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Presidency of a tribe above public good ~ By Emmanuel Onwubiko

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It is increasingly becoming notorious that the Presidency or rather, the administration of retired military General Muhammadu Buhari, the Katsina state born Fulani erstwhile military despot, is much more concerned about elevating the parochial and mundane group interests of his ethnicity no matter how dangerous to the health of the nation, above the public good. This the President has demonstrated overwhelmingly and has had running squabbles with representatives of diverse Ethnic groups in a warped attempts to impose policies that are offensive to the greatest public good of the collective.

This tendency directly contradicts the core of the Presidential address made by President Muhammadu Buhari whereby he said and I quote: “ I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. The President Muhammadu Buhari has not hidden where his mind is when it comes to making top level security appointments in the last five years because he had concentrated all internal security Architectures under the dominance of mostly Northern Moslems. The government has also invested a lot of passion in pushing out programmes that clearly shows that the Fulani herdsmen are to be promoted and rewarded as if they are superior to the over 200 other ethno religious groups making up modern day Nigeria.

The back and forth debate between the spokesman of President Buhari, the Fulani born Garba Shehu and the Ondo state government over the decision to issue a seven days ultimatum on unregistered and illegal occupants of forest reserves of Ondo state who are mostly nomadic Fulani to quit these illegal settlements, is a quick reminder of the colouration and texture of the biased policy implementation of the Central government which basically seeks to elevate the myopic interest of the Fulani ethnicity over and above National interest and public good. This argument on the side of President Muhammadu Buhari also contradicts his stand on the need to check the consequences of Climate change because forcing illegal Fulani settlements on Ondo state’s Forests reserves is akin to encouraging deforestation which President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly spoke against before the global community.

Few months back, the government of Benue state and the same Presidential spokesman had similar altercation when the law prohibiting open grazing of cows was instituted by the Benue state house of Assembly.

This Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration has for many months carried out ways and means of seeking to settle nomadic Fulani some of whom moved into Nigeria from other West African neighbouring nations under the deceptive cover of an Agricultural settlement programme the government called Ruga.

This agenda is still actively being pursued even when it is a direct affront to the extant land use Act.

The government has also tried to use the rubber stamped parliament in Abuja to pass a water bill that is aimed at grabbing water resources hitherto under the control of the states to the central administration in what is suspected to be another aspect of the Fulani Ruga settlement agenda that had been rejectly widely even in a lot of Northern states.

The administration has also not been able to prosecute a single of all the suspected armed herdsmen that are responsible for a spate of killings all across the Country.

The Federal Attorney General Abubakar Malami who is Fulani has not done that and so there is high suspicion that the suspected armed Marauders arrested by the Police who are mostly Fulani are secretly being released and left off the hook.

Some lawyers and a civil rights group have criticised the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over the absence of case files to prosecute killer herdsmen.
Malami had said that his office was unable to prosecute alleged killer herdsmen, owing to the absence of case files.
Malami stated this in a document with reference number: MJ/LIT/ABJ/HRWAN/440/2020, dated October 7, 2020, obtained by Sunday punch.

The AGF document, which was signed by the Acting Director, Civil Litigation and Public Law Department, Mrs Maimuna Shiru on behalf of the minister, was in response to a letter written by an Abuja-based civil rights organisation, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.
HURIWA had in a letter signed by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, asked the minister to prosecute “armed Fulani killers.”
However, the minister in his reply claimed the cases in question had no case files and as such he could not prosecute them.

In his reply to a request by the civil rights group’s demand for the prosecution of the suspects, the minister instructed an acting director in the ministry to write, “I am directed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated August 13, 2020, on the above subject matter and to inform you that your letter has been noted.
“I am further directed to inform your office that the alleged crimes cannot be prosecuted without case files. Please, accept the assurances of the best regards of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.”

After receiving the AGF’s reply, HURIWA wrote a letter to the Ambassador of the United States of America, Mary Beth Leonard.
The letter titled, ‘Take note that (the) Nigerian Government is unwilling to prosecute mass killers,” was received by the American Embassy in Abuja, on October 14, 2020.

The letter partly reads, “Our appeal is that you use your good offices to demand that the Nigerian President take action to prosecute these mass killers who are roaming about freely even after they were paraded by the Inspector-General of Police.”

Meanwhile, a public interest lawyer, Mr Kunle Edun, noted the AGF had the duty to ensure widespread crimes were checked and to coordinate the prosecution of such offenders.

Edun said, “The AGF being the chief law officer of the federation has a duty to ensure that widespread crimes like the incidents of attacks on farmers by herdsmen are checked. Their activities are not limited to any particular state.
“The AGF is expected in situations like this to partner with the Attorneys General of the various states to ensure that the herdsmen involved are arrested and prosecuted for the offences committed. I am yet to see such coordination or intervention from the office of the AGF.”

Also, an activist and lawyer, Mr Inibehe Effiong, said although the offences the armed herders committed could only be prosecuted by the states, there were roles the AGF ought to play.
He said, “Essentially, murder is a state offence, it is not a federal offence. The Attorney General of the Federation cannot even prosecute murder or herdsmen involved in killing people. He can recommend, he can advise, but he cannot file charges.
“But that does not exculpate the AGF. He can ensure that proper investigation is done, and he can ensure the culprits are arrested.”
Also, the Director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, a civil society, Mr Debo Adeniran, said, “The AGF is the number one public defender who ought to compel the police to produce the case files and channel them to the appropriate places for prosecution.
“The killings are rampant in every part of the country and the government must not wait for the police to bring case files before prosecution. The AGF should not be lackadaisical about criminal offences in the country. He should play the supervisory role.”

A retired military officer had previously accused President Buhari of running a Pro- Fulani government.

FORMER military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, retd, had written to President Muhammadu Buhari to belong to all Nigerians and not a section or a particular tribe of the country.

Col. Umar, who lampooned President Buhari on what he described as his skewed appointments into the offices of the Federal Government, said the President favoured some and frustrated others.

He also said the action of the President would bring ruin and destruction to the nation, adding that the country’s political history was replete with great acts of exemplary leadership which, at critical moments, managed to pull the nation back from the precipice and assured its continued existence.

In an open letter to President Buhari, Umar noted that the President had less than three years to write authentic history and prove that he was for all Nigerians in all its ramifications.
He said it did not come to him as a surprise the fact that enthusiasm for the 5th anniversary celebration of the present government was not shared equally by some segments of the public.
Quoting Shehu Usman Dan Fodio in the letter dated May 30, 2020, Col. Umar said: “One of the swiftest ways of destroying a Kingdom is to give preference to one particular tribe over another or show favour to one group of people over another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn closer.’’

However, what the ongoing public spat between president Buhari and the Ondo state government has brought to the front burners, is that the President has directly gone back on the commitments and pledges he made to abide by the climate change Paris treaty which he actively participated at the drafting stage in France.

This is because if Garba Shehu is saying that Fulani herdsmen are free to settle in forests reserves of Ondo State illegally, it therefore can be interpreted to mean that the current Federal government is actively sponsoring deforestation all in an attempt to set up the Ruga settlements for Fulani ethnic nationalists.

But this is supposed to be the President who mounted the global rostrum at a UN event to advocate for global action on climate change and on Lake Chad.

International media had reported thus: “Most crises usually have a variety of festering causes and effects,” Buhari explained.
“It is the failure to address them early and effectively that lead to out-of-control conflicts,” he argued, noting that solutions include collective national and international actions.
Speaking about the fight against international and local terrorism, “Boko Haram and Al Shabaab come to mind.”
“Terrorist insurgencies, particularly in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, are partly fueled by local factors and dynamics, but have been increasingly powered by the international Jihadi Movement, namely runaway fighters from Iraq and Syria, and arms from the disintegration of Libya,” he told the Assembly.
On a brighter note, he drew inspiration from “the remarkable leadership” of Ethiopia and Eritrea to restore peace between them.

According to Majo General. Buhari,(retired) their “remarkable show of Statesmanship” has galvanized neighbouring countries, including Djibouti and Somalia to push for peace in the subregion.
He noted that a topical consequence of global conflict is the irregular migration of affected people from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa to Europe.
“Irregular migration entails huge avoidable loss of human lives, puts strains on services in host countries and communities, and fuels anti-immigrant and racist sentiments in Europe,” he stated.
Against that backdrop, Nigeria welcomed “the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the first-ever Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” and look forward to its adoption in Marrakech later this year – “to protect the rights of migrants worldwide, while addressing the concerns of countries of ‘origin,’ ‘transit,’ or ‘destination’.”

Calling migration “a constant in human affairs,” he stated that Africa was grateful to the countries that treated migrants with compassion and humanity, “notably Germany, Italy and France.”
Mr. Buhari also cited climate change, “one of the greatest challenges of our time,” as another reason for irregular migration, noting that it has “drastically shrunk Lake Chad” and was “parching” otherwise fertile, arable lands.
“The Lake was a major source of livelihood to more than 45 million inhabitants of the region,” he said, explaining that its shrinking has taken jobs, rendered people poor and vulnerable, and exposed to extremists and terrorist elements.
This instability has also intensified internal displacements, leading to intense economic competition, especially between farmers and herdsmen.

Mr. Buhari called for rededicated international engagement to address the root causes of conflicts in the region.
“What is required is continuous and robust UN cooperation with national Governments and sub-regional and regional organizations, such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, to enhance capacity in conflict prevention, conflict management and peace building,” the President concluded.

The public statement by Garba Shehu claiming that herdsmen can indeed settle in Forest reserves illegally is a direct contradiction to the speech by President Muhammadu Buhari aforementioned.

The Ondo State government had criticised the Buhari administration’s response to its decision to order herdsmen out of the state’s forest reserves.
Donald Ojogo, the commissioner for information and orientation, on Tuesday, said the response by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, ”reeks of emotional attachment to the herdsmen”.
“Mr Shehu’s statement is a brazen display of emotional attachments and it’s very inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria,” the Punch Newspaper quoted Mr Ojogo as saying.

“We need clearly defined actions on the part of the federal government to decimate the erroneous impression that the inspiration of these criminal elements masquerading as herdsmen is that of power. Our unity is threatened, no doubt.”

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Monday gave herders in the state seven days to vacate all forest reserves in Ondo State.
In his response, Mr. Shehu, the president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, said the Ondo government should rather dialogue with the leadership of the Fulani communities in the state.
“It (statement) states in a breath that the governor fights crime with passion while it is prevaricating on the atrocities,” Mr Ojogo said.
“The question is, are the herdsmen who are perpetrating murder, kidnapping and robbery more important than government and even the Federal Government in this case? Ethnic nationality and activism on the part of anyone hiding under the presidency or federal government is an ill wind.”

When contacted by the media on Wednesday, Mr Ojogo confirmed he made the comments.

He said: “there’s no going back on the directive. I did (do)not denounce or deny the statement I made.”
He said ”the only reason why the herdsmen would not vacate the forests is if they are above the law”.
In recent months, newspapers had reported various killings, rape and kidnappings for ransom which have become the order of the day across the nation.

The spate of insecurity ravaging all parts of the country has defied all solutions including attempts by regional leaders to set up security outfits to aid the police curb crime and violence.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, has, in the past, been quoted to have said suspected criminals, irrespective of their ethnic origin, would be prosecuted under the ambits of the law.
His supporters have equally said Mr Buhari should not be criticised for the actions of some criminal minded Fulani herders, noting that not every herder is a Fulani and many Fulani are law-abiding. All these are soft tissues of political propaganda because as can be seen, since 2015, not a single armed Fulani herdsmen that slaughtered citizens have been prosecuted. The minister of Justice confirmed it.

This posture of promoting the interest of tribe above public good is a violation of the President’s Oath of office thus: “That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decision; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the code of conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…”

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is NATIONAL COORDINATOR of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)


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