The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has warned the federal government to take the recent statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, alleging that Boko Haram and herdsmen attacks were aimed at Fulanising Nigeria and Islamising Africa, very seriously.
Obasanjo made the statement on Saturday as guest speaker at the 2nd session of the Synod held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Oleh in Isoko South Local Government Area, Delta State while speaking on the topic, 'Mobilising Nigeria's human and Natural Resources for National Development and Stability.'
Reacting to the statement on behalf of SMBLF, the National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said Nigeria cannot afford to take Obasanjo's admonition with levity.
This is coming as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, have disagreed with the former president, even as a former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has hailed Obasanjo for being the only politically active southern and Middle Belt leader that understands the dangers lying ahead in the country.
According to Odumakin, "Every line of what President Obasanjo said, we study it and we must have a response for it, otherwise we are losing the country fast, because when we get to a stage where Fulani herdsmen are being elevated to the level of Afenifere and Ohanaeze, it is said that when short men begin to cast long shadows, the sun is about to set. Let the sun not set for Nigeria."
Odumakin emphasised that what former president Obasanjo said is something the country should take seriously because he is not a frivolous person.
He said: "They have been talking about some people trying to destabilise Nigeria; you cannot say Obasanjo wants to destabilise Nigeria; Nigeria is a pet project for him. For him to come out and make those kinds of statements; and it is not as if he does not know what he is saying.
"Don't forget that original Boko Haram was a response to Obasanjo's reforms in the country. What is called Sharia in many Northern states today was a reaction against Obasanjo but even in all those years, Obasanjo did not make those statements; he managed these situations in the interest of national stability.
"I don't know whether you have seen the latest global terrorism index. After Iraq and Afghanistan, Nigeria is the third most terrorised country in the world today, and in the global terrorism index of 2015, two of the first four most violent terrorist groups are in Nigeria; Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, which the government is now equating Fulani herdsmen with Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Garba Shehu is telling us we must respect Fulani herdsmen.
"About eight months ago, Wall Street Journal, said that to release the Dapchi girls, federal government paid Boko Haram three million Euros; today, Boko Haram has become deadlier.
"When the Fulani herdsmen wanted N100 billion recently, the federal government was denying, the herdsmen came out to say 'yes, it is true,' they are asking for the money because they have been promised the money since the previous regime.
"So, I think now with President Obasanjo raising a bar on this discuss, the federal government should talk with Nigerians; what is going on? The president cannot just be saying kidnapping has become a new business. Who are the people behind the new business? What did we do to them? What is going on? It is a new line of business, so should we live with it?"
On his part, an elder statesman and Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said he was happy that Obasanjo has finally seen the light.
Adebanjo stressed that he is happy that Obasanjo, despite years of political differences, is finally seeing things the same way as he (Adebanjo) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
According to him, the only way to halt the impending doom is for the country to restructure along the way Awolowo posited before independence in 1960.
Adebanjo stated that apart from the terrorists trying to islamise the country, herdsmen have also infiltrated every part of the country and are wreaking havoc as they go along, adding that something must be done before it is too late.
He urged the leadership of the country to wake up to the reality of the situation in the country by ensuring the nation is restructured immediately.
However, a former governor of Jigawa State, Lamido, has advised Obasanjo not to allow his disappointment with the current administration to turn him to a religious and ethnic bigot.
He called on the former president to withdraw the statement credited to him that Boko Haram has an agenda of 'Fulanisation and Islamisation' of West Africa.
In a press statement issued yesterday through his media aide, Mr. Mansur Ahmad, the former governor said he believes Obasanjo's statement was improper for a nationalist.
He said such statement should not have come from the former president
Lamido said: "If it were said at a non-religious venue to a non-religious audience, may be, it might have been more tolerable.
"Please, sir, don't let your disappointment with sitting presidents turn you into a bigot. You must not abandon the national stage.
"The cracks along the various divides in our National cohesion are already turning into huge gorges."
But in a swift reaction to Lamido's position, Fani-Kayode said in a statement yesterday that "Obasanjo remains the only politically active southern and Middle Belt leader that understands what is really going on, the grave danger that we are in and what lies ahead.
"He is deeply courageous and his latest contribution that there is an agenda to Fulanise Nigeria and Islamise West Africa says it all," he said, adding: "OBJ needs say no more. History and posterity will be kind to him for speaking the bitter truth and saying what almost every other southern and Middle Belt politician and leader knows to be true but is too timid and too scared to say publicly."
Fani-Kayode added that Afenifere and other regional groups such as the Middle Belt Forum, the Niger Delta Avengers, IPOB, MASSOB and Ohanaeze saw it in 2017 and they told the world, adding also that the Christian Elders Forum, CAN and the church also saw it in 2018 and they told the world.
"Sadly the world refused to listen, left us on our own and, instead of rising to the occasion and confronting the evil, Nigerians went on bended knee to the powers that be and acted as if they were not saddled with a major problem that was bound to eventually consume them all. Now they know better even though most of them are still in denial. Now they must live with the consequences of their indifference, ignorance, cowardice and stoicism. What a pity," he said.
Fani-Kayode said it was unfortunate that Lamido and a few others are not too happy with what Obasanjo said, insisting that Obasanjo has done more for the core north, Lamido's Fulani tribe, and Nigerian unity than any other former president or Head of State in the country's history.
Don't Give Ethnic, Religious Colouration to Criminality, ACF Warns
Also reacting to Obasanjo's statement, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), cautioned against giving ethnic and religious colouration to criminal activities.
The General Secretary of ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, told THISDAY in Kaduna, that giving ethnic and religious colouration to crime, will only embolden the criminals to continue with their evil deeds.
Sani said: "Former President Obasanjo may have his facts, for making such comments, but for me, I do not want us to give ethnic and religious coloration to the criminal activities of some people, else we provide them with platforms upon which to stand and commit crimes, knowing it is almost impossible to prosecute religion and ethnicity."
According to him, there are moderate Muslims who are the majority and are opposed to religious fanatics, stressing that "such moderate Muslims need to be enlisted in the campaign against Islamic terrorists whose aims are not for piety but political, albeit attired in the garb of religious jihadists."
He added: "If we offend the sensitivity of such moderate Muslims and push them to the side of the fanatics, we would be playing to the gallery by swallowing the bait put by the fanatics and that is what they want.
"That explains why President Obama won the Nobel Prize for a speech he made to Arabs in Egypt where he made clear distinction between Islam and terrorism cast in the mould of Islamisation.
"Also, it is that distinction that enabled a coalition of 66 countries of all faiths, led by America that has defeated IS in Syria and Iraq.
"I, therefore submit that the nation should have common narrative that emphasizes the trite that Islamic terrorists are not furthering Islamic faith when they desecrate by way of continuous killings of innocent people.
"They merely use Islam as strategy to enable easy recruitment of gullible cannon fodders. West African countries should also regard all violent herdsmen who kill innocent people as criminals and treat them as such. No ethnic or religious coloration to purely criminal acts."