The 17 Southern Governors in the country have replied to the Presidency after it described their resolution to ban open grazing in the region as unconstitutional.
The governors lambasted the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, and accused him of creating confusion in the polity.
Reacting on behalf of the forum, the Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, said, “No inch of the space delineated and known, currently, as South West, and indeed the whole South, will be ceded to a band of invaders masquerading as herdsmen under any guise.”
Akeredolu, in a statement titled ‘Mr. Garba Sheu; On the Trail of An Agent Provocateur’ and signed by his Senior Special Adviser on Special Duties and Strategy, Dr. Doyin Odebowale said Shehu “cannot continue to hide under some opaque, omnibus, and dubious directives to create confusion in the polity”.
It also accused the Presidential aide of serving interests different from those of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The statement said, “The easy recourse to mendacious uppity in pushing a barely disguised pernicious agendum is well understood.
“The declaration that the recommendations of the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, a mere political appointee like Garba Shehu, are now the ‘lasting solutions’ which eluded all the elected representatives of the people of the Southern part of the country, exposes this man as a pitiable messenger who does not seem to understand the limits of his relevance and charge.”
It continued, “He also attributed a unilateral decision to the President who ‘clears the way for ranching and revival of forest reserves as part of the ‘permanent solution’ to the frequent clashes between them, as well as the associated problem of the gun-wielding ‘killer herdsmen.
“Anyone who has been following the utterances of this man, as well as his fellow travelers on the self-deluding, mendacious but potentially dangerous itinerary to anarchy cannot but conclude that he works, assiduously, for extraneous interests whose game plan stands at variance with the expectations of genuine lovers of peaceful coexistence among all the peoples whose ethnic extractions are indigenous to Nigeria.
“Mr Garba contends that their announcement is of questionable legality, referring to the 17 Governors of the Southern States, but the decision of certain elements to take the ancestral lands of other people to settle their kinsmen, including the ‘gun-wielding’ ‘killer herdsmen’ and their families, and provide ‘veterinary clinics, water points for animals, and facilities for herders and their families including schooling through these rehabilitated reserves’ for which ‘the Federal Government is making far-reaching and practical changes allowing for different communities to co-exist side-by-side’, does not appear to him as a comprehensive plan for land grabbing, a precursor to internal colonialism.
“He wants to ‘revive forest reserves’ but seems particularly uninterested in the current position of the same law, that he and his cohorts often misinterpret to serve parochialism and greed. Governors no longer have powers over the lands in their territories.
“They must take instructions from appointees of the Federal Government on such matters.
“lt is superfluous, and that is being charitable, for anyone to remind us of the constitutional right of bona fide citizens to enjoy rights and freedoms within every one of our 36 states (and FCT)-regardless of their state of birth and residence”.
“There has never been any contention on this provision. It is clear that Mr. Garba seems to have issues understanding the difference between licentious criminality and qualified rights under our law.
“It is our duty to continually nudge him off his current state of cognitive dissonance. His pronouncement betrays dubiety and mischief.
“Most traditional families in Nigeria have occupations. Pastoralism is not an exception. Any ethnic group still trapped in anachronism may be assisted to embrace modernity.
“Dispossessing communities of their ancestral lands, encouraging denizens of the forests to overrun lands belonging to other people and forcing alien bands of migrants on the local populace to live ‘side-by-side’ with other communities cannot be for the purpose of animal husbandry.
“It raises suspicion on a grand, deliberate, persistent, and insidious design to use naked force to subjugate the real owners of the land. Mr. Garba Shehu is a major supporter of the current pervasive anarchy in the land.
“May we warn Mr. Garba Shehu and his cohorts to desist from hurling insults at the elected representatives of the people.
“He lacks the authority to make policy statements for the Federal Government, unless directed, expressly. His acts are clearly those of an agent provocateur. Other closet dreamers, aspirers to colonial fantasies, must be weaned off their delusion.”