Gov Mohammed Speaks On Supporting Herdsmen To Carry Ak47
Bala Mohammed, the Bauchi State Governor says his comments that herdsmen had “no option than to carry AK47” was to put the sufferings of herders in perspective.
He made the comments during the Press Week of the Correspondent’s Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) in Bauchi, last Thursday.
Clarifying his statement – which had generated backlash from many including his colleagues – Governor Mohammed said on Sunday he did not set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic group.
He said he would be the “last person” to overthrow the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
His controversial speech came on the heels of the wave of clashes between herdsmen and farmers, amid the eviction and other forms of restriction orders issued by some state governments, non-governmental entities and individuals.
In a release by his Senior Special Assistant on media, Muhktar Gidado, the Governor said his speech was intended to caution all stakeholders to guard against “escalating the tension” and “to avert reprisal actions that could throw the entire country into a cauldron of unimaginable proportions”.
He said his main goal was to “avert the dangerous prospect of nation-wide backlash as tempers were flaring up and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration, is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria”.
His statement reads in part: “First, at no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic nationality. Rather, he admonished us, 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 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.
“Second, 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. 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. As a constitutionalist which he has proved over time, all through his political career, Governor Bala Mohammed will be the last person to advocate a subversion of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He did not do so in the past; he will not do so today.
“Third, Governor Bala Mohammed’s description of forests, as “no man’s land”, (please read as 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. To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen is completely incorrect. 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 characterised by life without assess to electricity, pipe borne water, good roads or hospitals On the contrary, Bala Mohammed 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.
“Rather than vilify Governor Bala Mohammed, it is incumbent on all those criticising him to admonish those Governors whose lack of restraint is responsible for the escalation of this crisis. Governor Bala Mohammed’s antecedents, as a bridge-builder, humanist and nationalist are so well known that he will never, under any circumstances, deliberately fuel any national crisis or subvert the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammdu Buhari has promised a crackdown on any ethnic or religious group that is fuelling hatred and violence against other groups.