Driven by deep patriotism, and commitment to a united, strong, independent and prosperous Nigeria, and belief in the peaceful coexistence of all her people, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) found it necessary last August to accept to review certain aspects of our Kaduna Declaration.
Sadly, five months afterwards, we note with dismay and perplexity the determined efforts by some people to undermine the general cheer that followed that review, and to set the country back in its quest for national integration and progress, by needlessly fomenting unrest and insecurity particularly across the North.
The typology of unrest and insecurity in parts of the northern region, and the dimension that they have taken of recent, are a serious cause for concern to all well-meaning Nigerians and friends alike.
We are extremely worried and profoundly agitated by the recent trend of escalation of conflict in some parts of the North especially of the nature of inter-ethnic and inter-communal clashes.
We believe that there are underground forces that are driving these unrests and fueling tensions aimed at rendering large swathes of Nigeria ungovernable concentrating in the North.
We believe, and rightly so, that the unrests are being instigated by powerful interests across some states in order to achieve certain hidden objectives.
Having tried desperately since independence to create anarchy in the country and woefully failed, these agents of mayhem are now resorting to other means to achieve their nefarious aims.
It is thus with the utmost concern that we noted the various attempts now being made to destroy the North by instigating violence through exploiting cleavages of religious and ethnic nature to cause disharmony and facilitate the breakup of the region.
It is important here to draw the attention of the nation that for centuries, this land, north of the Niger, has been occupied and its treasures shared by its inhabitants.
From the highlands of Mambilla to the plains of Kagoro and Kontagora, to the hills and valleys of Shendam, farmers and herdsmen have called every space their home.
Like many communities across the world, our history is replete with disputes and isolated incidents over land; but the fact that we have for this long lived together and prospered, is a testimony to how far we have come in accommodating our differences and agitations.
There is today a growing population that comes with a growing demand from grazing and farming. Added to this is the effect of climate change and desertification in the far North.
These natural phenomena with roots in the short-sightedness of our leaders who destroyed the areas duly demarcated and gazetted well before independence in order to ensure convenience of herders, while allowing sufficient allocation for farmers, are among the known causes of the current stretch over space.
We nevertheless believe that the current spate of killings and unrests are not isolated incidents but are linked to a grand design to destabilize the North and bring her people to their knees by dividing them along artificial lines through exploiting ethnic and religious differences.
For too long, enemies of the North both foreign and local have worked strenuously to ensure that the region remains backward, divided, weak, confused and bewildered by myriads of challenges and problems.
In the pursuit of this, occasional misunderstandings dating back more than five centuries which were ordinarily resolved at the community level, are today manipulated and turned into avenues for the venting of pent-up tribal and religious jealousies resulting in heavy loss of lives and valuable resources.
The escalation of hitherto existing challenges like the herdsmen and farmers clashes which have sporadically and intermittently been going on for time immemorial, is one aspect of the plan to destabilize the North and decapitate it through exploiting internal weaknesses and cleavages.
It is no longer in doubt that the general and pervasive insecurity currently being experienced across the Northern region are part of a mega but clandestine plot spanning several years.
Today every one can see a clear pattern drawn from the strategies employed to achieve the results that the Coupists of the First Republic failed to realize, namely the disintegration of the North and in particular, bringing the Muslim population down on its knees by direct annihilation or political and economic incapacitation.
This conspiracy is actively perpetrated with the connivance of some leaders from the North and accommodated by the cowardice of those that present themselves as northern political leaders. It is also a situation that feeds on the negligence of the federal authority.
As evidence of an agenda that has its root and pattern in our history, one may recall that throughout the years of President Goodluck Jonathan the North was enmeshed in a mysterious Boko Haram insurgency whose casualties are 80 percent northern Muslims.
The dilemma remains till date, that although Boko Haram is often perceived to be a Muslim-orchestrated violence, several non-Muslims from both the North and South- Eastern Nigeria were arrested, disguised as Boko Haram to bomb Christian worship centres..
While Boko Haram continues to take a heavy toll in the North East, another onslaught in the form of cattle rustling was introduced in the North-West to set the stage for the final undermining of the region’s economic viability.
This agenda grew in dimension and scope in the North West states of Zamfara and Kaduna, then spread to Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue, Kogi and Niger states in the North Central and is transforming into the current deadly trend.
Immediately following the defeat of the Jonathan administration in 2015, the Anti-Muslim-North agenda resurged by way of carefully crafted stories of herdsmen attacks to justify the mass killings of Fulani and by implication, the Muslims in many states of the North leading to stereotyping,stigmatisation and forceful expulsion from some states in other parts of the country.
Curiously, on many instances, pockets of armed attackers who later proved to be impersonators from the South East, disguised as Fulani herdsmen were variously arrested in Jato-Aka, Kwande local government of Benue state, Faskari in Katsina and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state. Ref: http://dailypost.ng/2016/04/27/boko-haram-terrorists-disguising-as-herdsmen-to-kill-iyc/
Despite this revelation, the deadly propaganda against the Fulani ethnic group persisted throughout the final lap of the Jonathan’s administration.
Paradoxically, Jonathan made a public confession that terrorists were sponsored to disguise as herdsmen to commit atrocities which were blamed on the Fulani. Ref: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/01/terrorists-now-disguise-fulani-herdsmen-president-goodluck-jonathan-june-2014/
It is no coincidence then, that the period immediately after Jonathan also witnessed the ferocious resurgence of the fifty-year old secession drive of the Biafran Igbo.
The renewed agitation was so violently and unconventionally carried out by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). This moved us into forming a Coalition of Northern Groups and taking the bold and necessary step of making the Kaduna Declaration to the effect that instead of war, we sought a referendum for the peaceful determination of who and what makes up the union called Nigeria.
That prompted a national debate where the hitherto silent component in the leadership of the East, the Igbo communities in the North and the political leaders of the country found their voice in denouncing IPOB and its violent agenda. With the deflation of IPOB, came the desperation to resurrect, rebrand and convolute the age-old herdsmen/farmers conflicts.
This was ignited with a yet unexplained attack on Fulani communities resulting in the massacre of several herders and their cattle in Benue state, which brings to mind the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s earlier stand that Benue and Delta states were part of the proposed Biafran nation and confirms the general feeling that the current disturbances in parts of the North Central are no less than extensions of the Biafran agenda. Ref: 03/02, 11:19 pm] c Acc: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/07/fg-offered-biafra-without-rivers-benue-nnamdi-kanu/
- [03/02, 11:21 pm] c Acc: https://ynaija.com/7-states-biafra-agitators-want-nigeria/
Another round of barbaric killings of several Fulani men, women and children was planned and executed by the Bachama militia in Numan, Adamawa state.
The Bachama attacks were apparently encouraged by the reluctance to deal with an earlier, more deadly coordinated invasion of several Fulani settlements in Mambila, Taraba state in which 728 mainly women, children and the aged were confirmed killed and properties worth billions of naira destroyed.
The Mambila massacre was so mercilessly carried out that the Nigerian army was compelled to describe it as genocide worse than any other ever carried out by Boko Haram. Ref: https://youtu.be/IM09BZcVyV4
These three attacks were undoubtedly planned and sponsored by leaders and elders of these states.
A testimony to that is the reported radio communication on the Taraba State Broadcasting Service, TSBS, by Mr John Yep, the local government council chairman of Nguroje, in which he called on his kinsmen to carry out the attacks. Ref: https://dailytimes.ng/john-yep-ordered-mambila-genocide-fulani-radio-station-fulani-elders/
Another pointer to this is the hate-filled outburst of a certain disoriented Retired Christian Generals Forum powered by like-minded Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma that intentionally harped on a fictitious story of plans to Islamise Nigeria.
We are equally concerned and extremely worried by the reported existence of several armed militias that only equal Boko Haram in some North Central states especially those allegedly organized and supported by the likes of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue. Ref:
Corroborating this, the Nigerian Army and the police disclosed the discovery of a fake military base at Okpokwu, Benue state on September 26, 2017 where tribal militia were trained. Ref: http://punchng.com/army-uncovers-militias-base-in-benue-arrests-native-doctor/
The disclosure was followed by the arrest of members of a sponsored Benue militia dangerously armed with fully loaded AK 47 rifles on January 7, 2018 at Arufu, a border community of Benue and Wukari by soldiers of the 93 Battalion stationed in Takum, Taraba State.
The suspects, according to the Army, initially confessed to being over 70 in number and operating as Benue state anti-grazing force charged with enforcing the anti-grazing law in the state.
But investigation by the military later proved that they were more than 1000 in number at their base and that 700 of them bore arms. Ref:http://www.nan.ng/news/army-arrest-9-militia-benue/
We find this trend of extrajudicial arrangement completely illegal and unacceptable and also incompatible with the rule of law and maintenance of peace and order in our society.
The acceptable position is that only legally constituted outfits and lawfully sanctioned organizations under the direct control of the Federal Government, as recognized by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, can be so organized, armed and fitted for the maintenance of law and order, and the protection of the lives and properties of Nigerians and foreigners alike.
Of grave concern is that with all these scary disclosures, the various levels of government were unable to rise above the usual rhetoric and confront the setting in of an occurring violence.
These state-sponsored militia groups were thus allowed to continue their organised genocide in and around the states of Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and Plateau; groups that executed numerous attacks and killed and displaced a number of innocent people.
In continuum of this and as evidence to how these organised groups operate with impunity, a notorious section called the Irigwe militia from Plateau state ambushed and executed in cold blood, some Fulani men and destroyed their cattle as recently as the 23 January, 2018, in Kamari Chaiwai, Bassa local government area.
A couple of weeks later, there were reports backed by footages of how a sizeable number of Fulani travellers was seized, killed, and their bodies burned in a Benue motor park by people who have been programmed to associate criminality with all Fulani people.
Replicating this victimisation, the Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa recently issued a quit notice to the Arewa community living at the Cable Point Area of Asaba and followed it up with a no-grazing-land-in-Delta declaration.
The notice is targeted at over 2,000 houses including shops, schools and worship centres belonging to, and occupied by Northerners and their families who are believed to have lived in the place for decades. Ref: http://hardreporters.com/apprehension-in-delta-as-okowa-issues-quit-notice-to-arewa-community/
This discrimination brings back the memories of how Imo State, in 2014, and some other South- South and South-East states came up with an idea that sought to force all northerners residing in those states to acquire permits.
To complete this pattern of evict-the-northerners-agenda, the Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, recently ordered all Fulani in the South East to vacate the zone immediately and permanently. Ref: http://dailypost.ng/2018/01/17/vacate-south-east-now-ohanaeze-orders-fulani-herdsmen/
- OUR OBSERVATIONS
Having made these points clear, the Coalition hereby wishes to address specific issues arising from the unfortunate developments surrounding the herdsmen and farmers clashes that recently took place in some States and especially those in Taraba, Benue and Adamawa States. Ref:
As we make the following observations, we first of all, commiserate with all the communities affected by these incidents, and extend our condolences to families that have lost their dear ones.
- ROLES OF PRESIDENCY, NASS, NORTHERN GOVERNORS
- In his address to the nation on August 21, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari stressed the constitutional guarantee for every Nigerian citizen to reside in any part of the country without molestation.
The Governors of Benue and Ekiti states refuted this when they imposed controversial anti-grazing laws that effectively curtail the right to freedom of movement of the Fulani people. This is not only a catalyst for further conflict as expressed by the Inspector General of Police at a recent Senate hearing, but also a clear contradiction of Nigeria’s Constitution. Sub-section 3 of Section 1 of the Constitution declares null and void any law in any part of the country that conflicts any of its provisions.
More disturbing is that these discriminatory laws did not attempt to draw distinctions between the Fulani as a race, or cattle herding as an occupation, from criminality.
To the makers of these laws and to their formal and informal enforcers, it matters little that most Fulani are not cattle herders or that although most cattle herders in Nigeria are Fulani, there are others that are not; or that just because some herdsmen commit crimes does not make all cattle herders criminals.
In fact they are enforcing the laws without taking into consideration that the vast majority of the Fulani – including those who are cattle herders – are peaceful everyday people with the same needs, anxieties and hopes as the rest of Nigerians.
The consciousness is eroding that for decades, different tribes in Nigeria have been accommodated and tolerated in other parts of the country without their hosts enacting discriminatory laws specifically to intimidate, harass and endanger them, their families, their properties or their trades.
Many Nigerians wonder therefore how the Presidency and the National Assembly would react, were other sections of the North to seek equally selective laws against the persons, trades and general stay of other tribes and people that are non-indigenous but live and flourish therein.
There is hard evidence that shows how some of these people who are comfortably accommodated by the North take undue advantage of the region’s tolerant culture to pursue illicit trades that introduced and promoted the mass supply and spread of hard drugs, fake drugs and other harmful substances that are threatening the lives of people in the North and crippling the potential of the younger generation.
In their characteristic spirit of tolerance that is yet to be accordingly reciprocated, no attempt has ever been made by these affected sections of the North to discriminate or label any people beyond seeking solutions through legitimate and civil interventions. This is notwithstanding glaring evidences of the notoriety of these settlers in the perpetration, commission, spread and promotion of various crimes and antisocial behaviours within the communities that host them.
No matter through which lenses we look therefore, we only see in this fast-phased agenda a manifestation of a system that tends to deploy a warped application of the law solely for the protection of a certain category of citizens and endanger others. This manifestation of gross inequity is also one that portends the danger of even more grave conflicts.
- Instead of taking account of victims of all colours, the focus of all levels of government was tilted towards selectively amplifying the perceived crimes of the Fulani and downplaying those committed against them.
- While the legitimate and judicious approach would have been for all segments of government to commiserate with the surviving victims of the attacks in other places such as Mambila, only victims of the counter-attacks in places like Benue and Numan were thus commiserated.
This is contrary to the expectation that all lives lost are seen as a loss for Nigeria and for government to feel the pains of all families and people caught in this anarchy.
- Unbelievably, when a Federal Government delegation headed by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Taraba, the state government was said to have prevented it from proceeding to Mambila and diverted the Vice President to commission a project instead.
But when the unfortunate reactions in Benue and Numan occurred, the same delegation was quick to visit Makurdi and Adamawa while neglecting victims of the earlier and more deadly atrocities in Mambila.
We do not fault a quick response, but we fault a response that is not even, for, it only makes peace difficult.
- Same goes to the frantic pilgrimage by Northern governors to Makurdi; a visit they were expected to have made to all the places where this herdsmen/farmer conflict has resulted in the loss of life and property.
- And the National Assembly, which is the sole law making body, remained conspiratorially silent at the time repugnant laws were enacted by some states of the federation. The National Assembly was again silent when the Benue state Governor Ortom publicly discredited and ridiculed the institutions of the police and other security services.
But all of a sudden, the House of Representatives came fully awake and called for the sack of the IGP for merely making a professional summation that the anti-grazing laws are particularly responsible for the current situation.
- ROLE OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS
We observe with dismay how religious bodies such as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in more ways than one, aided the deterioration of the situation by stimulating a form of Islamophobia veiled in the false story of a planned Islamisation of the country. Ref:https://www.facebook.com/MaiyegunsDiarylive/videos/1586358871412935/
All over the media, preachers used the pulpit to promote this falsehood and incite their followers against the Fulani. A certain Apostle Suleiman for instance, was shown in a widely circulated video telling his church members to extra-judicially murder any Fulani person they saw. It is by all standards an invitation to chaos, when a tribe or an ethnic group is labelled and earmarked to be targeted irrespective of whether it is part of a crime committed or not. We must not forget that the same pattern was employed just before the Rwandan massacre of 1996
- EXTERNAL INTERFERENCE
In an apparent blow to the genuine efforts of the likes of the Sultan of Sokoto and other sincere groups to douse tensions, intruding groups of hate merchants embarked on various incitement missions that further inflamed rage.
Irked by their failure to achieve their nefarious objectives, the agitators for secession and other commotions in this country quickly resorted to all forms of tactics and antics to introduce the fresh twists to the farmers/herdsmen skirmishes. They even found it to their purpose to shake hands across rivers to exploit latent grievances accentuated by religious and ethnic cleavages, to cause widespread unrests in the North.
Doubtlessly, all the personalities that extended their hands for that shake across the Niger belong to a known cult of ardent enemies of the North and in particular, the Islamic religion. They, along with willing conscripts from the North have for the past four decades remained resolute in their support for anything aimed at the region’s ultimate destruction.
The fact that most of these ‘hand shakers’ have supported IPOB separatists and contributed to every anti-north and anti-Islam mission in the past provides a link between the current situation in the North Central and the fifty-year-old agenda for shattering the North along ethnic and religious lines.
Their calumny is so glaring in the mischievous way they deliberately distorted the narratives and shifted the blames from those directly involved in the conflict to the entire Hausa/Fulani tribe and by extension to the Islamic faith. They also went as far as venting their political animosity against President Muhammadu Buhari on his Fulani tribe and Islamic religion.
We do not contend their claims of the current administrative lapses, nor do we intend to fault the right of people to criticise any government’s inadequate, ineffective, exclusive and unfocused policies including this one.
The North, it must be noted, contrary to what is wrongly assumed or deliberately made to appear, is in no way a beneficiary of this administration irrespective of the region’s massive contribution to Buhari’s electoral victory.
While the North, despite being Buhari’s primary support base, happens to be the most short-changed in terms of the distribution of services by his administration reflected by the budgetary allocations for 2016, 2017 and 2018 we still find it unacceptable for people to hide behind the guise of criticism of government to attack a whole ethnic or religious group.
Recall that throughout the eight years of ex-president Obasanjo with all his lapses and inadequacies, not for once did Northerners blame his entire tribesmen nor did Muslims blame his entire religion. Instead, his person, politics and policies and to a large extent, his political party were challenged.
Likewise, none of Jonathan’s catalogue of misrule was at any time blamed on his Ijaw tribe or on his religion, including the many atrocities committed particularly against the North, and the conduct of his fellow tribesmen who did not spare every unconventional means to cajole support for a President they openly referred to as “their son.” Rather, his politics, policies and his political party position were isolated for attack.
- THE PRESS
We especially observe that the media have not been extremely careful in their reportage of circumstances surrounding the herders and farmers clashes, and ended up fanning the embers of discontent and heating up the polity.
Notwithstanding the well-known anti-northern bias of a large section of the Nigerian media, we never made a habit of denouncing them at every occasion or on the slightest of breaches of decorum and etiquette. We were all along hoping that they would change to being more restrained in reporting on matters that affect the wellbeing and security of the people without resorting to anti-ethnic and anti-religious overkill.
Thus we expected the proprietors of the various media outfits, along with their professional bodies like NUJ, Nigerian Guild of Editors and NPAN to regulate themselves and abide by their own rules and etiquette regarding the dissemination and reportage of news of the farmers/herders conflicts. Alas! The position remains unchanged that whenever matters affecting or arising from the North such as this one are reported or commented upon, the intrinsic bias of these media houses keeps becoming apparent.
- OUR RESOLUTIONS
Against the backdrop of these concerns and observations, the Coalition of Northern Groups does not wish to remain silent or passive and allow things that affect the North and potentially cause greater instability in the country to continue unchecked.
We therefore find it necessary to make the following stand of ours known on these issues of vital concern to the entire country and to the North in particular:
- We condemn with all our might the actions of those who perpetrate criminal acts anywhere in Nigeria and strongly denounce those who instigate others to commit acts of violence and lawlessness.
- We emphatically repudiate the vilification of one ethnic and religious group or the other for whatever reason or justification. In this light, we deem the targeting of the entire Fulani and by extension, Muslims, for vilification, systematic dehumanization, profiling, alienation or any action that will render them object of attack and persecution, not only immoral and illegal, but also abhorrent to our sensibilities and ordinary decency and therefore unacceptable.
We at CNG are quite aware that targeting of any ethnic or religious group and singling it out for any negative action for all intents and purposes, is against both our laws and international law. Such acts are the prelude to genocide and ethnic cleansing and therefore, are actionable under international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as international criminal law.
We are also familiar with the provisions of the Rome Statute in this respect, as well as the processes and outcomes of the various international tribunals and courts from the Nuremberg Tribunal to the recent tribunals that tried cases related to genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other situations. We therefore give notice to instigators and perpetrators of all hate crimes that the CNG is ready and willing to take matters to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for redress where local remedies could not be provided to the victims of such actions.
- We see the reluctance and lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government to act promptly at the initial stages of the conflicts as the primary factor responsible for the deterioration of the situation.
- We call on the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in the front line states of Taraba, Kaduna, Benue and Zamfara and suspend the current political structures in those states and replace them with sole administrators until conditions improve.
- We call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to disband all militias and armed groups in Nigeria by resort to the use of force if needs be, to ensure that no group has the capacity to challenge the State in its prerogative to maintain law and order, and protect citizens’ lives and properties. With regards to the crises in the North, government should take further steps to ensure that both farmers and herdsmen are given adequate protection by state agencies.
- We demand that an exact list of all those who were killed be published and the identity of the perpetrators made known. Compensation to those who lost their properties should thereafter be paid by sanctioning those who are guilty of the crimes.
- We call on the Federal Government to reconsider its current decision not to interfere with state laws on land use. Contextually, we see this decision as a veiled affirmation of the injurious and vindictive anti-grazing laws that are not just in conflict with the supremacy of our Constitution, but also repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
- We ask that the presidency, northern federal legislators and northern governors show more zeal and effort at protecting the lives and property of pastoral communities everywhere, and ensuring their right to free movement is not impeded by any legislation or obstacle imposed by a state or a community. The days of being politically correct are over,
- The Federal and State Governments in the North must deal decisively with the threat of drug and substance abuse across Nigeria and in the North in particular. We reiterate that this trend is fueled to a large extent by outside interests that aim to dislocate the social cohesion of the North, and create a class of aimless and dehumanized individuals who will forever remain a burden on the society.
This should therefore be treated as an existential threat to the future and hopes of our country and the North in particular, that are reposed in our youth.
- The Federal Government should proscribe all religious groups, political parties or ethnic and tribal organizations that make the habit of undermining Nigeria’s peace, security, and peaceful coexistence through unguarded utterances and deliberate actions aimed at fomenting unrest and engendering inter-religious and inter-communal conflicts. Individuals associated with such groups or organizations that incite others to violations must be decisively dealt with. In that regard, we remind government of our earlier patriotic advice for the enactment of appropriate laws to deal with all manifestations of hate speech from any quarter.
- The Federal and State Governments must immediately identify suitable lands across the country and create grazing reserves and cattle routes, and where resistance is shown, to expropriate such land as may be required for the purpose through resort to extant provisions of the Land Use Act and other related laws.
- We demand the proclamation of a National Policy on Grazing and Livestock Development (NPGLD) to cater for the needs of all the pastoral communities everywhere in the country.
- We call for the immediate setting up of a National Pastoralist Commission (NPC) to act on all matters affecting the wellbeing and interests of all citizens whose livelihoods depend on livestock rearing. Successive governments have found it expeditious to establish structures like OMPADEC, NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta, the Amnesty Programme, etc aimed at resolving a specific set of challenges affecting specific communities in the South. There is therefore no justification whatsoever to resist or even question the creation of special initiatives to address the needs of herdsmen if these will lead to lasting peace and stability.
- We call for the immediate proclamation of a Special Intervention Initiative through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Ministries of Finance, National Planning, Agriculture and Water Resources, for supporting special livestock development policies and the establishment of special funds to support pastoral communities along the lines of the Anchor Borrowers Programme and other types of Federal Government interventions.
- The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, use its powers to call media operators to order in their reporting of all security situations in the country, and to eschew the slanted reporting of events with greater bias against a particular religious and ethnic group as witnessed in the herdsmen and farmers clashes recently.
Editorial policies and restraints imposed by ordinary decency and sanity must not be abandoned by the media establishment for sensational and often biased reporting that only inflame tensions in the country.
- We caution persons or groups that feel strongly against the politics and policies of Mr President to direct their grievances at him or his government, as further attempts to rub political opposition on an entire race or religion would no longer be tolerated.
- We demand the immediate withdrawal of the quit orders separately issued to the Fulani in the South East by Ohanaeze, and to the Northern communities in Delta state by the state government. The South East governors, political and cultural leaders and their elders would be held responsible if any harm comes to northerners or their properties as a result. And restitution must be made where the pastoral communities are made to suffer losses as a result of the deliberate actions of perpetrators of crimes against them.
- To intruders south of the Niger we say, the North is neither afraid nor apprehensive of their designs. They may therefore shake hand across rivers and even across seas and oceans, but that will never affect our regional integrity and cohesion. We will remain resolute in protecting our legacy and inherited responsibility to all northerners. As a fact, no group in the North has ever interfered negatively in any of the communal crisis across the Niger, I t is too soon to forget the role role played by His Highness Alhaji Ado Bayero, the late Emir of Kano in resolving the Ife- Modakeke, and other communal crisis in the southern part of the country. We therefore warn these intruders to desist from courting danger and trouble unnecessarily, keeping in mind that whoever sets fire to his neighbour’s house, may risk burning his own house also.
- We remind our elected representatives at all levels that their neglect to stand up and speak out for the truth in this circumstance will definitely form part of the burdens they would have to carry to the 2019 polls. To President Buhari in particular, we urge a more judicious approach to this matter keeping in mind that preference for electoral victory to government’s primary duty of protecting the lives of all citizens may not pay. We remind him, with due respect, of the risk of losing both ways as his new friends in the East would typically desert him when the chips are down. And the North which cast the winning votes for him in 2015 would definitely opt to look a different way if he fails to take a decisive and definite stand on the current gang-up against a targeted section of Nigerian citizens.
- We vehemently reject recent calls for the establishment of state police, which obviously is a recipe for disaster. The state police is just a licence for the state governors to formalise their militia and set them to hound opponents and assist in organising sham elections. We also view it as a ploy by the Federal Government to abdicate it’s responsibilities and thus must be resisted by all and sundry
As we expect favourable responses to our demands from the bodies concerned, we urge all the tribes in the North; Jukun, Bachama, Fulani, Birom, Tarok, Hausa, Igala, Ebirra, Idoma, Kataf, Kanuri, Tiv, Nupe and everyone that call this space home, to look back at history and see how what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
We call on all northerners to continue to exercise a high sense of responsibility in restraint while remaining firm and focused, keeping in mind that when this house catches fire, the internal and external instigators that ignite it will not be there to quench it.
All northerners are hereby enjoined to find the wisdom and courage to resist the instigation of others, or the treachery of those among us.
Our forefathers toiled and paid with their lives for a united and prosperous North and people. We must repay them by at least resisting antics of the protégés of those that assassinated them, their foot soldiers from other parts of the South and cronies from the North who are today all over the place fanning the embers of hatred among us.
Willy-nilly, the North has become the target of accusations and abuse for everything that is wrong with Nigeria today. In the process, history is being shamefully and blatantly reviewed, rewritten and falsified to suit certain agendas that tend to portray the North, the Hausa/ Fulani and Muslims in bad light and render them as the culprit and the guilty entity.
Yet the North has remained the bulwark of respect, integrity, dignity, decorum, tradition, decency, morality, civilization, etiquette, good behaviour, politeness, accommodation, and all other positive traits.
In spite of this studied and dignified reserve of the North and refusal by its people to engage in altercations with its self-appointed enemies and antagonists, no stone is being left unturned by these people to see that the North is goaded into reacting, thereby justifying branding it as a volatile and even violent part of the country.
They have accused the North for committing every sin under the Sun excepting perhaps natural disasters or Force Majeure. They have vilified the North, killed its leaders, scandalized its institutions and ridiculed its traditions and customs.
They have under various administrations tried to bring down the North by destroying its institutions, expelling its people from positions of responsibility in government, undermining its economic and social fabrics, and encouraging rampant poverty, and social problems like armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, drug and substance abuse.
All this while, the North bore these difficulties with equanimity, stoical calm and resignation. The North continued to bear the brunt of the agitations for secession and the recent clamours for restructuring as the obvious target of all the complaints about virtually everything that is seen as wrong in the system.
The Coalition of Northern Groups today declares enough is enough. The North will no longer remain passive under such deliberate and sustained attacks on its unity, integrity and dignity, and will henceforth be forced to react to every provocation and unwarranted interference in its affairs.
The detractors coming from outside the North to foment trouble and escalate tension among our people should be warned that their actions will not go unnoticed and in the fullness of time, they will be held accountable for their instigation to violence and killings of innocent people on both sides involved in the herders and farmers conflicts.
All those who have no other useful vocation other than attacking northerners under the slightest of pretexts, should know that our patience has reached its nadir.
The North’s reticence in speaking out or taking action is not born of fear or ignorance of how to respond in kind. It is simply because of our respect for others and deep commitment to national integration.
If these noble dispositions of ours are not appreciated and are seen as weaknesses, then those who tempt us should know that the North is no longer going to turn the other cheek.
Therefore if the mutual respect and peace which have evaded us throughout this country’s independent existence cannot be achieved at this point, we would all be left with no choice than to support the suggestion for the conduct of referendum so that each component can peacefully decide its fate.
Rather than remaining bound in an inconvenient partnership punctuated by mutual distrust at every point; and if all of us would be happier living in smaller independent units, then government and all concerned Nigerians and our international friends should consider this peaceful process that may involve allowing every tribal group from the South or North to exercise their right to self-determination irrespective of whether or not they meet the United Nations criteria for such.
ABDUL-AZEEZ SULEIMAN (SPOKESPERSON)