Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has cautioned against divisive ethnic sentiments in the reactions that have trailed the sharp disagreement between the Federal Government and the Ondo State Government over the ultimatum given to unregistered Fulani herdsmen to vacate the forest reserves of the state in seven days and also stop night grazing with immediate effect.
Lukman in a statement issued Thursday in Abuja, warned that divisive and inflammatory comments from different quarters may not mean well for a united Nigeria, but called for meaningful engagement among all stakeholders.
The PGF DG noted however that the the Ondo state government was right in the Governor Akeredolu decision, added that the saes position was aimed at reclaiming the state’s exclusive forest reserves, as well as to ensure that the forest reserves in Ondo State are not converted to hideouts for kidnappers, bandits, and other criminals.
Lukman also noted that the position of the Federal Government may have been deliberately misinterpreted by some people to imply a face-off between the federal and state government.
“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.
The PGF DG went further to state that “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“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,” Lukman declared.