Fulani Vacation Order: Should Southerners in Northern Nigeria Vacate Too?

Written by Faith Afrik
July 17, 2019

Fulani Vacation Order: Should Southerners in Northern Nigeria Vacate Too?
The last few months alone in Nigeria has seen upheavals, acrimonious dissents, threats and counter threats enough to fill an entire generation. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is no stranger to unpopular, anti-social and often anti-Christian policies, but one policy that might end or deal a brutal blow to his presidency is the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiative.

In the wake of the now obvious brutal jihad by Fulani herdsmen on indigenous Nigerian Christian communities, mostly in the North Central region of the country, Nigerians were initially told the killer herdsmen were foreigners and that government was going to get rid of them. In a separate development, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai was quoted as saying that his government had concluded plans to pay huge sums of money to the herders to plead with them not to kill farmers. The narrative at the time was that farmers were being killed because they had disagreements with the herders. It turns out there were never any disagreement. The herders were out to kill and displace the indigenous peoples and take over their ancestral homes and lands for themselves.

As outcry over the killings which spread rapidly grew, the government of Nigeria began throwing options in the air for solution. One of the options was for State Governments to allot large expanses of land to the wandering, deadly herders to enable them graze their cattle in peace. It was code named “Grazing Reserve”. That option was resisted. The government didn’t give up. It later floated another option code named “Cattle Colony”. Funny enough, it wasn’t any different from the “Grazing Reserve” option. Again, the governors rejected it, mostly owing to pressure from the indigenous communities in those states.

But the Federal government would not give up. Again, it came up with another option code named “RUGA- Rural Grazing Area”. Amazingly, it’s still the same thing as “Grazing Reserve” and “Cattle Colony”! At this, Nigerians,mostly Southerners had had enough, so the resistance this time suddenly swelled and is seemingly overwhelming the presidency. Governors, activists, civil society organizations all rose in protest against RUGA, threatening fire and brimstone, even war on the killer herdsmen who have been named the fourth deadliest terror group in the world, according to Global Terrorism Index.

The resistance to RUGA was mostly predicated upon the fact that the presidency was unconstitutionally compelling state governors to allot expanses of land as large as 32 thousand hectares for the RUGA project in all the states of Nigeria, including the states in Southern Nigeria. In fact, in most of the states like Benue and most Southern States, it is alleged the Federal government had actually gone ahead to allot lands to themselves for RUGA, albeit unconstitutionally, as Federal Government has no right over lands in the States, going by the constitutionally recognized Land Use Act. Only the Governors have such rights.

The southerners who are predominantly Christians sharply rejected the initiative citing the Kaduna State example, where the government had carved out such “32 thousand – Hectare land for “RUGA” but later dubiously increased the size of land to over 72 thousand Hectares, according to a Southern Kaduna activist and transformed the lands into a large functional city with state – of – the – art amenities for the herdsmen, all these at the expense of the indigenous communities who are displaced and mostly sent to refugee camps on the outskirts of their ancestral lands.

Owing to silent diplomatic and sundry international pressure from mostly the United States and seeing the Southern Governors and peoples have unanimously rejected RUGA as a veiled Islamization/Fulanization project, president Buhari announced that his administration was suspending a “unilateral implementation” of the project. In other words, rather than impose, his administration would seek to consult more widely.

Infuriated by the announcement of temporary suspension, an advocacy organization for the herdsmen in Nigeria known as Coalition of Northern Groups (CNGs) quickly issues a press release, literally threatening the president, Southern leaders and their people to either accept the killer herders in their regions or risk a retaliatory cause of action from them (the herders) on Southerners who reside in the North: “While we warn all state governors that stand against the implementation of the RUGA initiative to desist and give peace a chance, we place President Buhari and the Federal government on notice that they must act to halt and completely stop this raging madness within 30 days beginning from today, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.”

“The Nigerian security agencies are also placed on notice to check and bring under control the current unbridled inflammatory remarks by the southern leaders, in the same manner, they swiftly coined a tag of ‘hate speech’ around the Kaduna Declaration.”

“We warn the elders, political and religious leaders of southern Nigeria to urgently halt the inciting remarks that provoke hate against the North, keeping in mind that no single person or group has the sole monopoly of unguarded remarks that instigate hatred.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, we advise the federal authorities and the southern leaders to heed the 30-day notice failing which we would most definitely be left with no option than to consider resorting to our decisive line of action,” the group warned.

A 30-day ultimatum from July 3, 2019 would expire on August 3, 2019. As the nation, mostly Southerners in the north hold their breath, a terse press release from the presidency had asked Southerners to discountenance the threat from CNGs. But on Tuesday, July 16, nearly two weeks since the ultimatum and about two weeks to its expiration, this time the Northern Elders Forum ( a Northern sociocultural group) and the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNGs) rose from an emergency meeting in Abuja and issued a press release urging all the Fulani Herdsmen scattered across Southern Nigeria to head back to the North, citing hostility from and lack of accommodation by the Southerners.

In the presser, the group took a swipe at the former minister for Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, Yinka Odumakin (spokesman for the Pan Yoruba Sociocultural Organization, Afenifere), Gani Adams (Generalissimo of the Yoruba land) and blamed them and a host of others, calling them quote “shameless regionalists” for beating the drums of war over the alleged killing of the Afenifere leader, Pa. Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter by Fulani herdsmen. Despite eye witness and first responders’ accounts, pointing to herdsmen as the culprits, the Northern Groups hate the fact that Fulanis are mentioned in relation to the killing, citing that as one of the major reasons they want their men out of Southern Nigeria.

Most Nigerians have reacted with mixed feelings to the sudden call by Northern groups for herdsmen to vacate the South, two weeks away from the expiration of their 30 days ultimatum. Many believe the groups may be planning to make good on their threat to unleash mayhem on Southerners (mostly Christians) who reside in the North, upon a successful evacuation of their herdsmen brethren from Southern Nigeria. Others think it might be a miracle that they’re eventually heading Northward where they will be welcomed with open arms and where at least twelve states have either allotted or offered to allot lands to them, rather than Southward where they are most unwelcome.

As the waiting game ensues and the nation hangs precariously on the balance, the coming days and weeks will be decisive in determining the apparent direction in which the ailing nation goes. However, given the indelible memories of numerous pogroms against Southerners (mostly Christian Igbos) in the North, majority opinion polls hold that Southerners in Northern Nigeria should prepare for eventualities, in other words, be ready to vacate too whenever they the see the Fulanis heeding the call to vacate Southern Nigeria, as a precautionary measure.

Sourced from Faith Afrik

Re-Publisher: Chinwe Korie
Facebook: facebook.com/ckorie17
Twitter: @ckorie1u
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