By Lateef Adegbite
Edwin Clark, 94, a former Federal Commissioner for Information during the Administration of Yakubu Gowon, a retired Army General , appears to have allied himself with Samuel Orton, a former minister of Trade and Investment , during Goodluck Jonathan Presidency and now governor of the north central state of Benue , by calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to see himself as ‘’ President of Nigeria and not only of the Fulani tribe’’.
Clark , an elder statesman , may have been forced to speak out because of the 72 –hour ultimatum ,issued by a group of Fulani Herders to the Delta state government to reverse the ban on open grazing in the state or they would launch attack on the people.
The threat may have generated tension in the entire southern Nigeria, as the see it as an in invitation to war.Tthe Leadership of Mayetti Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, who may have known the import of the threat were said to have distance itself from the 72-hour ultimatum issued to the Delta state government by a group of herders in the south-south state. Usman Baba-Ngelzerma, Secretary General of MACBAN, who could not hide his feelings , had said that such a Statement by faceless individuals ‘’was only meant to create mischief’’.
Although , not opposed to the southern governors ban on open grazing, MACBAN, however, would want the governors which had taken the historic decision’’ to ensure the recovery of all grazing routes in the country’’, but with a caveat that’’ Fulani herders have equal rights with all Nigerians and cannot be treated as second class citizens’’.
Many believe that the aggrieved Fulani herders may have been emboldened to dare Ifeanyi Okowa, the south-south state governor over his boldness to implement the ban on open grazing because the Katsina state born Nigerian President had described the decision to ban open grazing by the 17 southern states governors which caught across parties as’’ a questionable Legality’’, meaning that the governors have no powers to do so.
The Nigerian President who could not hide his feelings may have reechoed MACMABAN’s position that ‘’it is the Constitutional right of all Nigerians to enjoy the same rights and Freedoms within the 36 states of the Federation, including Abuja the Federal Capital Territory , regardless of their state of birth or residence’’. He may have adopted the position of the Association as he has ‘’approved ranching and revival of grazing reserves’’ across the country’’. He has made it clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’the return of the cattle grazing routes allowing herdsmen trail designated paths across the country would further unite the people.
But Abubakar Malami, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Attorney General and minister of Justice, who has the ear of the Nigerian President may have made matters worse when he declared that ‘’ the ban on open grazing by the southern governors was unconstitutional’’.
He had compared the southern governors May 11, 2021, Asaba declarations, banning open grazing in the southern states to the northern governors banning of spare parts trading in the north, considering that they are from the south part of the country.
The Statement credited to the two key political actors of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, may have given people of the south the impression that the Fulani race are out to dominate the entire Nigeria by taking over other people’s land. This may have informed why the people believe that the Nigerian President and Malami, the minister of Justice insistence on open grazing ‘’points to a hidden agenda’’.
Clark,the Delta state born elder statesman who had expected Buhari , particular, to condemn the Fulani herders threat on his home state but was disappointed that he and his agents had kept quiet had described it ‘’as unacceptable’’.
An aggrieved Clark may have made the retired Army General to understand that ‘’it is the southern Nigeria, particular, the Niger Delta, that provides the resources for the survival of the entire country’’, warning that any attempt by anybody or group’’ to deride the people of the region will be resisted’’. He may have alluded to a group of Fulani herders threat to attack Delta state over the government implantation of the Laws on the ban open grazing.
He may have sent a message to the retired Army General the people of southern Nigeria’’ can no longer continue in a country where some people regard themselves as superior to other races’. Clark, who has the backing of the people of the southern Nigeria, had told Buhari that he ‘’lacks the power to impose open grazing on the states.
Dave Umahi, governor of the south east of Ebboyi , who had decamped from the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to the APC, to actualise his Presidential ambition if it is zone to the region by the party in 2023, may have shocked many, when he said that his people has no land ‘’to give out for open grazing’’.
Umahi ,who had opened the door way for Fulani herdsmen to flood the state, may have spoken the mind of other south east governors when he said that ‘’there is no land in the region that is not owned by individuals or Corporate bodies’’.
Appearing on Channels Television on Monday, June 14, 2021, he had made Nigerians, particular, the Fulani herders to know that that the south east states already has Laws banning open grazing , in keeping with the southern governors May 11, 2021, declaration at Asaba, the Delta state Capital. It was not surprisising why he had said that it would be a grievous mistake for Buhari to ask the southern governors to provide land for ranching or grazing routes.
Given the tension in the ountry, Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor and Nigerian Vice President, had said that ‘’there is need for proactive leaders who are prepared to bring Nigerians back together’’ as was the case in the past. Osinbajo had unbarred his mind at the weekend at the Palace of Oba Abdulwasiu Omogbohan Lawal, the Oniru of Yorubabaland on the occasion of the monarch’s first coronation cermony. This is an indictment on the Buhari Administration for not being able to pull the different ethnic groups in the country together and the agitations for secession after over 100 years staying together, a move that was championed by Lord Lugard.