By ISAIAH BENJAMIN, MSUE AZA and RAHILA ABDULLAHI,
Governors of the 19 Northern states of the federation have warned that if sentiments are not put aside, the persistent clashes between farmers and herdsmen will consume the region and the entire country.
The chairman of Northern Governor’s Forum and governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, who stated the governor’s position, also hinted that the region’s governors along traditional rulers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring at a crucial meeting in Kaduna.
Speaking during the forum’s meeting with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; Emirs and chiefs in Kaduna, Shettima warned ambitious politicians to always weigh the consequences of their words and actions and avoid playing to the gallery.
Warning against farmers-herders clashes, he said, “Another no less important issue on the front burner of national discourse, which by far impacts more on the socio-economic lives of the people of the North than the rest of the country is the continuing, and in some cases worsening, conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
“Although the struggle over grazing land is a recurring phenomenon in many African countries south of the Sahara, the case in Nigeria has come to assume a dangerous and worrisome dimension in terms of both its massive scale and widespread scope, and the ethno-religious colouration it has been so cynically given.
“I dare to say that unless we are ready to cast aside all sentiment-laden approaches to tackling this monstrous problem, it is capable of consuming the very social fabric of the North and even condemning the entire country to unwarranted destruction.
“It requires no knowledge of rocket science to discern that the future prosperity of the North in particular and Nigeria in general squarely rests on agriculture and the human resources and talent we can bring to bear on it”.
Shettima urged politicians to look into the future generation with the utmost sense of responsibility instead of cashing in on some immediate opportunities like the 2019 elections.
His words: “We, the political and traditional leaders of Northern Nigeria, are gathered here today against the backdrop of certain developments in Nigeria’s political landscape that we can only ignore to the detriment of the wellbeing of our people and the development of our region. We have witnessed in the last few months, all manner of political agitations, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
“ While some arguably more moderate and mature voices have advocated for the scrapping of the 1999 Constitution and a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution with its own emphasis on regionalism, others have called for the practice of “true” or “fiscal” federalism.
“Yet another group is aggressively seeking to commit the nation to adopt the Report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference as the authoritative basis for discussing restructuring, while at the extreme end of the scale, we have the champions of a separatist agenda who are hell-bent on balkanizing the country. I shall in due course return to this restructuring palaver”.
The governor continued: “I now return to the currently trending matter of restructuring. It is common knowledge that following the recent upsurge in the clamor for restructuring and even secession, the Acting President held a series of meetings with all stakeholders from all sections of the country.
“It is also my expectation that at the end of this meeting today and, God willing, tomorrow’s meeting of the Governors, the Forum and our esteemed royal fathers will adopt a consensus position on restructuring of the country that will be reflective of the general overall interest of the people of Northern Nigeria and which will attract popular acceptance.
“It is of vital importance to arrive at such consensus position because it is crucial to dispel the erroneous impression created and disseminated by certain interests in this country that the North is opposed to restructuring.
“Secondly, it is important to do so not only to accommodate the mainstream of Northern public opinion, our primary constituency, but to also counter the specific versions of restructuring which generally seek to place the North in a position of strategic political and economic disadvantage, but portrayed as the only versions that can work for the nation.
“To do this, we need statesmen to chaperone the art of governance, not politicians; for we need to look at the coming generations not the coming elections. We need to look far into the future with the utmost sense of responsibility and not cash in on some immediate opportunities. We need to constantly weigh the consequences of our words and actions and avoid playing to the gallery”.
We Can’t Allow New Sambisas
On his part, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday advised governors of the 19 Northern states and traditional rulers to outline views on the question of constitutional arrangements of the country.
el-Rufai, in his remarks at the meeting of the Northern governors’ forum held in Kaduna, said the region should point the way forward with specific proposals that strengthen the country while devolving powers to the states and local governments.
The governor averred that after the recent bitter experience, the leaders will not be forgiven if they allow the emergence of new Sambisas in the region that provide safe refuge for outlaws.
According to him, armed robbery, kidnapping and cattle rustling are headquartered in these ungoverned forest ranges.
He said, “Your excellencies, your royal highnesses, the challenges before us are immense. We commend the resilience of our communities in the North-East which have begun the process of recovery from the ravages of insurgency. But security remains a challenge across our states.
“The frequency and savagery of communal clashes in some of our states, and the prevalence of untoward phenomena such as rural banditry, cattle-rustling and kidnapping need to be tackled.
“The festering sores left by previous conflicts in which proper closure, accountability for crimes and reconciliation were not affected appear to be accelerating a descent into impunity and a situation in which many elites are too short-sighted to recognise the dangers of embroiling our communities in repeated cycles of violence.
“The message needs to go out to our communities that peace requires a determination to have peace, sustain peace and protect it. There is no humane alternative to choosing to resolve all differences by exclusively peaceful and legal means. Our region is the most diverse area in our vast country.
“It cannot afford the ghastly luxury of transforming differences in religion, language and culture into sources of conflict, death and destruction. Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, we need to challenge our elite to stop the commodification of difference and unite our peoples for development and prosperity”.
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