The statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that he will retrieve cattle routes and grazing reserves across the country, among others, in an interview monitored on Arise TV on Thursday, generated reactions from the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The president had, during the interview, said the country would go back to the practice of the First Republic to limit the cattle rearers to designated places, adding that: “I asked for the Gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas are dispossessed and dragged to bring some order back into the cattle rearing.

“The problem is trying to understand the culture of the cattle rearers. There is a cultural thing between the Tiv and the Fulani. So, the governor of Benue State says I’m not disciplining the cattle rearers because I’m one of them. I cannot refuse and say I’m not one of them. But he is being very unfair to me. I told him that the Nigerian cattle rearers will not carry anything more than a stick, sometimes with a machete to cut some trees to give the cattle. Those sophisticated ones, they are going about with Ak-47.

“So from all the Central areas, people rush to Nigeria, you know, and Fulani from Mauritania or from Central Africa look the same. So, they think that they are Nigerians and I assure you that we are trying to resuscitate these cattle routes and grazing areas and make them accountable.”

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The president also tasked governors to secure their respective states, by engaging traditional rulers in intelligence gathering and understanding what is happening in their constituencies.

When asked about his views on regional security outfits, Buhari spoke of how he sent two South-West governors back from the Villa, after they came to report that cattle rearers were killing their people, saying that he told them that he could not do their jobs for them.

“I’ll give you an example of recent…Two governors from the South-West came to tell me that cattle rearers in some of the forests have killed farmers while the cattle were eating their crops. So, I told them: ‘you campaigned to be elected.’ They said ‘yes’, and I said go back to them and sort out yourselves.

“Because there had been a system as all of you here could recall. There is security at each level. Look at local government, it has a traditional leader in that area who had been there for generations. So, they know all the locality. They meet either monthly or quarterly, you know, and discuss security at that level. If it is above them, they pass it on.

“So, I told those governors to go back and go to the old system, so that they will have intelligence, they will know what is happening in their constituencies. They just can’t go around and win elections and then sit tight and think somebody will do their job for them. I just sent them back,” he said.

He said he is encouraged by the pronouncements of South-South elders and youth that they will not allow the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) to have access to the sea, as he described the secessionist group as a dot in a circle with nowhere to go.

The president, thereafter, reiterated his threat to deal with them in a language they understand. Responding to a question on the initial statement he made that was deleted by Twitter, he said:

“Well, SouthEast, I was encouraged by what I heard. Nobody told me. Two statements from the South-South. One, by elderly people. They said this time around, there will be no access to the sea. I’m sure you will understand what they mean. Again, the youth made the same statement. “So, that IPoB is just like a dot in a circle. Even if they want to exit, they would have no access to anywhere. The way they spread all over the country, having businesses, having property, I think IPoB doesn’t know what they are talking about.

“In any case, we say we will talk to them in a language they understand. We’ll organise the police and the military to pursue them. That’s what we can do. And we will do it.”

The president, who said he would like to keep to himself when the suspension on Twitter might be lifted, also commented on the aftermath of the recent #EndSARS protests, saying that young people had marched to the Presidential Villa with the intention to remove him from office.

On the question of how to attract investments, he said: “Well, this question was answered when there was this #EndSARS.

“You remember the young people who wanted to march here and remove me…and my answer to that I got the members of the Federal Executive Council. I got them on a Wednesday and said each one should go to his state, speak to the governor, speak to traditional leaders, speak to the business people and speak to them and tell them that in the Federal Government, no more vacancies. It’s full.

“Go to any state governor now and ask him now to give you a contract or to give you a job, they will tell you no vacancy. The same thing with local government.

“So, you may have a good degree but you may die without having a job. Why? Because nobody is going to invest in an insecure environment.

“So, I told them, tell the youth that if they want jobs, they should behave themselves and make sure Nigeria is secure so that people can come and invest. Nigeria is resourceful. People know it. We are a rich country; God has endowed us.”

On security, he said his administration is doing a lot, conceding, however, that he was almost overwhelmed by the situation in the NorthEast.

He then said in the North-East, the bandits and insurgents are experiencing a lot of casualties now.

When asked why he was obsessed with taking infrastructure to Niger Republic, the president said yes, he has first cousins in the country but had to take railway to Maradi because he does not want Niger Republic to transport its goods through Benin Republic.

“If you could recall, when I went to Chad, I also went to Niger; I went to Cameroon. Look at what is happening with Boko Haram. If we are not in a good relationship with Niger, Chad and Cameroon, Boko Haram would have done worse things to us.

“And you say I’m carrying (infrastructure) to Niger, I told you the border between us is 1500 kilometres. I spoke to one Frenchman and I have to tell you this, I said you people, in 1885, sat down with ruler and pencil and drew lines. I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas; there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just like there are Yorubas in Benin Republic and so on. You can’t absolutely take them off.

“But the rail, if you look at the plan, if you read the plan, how we are rehabilitating the rail…Niger, they have discovered oil too, as you know and we don’t want to allow them to go through Benin Republic. We want them to come through Nigeria.

“We hope they will decide when we take the rail up to Maradi that they will send all their exports and so on through Nigeria rather than through Benin Republic.”

Responding to a question on the possibility of power devolution, he observed that local government administration in the country had been killed.

“Virtually, local governments are already killed. You know it. The three tiers of government – federal, state and local government- if we are doing it properly, we wouldn’t have been in all these problems.

“But the problem is that local governments have been virtually killed. And that is not good for this country. It’s not good for this country because those who become the local government chairmen have been compromised.

“If your government is, say, entitled or is supposed to receive N300 million, a letter will be prepared for you to sign that you have received N300 million and you are given N100 million.”

Also addressing the issue of corruption, he assured that he does not tolerate it, adding that those who are holding responsible positions know that he does not tolerate corruption.

Reacting, Afenifere chided the president over his comment on cattle grazing routes and that all appointments made by him are strictly on merit and not based on ethnic or regional balance.

Secretary-General of the group, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said: “Buhari’s engagement was full of lies, inconsistencies, contradictions and utter disrespect for the ethnic nationalities, including their elected governors. He is pathetically unschooled in the constitution which he often claims to guide him in spite of its manifest flaws.”

Speaking on the lopsided appointments of President Buhari, Ebeseni said: “The president’s claim that his appointment in the armed forces is based on merit and seniority and not to satisfy geopolitical zones is a violation of the letters and intendment of the provisions of sections 217-220 dealing with the Armed Forces of the federation and appointments thereto.”

The Afenifere secretary noted that President Buhari confirmed his position in the television interview that the ban on open grazing by governors from the southern part of the country was illegal.

Also condemning Buhari’s position on IPoB, Afenifere said: “The President takes delight in ridiculing the Ndigbo who he used IPoB to represent. Thus, to him, the Igbo and their territory is just a dot in a circle of the map of Nigeria, which even if they secede could exit to nowhere since the elders and youths of the South-South had assured him of not being part of the secessionist agenda.

“He couldn’t have been reacting to the IPoB but the Igbo, who, he said, had businesses everywhere. His utterances were very unpresidential and in the mode of common expressions with some unidentifiable northern organisations.”

In its reaction, the PDP said it was appalled that President Buhari was attempting to lay claims to projects done by the PDP administrations. In a press conference addressed by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said while millions of Nigerians eagerly expected President Buhari to address salient issues confronting the nation, he “bungled the opportunity by being evasive and dodgy.”

The party accused Buhari of trying to devalue the achievements of the former ruling party, positing that “on infrastructure, it is ludicrous to us in the PDP that the president can disingenuously seek to subtract the deliverables achieved by past PDP administrations from his so-called achievement on infrastructure.”

It reeled out most of the projects embarked upon and some completed by the PDP administrations from 1999, adding that even the expansion of the Presidential Villa, including the Banquet Hall, which the All Progressives Congress (APC) now use as its national secretariat was conceptualized and built by the PDP government.

It also said all institutions of good governance under the contemporary dispensation, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and Debt Management Office (DMO), among others, were PDP’s creation.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

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