Says Garba Shehu’s statements troubling, famine imminent
By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
In the wake of growing resentment against activities of some armed herdsmen across the country, Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has called on the ruling All Progressives Congress APC to take steps to implement the report of the Nasir el-Rufai Committee on True Federalism.
In a statement issued Monday in Abuja titled, ‘Ethnic and Religious Hatred and the Deceitful Campaigns in Nigeria’, Lukman said the country has become so polarized that the best way out is to implement the report of the committee which was set up under Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as National Chairman of the APC.
He equally slammed presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu for making statements that have tended to accentuate the polarizations, saying the government’s position on the issue should be left to the Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed.
Lukman also decried the notion that the activities of some misguided herdsmen were a southern issue, explaining how farmers in the North have been unable to access their farmlands because of bandits, and warning of an imminent famine in the country.
He said; “There is a need to strengthen our politics to be able to manage this kind of difficult realities. So long as we are going to remain as a country with all our diversities, there will always be this kind of difficult challenges requiring skillful and careful handling.
“This may require that our political parties are able to intervene when problems of our polarisation get activated to the level of manifesting as a threat to our peaceful co-existence as a nation.
“As a party, APC has a good experience when it comes to managing problems created by ethnic polarisation in the country. This is because in 2017 when the madness of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB and the so-called Arewa Youth got heightened so much that there was the senseless ultimatum to Igbos to vacate the North and national debate on restructuring was producing all manner of proposals including maps of break-away parts of Nigeria, the APC National Working Committee under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun initiated internal consultations leading to the appointment of the Mallam Nasir El-Rufai led APC Committee on True Federalism.
“Although yet to be implemented, the report of the Mallam Nasir Committee on True Federalism provides a standard template of how a party in government should handle difficult challenges of polarisation.
“Certainly, if the party was able to move recommendations contained in the report of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai Committee to the level of implementation, the current levels of misplaced anger against the APC and the Federal Government in the country would have been moderated.
“Maybe the challenge we have today presents a golden opportunity for APC to be able to initiate processes of implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism.
“What may be required in the circumstances is for the APC Caretaker Committee led by His Excellency Mai Mala Buni to initiate internal processes of consultations both within the party and across the executive and legislative arms of government.
“Given that there already exists APC tripartite consultative committee, chaired by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo with both the party Chairman, HE Mai Mala Buni, Senate President, HE Ahmed Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiala and PGF Chairman, HE Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha and Chief of Staff to President, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari serving as members, the initiative to commence processes of implementation can be started”.
“There has to be a way out of this mess. Our political leaders and our party need to assert their authority in mobilising alternative responses, which should inspire Nigerians to rise above the current high wave of ethnic and religious hatred in the country that is weakening our capacity to arrest and prevent criminal activities. No doubt every Nigerian must be worried about what is going on.
“Much more troubling is the fact that pronouncements of Mallam Garba Shehu on these issues tend to, unfortunately, accentuate our polarisation. While recognising that it is necessary for the government to make some public responses to most of these developments, should it come from the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President?
“Being a matter that may require clarifications bordering on both issues of interpretations of the law and policy of the government, one would have thought it is better handled at ministerial level. Besides, given the nature of such issues, a strategic approach should have been to allow for instance the Minister of Information to continue to manage the responsibility of communicating positions of the Federal Government, since the issue is not just about the position of the President. It also involves the need to engage state governments.
“The way things are, it is difficult not to conclude that mandated agencies of government are unable to discharge their statutory responsibility as required because once the President’s spokesperson makes public statements, the capacity to initiate any response may be obstructed. At this point, as APC members and as Nigerians, it is important to appeal for moderation in the way this issue is being managed. With the level of polarisation in the country, crazy responses from people such as Sunday Igboho and their likes in every part of the country are further worsening the situation. That can never be the goal of the government”, Lukman added.
The PGF DG noted that the current challenge around the criminal conduct of kidnappers and bandits “who based on all the accounts, hide under the guise of Fulani herdsmen, affect every Nigerian irrespective of ethnic and religious grouping, including those of us who are Hausa-Fulanis”.
“Those who have farms are being affected by activities of these criminal elements too, notwithstanding our Hausa-Fulani lineages. Nevertheless, those of us whose farms are located in the Northern part of the country and not in the Southern part are also faced with the painful reality of these criminal elements. If anything, the report of activities of bandits in the North West and North Central confirms that the problem of taking over forests by bandits also affect the North in the same way, if not worse, which should make all of us be equally interested in pushing our government to tackle the problem.
“The reality is that, if care is not taken farming activities have already been disrupted in the North on accounts of criminal conducts of these bandits and kidnappers. The level of disruption is such that hunger is about to set in as most law-abiding citizens can’t go to farms due to all the threats of kidnappings and its associated consequences, including possible loss of lives. Unfortunately, given all the hate campaigns going on in the country, all public debates are reduced to expressions of support for one ethnic group against the other.
“All these have produced chains of events in the country, including actions by one Sunday Igboho in Oyo State issuing ‘quit notice’ to Fulani groups to vacate parts of Oyo State. Although the Oyo State government has condemned the pronouncement of Igboho, already there are reported attacks of Fulani settlements in Oyo State. The threat of arrest of Igboho allegedly announced by Mallam Garba Shehu is yet again generating more campaigns promoting ethnic hatred in the country”, the party stated.