By Chief Ayo Adebanjo
The unrelenting massacre of Nigerians in the Middle-Belt States, particularly the most recent that took place on 23rd to 25th December 2023, has shown without any doubt that the government and security forces have failed in their responsibility as stated in Section 14(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which stipulates that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. The fact of this failure is glaring and beyond any contestation.
The Afẹ́nifẹ́re has a long history with the illustrous peoples of the Middle Belt. They were part of the Western Nigerian delegation to the London conference in 1953 where the first and truly Federal Constitution was shaped by the great minds of our founding fathers and most notably by the Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who saw far ahead, the need to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt zone. The Littleton constitution that came at the heels of the 1953 London conference subsisted and was further improved upon in the 1963 constitution, it is now the year 2023 and the country is still reeling in serious deficits in security matters traceable to the unworkability of the 1999 constitution.
The inability of your predecessor to process adequately the issues affecting the unity, peace and security of this country need not become your liability unless you so choose.
Your predecessor had all the facts and evidences needed to act but he chose to be complicit, a complicit witness to the wilting of lives and property, preferring to pander and prevaricate to killers rather than bring justice to the victims of oppression and genocide. A full fulanization agenda was allowed to unfold and to fester.
You will recall the damning evidence of Commodore Olawunmi, a former member of an elite group of Intelligence officers in our military, who on national television posited that a list of sponsors of Terror is in the hands of government with names of those behind these dastardly acts clearly mentioned. The immediate past Attorney General is also on record as having admitted to receiving a list of terror sponsors in the country from the government of the UAE, and nothing has been done about this until date. This is the evidence you need, the only one thing this country requires of you is to not look the other way while Nigeria burns. A Nero is neither desired or needed at these times, only a Hero would do.
The excuse that the killings are a result of Farmer/Herders conflict is not only deceptive, but it is fact challenged. There is no conflict where one side continues to attack and kill innocent people, where one side is fully armed, while the other side is disarmed by Government. What we see today and continuously, are the activities of Terrorists who have repeatedly claimed responsibility for their actions and have stated unequivocally their desire for transfer of Lands to their relatives. We have even witnessed the ignominy of a presidential spokesman, advising victims to give up their ancestral lands for peace with these marauders. We are informed by our fellow citizens on the Plateau of the many villages displaced and occupied and of the many families killed and displaced. The killers are taking the land of their victims, and the government is looking the other way. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The cycle of attacks, government inaction and provable complicity, has engendered a situation where no less a person than Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, openly advised the victims to arm themselves, saying that the Nigerian Army, a body he had once headed, colludes in the atrocities being committed against the indigenous peoples by the Fulani. The erstwhile Defense Minister in the Buhari regime, equally counseled the victims to acquire arms, in defense of themselves. One general is alleging complicity, and the other is confessing operational impotence. The Nigerian state is being torn apart by its own inherent contradictions. My Dear Aṣíwájú, you are The president now. That is the fact of history, and you are the one who will be judged by history, when the story of this season shall be told. Buhari is gone, you are the president. The least you can do is to act according to the best practices in dealing with Terrorists.
We have repeatedly called for the decentralization of the police. We have repeatedly spoken about the deliberate plan to displace and occupy indigenous lands. What we need is peace and security and adequate power to the zones to effectively manage their own resources. We need a constitution that respects human dignity and the right of every Nigerian to live in peace with his neighbor. What we do not need is the needless, useless, feckless recourse to debates and talkshops of the witless farmers-herders herders conflict and sundry of loose and gaseous debacle spending time buying nothing but woes.
The desire of the Fulani to be treated as an exclusive “race” cannot be allowed to continue in a free and egalitarian Nation. They should accept freedom of movement, in the same way other Nigerians enjoy it. They should seek for land for their trade in the same way other Nigerians buy and manage land; they should stop this sense of entitlement. The activities of Bandits, gunmen, militias or terrorists as the government may prefer to call them cannot be excused on the grounds that their tribal relatives have grudges to settle with other ethnic groups in any part of Nigeria. Government most be decisive in dealing with such criminals for no one has the right to take another’s life except in the execution of a just law following conviction by a competent court.
It is unfortunate that despite the knowledge of the hideouts from which these terrorists launch their attacks on the States of Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and other southern states, the security forces for decades deliberately fortified these hideouts, refusing their destruction and thus providing a safe haven for these terrorists to smuggle arms, train their mercenaries and unleash unimaginable terror on innocent citizens without any provocation whatsoever.
Previous governments can be clearly accused of complicity due to their failure to check the activities of these terrorist group and its strong support for the Fulani occupation agenda as reflected in policies such as the RUGA. It is unfortunate that a Federal Government will allow foreigners to move into its territory, kill its citizens and the same Government will excuse such barbaric act as a conflict. We have seen how security forces failed to dislodge bandits known to possess all manner of weapons including military grade weapons such as Rockets-missiles that are used to destabilize the peaceful coexistence of the country.
It is vital that the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Government resolve to confront headlong this unfortunate destruction of lives and properties of Citizens. You should take the bull by the horn to defend Nigerians from these terrorists. Such barbarism cannot be allowed to continue under your watch.
We in Afenifere remind the President that true federalism requires that the Federating Units have the right to provide security for their citizens. This right cannot be denied on any ground, not when their people are being killed and the Federal Government fails to protect them. We therefore call on the President to immediately work on ensuring that states have armed security outfits or police to assist the federal police in crime control and community security.
The recent attack on Bokkos and Mangu Local Government on the Plateau in which about 200 helpless unarmed men, women and children in Christian communities were murdered on the eve of 2023 Christmas should be a spur to all Nigerians that: “Enough is Enough”. This is reminiscent of a similar attack in 2018, on the eve of Christmas the most holy of all Christian festivities, when 800 people whose lives were willfully snuffed out by the usual suspects with thousands displaced from their lands forced out of their land of origin, forced to live dejectedly in dilapidated IDF camps flung and scattered far away from their homelands. To this bespoken evil Mr. President, you must do everything to bring these unfortunate ones that have been turned refugees safely back into their ancestral lands. This is a duty that you owe to the long suffering peoples of the Middle Belt zone.
My Dear Aṣíwájú, I can only continue to assure and reassure you that it is through the Restructuring of the polity that a new people-inspired constitution, which includes the decentralization of security and policing, through which the States can be empowered to assume greater responsibility for the security and welfare of their citizens. Restructuring will also afford the States and Zones to mobilise more resources to pursue both kinectic and non-kinectic strategies to deal with the root causes of insecurity; sluggish economic growth, unprecedentedly high unemployment, mass illiteracy, lack of skills for gainful employment and social injustice.
Afenifere believes that through restructuring most of these seamingly intractable can be addressed by each State and local government, successfully.
Finally, We send our condolences to the peoples of the Middle belt, the Government and people of Plateau state and the Federation as a whole for this unfortunate loss of lives and property. We, The Afẹ́nifẹ́re stand by all the peoples of Nigeria and more especially the suffering peoples of the Middle Belt, in this hour of distress and pray for the repose of the souls of the dead. Working toward a just egalitarianism society, has been the battle cry of the Afẹ́nifẹ́re ever since our advent and inception, in 1951.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo is the Leader of Afẹ́nifẹ́re.