South wants to use Fulani herdsmen to destroy the North – Ango Abdullahi - Welcome to Uju Ayalogu's Blog

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Saturday, 3 February 2018

South wants to use Fulani herdsmen to destroy the North – Ango Abdullahi

South wants to use Fulani herdsmen to destroy the North – Ango Abdullahi

The Spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof Ango Abdullahi, has described the herdsmen crises in the Middle Belt as a plot by the South to split the monolithic north.

In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, also dismissed the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee report on restructuring chaired by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

According to him, the report is the position of some of the party leaders and not that of Nigerians.

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Why is it that the more attempts made to fix Nigeria, the more complex the situation becomes?

This is what we have been experiencing in Nigeria for very many decades. While some are trying to build, some are working hard to dismantle. It is difficult to answer this question in terms of who to identify as builders, and who to identify as destroyers. Nigerians are very good at blame games; blame others for some of their own faults.

This is what we have been doing over the years, trading blames, instead of looking at problems objectively together and trying to find common solutions to them. I can give you an example. The former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari is one.

From onset, I am not defending the president or anybody in government, but looking at the letter on the basis of Obasanjo himself – a two times former leader in Nigeria. The thing that is baffling me is that he is claiming to be the, “Holy Father”, of the Nigerian project.

He was the head of affairs between 1976 and 1979, and he has forgotten that he was the president for eight years, between 1999 and 2007, and even at that, he tried to manipulate the constitution to elongate his tenure beyond what was constitutionally allowed.

Here is a man that sees himself as the only perfect former president of Nigeria. I remember very well that he didn’t spare former President Shehu Shagari, who succeeded him in 1979; he didn’t spare Buhari, who toppled Shagari; he also lashed out at Ibrahim Babangida during his own tenure; he still went after Abacha and so on.

I cannot understand how Nigerians are hailing him, and I couldn’t believe that the only perfect former Head of State is Obasanjo. This is ridiculous. It is even a shame that we allow this kind of space in the minds, and also in the political space of this country; to try and claim this and using it as one of the African leaders and so on, and roam around the world on our behalf. 

It is really shameful on us, but you see hypocritical politicians going to Ota on pilgrimage, when there are a lot of people for them to go and learn something from, morally and politically. But here is a man, who is busy parading himself, as the righteous “Holy Father” of the Nigerian project. I totally reject that, and I think I know him well enough from 1976 to date.

The APC committee on restructuring has come up with it recommendations on how to restructure the country. What is your position on this?

APC is not Nigeria, or Nigerians. It is a political party. The party is only expressing its opinion on behalf of its members. I question it because the exercise they undertook in terms of consultations around the country, were talking to their party members, especially the leaders of their party.

I don’t accept that the report of El-Rufai committee truly reflects the position of APC members as a whole, let alone reflecting the position of Nigerians.

I think that is beyond us to believe that its recommendations are sacrosanct. I don’t think they should be. Consultations should continue in terms of what Nigeria should be and should not be, and every Nigerian has a stake to contribute to his opinion on this matter. I don’t see why we are rushing over it.

This country has been in existence for over 100 years during colonial rule, and has been in existence for nearly 60 years after our independence, and there have been many constitutional conferences in the country; there have been also talks and consultations in terms of how to govern.

In all the constitutional conferences I have attended, some people were honest enough to say that the core constitutional document is not the problem, the problem are the operators of the constitution; unless you want to change Nigeria into another thing, I don’t think anything could come out of the so-called restructuring.

All the elements that would make for good governance are already in our constitution. What has happened over the years is that those who operate the constitution have failed to operate it in such a way that this country would benefit.

Northern Elders Forum was in the news recently when Dr. Paul Unongo resigned as chairman of the group. We learnt that he didn’t resign out of his own volition, that he was asked to resign or be removed because he was accused of using the platform to support Buhari, and also using it to demean Atiku. What is your view?

No, no. The best person to address whether he was forced to resign or he voluntarily resigned is Paul Unongo himself. Don’t rely on speculation. Unongo is my friend; we have been together for 64 years. I know him very well. When he holds an opinion, he holds it very clearly.

The issue that he is on the side of Buhari against somebody else must be his personal views, and his personal views should be respected because he is a voter, and on the voting day, he would go with his voter card to vote for the candidate of his choice.

If the candidate of his choice is Buhari, then on the election day, I’m sure he would cast his vote for him. On the issue that NEF adopted a candidate, this is where I’m emphatically saying, that there was no time that we discussed this subject in our meeting, let alone taking a position about it. This is not one of the positions of NEF.

But the late Maitama Sule before his demise had insisted that Unongo should succeed him as the chairman of NEF?

We all rallied round him. I was the person that phoned Unongo that a decision had been taken that he should take the place of Maitama Sule. I was the one who relayed the message to him after a meeting he didn’t participate in because we didn’t invite him to be part of the discussion, but at the end of our discussion, unanimously we said he should take the place of our late leader, Maitama Sule.

How do we find a lasting solution to the herdsmen crises that are trying to consume the nation?

When we saw this coming, the Northern Elders set up a committee under my chairmanship for us to really take a look at the matter so that we can also offer some ideas and advice to the stakeholders. In that case, it was the issue of the Benue State anti-open grazing law.

The committee worked very hard, we brought in a lawyer to also see what we have done, and he wanted to do a through job on that, but unfortunately before we finished, the implementation has started in Benue, and followed by the crisis.

So, we decided that our report was overtaken by events. We still have the report but we stood it down because there is no point offering advice when things have gone away from where we were hoping they would be.  We are hearing all sorts of solutions being proferred by authorities. The report I read in one of the dailies, says that, “the Federal Government opts for military option.”  I’m disappointed if this story is true.

What the Federal Government should be looking for is the legal, constitutional and social solution to this kind of problems; they can’t succeed in opting for the military. Are they going to fight a war against who and on whose side are they going to fight if they are going to fight? Have they decided who is wrong, and who are they going to fight?

The herdsmen clashes in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, etc, will it not affect the relationship in the North; watering down the monolithic North?

That is the bottom line. It is politically driven. We have been having herdsmen for over 200 years or 300 years ago in Nigeria, particularly we in the North. I haven’t seen how this crisis between farmers and herdsmen would lead to attacks and loss of lives. This is a politically driven agenda, perhaps, intended to split the monolithic North; we have been talking about the monolithic North for a long time politically in this country.

I have been involved in debates against some respected people from the southern part of this country who believe that this country is not balanced because the North is too big; because the North is too politically united, so there must be a way of disrupting this unity, and this is what we are seeing on ground today, and the elements that are being used are the Fulani herdsmen. This matter would be looked at properly; political alliances and so on are welcome.

You don’t need to lose blood, or property to engage in political alliance or whatever you want, or still, you don’t need to introduce excuses that will lead to loss of lives. We saw this when the Boko Haram was on ground; they said the Northerners created the sect to disrupt former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government,  which led to his failure in the last election, and so on.

Now that Boko Haram is out of the way, the new excuse is the Fulani herdsmen.

This is what is happening in other places except in areas that you are talking. We have seen what they called a new handshake across the Niger; it is political, and we have seen the mourning that has taken place in Benue and other places to show that the northern North is not in tandem with the Middle Belt; it is all politics.

Our Middle Belters don’t need to take the agenda that appears to be a thing of distrust. We are not going to force anybody into a relationship politically or otherwise. We see this as a political agenda.

What are your expectations for 2019 general elections?

We are waiting for politicians to come and tell us what they have for Nigerians. I can assure you that the NEF will be watching closely. What we will be looking for, are people who are going to give us good governance. We are not worried about all these political parties that have failed over the years.

Nigerians should be looking for good governance. From the records we have and the politics we have seen especially in the last 20 years, show that political parties are virtually the same.

The same elements that circulate themselves from one party to the other, the damage they caused in the last party is the damage they will be causing in the next party they join, and the same damage they will cause in the party to be formed.

What Nigerians should be looking for is good governance, which can come from a party or a candidate. The most important thing is that good governance should come from a system. One individual no matter how good he is, if he finds himself in a bad system, he cannot function, and would not succeed no matter how hard he tries.

Lets pray that we find good candidates in a good system. The system we have on ground is very suspicious indeed because their records are anything to be proud of – the PDP record is very clear to all of us. 

They are circulating themselves, the struggle now is the control of government, not necessary for good governance, but for stealing money. We have seen this before, and nobody should deceive us anymore. If we put our hands together, we will be able to make a distinction between the struggle to control power and the struggle to serve Nigeria and Nigerians.

For 2019, you can be sure that Northern elders, all of us will be looking out very clearly to make sure we separate the grains from the chaff, whether in the form of political party or in the form of candidate.

You said the system is bad, but we have a president who is said to have high integrity?

  I told you that it takes a good person to work in a good system to succeed, but unfortunately the president, a good man is overwhelmed by a bad system and that is why he cannot perform. The system is in form of political parties, which has denied us independent candidacy.

Like in the First Republic, there were people who won elections as independent candidates because people could not make a choice among parties. But now, these people have insisted that for you to stand for an election, you must belong to a political party even if you don’t believe what the political parties are doing. 

Culled: Sun

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