BY ANDREW ESSIEN ABUJA
The General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh Lukman, has lashed out at the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom and a retired intelligence specialist, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi over their recent Islamization and fulanization allegation against the Buhari-led federal government.
While also warning against such unprovable allegations, Lukman insisted that such divisive rhetoric worsening the already heightened security situation in the country.
This was contained in a statement he titled ‘ Narrow Politics and Questions of Democratic Development’ even as he called on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to caution their governor.
Emphasizing the urgent need for discouraging ethnic and religious campaign of hatred within the polity, Lukman added that parties should put in place internal code of conducts – byelaws, beyond what is provided in their constitution.
“The debate about whether PDP and APC are the same and why some mischievously argue that they have both failed was substantially treated in the presentation Nigerian Politics and Fallacy of PDP – APC Semblance. Those who wish to block initiatives to produce a new Nigeria can continue to dismiss the rebuilding work of APC government under President Buhari. However, to accuse APC and President Buhari of promoting ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ will be taking politics beneath the realm of logical reasoning. Ideally, knowledgeable and experienced people, especially public servants should not suffer from any problem that can exhibit ‘morbid symptoms.’ But, sadly, as a nation, we are having knowledgeable and experienced people with manifestations of ‘morbid symptoms.
“The fact that a serving Governor is one of those exhibiting manifestations of ‘morbid symptoms’ calls for urgent review of leadership recruitment processes in the country. This should not be a partisan matter. All the parties in the country should take this very seriously. As part of that reality, the case of wild goose allegations of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda, should be a challenge, which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should take over and make it an important priority. There is no reason why for instance Governor Ortom should not disclose the full details of the APC and President Buhari’s ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. The proof should be a major campaign advantage for the PDP.
“Inability of the PDP to take over the campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ may simply confirm the lack of evidence. To achieve that makes it obligatory for the PDP to call Governor Ortom to order by demanding for all the proof at his disposal. The consequences of allowing Governor Ortom to continue with a so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ without proof will confirm that the campaign is nothing but to promote ethnic and religious hatred in the country, which is dangerous.”
“Without going into the politics of Benue State, which the citizens of that state are very competent to handle, Governor Ortom’s campaign mode is based on ultra-right-wing politics, which is neo-fascist and neo-Nazist. Being neo-fascist, in our context, the politics is anchored on ethnic supremacy, which is the source of Governor Ortom’s so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. As far as Governor Ortom is concerned, fulanis are the source of all his problems, by extension, the problem of Benue State and that of Nigeria as a whole. The bigger danger is that having identified the so-called problem, he is beginning to develop an ideology of hatred around it, which sadly is winning all manner of converts.
“The only reason why such a campaign is attractive today is because President Buhari who is a Fulani man is in power. If President Buhari, a Fulani man and a Muslim being in power confirms the existence of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation, does that suggest that when his tenure ends in May 2023, less than two years away, he will succeed in imposing another Fulani, Muslim to take over from him? Could it be part of President Buhari’s strategy to impose a Fulani Muslim, that many PDP leaders are already campaigning that a PDP Presidential candidate for 2023 should come from the North? We can choose to dismiss or take for granted all the warning signs about the appearance of ultra-right-wing leadership in the country. Once the issue of leadership recruitment in the country maintained a blind eye to this reality, the potential of producing people with such ideological mindset in leadership position of Governors or even President is high. If United State could produce a Donald Trump as President, activities of people like Governor Ortom, Dr. Mailafia and Commodore Olawunmi will prepare the stage for ultra-right-wing elements to assume leadership positions in the country.
“Again, if today, ultra-right wingers can conveniently moblise hatred against Fulani Muslims, it will just be a matter of time before they shift focus to other groups. Any group that can potentially block or weaken its power base, it will mobilise hatred against such a group. Given Nigerian reality, depending on who will be the major contenders in both PDP and APC, campaign against so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ will mutate against both Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws, Ishekiris, etc. Based on short-term calculations, it may choose to contract fluid partnership with the aim of blocking emerging candidates even within PDP. Therefore, as we move closer to 2023, the pangs of ethnic and religious hatred will have its strong manifestation inside PDP. Once the PDP is not able to moderate campaign of ethnic and religious hatred of so-called ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’, it will be weak in controlling how it manifest itself internally in PDP.”
“Political Parties, as they are today, are weak in regulating the conducts of political leaders and elected representatives. If Nigerian democracy is to develop and become the facilitator for national unity and political development in the country, regulating the conduct of political leaders and elected representatives cannot be left to chance. In the circumstance, as things are today, so-called campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ is more a danger to PDP than it is to APC.
“May be anger has taken the best out of people opposed to the APC and its government to the extent that presentations are reduced to amplifying challenges to demonstrate failure of APC and President Buhari. Wild goose campaign against ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ as Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue would insist or allegations that government, including the presidency are the sponsors of Boko Haram and bandits as Commodore (Rtd) Kunle Olawunmi would want Nigerians to believe are part of major highlight of the campaign by political opposition in the country.
“Sensationally, both Governor Ortom and Commodore Olawunmi argued that they have evidence to prove their allegations. Coincidentally, not too long, sometime in September 2020, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria similarly alleged that a serving Northern Governor is the sponsor of Boko Haram. Although while making the allegations, he also claimed to have proof, after interrogation by the security, Dr. Mailafia was reported to backtracked, saying that he ‘did not really mean to say that the government was part and parcel of the killings.’ Since Commodore Olawumni has already began meeting with the security, hopefully the details of his evidence will come out. On the part of Governor Ortom, he claimed that he has forwarded his evidence to President Buhari and security agencies in the country. But since he feels so strong as to go public with his allegation without waiting for both President Buhari and security agencies to handle the matter, he can as well make the evidence public since he has lost confidence on established processes of managing matters of national security.”
Lukman argued further that part of the challenge with Nigerian politics is that accountability is almost zero. noting that People could say whatever they want and get away with it.
“This has entrenched the phenomena whereby the main strategy of so-called opposition to APC is to ‘forcibly silence’ everyone into believing that President Buhari and APC governments have failed. Even leaders such as Governor Ortom whose constitutional powers to mobilise responses towards resolving challenges, no matter how small, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended, has become a leading campaigner against what he considers ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda. As far as Governor Ortom is concerned anybody arguing differently must be a supporter of ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda in the country, which according to him is the continuation of the early 19th Century Fulani Jihad of Usman Danfodio.
“It is more worrisome when a serving Governor could attempt to substantiate allegations of complicity against political leaders, especially President Buhari with argument about ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda in the country. What does ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ of Nigeria mean? Although it is possible to convert people from other religions to Islam, could anyone who is not a Fulani be conscripted to become Fulani? Maybe it means that every Nigerian will be forced to have a Fulani tribal mark. What will be such a mark? In addition, Fulfude may become the lingua franca of Nigeria.
“With respect to so-called ‘islamisation’, is it possible to force everybody in Nigeria to convert to islam? Maybe ‘islamisation’ means that shari’a law will be imposed on the country. Will that be possible. Often those who campaign based on narrow agenda have short memory. As recent as 2000, when Zamfara State under Ahmed Sani Yerima, made a questionable political declaration adopting shari’a law, thereby triggering a campaign in many parts of the North to make similar declaration for shari’a law. How many states in the North succeeded in making such a shari’a declaration? In Kaduna State, it was resisted, which led to a big crisis that consume many lives. If it wasn’t successful in Kaduna, how can it succeed in Nigeria? Even as tales by moonlight, how conceivable could Governor Ortom’s alleged ‘fulanisation’ and ‘islamisation’ agenda.”