saidu stated, “Asking herdsmen to return to the north without provision for them is not a good idea. Those that are being accused of criminality should stop.”
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