Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed has pushed back at suggestion that he was in support of the activities of militia Fulanis.
Mohammed has come under attack from the South for saying something to the effect that herders were freed to carry AK47 guns in self-defence.
The governor’s media aide, Mukhtar Gidado, in a statement he released, said his principal was quoted out of context providing insight into what he (Mohammed) said.
The statement reads in part, “During the speech, the Governor used the occasion to weigh in on the contentious issue of clashes between herdsmen and farmers, particularly against the background of the eviction and other forms of restriction orders issued by some state governments and non-governmental entities.
“The primary objective of the Governor was to avert the dangerous prospect of nationwide backlash as tempers were flaring up and given that the phenomenon of inter-ethnic migration is a national pastime involving all ethnic groups in Nigeria.”
“At no time did the Governor set out to justify criminality by anyone, no matter the person’s ethnic nationality. Rather, he admonished us, in the interest of national unity, to avoid wholesale branding of any ethnic group as it is inconceivable that anyone group can be made up of only criminals. By extension, the Governor made it abundantly clear that it will be inappropriate to label anyone tribe based on the crimes of a few members of the ethnic group.
“Second, to the extent that not every herdsman is a criminal, the Governor’s reference to AK47 was simply to put in perspective, the predicament and desperation of those law-abiding Fulani herdsmen who, while carrying out their legitimate cow-rearing business, have become serial victims of cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping and assassination.
“These are the people who, in the absence of any protection from the security agencies, are forced to resort to self-help, to defend both their means of livelihood and their lives.
“As a constitutionalist, which he has proved over time, all through his political career, Governor Bala Mohammed will be the last person to advocate a subversion of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He did not do so in the past; he will not do so today.
“Third, Governor Bala Mohammed’s description of forests, as “no man’s land”, (please read as gift of nature), is a carry-over from his geopolitical environment where a pastoralist could set up camp, in any forest, for a few weeks without causing any uproar or opposition. To interpret such a temporary stay as a form of ‘land grab’ by the Fulani herdsmen is completely incorrect.
“Neither does such temporary habitation of the forest inconvenience anyone nor does the itinerant Fulani sojourner, bother anyone about his plight in the forest characterised by life without access to electricity, pipe-borne water, good roads or hospitals.”