Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, on Friday, warned his counterparts from Southern Nigeria against fighting the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) or blaming him for the problems of the country. The governor, who spoke while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today Programme, said the President has restructured the country by granting judicial, legislative and local government autonomy, amongst others.
According to reports about 17 southern governors met on Tuesday in Asaba, Delta State, and resolved to ban open grazing and movement of cattle by foot in the region. The governors called for the restructuring of the country along fiscal federalism, devolution of powers and state policing. They also called on the President to address the nation and convoke a national dialogue to address widespread agitations amongst various groups in the region.
But speaking on the television programme, Bello warned the governors to be careful of their utterances so as not heat up the polity.
He said, “Let me caution each and every one of us, leaders across board including governors and all of the leaders across Nigeria that we should be careful about the words we use. When we are talking of security, unity and national cohesion of Nigeria, as leaders and politicians, we should be careful about the words we use when we are addressing these various topical issues.
“When we talk about restructuring or the various demands or resolutions put across by my colleagues from the South, they are quite germane and they are entitled to their opinions and I so respect it but when it is titled or when it appears as if you are fighting President Muhammadu Buhari, our father and our President, we are all getting it wrong because we get to where we are today as a result of maladministration of successive administrations.”
Continuing, the governor said, “There have been collective failures across board, so let’s not just blame it alone on the federal government or Mr President alone.
“When we talk of restructuring, Mr President believes in restructuring, I believe in restructuring, all of us believe in restructuring but when we are talking of restructuring, from what angle to what? Which context?
“I will describe my own context about restructuring that first, from what Mr President has done by ensuring signing Order 10 signing autonomy to local governments, legislature and judiciary. That is restructuring. How many of us are practising all of these in our states? How many of us have given full autonomy to local governments? Mr President has signed it.”
Bello challenged the governors to start the change they want to see from their states by granting judicial and local government autonomy in their domains.
He said, “At various levels, whatever we are demanding, let us make sure we practise it at home. If we are demanding zoning, let’s make sure we start the zoning from home, if we are demanding equity, let’s make sure there is equity at home. If we are demanding fairness, let’s make sure there is fairness at home. If we are demanding good governance, let’s start good governance at home.”
The governor, who hinted that his ambition to run for President in the 2023 elections, also knocked the Southern governors for banning open grazing without providing ranches for herders, adding that the insecurity arising from farmers-herders crisis was political.
The rising criminality amongst herders had forced about 20 states in the country to ban open grazing. Some farmers in Southern Nigeria have been killed, raped, and kidnapped by criminal elements who masquerade as herders. Many farmers had since abandoned their farms as a result of fear of unknown attacks by criminal herders who invade farmlands, brazenly destroy investments worth millions of naira while their cattle feed on crops and scuttle months of farmers’ labour. Bello, whose state has not banned open grazing, stressed that herders should be allowed to co-habit with other Nigerians. “I have not banned open grazing in Kogi State because there is no provision for ranching,” the governor said, even as he agreed that open grazing was “archaic and outdated”.