PROFESSOR Ango Abdullahi’s self-styled Northern Elders Forum (Nef) has expressed fears over the recent alliance between some Middle Belt leaders and their southern counterparts describing the development as dangerous to northern interests.
Over the last year, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has teamed up with bodies such as Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (Pandef) to put forward a united front on several matters of common interest. Among the matters on which they have campaigned together, the menace of Fulani cattle herdsmen has been key.
Of late, these socio-cultural groups have been united in their opposition to the government’s Ruga plan that involves forcing cattle colonies on all of Nigeria’s 36 states. A hardline Fulani organistion, Nef, has made it clear it fully backs Ruga and has warned herdsmen operating in southern Nigeria to leave as their security cannot be guaranteed due to the widespread opposition to their presence.
Nigeria’s Middle Belt has suffered more from herdsmen attacks than any other part of the country, with entire villages been slaughtered in some instances. It is thus no surprise that the MBF has found common cause with southern socio-cultural groups who are also feeling the brunt of brutal Fulani attacks.
Fearful of the different stance taken by the MBF, which represents the north central geo-political zone, Nef leaders said its stance was at variance with that of the northwestern and northeastern zones which together formed the old Northern Region. Ambassador Yahaya Kwande the Nef’s deputy chairman of the north central geo-political zone, said it would resist any attempt to distort the historical divides and warned those scheming to cause confusion within the northern region to stop henceforth.
He added: “The Northern Elders Forum is concerned that several statements have been credited to persons claiming to be the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum and their friends in the southern part of our country. These statements claim to speak for and on behalf of all citizens and communities in the states of Middle Belt constitutionally known and grouped in the north central zone including Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Nassarawa, Plateau and Benue states.
“They also seek to distance our communities from those in the two other zones of the northwest and northeast and suggest that we are effectively part of the communities in former Southern Nigeria made up of Western, Mid-West and Eastern Nigeria in our political disposition. While we share many bonds with other Nigerians from the three southern zones, we wish to emphatically state that we are northerners and have always been so from the creation of Nigeria.
“Our history, destiny and mode of life have always been northern and our region of the Middle Belt is an integral part of the north. We therefore reject any attempt to detach our communities from others in the north by negative interests or identify us with political dispositions which are fictional.”
Ambassador Kwande also advised those who speak against their identities to stop henceforth, adding that there are no ambiguities regarding where their interests lie. He added that the Nef also disagrees with the idea of the Middle Belt that goes beyond the geographical area of the present north central zone.