Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman, has weighed in on the seeming altercation between the Federal Government and the Ondo State Government regarding the ultimatum given to unregistered Fulani herdsmen to vacate the forest reserves of the state in seven days and also halt night grazing with immediate effect.
In a statement issued Thursday in Abuja, Lukman warned against divisive and inflammatory rhetoric on the issue, calling, instead of for a more meaningful engagement among all stakeholders.
The PGF DG however conceded that the objective of the Ondo state government was well articulated, which is to ensure that the forest reserves in Ondo State are disallowed from being used as hideouts for kidnappers, bandits, and other criminals.
Conversely, Lukman said the position of the Federal Government was being misinterpreted by fifth columnists to imply a face-off between the federal and state government.
According to him; “No Nigerian, or indeed any rational person, irrespective of nationality, can oppose this laudable objective of the Ondo State government. Mallam Garba Shehu wouldn’t have disagreed with the objectives as expressed in the statement of Governor Akeredolu. But somehow, from all the media debate going on, this is hardly the case.
“The response to the statement of Governor Akeredolu by Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), on January 19, 2021, is generating all manner of debates, which is completely at variance with the intended objective announced by Governor Akeredolu. The debate also completely departs from Mallam Garba Shehu’s ‘call for restraint on both sides and urges the state government and the leadership of Fulani communities to continue their dialogue for a good understanding that will bring an urgent end, the nightmarish security challenges facing the state.’
“Since the release of the statement by Mallam Garba Shehu, the usual divisive politics has been activated. Afenifere, Arewa, Christian groups, and many Nigerians are engaging the issues, sadly in ways that may only compromise or distract our leaders from being able to summon the courage to ‘reform, modernise and move our nation forward’. Ensuring that Forest Reserves, and indeed all forests, not just in Ondo State but in every part of the country are prevented from being used by kidnappers, bandits, and all criminals, which as Mallam Garba Shehu correctly indicated should be given every urgency given the ‘nightmarish challenges’ it poses. This calls for courage on the part of our leaders to be able to initiate any viably effective reform”, he stated.
Lukman said without attempting to pass judgment on the leaders, one would have wished that in the first place, Governor Akeredolu had rather than issuing a public statement on the matter, invited the leadership of Miyetti Allah and all other groups and directly engaged them on strategies of enforcement of initiatives to secure all Ondo State forests, including the ban on night grazing.
“In which case, what may likely come to the public should have been an agreement between Ondo State government and the groups on matters of implementation of reform initiatives.
“On the other hand, if Ondo State government was unable to engage groups and its decision to initiate reform as announced by Governor Akeredolu portends the possibility of violating provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended, given the powers of the Federal Government, rather than a public statement of caution by Mallam Garba Shehu, one would have rather recommended that the appropriate agency of the Federal Government invite the Governor, discuss the matter and agree on the best way to achieve the laudable initiative of the Ondo State government and accordingly inform Nigerians about the way forward.
“To make a public statement of caution suggest some disagreement between the Federal Government and Ondo State government about the desirability of reform as announced by Governor Akeredolu, which is not likely the case.
“The easy temptation is to politicise the debate. Luckily, on this matter, both Ondo State and the Federal Government are controlled by the APC. This simply confirms the liberal atmosphere in APC. APC controlled state government is not constrained to disagree with APC controlled federal government. Put differently, APC controlled federal government is not shying from publicly disagreeing with initiatives of APC controlled state government.
“On a matter as grave as the issue of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities, it will not be treated in APC as a family affair when it affects APC controlled state government but differently with state governments controlled by other parties”, Lukman declared.