The International Alliance for Justice and Peace (IAJP), a group of professionals of Nigerian ethnicities both at home and in diaspora, views with great consternation a statement credited to the National President of Miyeti Allah, Alhaji Bello Abdullahi Bodejo. In an interview published by the Sun newspaper in its 23rd January edition, Bodejo was credited with saying, inter alia, that “All the lands in this country belong to the Fulani…What we consider is the areas that have cow food. If the place is good for grazing, we don’t need anybody’s permission to go there”. The Miyeti Allah leader made this incendiary declaration in response to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State. The Governor had earlier issued a 7-day notice for all unregistered herders illegally occupying forest reserves in the state, in order to clear the forests of criminal elements who are using the forests as hideouts to carry out a brutal campaign of terror and kidnapping in the state. In the same notice, the governor has warned unregistered herders to desist from illegally engaging in open grazing outside of stipulated hours and routes. The Governor also declared an end to child labour in pastoralism, banning under-aged persons from herding cows.
This reckless statement from Bodejo amounts to an open declaration of war, not just on the people of Ondo State, but on the people of Southwest in general. The declaration has absolutely no basis in law or common sense. It is even more bizarre given the tense situation in the land and the frayed nerves of the host communities who have long endured, without respite, the murderous campaign and brutalisation at the hand of rampaging terrorists.
Given the grave and grievous nature of this development, we are bewildered that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is so exercised about a recent visit of Chief Sunday Adeyemo (AKA Sunday Igboho) to Igangan in Oyo state, while it has remained silent about this incendiary statement from Miyeti Allah. It is also against the backdrop of a dreadfully misjudged intervention from the presidency, which had earlier contradicted and opposed the lawful and necessary steps taken by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to tackle incessant crimes and terrorist activities in the state.
We fear that the one-sided interventions of the Buhari administration have now fallen into a pattern that can be rightly described as tacit support for illegality and active complicity in the criminal campaign of terror unleashed by heavily armed herders on host communities in Ondo, Oyo state and across the southern states. This is in clear breach of its obligations to protect life and ensure security of all Nigerian citizens both under the Nigerian Constitution as well the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 to which Nigeria is a signatory. At 78 years of age, President Mohammadu Buhari is unwittingly or defiantly dragging the nation to the precipice of a civil war. We call on the International Community to call the Nigerian president to order, and urge him to take urgent steps to stop the drums of war.
As first steps, we call on the Nigerian government to:
- Openly declare support for Governor Akeredolu and Ondo state government interventions with regard to clean up of the forest reserves and regulation of herder activities in Ondo state. This declaration should be backed up with full support of the security agencies to carry out the order. This step should also be replicated in other states.
- Support the security forces in Oyo to, as a matter of urgency, fish out the killers of Dr Fatai Aborode in Igangan, an indigent farmer and owner of Kunfayakun Green Treasures Ltd hacked down by suspects believed to be Fulani herdsmen on Friday 11, December, 2020, after collecting a ransom; Alhaja Sherifat Adisa, Chief Executive Officer of Subawah Petroleum, killed together with two 9-year-old boys along Idere road in Ibarapa by suspected Fulani herdsmen on Saturday 2, January, 2021; Alhaji Fatai Yusuf, a popular traditional medicine expert, popularly known as Oko Oloyun killed on Thursday, January 23; and a host other citizens that have been victims of the sanguinary activities of suspected Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa and other parts of the country.
- Investigate the alleged involvement of Seriki Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir in the kidnap ring in Igangan where it is alleged that he has facilitated the transfer of millions of Naira to terrorist kidnappers in the area. In several cases, it is alleged, only mutilated bodies were returned to victims’ families after ransoms had been paid.
Finally, we urge the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to allay the fears of non-Fulani ethnic groups across the country who now believe that the Buhari regime is only committed to using the full resources of the federal government to promote Fulani interests. The Buhari government needs to reassure all citizens that it will serve the interest of all. This is in line with its electoral and constitutional mandate, and failing this, its legitimacy will be called to question- not only by hapless and longsuffering Nigerians, but the wider international community who recognise that credible and fair democratic governance in Nigeria is essential for the stability of the entire West African region.
Dr Seun Kolade
Convenor, International Alliance for Justice and Peace (IAJP)