Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, has called for caution over the ultimatum given by Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to herdsmen to vacate the forest reserves in the state
He stated that no Nigerian, or indeed any rational person, irrespective of nationality, would oppose the objective of Akeredolu for issuing the ultimatum.
Lukman in a statement issued yesterday and, titled, ‘Caution on Divisive Campaigns and National Security Challenges’, insisted that the objective of the Ondo State government was well articulated, which is to ensure that the forest reserves in the state are disallowed from being used as hideouts for kidnappers, bandits and other criminals.
He alleged that the statement issued by the Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu on the issue had since activated divisive politics in Nigeria.
He stated: “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,” he explained.
He said Shehu’s response was generating all manner of debate, which is completely at variance with the intended objective of Akeredolu.
Lukman added: “Since the release of the statement aby 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.”
He stressed that ensuring that forest reserves, and indeed all forests in the country are prevented from being used by kidnappers, bandits and all criminals, which should be given every urgency given the ‘nightmarish challenges’ it poses.
Lukman said it was also very clear to any rational observer that any proposal for reform may be interpreted along divisive lines and many public commentators, might prioritise debating matters of interpretation rather than the substantive proposal for reform.
This, he stressed, necessitates that leaders should be able to demonstrate higher decree of caution in making public statements about policy proposals, especially those that could potentially activate national divisive fault lines.
Lukman said without attempting to pass any judgment on the leaders, one would have wished that Akeredolu, rather than issuing a public statement on the matter, invite the leadership of Miyetti Allah and all other groups and directly engage them on strategies of enforcement of initiatives to secure all Ondo State forests, including the ban on night grazing.
On the other hand, he noted, that if Ondo State government was unable to engage groups and its decision to initiate reform as announced by Akeredolu portend the possibility of violating provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.
The director general said as things are, every Nigerian should recognise that the country is in in an emergency situation, adding that the false divisive notion of any group initiative independent of others resolving the country’s security challenges can only worsen the situation.
“The issue is about responding to a national challenge. It is about Nigeria, which is why our leaders must exercise restraint when making public statements. If a statement is made, which potentially breach provisions of our constitution, any statement capable of activating our fault lines must be avoided,” Lukman added.