Prominent Ijaw leader and First Republic Minister of Information, Edwin Clark, has said it is unfair and provocative for President Muhammadu Buhari, to say the declaration by southern governors against open grazing is illegal.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday, had said that the ban by the governors was of questionable legality.
He also said the ban offered no solution to the crisis between farmers and herders.
Reacting, Clark wondered why there was no criticism from the Presidency when northern governors passed a similar resolution.
The elder statesman, who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday while celebrating his 94th birthday, advised the President to withdraw the statement and make peace with Nigerians.
According to him, “Well, I said today is a special day for me. I didn’t want to comment on such issues that will make me speak in a provocative way.“However, I will advise Mr. President, as I said this morning, on Arise, he is the president of Nigeria, is not the President of the North. We all voted for him and under the Constitution Section two, I think, he has a duty to protect all Nigerians and at the same time, to provide for their welfare.
“But a situation now where we have herdsmen carrying AK 47…first of all, he said they were not Nigerians, that they were coming from Tripoli after Gaddafi’s fall, he allowed them to come in killing our people, they are in the south, they are everywhere, they are even killing our people including people in the north. I do not understand.
“I remember in those days, I think in 2002, when he led a delegation to Ibadan to meet the governor of Western Nigeria at that time, and told him that the Westerners killed about 65 Fulanis whereas only about two of them were really killed. And so, he has been promoting the affairs of cattle herdsmen over the years and he said he’s a farmer, he has cattle ranch.
“But being the President of Nigeria, it is very unfair and provocative for him to say that what the 17 Southern governors declared was illegal or does not carry the weight of law.”
He added: “I think that’s a very bad statement, uncharitable, very unfortunate. The Constitution, which his Attorney-General is quoting from time to time, provides only for freedom of human beings, freedom of Nigerian citizens to move from place to place. Not freedom of cattle or goats or sheep that they can come into your house, they can do whatever think they like, no.
“When I was young, over 80 years ago, we lived with the Fulani herdsmen at home, nothing happened. We all lived together but what Governors are saying is that herdsmen that carry guns, that rape our women, kill our people, kidnap our people, must leave and should not be allowed. Open grazing is very archaic. These were the practice 80 years ago in this country.
“In all other parts of the world, like Malaysia, everywhere they have changed. We now have modern ranching. So that’s the position.
“So Mr. President’s statement is very uncalled for and as I said, I remember the Vice President of Nigeria, who is the number two to him, is the leader of the National Economic Council that is provided for in the Constitution. All governors are members, the Minister of Finance is a member, the Attorney-General is a member.
“They met some time ago, I don’t know the date now, and passed a resolution that open grazing is archaic, dangerous and should be set aside and let us embrace ranching, modern ranching.
“The 19 governors of the north also met and took similar decisions, particularly the Governor of Kano state. He said that he has enough land for ranching for all the herdsmen.
“So for him (Buhari) not to condemn any of those ones, for him now to say for the first time, southern governors met he is worried. When the 19 northern governors meet from time to time, he’s not worried. He has never criticized them.
“So, I appeal to him to withdraw that statement and make peace with all Nigerians, we have no other country to go to. I do not believe in secession. I do not believe in the breakup of Nigeria, but these are huge issues that may break up this country.”