By OLUSESAN LAOYE.
The issue of banditry in Nigeria has now put the All Progressives Congress (APC) in disarray and has made it a house divided against itself, as top party chieftains in the north and South west no longer speak with one voice, thus creating a serious division, which may be a precursor the expected divorce in the party 2023 election.
This division has again brought to the open the politics of ethnicity in the country, as the different parts of the country seem to the issue of banditry according to ethnic interest rather than national or party position.
The criminality by Fulani herdsmen activities across Nigeria have exposed APC leaders who Nigerians believed were concerned with one nation because their action are now seen according to what concerns them and their people, and putting Nigeria as secondary.
Because of their ethnic differences, the utterances of the APC leaders have shown that the romance they have at the inception, which brought a section to power may be all over as each section of the party seems to be pushing separate agenda.
While the Southern governors and leaders are defending their people against the Fulani incursions, killings and destruction of farmlands they all seem to speak with one voice to fashion the way out. However, their northern counterparts, such as Senate president Ahmed Lawan, see the matter differently.
In the last few months Nigeria has witnessed a lot of incidents which culminated in stern measures taken in many parts of the country especially in the South West and the South East.
For instance, in the South west Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, gave an order to the Fulani herdsmen harbouring in the forest reserves to quit, as it was discovered that the criminals among them use the forests as hideout to commit all sorts of crimes.
The same measure was taken in Oyo State when a self professed defender of the people, Sunday Adeyemo, alias, Igboho, chased the Fulani out of the villages and even went as far as to Ogun State to do the same. Simultaneously, a similar drive took place in the East and as Dr. Kunle Olajide posited, the actions of the two regions scared them in the North because they never expected it. Since then, the issue appears to have heated up the polity, as it generated reactions from the opposing camps.
These reactions however depended on the side of the divide those involved belong. The reactions of some of the APC top brass, especially the Senate President Ahmed Lawan, former Bauchi State governor, Isa Yuguda, Mallam Nasir el Rufai among others, have proved that the party is no longer what it used to be when the Northern elements in the party believed that they needed the South, especially the South West, for both the first and the second terms of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It was argued that unless they are calling the bluff of South West APC leaders, someone like Lawan who should know better having been sponsored by Bola Tinubu for the position in the 8t Senate which he lost and the 9th, would not have come up with such heavy and damming statement at a time when he was supposed to calm down the tension in the country as the number three man.
This it was argued, was an indication that the North and the Fulani are not bothered about the South West leaders both in the APC and the entire region and in the real sense they prepared to dump them.
What really gave serious concern, according to the General Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders, (YCE) Dr. Kunle Olajide who condemned Lawan’s statement was his insensitivity and the gravity of the statement to the unity of Nigeria which some of them in the North so much cry about.
He further argued that for Lawan to voice that out, it means the APC is finished and that they have used and dumped their colleagues in partnership in the South West.
Lawan, had lampooned the South West governors, accusing them of being the masterminds of the killings in Shasha Market in Ibadan, Oyo State. According to Lawan, the governors are also responsible for the violence and attacks against the Northerners in the South West region.
In an interview with BBC Hausa Service, Lawan attributed the violence to the latest call for the eviction of Fulani herders out of Southwestern states, adding that utterances by some South West governors were responsible for the killings in Shasha Market in Ibadan, Oyo State and other violence against Northerners in the Region.
He argued, “Leadership failures in the region caused what happened in Oyo State and other things that kept happening in the southwestern states. The governors’ utterances emboldened the criminals to unleash violence against the northerners.”
It would be recalled that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, had last month issued a seven-day quit notice to Fulani herdsmen operating illegally in the state’s forest reserves. Apart from ejecting the herdsmen, the governor also banned underage grazing, night grazing, and cattle movement within the cities and on highways.
What the opinion leaders in the South West are bothered about now, according to sources, is the spontaneous ways with which Lawan, Bala Muhammed, Yuguda and other Northern leaders statements came. They viewed this as an agenda which they can no longer stomach and want the world to know where they stand.
“If not, both Bala Muhammed and Yuguda should not have backed the Fulani herders carrying guns, saying they do it to defend themselves and that no one own the forest and that the Fulani herdsmen have the right to the forest, without respect for the laws that guide their operations in the South West.
The issue that was also raised about the crack in APC was the action of Bala Muhammed who after leaving the meeting of the Northern governors where they agreed on modern ways of rearing cattle broke the agreement reach to say that government and society are not protecting the herders and as such they have the right to carry guns and that the Yoruba don’t want to accommodate other tribes, whereas people in Bauchi are accommodating them.
It was further argued that if Lawan and the Bauchi governor have the effrontery to lampooned the South West governors in their party without regards to existing laws in their respective states and the fire arms act of 1990, which prohibits citizens of Nigeria from carrying arms without licence, it shows they encourage criminality because they are Fulani, and there is more to it than meet the eyes.
Although both Akeredolu and Governor Seyi Makinde have reacted to their statement, other South West and South East leaders have condemned Lawan in particular, arguing that he would not be patriotic in his dealings at the Senate but would be partisan towards an ethnic group than the other. They therefore called for his removal.
Akeredolu was of the view that he would not say much because he has made his stand known that whoever wants to live in Ondo State and the South West have to obey “our laws”. He pointed out however, the South West would not engage in a media war with those they described as crisis entrepreneurs and dividers on matters affecting the security of residents of the country, especially the South-West.
Akeredolu, in a statement by his Special Assistant on New Media, Mr. Olabode Olatunde, said: “At the risk of being repetitive, Governor Akeredolu-led South-west governors will not go into the arena of media conflict with crisis entrepreneurs.”
Oyo State governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, also described the statement credited to Lawan as unnecessary and uncalled for.
Makinde’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, said his principal, alongside other governors in the South-west, had worked and would continue to work for the peace of not only the region but the country.
He stated that Makinde has never hidden his position on state police as he believed that some forms of crime are better dealt with using state police, especially the implementation of the state’s anti-open grazing law. The Ekiti State government also said it would not join issue with Lawan over his comment.
The YCE General Secretary Dr. Kunle Olajide, described Lawan’s claim as not correct. “It is totally untrue. Ethnic crisis is being amplified by the relative silence of even the National Assembly and the Senate President himself and also the Presidency”.
“What appears to be the insensitivity of the Federal Government to our plight that has been on now in the last four years in the South-West, that our people are being raped, slaughtered and our farms plundered and not a word or positive action from the Federal Government, including the Senate President, is the cause of the crisis”.
With all these issues unfolding, it was glaring that the tea party in APC may be over and that the battle line has now been drawn between the South, especially, the South West, APC and that of the North toward 2023.