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Don’t adopt Buhari’s ‘deceitful mindset’ on ethnic cleansing in middle belt, SMBFL tells Tinubu



Prominent leaders and elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country under the auspices of Southern and Middle Leaders Forum (SMBLF), have written an open letter to President Bola Tinubu, warning him against adopting what they describe as “Buhari’s deceitful mindset” on killings in Middle-Belt region of the country.

In the letter which was jointly signed by the leader of SMBLF and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader, Afenifere, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, President, Middle Belt Forum, and Senator Emmanuel Ibok-Essien, National Chairman, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and made available to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, the group accused former President Muhammadu Buhari of deliberately turning a blind eye and covering himself by a “deceitful mindset that people of the North-West were of the same tribes and religion and wondered why they were fighting among themselves”.

The elder statesmen who raised concerns over the relentless killings in the Middle-Belt region, especially Plateau State, described the killings as ethnic cleansing and called on Tinubu do everything possible to “nip in the bud the incessant killings and wanton destruction of lives and property in the Middle Belt.”

“The unrelenting massacre bordering on ethnic cleansing and armed occupation of the territories of the indigenous peoples of the Middle-Belt and most parts of Northern Nigeria by identified ethnic militias have shown without any doubt that the Nigerian state, its government, and security forces have continued to fail in the fundamental duty of the security and welfare of citizens as the primary purpose of government as stated in Section 14(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the open letter reads.

“Former President Muhammadu Buhari deliberately handicapped himself by a deceitful mindset that people of the North-West were of the same tribes and religion and wondered why they were fighting among themselves.

“The truth, however, is that the north-west geopolitical zone is most diverse in ethnic content and the war therein is orchestrated by the desire for new territorial spaces for the Fulani both within and outside Nigeria against the other ethnic nationalities especially the Hausa majority which has for ages been falsely touted as being indistinguishable from the Fulani.

“Mr. President, unfortunately, and as it was with the Buhari administration, rather than accept the reality of the danger posed to the corporate existence of the federation by an extra-territorial agenda of the Fulani ethnic nationality, backed by organized and well-armed militias, which was, since 2018, declared by Amnesty International as the ‘4th most deadly terrorist organization in the world’, your administration has also, now, in bad faith, dressed this evil in the false garb of ‘herders/farmers’ clash’, and the blood-thirsty ethnic militias as mere bandits.

‘’It is a conflict where one side, fully armed, continues to attack and kill the innocent, who are being deliberately defanged by agents of the government.

“SMBLF holds as indisputably self-evident that all ethnic nationalities were and have settled in their portions of Nigeria before the amalgamation and establishment of Nigeria in 1914, and thus, the current rabid territorial ambition and quest for the alteration of the demographic structures of the federation will lead to chaos and internecine wars, the end of which may be the dismemberment of the fragile Nigerian federation.

“Mr. President, your predecessor had all the facts and evidence of an ideological Fulanisation agenda but preferred to pander and prevaricate than bring justice to the victims of oppression and genocide.

“In light of the foregoing, the SMBLF, moved by the patriotic desire for the corporate continuity of Nigeria and, the peaceful and mutually respectful coexistence of its diverse nationalities, strongly urges that you, Mr. President, consider the following:

“Your government holds an honest and truthful security inquiry to determine communities wherein the original inhabitants have been displaced in the last 2 decades and enforce the immediate return and resettlement of the people in their ancestral homes.

“Further to the above, the government should, in no distant future, close all IDP camps to end the shameful and sinful policy of building such refugee camps for the indigenous peoples, while their ancestral homes are allowed to be occupied by the armed invaders.

“That the security agencies, including the police, the Civil Defence Corps, and others be specially trained and equipped to rise to the challenges as Nigeria is fast becoming a banana or pariah state of its kid-gloves treatment of terrorism.

“That the Nigerian state which fought a tribal civil war to secure its corporate existence should not allow another internecine war of diverse tribes brought about by its permissive handling of provocative activities of local Fulani militias aided by collaborators from the West African sub-region and the Sahel.

“The desire of the Fulani to be treated as an exclusive ‘race’ cannot be allowed to continue in a free and egalitarian nation. They should seek land for their trade in the same way other Nigerians buy and manage land and stop this sense of entitlement.

“That you, Mr President, should rise to the occasion and dare the powers that be; decisively deal with the perpetrators of the senseless killings, end the massacre, and guarantee the safety of lives and property of citizens in all parts of our country, especially the Middle Belt, and restore the dignity of citizens and national pride, for which you will ever be remembered!

“The joy expressed by you in your New Year message in welcoming your ‘compatriots to this brand new year 2024’ cannot be understood or shared by several millions of our countrymen and women, particularly the people of Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State, where over 200 innocent villagers were killed by terrorists, with more than 300 persons injured, several properties destroyed and thousands of people displaced, between Christmas Eve, Friday 24 and Monday, December 26, 2023.

“The SMBLF commiserates with the affected families, and people of Plateau State, and commends the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Pope, and the international community, generally, for their unequivocal condemnation of the killings on the Plateau, while urging that the world be conscious of the grave implications of these happenings on the corporate existence of the Nigerian federation.

“The cycle of attacks, government inaction, and provable official complicity engendered a situation where no less a personality than General T. Y. Danjuma, retd, former Chief of Army Staff and former Defence Minister, openly advised victims of terrorism to arm themselves, since the government appears unwilling to stem the atrocities being committed against the indigenous peoples.

“The audacious and reckless assertions by some prominent personalities of Fulani extraction, such as Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, immediate past governor of Kaduna State, and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, who ought to be more ‘civilized’, lent credence to the Fulanisation agenda.

‘’Nasir El-Rufai reportedly threatened that ‘whoever kills a Fulani herdsman, including the army, takes a death loan, repayable in 100 years’ on an alleged plan by the military to dislodge a Fulani-occupied settlement on other people’s ancestral home in the outskirts of Jos, Plateau State.

‘’He warned that ‘if the Nigerian Army goes and removes the Fulani settlement, any person wearing Nigerian Army uniform in 14 Western African countries is at risk.’

“Governor Bala Mohammed, on his part, justified the possession of AK-47 weapons by Fulani herders as self-defense in practising the tradition of trans-human, pastoralism’ throughout West Africa, with no regard for national boundaries, let alone mention ancestral lands of other groups, which has no affinity to the Fulani.

“The Buhari administration tried all the tricks in its wits to create Fulani settlements in other people’s territories throughout Nigeria by different strategies of ‘land grabbing’ in the guise of RUGA, grazing routes, cattle colonies or contrived integrated agriculture schemes, where new estates would be built for pastoralists with better amenities than the host communities whose lands would be acquired by the federal government, contrary to the provisions of the constitution, which make land use regulations an exclusive state affair.

‘’The then Presidential spokesman betrayed the mind of the government when he advised the people that ‘it was better they released lands than lose their lives’.

“The horror of the Christmas Eve massacre in Plateau State is not different from the situation in Benue where several communities, particularly in Kwande, Gwer-West, Guma, Makurdi, and Logo Local Government Areas, are perennially attacked by the pampered armed Fulani ethnic militias who have taken over other people’s lands and homes.

“In Kaduna State, and Southern Kaduna particularly, Chikun, Kajuru, Kachia, Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Lere, Birnin Gwari, and Giwa Local Governments are largely under the control of terrorists. The operations of these armies of occupation claimed to be foreigners were allegedly boosted by El-Rufai’s admission of payment of huge amounts of money to Fulani militants across West Africa, only to end up lamenting that these associates of his invariably made Kaduna State ungovernable.

“The situation in Niger State is not different, if not worse, as according to the immediate past governor of the state, Abubakar Sani-Bello, terrorists (he called them bandits) have taken over 12 local government areas in Niger State as confirmed during his visit in 2022 to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, at the Central Primary School, Gwada.

‘’The worst hit local governments in the state include Rafi, Munyan, Shiroro, Magama, Mashegu, Mariaga, and Wushishi, some of which the terrorists not only have their flags hoisted but also collect taxes and levies, in a state bordering the FCT.

“In the Zuru district of Kebbi State, terrorists are so much in control that they audaciously opened fire and killed military men deployed to the area, following an earlier killing of scores of vigilantes, otherwise known as Yan-Sa-Kai by the terrorists.

“In Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, peasant farmers of Hausa as well as other non-Fulani nationalities can no longer access their farms as a result of Fulani terrorism. The case of Zamfara is worst, having been virtually rendered ungovernable except for the state capital, Gusau.”

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