- War in North-West is orchestrated by selfish desire for new territories – SMBLF alleges
- The Kukah questions
“The truth, however, is that the north-west geopolitical zone is most diverse in ethnic content, and the war therein is orchestrated by the desire for new territorial spaces for the Fulani, both within and outside Nigeria against the other ethnic nationalities, especially the Hausa majority, which has for ages been falsely touted as being indistinguishable from the Fulani,” said Elder statesmen from four of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Leaders Forum, SMBLF in a letter to President Bola Tinubu on the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria.
The letter, which was made available to journalists, was signed by the leader of SMBLF and South-South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader, Afenifere; Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide; Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum; and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, National Chairman, PANDEF. The elder statesmen alleged connection between the rising insecurity in Nigeria and an ideological Fulanization agenda.
The letter read in parts, “The unrelenting massacre bordering on ethnic cleansing and armed occupation of the territories of the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt and most parts of Northern Nigeria by identified ethnic militias have shown without any doubt that the Nigerian state, its government, and security forces have continued to fail in the fundamental duty of the security and welfare of citizens as the primary purpose of government as stated in Section 14 (b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “
Former President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately handicapped himself with the deceitful mind-set that people of the North-West were of the same tribes and religions and wondered why they were fighting among themselves. “Mr. President, unfortunately, and as it was with the Buhari administration, rather than accept the reality of the danger posed to the corporate existence of the federation by an extra-territorial agenda of the Fulani ethnic nationality, backed by organised and wellarmed militias, which was, since 2018, declared by Amnesty International as the “4th most deadly terrorist organisation in the world,” your administration has also, now, in bad faith, dressed this evil in the false garb of “herders/farmers” clash and the blood-thirsty ethnic militias as mere bandits.
It is a conflict where one side, fully armed, continues to attack and kill the innocent, who are being deliberately defanged by agents of the government. “SMBLF holds as indisputably self-evident that all ethnic nationalities were and have settled in their portions of Nigeria before the amalgamation and establishment of Nigeria in 1914, and thus, the current rabid territorial ambition and quest for the alteration of the demographic structures of the federation will lead to chaos and internecine wars, the end of which may be the dismemberment of the fragile Nigerian Federation.”
They charged the President to take decisive action by bringing the perpetrators of the heinous killings in Plateau State to justice as they also urged government not to treat the Fulanis with kid gloves. “The desire of the Fulani to be treated as an exclusive “race” cannot be allowed to continue in a free and egalitarian nation. They should seek land for their trade in the same way other Nigerians buy and manage land, and stop this sense of entitlement. “That you, Mr. President, should rise to the occasion and dare the powers that be; decisively deal with the perpetrators of the senseless killings, end the massacre, and guarantee the safety of lives and properties of citizens in all parts of our country, especially the Middle Belt Region, and restore the dignity of citizens and national pride; for which you will ever be remembered!”
SMBLF took a swipe at President Tinubu, “The joy expressed by you in your New Year message in welcoming your “compatriots to this brand new year 2024” cannot be understood or shared by several millions of our countrymen and women, particularly the people of Mangu, Bokkos, and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State, where over 200 innocent villagers were killed by terrorists, with more than 300 persons injured, several properties destroyed, and thousands of people displaced, between Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24th, and Monday, December 26th, 2023. The elders proposed more measures to resolve peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. “
Your government holds an honest and truthful security inquiry to determine communities wherein the original inhabitants have been displaced in the last 2 decades and enforce the immediate return and resettlement of the people in their ancestral homes. “Further to the above, the government should, in no distant future, close all IDP camps to end the shameful and sinful policy of building such refugee camps for the indigenous peoples while their ancestral homes are allowed to be occupied by the armed invaders. “
That the security agencies, including the police, the Civil Defence Corps, and others, be specially trained and equipped to rise to the challenges as Nigeria is fast becoming a banana or pariah state of its kid-gloves treatment of terrorism. “That the Nigerian state, which fought a tribal civil war to secure its corporate existence, should not allow another internecine war of diverse tribes brought about by its permissive handling of provocative activities of local Fulani militias aided by collaborators from the West African sub-region and the Sahel.”
In similar vein, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto in a three-page New Year’s message entitled, “Blood and crucifixion on the Plateau,” made available to the media, ascribed the Plateau killings to an ideology for the nation’s soul contrary to the popular opinion of the herder-farmer conflict. He interrogated the worsening insecurity situation, “Can we continue to believe that there is no long-term plan to take over the reins of power of the Nigerian state? These people want power. They want it on their own terms. They want their own kind of Nigeria, according to their ideology. These killings are just a preface.
These killings are no longer acts by herders and farmers over grazing fields. No, there is more, and we as a nation will do well to face this threat before it is sunset. No evil lasts forever. The world defeated slavery, Apartheid, Nazism, racism, and other forms of extremism.” Bishop Kukah blamed President Bola Tinubu and the security agencies over the escalating state of insecurity in Nigeria. According to the prelate, President Tinubu is in the eye of the storm as criticisms and dwindling hope swells around him over the rising level of insecurity under his watch as Nigeria’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
He bemoaned, “We are tired of the confusing, inexcusable, monosyllabic excuses saying: this is an asymmetrical war, we are on top of the situation, you cannot kill an idea, it is not about religion or ethnicity, we will bring them to justice. We, citizens of Nigeria, feel collectively humiliated and betrayed by those who are collaborating with these murderers and a government that seems helpless.” In the message, the prominent Catholic priest expressed grave concern on why the North has become synonymous with bloodbath and the motives behind the gruesome killings.
The tireless advocate for justice wondered at the pervasiveness of killers and ease with which they have continued to perpetuate mass murder without neither being traced nor brought to justice. “Why has the North become the birthplace of so much bloodletting? Why are these killings seen as tools of negotiation with the Nigerian state by the protectors of the North? Why has our North become the incubator of all that is destructive? Boko Haram, banditry and shades of terrorism all live in our region. Why is this so? “By the banks of the Niger river, on the hills of the Plateau, across the lush savannahs of the Middle Belt, we have sat down and wept.
We have questions crying for answers: Who are these killers? Where are they coming from? Who is sponsoring them? What are their grouses and against whom? What do they want? Whom do they want? Who are they working for? When will it all end? Why are they invincible and invisible? Who is offering them cover? He asked. Bishop Kukah tasked the security agencies for the identities of the bandits and their sponsors. “These killers are not ordinary murderers. They are killers for a purpose. It is the task of the Intelligence community to tell us who they are, where they live and what their goals are. These killers are professionals and are they Nigerians or they just have Nigerian sponsors? Their sponsors are among us.
They must be in high places. They are now embedded in the architecture of the state.” According to the prelate, there is more to these killings than meet the eye. He said, “We are gradually taking eerie solace in the fact that these killers do not respect the boundaries of religion, region or ethnicity. We seem to be consoled that they are destroying churches, as well as mosques, killing Christians, as well as Muslims. We seem to be lulled into a feeling of collective consolation and we all believe that we are all victims of an endless orgy of violence that has taken over our land.”
“There is a method to this madness. The choice of location, communities, timings, the seeming hooded identities of the killers, all mask a fact: We may not know who they are, but someone wants something from the Middle Belt. Stretch your imagination from the emergence of the modern Nigerian state and connect the dots.” The Catholic Bishop noted that there are growing concerns as to the sophistication, professionalism and capacity of the security agencies. According to him, years of military involvement has led to the mistaken notion that issues of security are military.
This guns and bullets approach have seen the growth of corruption, lack of cohesion, collaboration and co-ordination, alongside infighting within the security agencies. We civilians hear stories of orders from the top at the last minute, about credible intelligence provided but not used by those at the top. People are dying and no one’s job is threatened. There is an urgent need to re-set the national security architecture. Enough is enough, he stated. Bishop Kukah advised government to embrace a radical approach that would bring the criminals and mass murderers to their knees instead of giving excuses. Hear him, “This culture of investigation as excuses must end. The media and we the people must continue to remind the government of its obligations to be accountable.
If investigations are made public and rewards or punishment are carried out, then it builds confidence. It will enable people to become involved in their own security. Only by pursuing, apprehending and bringing these evil men to justice can we begin to speak of a genuine reconciliation among our people. Bringing criminals to justice is justice to the criminal and justice to the victim too. “Fixing our economy is desirable, but it must hang on a rigid security scaffolding to protect citizens and nation. The youth are fleeing their own country. The elites are fleeing their own communities. The poor are becoming refugees outside their own communities. Mr. President, give us back our communities. Give us back our country.”