Chief Charles Idahosa is a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. In this interview, he speaks on the farmers-herdsmen’s crisis in some parts of the country and latest political developments in the state. FRANCIS OGBUAGU reports
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) recently urged Fulani herdsmen to return to the North if their security could not be guaranteed in their host communities in the southern part of the country. What is your take on that?
It is all politics. I come from a community that has its people live with Hausa-Fulani for over 50 years; that is Ehor, the headquarters of Uhunmwonde Local Government Area. Any person familiar with Edo State will know what I’m talking about.
They have inter-married with our people. You now have people bearing names like Abubakar Omarose, Osaro Junaid and so on. What we are seeing is a situation where some people are impatient because they don’t like President Muhammadu Buhari’s face.
But unfortunately, they should wait till 2023. They want to make it look like there is an inter-tribal war but we don’t have any problem here with our Hausa-Fulani brothers. We have been living here peacefully together. I have a cattle ranch in my village for the past 20 years.
The Hausa-Fulani are the ones managing it for me. They live in my farm. They take out the cattle and bring them back. As I speak, I am one of the biggest cattle rearers in the state. I go to the North to go and buy. So, there are genuine people among them that are doing legitimate business.
My take is that if we consider the uprising in Libya, when America went there to destabilise the place, as well as what is happening in Mali, Sudan and some North African countries, they have migrated here. I believe some of these Fulani causing trouble are not the Hausa-Fulani that we know.
If you see the kind of weapons they carry, you will be shocked. We are used to seeing cattle herders before. They don’t carry AK-47 riffles. These ones that we are seeing causing trouble, why can’t the government find out where they are coming from because I don’t believe they are our own Hausa-Fulani. They go and stay in the forest, kill and rape our women.
So, the northern leaders are trying to politicise the crisis by asking their people to return home. It is just like they want to repeat what happened in 1966 when Igbo leaders asked all Igbos to return home. This time around, they will fail. They are mistaking the uprising in the northern African country. It will not happen here. Buhari is president of Nigeria till 2023.
They should be patient for him to complete his tenure. These are things they are doing to make the country look ungovernable. We don’t have problems with our Hausa-Fulani brothers.
We have been living together peacefully for years. Those who have genuine business here have no problem but you don’t expect our people to keep quiet when their wives and daughters will go to the farm and they will be attacked, raped and slaughtered. How can this be happening and you expect people to keep quiet and not talk?
As leaders, what I expect from the Northern Elders Forum is to find out those who are responsible for these killings and ensure they are brought to justice. In Ikpoba-Hill Aduwawa, we have the largest concentration of Hausa-Fulani.
They occupy a whole village there, yet nobody has gone there to attack them because we know they are genuine and legitimate occupants. We are talking about Fulanis who are hiding in the forests and are perpetrating evil. Yet, the Northern Elders Forum tried to politicise it. It is very embarrassing.
How best do you think this crisis can be addressed?
The political leaders in the North should remove politics from this issue and let us face reality. People can no longer travel on the highways again for fear of being kidnapped. I asked a question sometimes ago and I said: How many of these Fulanis that they have been caught in the forests were seen with their cows?
They don’t have cows. None of them has been arrested with cows. Do you leave your cows to go and kidnap people?
These Fulanis causing trouble are not cattle rearers and the activities of these killer herdsmen have led to frustration on the part of our people such that they now attack genuine cattle rearers.
So, the security agents should wake up to their responsibilities and go after these killer herdsmen who have infiltrated our land and arrest them.
Even some of them who have been caught; when you asked them where they come from, they have nothing to say. These are people who are causing trouble for us and they should be arrested. The northern elders should also assist the security agents in doing this rather than trying to politicise the situation.
The leadership of Edo State Council of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) recently suspended its indefinite strike. What was responsible for the strike given the fact that the national leadership of the body honoured Governor Godwin Obaseki with the ‘2019 Best Performing Governor’ few months ago?
We know what is going on. This is just another new chapter that will collapse. How can teachers suddenly go on strike when we know what teachers in the state are enjoying? So, what happened between when they made him the best governor for teachers last year and now?
To me, it is state politics but they will fail. I can assure you of that because the people of Edo are now wiser and smarter. So, it is just a joke by the NUT and their sponsors. They are just being clownish. The truth of the matter is that Adams Oshiomhole and the remnants of his Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) are the ones responsible for this distraction we are seeing in Edo State.
They are using every available strategy they have to distract Governor Obaseki from settling down to govern. All this going to Federal High Court Abuja to claim that Obaseki has no certificate, sponsoring some hungry-looking governorship candidates to charge the governor to court is their handiwork.
Where will those governorship candidates whose political parties cannot boast of two offices in the 18 local government areas of Edo State get money to hire senior lawyers?
They are being sponsored as a form of distraction to the governor. I can tell you boldly that they are going to fail because one thing they don’t understand is the fact that Obaseki is God’s project. He is not there by himself, God wanted him to be there to stabilise the state. I have been in the politics of the state since the days of Ambose Alli and as far as I am concerned, Obaseki is doing very well.
He is making judicious use of the state funds and putting it in the right direction. Last year the whole country was agog at the Eagles Square in Abuja when the national leadership of NUT gave the governor an award as the best governor on teacher’s welfare. Was that done without recommendation from Edo state chapter?
Other states are coming to Edo to copy the SUBEB project here and now some unreasonable ones among them are trying to blackmail the governor. We know their style and we know Oshiomhole’s trademark. He enjoys using unionism to distract and cause unrest for any government he doesn’t like.
But like we say here: ‘The eyes of a slave will never leave Iyatse who is the Prime Minister until he dies.’ Some of them who are creating these problems, they will never become governor of Edo State.
It has been done, so let them start dreaming like the Benin mythology that they will become Iyatse. So, we are waiting for them. We knew the people behind the #EndSARS protest in Edo here.
The youths genuinely came out to protest the brutality of the police but some people were paid to hijack it, breaking into prisons and so on. My own advice is that they should wait till 2024.
Trying to distract the governor from delivering democratic dividends to Edo people through blackmail by using the NUT in the state will not work.