Defense of Arms-bearing Killer Herdsmen: Bala Mohammed Did Not Speak Like a Statesman – Governor Akeredolu

Rotimi Akeredolu and Bala Mohammed Photo
Rotimi Akeredolu and Bala Mohammed

Ondo State governor, and Chairman, Southwest Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu has lambasted his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, over his reaction to the farmers/herders crisis in Oyo State in which he justified bearing of AK 47 rifles by some suspected killer Fulani herdsmen who have been on the rampage killing, maiming and destroying farmlands, and raping their female victims.

Recall that the Bauchi State governor had said a few days ago that “The west doesn’t want to accommodate other tribes but we are accommodating your tribe in Bauchi. We have Yorubas who have stayed in Bauchi for over150 years; some of them have been made permanent secretaries in Gombe, Bauchi, and Borno. But because the Fulani man is practicing the tradition of transhumans, pastoralism, he has been exposed to cattle rustlers who carry a gun, kill him and take away his cows. He has no option (than) to carry AK 47 because the government and the society are not protecting him. It’s the fault of the government”.

Apparently in response to Akeredolu’s quit notice to herders occupying the forest reserve in Ondo State, Mohammed contended that “Nobody owns any forests in Nigeria. It’s owned by Nigeria. Under section 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution, every Nigerian is free to stay anywhere. Anybody can speak anyhow but we are only exercising restraint”.

But upbraiding his brother governor over his comment in an interview on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Monday, Akeredolu, a senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN described Bala Mohammed’s comment as unexpected of a statesman. The governor had in his earlier reaction, described Mohammed as “anarchist”. Knocking Mohammed during Monday’s interview, Akeredolu said “Certainly, you know that Bala Mohammed has not spoken like a statesman. He probably lost out as to what his reaction should be. How would a governor in this country today come out and say people should be allowed to carry arms when it is illegal? And not just mere arms, he says they should go with AK 47 when even carrying some double barrel is illegal.

“So, people who are not licensed to carry guns, Bala Mohammed is suggesting to us that they should be able to carry guns; for what purpose?” A miffed Governor Akeredolu said “Bala Mohammed has even poured more petrol into the fire because that his speech is unexpected of him. Any statesman, any governor, should not speak that way; that you now ask people to carry guns for protection. So, I should ask my own people too to carry guns to protect themselves. This is what he’s saying. This is going to become very serious, and all of us, nobody will be spared. So, statements like that must be condemned and I condemn it”.

Akeredolu, who in his position as the chairman of the Southwest Governor’s Forum visited his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, for an assessment of the situation there following the ethnic clash between the Hausa and the Yoruba, said the situation in Oyo is not the same as that of Ondo State. He explained that “What happened in Oyo State, particularly in Shasha, is a different thing. As you know, Shasha is not a reserved forest, and people have lived there together. The Yoruba have lived in harmony with their brothers who are from the north in Shasha where you have sales of so many items – pepper, tomatoes etc. It’s a big market in Ibadan; I used to live in Ibadan myself. So, it’s a different thing.

“What we had to address essentially in Ondo State is our discovery that some criminal elements were using our forest reserve to perpetrate crimes and we said look, we are not going to stand by and just watch this happen. People are kidnapped; they are not kidnapped and taken into a house. Most of those who were kidnapped have come back and we have debriefed them; and we have been briefed by all of them and we know essentially the group of people who were involved, and that they were taken into our forest reserve”.

The governor insisted that “If our farmers who operate there are licensed to do it, so anybody who wants to go into it must have a license to be there. If you are not licensed to be there to do a legitimate economic venture, then you are a criminal element; we are going to ask you to leave the place. This is where we stand. And that has become so rampant; it is even the order of the day that every other person that is kidnapped is taken to that forest. Then we must clear that forest of all criminals no matter what name they are; we would clear the forest of all the criminals”.

On where the killer herdsmen came from, whether Nigerians or foreigners, Akeredolu wondered “how am I to know? How did you allow them in, in the first instance? My duty does not include profiling those who come into the country. But all I know very clearly is that those who are perpetrating these crimes speak the same language; they have a common language with some people who are here in this country, so, that is where our problem lies.

“Whether they are foreigners, or they are from here, it is a matter for the police and security to go into fully and be able to identify them. But with what we have when we debriefed those who have been kidnapped, is that the language they hear is what matters to them, not whether they have come from Mali or they are from Niger. They were speaking the language that was clear to them. That’s all.”

Pressed further about which language it was, Governor Akeredolu said “most of them were speaking Fulfude; there is no need for us to run away from it. So, what do you do? And whether you like it or not, let us agree with ourselves that this is a common language that is spoken across the length and breadth, particularly in West Africa, and part of North Africa. So if they come, how did they come here?”

The governor expressed disappointment about the role the Miyetti Allah had been playing in the matter by taking sides with the killer herdsmen. In his words, “But one of our major problems is that when we have an issue of this nature, and we have like a group, the Miyetti Allah; they do not have to hold themselves out to defend these people. If they are not your members, and you do not agree with what they are doing, there is no need for you to defend them. Let us treat them strictly as what they are – criminals – and get them out; and you yourselves should support us in getting them out. That is where we are”.

Governor Akeredolu disclosed that a similar meeting held by the northern governors with security personnel would also be held in Ibadan on Wednesday with Southwest governors. “What I know is that there was a meeting by the governors of the north, but their decisions and conversations, I am not aware of yet. But be that as it may, I am aware of the fact that there is going to be a similar meeting with governors of the Southwest on Wednesday in Ibadan. So, we will also discuss with the national security adviser and other service chiefs. And I think this meeting is going round all the geopolitical zones of the country. So, Southwest is meeting them on Wednesday, and we will let them know our views”.

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