The ongoing reactions from various quarters to Governor Bala Mohammed’s rich and down to earth speech that exposed hypocrisy in high places, at the closing ceremony of the Press Week of the Correspondent’s Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Bauchi State, penultimate Thursday, deserves commendation from well-meaning Nigerians. Governor Bala exhibited courage by stating the obvious.
The Governor used the occasion to bisect the contentious issue of clashes between herdsmen and farmers, with emphasis on eviction and restriction orders hurriedly issued by some state governments against herders within their areas of jurisdiction.
Although grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted for a hypocritical purpose, the intention of Governor Bala was to avert the dangerous prospect of nation-wide backlash as tempers are flaring up and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration, is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria without exclusion. He had to sound the warning to assure his people of his determination to always protect their interest wherever they may be and to assure indigenes of other climes of their safety in his area of authority. What is wrong there for castigations?
However, many of those reactions only managed to expose the hypocrisy of their authors, to what they mischievously considered as the governor’s support to crimes suspected by some Fulani herdsmen.
It is a known fact even to the most indecent that governor Bala will be the last person to lend support to any act of criminality by anyone, no matter the ethnic nationality of the suspect. As a leader and stakeholder in the Nigeria Project, he dutifully and patriotically admonished Nigerians, in the interest of national unity, to avoid branding of any ethnic group as it is inconceivable that anyone group can be made up of only criminals. By extension, the governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to criminalize any tribe based on the crimes committed by its few members.
The governor’s reference to AK47 assault rifle was to put in perspective, the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding and struggling Fulani herdsmen who, while pursuing their legitimate source of livelihood, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, ethnic attacks, compromised judgments, miscarriage of justice, phantom charges for extortion, kidnapping and assassination for just pursuing a legitimate source of living in their own country. These are the people who, in the absence of any protection from anywhere, are naturally compelled to self-defence, to defend their source of livelihood and lives to existence. As a democrat with unblemished record, Governor Bala Mohammed will be the last person to advocate a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he publicly took an Oath to protect and defend through the help of God..
The governor’s description of Nigerian forests as “No Man’s Land” is from experience of what is obtainable in his own geo-political environment where a pastoralist set up temporal camps in any forest of their choice, graze their animals for a few weeks without causing any uproar or opposition. To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’, is to say the least, mischievous. In actual fact, neither does such temporary habitation of the forest inconvenience anyone nor does the itinerant Fulani sojourner, bother anyone with his plight in the forest characterised by life without access to any modernity including health facilities.
To say that Bala Mohammed is not familiar with the Land Use Act of 1978 is a primitive imagination of the author because, not only being conversant with the contents of the Act but including the criteria for land administration and acquisition. He couldn’t have undermined the statute which, as governor, he has sworn to uphold.
To those beating the drums of hate for the straight talk sounded as caution, the governor’s media handler, Comrade Muktar Gidado said: “Governor Bala would want it placed on record that his statement was intended to caution all stakeholders to guard against the escalating the fragile security situation, just as other patriotic stakeholders, particularly from the North, have been working round the clock to avert reprisal actions that may throw the entire country into a cauldron of unimaginable proportions because no particular tribe or region has the monopoly of violence
“Rather than vilifying Governor Bala Mohammed for his courageous statement that must have offended few, it is incumbent on all those pointing accusing fingers on him to admonish those Governors whose lack of restraint is responsible for the escalation of this crisis in their areas including sponsored attacks of innocent herdsmen. Governor Bala Mohammed’s antecedents, as a bridge-builder, humanist and nationalist are so well known that he will never, and no matter the circumstance, deliberately fuel any national crisis or subvert the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“Nevertheless, the governor is strongly reminding stakeholders, in the Nigeria Project, that the delicate nature of our diversity coupled with the fact that we are interwoven in many respects, calls for reasoned circumspection in handling inter-ethnic hostility of this nature that the ejection of Fulani herdsmen, from any part of the country, is degenerating into. It is his fervent wish that, together, all stakeholders will work towards re-establishing inter-ethnic trust and harmony that is steadily under threat within the past few weeks or months”.
As Nigerians strive to halt the proliferating hazards of fake news and twisted facts, there are certain elements, knowingly or unknowingly engaged in the promotion and sustenance of the fake news industry for selfish interest.
Those who indulge in it consciously are certainly motivated by desperation for mischief or to cause chaos for their ultimate benefit.
When we keep sentiments aside and give the statement of Governor Bala Muhammad the understanding it deserves, he deserves commendation for sounding a word of caution before the situation snowballs into a catastrophe. We cannot continue the journey to national unity on the path some stakeholders have chosen. We have to introduce certain mechanisms to checkmate the excesses of crimes without being injurious to the innocent. We all know those internet fraudsters. We know those who introduced acts of kidnappings, highway robberies, fake drugs and hard drugs merchants and we know those behind all attempts to disfigure Nigeria. But we are tolerant, exercising restraint and still providing solutions for national unity. Fulani herdsmen are not to be blamed. There is need for better approach to the lingering problem.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues