The immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has decried the ‘deafening’ silence of some leaders on the inter-ethnic crisis pitting the Yoruba against Fulani residents in Oyo and Ondo states.
The crisis was escalated by an ultimatum issued by a self-styled Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, to Fulani residents to leave the Ibarapa area of Oyo State.
He issued the ultimatum following the spate of kidnappings and violent attacks allegedly perpetrated by herders linked to the ethnic group.
Upon the expiration of the ultimatum on Friday, Mr Adeyemo defied a warning by Governor Seyi Makinde to stay away and led some youth to Ibarapa to attack the home of the leader of the Fulani in the area.
The attack has provoked a clash between some Yoruba youth and Fulani residents in the community.
In the past few days, the chain of events has been a topic of national debate with some supporting Mr Adeyemo’s action, and others speaking against it.
Mr Makinde and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, have since ordered the arrest of Mr Adeyemo.
The Oyo crisis came even as Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, issued a similar ultimatum to herders to evacuate forest reserves in his state.
In a statement he issued on Sunday, Mr Saraki said he had watched the developments in Oyo and Ondo States with concern.
He said the happenings had increased tension and unduly raised the political temperature of the country.
“The ugly development in these two states are symptomatic of the continued threat to the unity of our country that we have witnessed on a higher scale in recent times and in different parts of the country, including the South-East and South-South zones,” he said.
Mr Saraki appealed to all parties to work for peace and take initiatives that can douse the tension.
“Both the elite and ordinary people have a responsibility to begin to take measures that will reassure the people across the board that a united Nigeria will benefit everybody better than a disintegrated country.”
He said the “deafening silence by key stakeholders, leaders and others who we think should speak out is worrisome.”
He said the silence was a dangerous tell-tale sign that things are wrong.
“This is not good for our country. We must all speak out and talk about the solution to this twin-problem of insecurity and threat to national unity.”
He urged leaders not to wait until the next election year before speaking up.
“In the meantime, let all stakeholders speak up on the danger confronting and diminishing our great country. The attitude of keeping quiet and ‘sidon look’ while waiting for the next election to start making promises will not help anyone.”
Mr Saraki cited his own parentage as an example of the need to maintain national unity.
“Let me use my case as an example of why this country should continue to grow as one united and progressive entity. I am of Fulani origin and have a Yoruba mother. My father was a Muslim and my mother is Christian. Thus, I am affected on all sides by any inter-ethnic tension in this country. I am sure there are many Nigerians that are in a similar situation.”
”Also, a united Nigeria is better for the entire world than a disintegrated country. The relevance of Nigeria in the international community is due to its size, population, and collective resources. Any attempt at disintegration removes the cloak of importance around Nigeria in the global community.
“We must all strive to douse the tension and keep our country together. This is definitely not the country we inherited from our forebears and it is not what we intend to pass on to the generation after us.”
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the current leadership of the Senate not to take things with levity.
“Mr President, take measures that will reassure all and sundry that you are working on the problems and that nobody should lose interest in a united, peaceful, and progressive Nigeria.
“It is important for President Muhammadu Buhari to rally all interests and everybody at the leadership levels to a round table in order to discuss and find appropriate solutions.
“Let me reiterate my earlier suggestion that President Buhari should call all relevant politicians and stakeholders together – former heads of states, retired and serving security chiefs, present and former leaders of various arms of government, traditional rulers with relevant experience, experienced youth with the technological know-how to solve security problems and even international civil servants of Nigerian origin who can help.
“Everybody must be made to contribute ideas on how to save our country from insecurity, disunity, and invasion by criminals.
“Mr President, please, call everybody together and provide the much-needed leadership to solve the problem. This is a period that requires all hands to be on deck. This is not the time to talk of APC or PDP. It is a time for all to work for Nigeria. This is a problem for all and should be solved by all.”
“I want to also make a passionate plea to my brothers, Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, both of whom are experienced legislators, to provide the far-reaching legislative intervention that will help the executive arm in the search for peace.
“The situation is getting worse by the day. Insecurity has become the order of the day and it is fueling disunity and criminal activities.
“Let me also call on all politicians who are looking towards 2023 to take over power to start pondering on what type of Nigeria will they have to administer post-2023 if the current situation continues,” Mr Saraki said.