By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Shola Oyeyipo in Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari has been asked to name the politicians he claimed were behind the serial killings across the country, particularly in the Northern parts of the country.
A leader of Afenifere, a Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and a former Minister of Information and South-south leader, Chief Edwin Clark, spoke to THISDAY yesterday and disagreed with the presidentâ€™s position on the sponsors of the killings.
Other Afenifere leaders who also spoke to THISDAY yesterday, were Chief Reuben Fasoranti and Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Buhari had on several occasions claimed that disgruntled and irresponsible politicians were behind the killings, contending that they were doing so to discredit his government.
The president made heavy weather of this claim while on a condolence visit to the victims of the killing of over 100 persons in Jos, capital of Plateau State some weeks ago, a position he restated at the weekend at the close of the Army Week held in Borno State at the weekend.
Also in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, yesterday in Abuja, the presidency persisted in the profiling of politicians as the sponsors of the killings, saying that the federal government had evidence of its claim and appealed against propagation of falsehood in the polity.
He made the statement hours after the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), alleged that Buhari had singled out opposition politicians for punishment.
â€œThis is the same government that said the killers are from Libya, and that they are part of Boko Haram. They have now changed the narrative. They are now saying politicians are herdsmen,â€ Secondus had said in a statement, adding, â€œIt is just a mere ploy to frame politicians and get them locked up. They even do that to members of their political party who do not share their ideas. They are doing that to us as well. They have left the substance and are now diverting attention from the truth.â€
Adebanjo and Clark pursued this theme yesterday and asked Buhari to name the killer politicians.
“If he knows that they are politicians, let him name them so that we can stone them,” Adebanjo said, adding, â€œIf Buhari says that at this stage, those who are saying he is confused will be correct.â€
The Afenifere leader added, â€œHis government and he are really confused. How can he say politicians are sponsoring herdsmen to kill in Agatu, Enugu, Adamawa, and Taraba; who are these politicians?â€
Clark said as a leader saddled with enormous responsibility of protecting the lives of Nigerians, Buhari should rather brace up to the challenge before it is too late.
He said, “Mr. President is the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of this country and the Chief Security Officer, what has he done! He should be able to cause the arrest of these politicians.
“We know he has done very well in the North-east on Boko Haram, but it cannot be said that he has done sufficiently well in the aspect of herdsmen killing innocent Nigerians.
“Let it be well known that it is not a fight between herdsmen and farmers, it is the killings of farmers; children who are lying down on their houses sleeping in the middle of the night are being killed. Are they preventing them from entering their farms?
“So, where is the communal clash? There is so much to be said. Mr. President should act before it is too late.”
The Niger Delta leader also said the president is playing double standard over the issue being that he once claimed that the killers are some of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Ghadafi’s mercenaries who infiltrated Nigeria through porous borders.
“How can Mr. President reconcile his earlier statement, which he made in London, United States and Nigeria that the killings are being done by Ghadafi’s men?â€ he asked.
Clark said it was untrue that politicians were behind the killings. â€œThat is far from the truth. With the greatest respect to our president, it is not true that what is going on is being caused by politicians. It is not true,â€ he said emphatically, adding, “What politician? Politician means what? You are in opposition. What would the politician gain from it?â€
Fasoranti agreed with Clark that the position taken by Buhari was not correct.
He said, “It is not possible. It is not possible at all! How can politicians be doing that? Why would they be killing our people? Why is it that it is herdsmen that they will support or sponsor?
“Who are the politicians? Are they southerners. Southern politicians cannot be killing their own people. It is an illogical conclusion. There is northern element to it.”
Afenifere spokesperson, Odumakin, said: “Which politician? People that are not convicted, they are publishing their names as looters. Now those who are killers, you are now mentioning in generic names, you cannot mention their names, you cannot arrest them and prosecute them. I am sorry. That story should be told to the marines.”
He added, “The killers; Femi Adesina who speaks for the president should know then. If he is telling us that we should choose between our lands or death; that if we don’t give our land for ranches we are going to die, then they should know those who are killing.”
Presidency Appeals for Restraint, Says Climate Change Worsening Crisis
The presidency, however, yesterday appealed against false reports on the killings, saying climate change, specifically the drying up of the Chad Basin had led to more pressure on the population in the northern part of the country, explaining that this had further compounded the crisis between herders and local residents.
According to him, â€œThe presidency is appealing to all its citizens as well as members of the international community to refrain from spreading false stories and inflammatory statements concerning the recent herder-farmer clashes,â€ he said.
â€œThe Nigerian government is working closely with state governments and security services â€” as well as international partners â€” in order to resolve this ongoing issue.
â€œThe clashes between herders and farmers are historical. The causes of these confrontations are varied and complex.
â€œClimate change, specifically the drying up of the Chad Basin, has led to more pressure on the population in the North of Nigeria, which further compounded the problem.
â€œAs President Buhari indicated lately, there is evidence of involvement of some politicians using criminals to perpetrate the killings.
â€œClimate change is an issue of global significance and the Nigerian government is determined to continue working closely with its neighbours in order to ensure that a long-term solution can be implemented.
â€œThe federal government makes no distinction among the population and works tirelessly to protect all Nigerian people.
â€œWe are strongest as a nation when we are united and it is through unity that we will overcome this challenge.â€