Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Eromosele Abiodun and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos
Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church, Pastor Tunde Bakare, has thrown his weight behind the calls for a ban on open grazing of cattle and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the insecurity in the country.
Speaking yesterday on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Bakare advocated the need for dialogue among elders on the state of the nation.
According to him, open grazing is obsolete and it should be scrapped so as to stop herdsmen and farmers’ clashes in parts of the country.
He also canvassed the need for herdsmen to register in their host communities and states for proper identification.
Bakare said: “The government needs to pass laws; property laws must be respected and all these pastoralists need to register so that you can know who they are and where they are going. It is a private business and it must not generate all the kinds of heat that it has generated right now. Let’s be very careful not to tear this country apart and I am appealing to men of goodwill to rise to the occasion.
“There are four issues involved in this matter that I have considered and that by the grace of God as soon as I have the opportunity, I will also bring them to the attention of Mr. President and I know his ministers and those in government will be doing the same with him.
“One of the issues is open grazing. It is obsolete and it needs to end; it needs to end because the nations of the earth had gone beyond this. I was in Glasgow; I was in Israel; there are so many things that we can do about agricultural pastoralism that would stop all the troubles in our land.
“We have lived with Fulani and Fulani have lived with us across our lands; we must separate this agricultural pastoralism from the second thing – the terrorists in the forests. The government must fish out the criminals.
“We must be careful of indiscriminate violence and separate terrorists in the forests from agricultural pastoralism.
“Those who are invading other people’s farms must be stopped. If our laws do not stop them and if property rights are not respected, then the government is not doing what it should do.”
Commenting on his interaction with a Yoruba activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemi, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, Bakare said he got his contact through a police officer.
He explained that he spoke to him to basically avoid shedding of innocent blood, adding that his intervention reduced the tension of the seven-day ultimatum given to herdsmen to vacate some parts of the South-west.
Bakare said he would speak to the president on the need to separate farming and pastoral agriculture soon.
He cautioned that there should not be an action that would make Yoruba in Fulani territory feel threatened.
He advised the government to do more in ensuring the security of lives and property.
Bakare called on Buhari to urgently address the insecurity and ethnic crisis in the country, stressing that the crisis is coming to a crescendo.
He said: “I said there is a drumbeat of disintegration in our nation; you have so many people saying, ‘we are going, we are doing this, doing that.’ Added to that is the recent Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) issues that almost created a lot of crisis in the South-west part of the country. Over time you have seen the South-east and IPOB, different kinds of groups rising; it is about time that those issues have to be addressed directly.
“Is the president not doing anything about it? I am sure he is himself not comfortable with what is going on in our nation; any leader will be concerned about it and he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. A number of things are happening that just will shock anyone; this is not the Nigeria I grew up in as a young child. I was talking to a few friends; we will walk and even roam if you like. I lived in the North, I lived in the south; it was never as bad as this.”
He called for dialogue to facilitate the peaceful resolution of the crisis and expressed hope that Buhari and security agents will be able to resolve all the issues causing insecurity.
According to Bakare: “It is my sincere desire that Mr. President, his government and his armed forces will be up to the task of not only dealing with terrorists but bringing the nation together in such a way that we can sit in brotherhood and not tear ourselves apart. We need to sit together and talk and not just talk but act and back our resolutions with actions that will unify the country rather than divide the country further.”
When asked if he has been in touch with Buhari in the last week, he said he spoke to the president’s aides as late as Wednesday night to express his views and his thoughts.
“I do not text the president; I get to see him whenever time permits. COVID-19 restrictions have made it near impossible now. But I saw him late last year. I have not had time to see him this year. Any friendship that ends never started; that is my belief and I will continue as well as other men of goodwill continue to seek a peaceful resolution to our crisis behind the scene more than any public declaration. As I said to you, there is nothing you have heard me say in public that has not been shared, and even more in private conversation,” he stated.
He added that Nigerians are free to feel disappointed in the president when their expectations are not met.
He, however, clarified that he did not say that he was disappointed in Buhari, saying that when expectations of the people are not met, they are entitled to express their frustrations.
He said: “The coming of President Buhari into power in 2015 was a breath of fresh air to so many people. But in the midst of all competing demands, the conflicts and everything that happened, the expectations they had, not all of them would have been met.
“And, therefore, Nigerians are entitled to say they are disappointed.”
He called on the president to deal with threats to national cohesion and urged all leaders to rally behind the president by not fanning the embers of disunity.
Bakare said: “This is not the country I grew up in as a younger person. It was never that bad. We need to sit together and talk the talks that will unite us as a people and a nation.”