President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, subtly called out two south-west governors for incompetence over their handling of the farmers-herders clashes rocking the region.
Mr Buhari, who spoke during an interview with Arise TV, said he recently sent two South-west governors back to their states when they came to Aso Villa to complain about insecurity in their states.
The president was responding to a question on the establishment of state police in Nigeria.
“Two governors from the South-west came to tell me that the cattle rearers in some of the forests are killing farmers while their cattle are eating their crops,” Mr Buhari said.
“I told them you campaigned to be elected and you are elected. I told them go (to) back and sought out themselves.”
While the president did not mention the names of the governors, PREMIUM TIMES’ checks show that he was referring to Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.
Multiple sources, who are close to the two governors, told PREMIUM TIMES that the response Mr Buhari gave during his interview was exactly what he told Messrs Makinde and Akeredolu in January when they visited him.
Following the herdsmen crisis rocking the South-west region of Nigeria, the two governors, on January 27, 2021, met with Mr Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Although Mr Akeredolu refused to make comments at the end of the meeting, his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, in a statement issued to journalists in Akure, said his principal secured a presidential nod to evict criminal elements in Ondo.
“The governor met with the President and it centred on issue of security in the South West, especially Ondo State. It was a huge opportunity for the governor to put the records straight as regards the erroneous impression that Governor Akeredolu had asked all Fulani and herdsmen to vacate the state.
“The meeting afforded both leaders a great window to explore ingenious methods to tackle the issue of insecurity in the region.
“In particular, Governor Akeredolu sought, and indeed, obtained the President’s support and encouragement to flush out criminals in (from) the forests of Ondo State,” the state government statement read then.
On his part, Mr Makinde spoke with journalists after his meeting with the president, saying he “requested for more squadrons to be deployed to Oyo State and also ask for support for the joint security outfit, because the underlying issue here has to do with limited opportunities.”
The meeting held few days after Mr Akeredolu asked all Fulani herdsmen in Ondo to vacate forest reserves within the state. He also issued a seven-day ultimatum to the herdsmen.
He said the activities of the herdsmen have long been a threat to security in the state.
“The president outrightly told Aketi (Akeredolu) when they met in January that he should go back to other governors and face their challenges. This was the same day Makinde met with him. He told them to tackle issues in their states,” an associate of Mr Makinde who spoke under anonymity told PREMIUM TIMES.
This newspaper’s findings also showed that asides from Messrs Akeredolu and Makinde, another southwest governor who met Mr Buhari over insecurity this year was Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state.
He met the president in March as the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the matters discussed were not peculiar to South-west.
Other south-west governors
PREMIUM TIMES understands that Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State has not visited President Buhari on insecurity in the state this year.
His spokesperson, Ismail Omipidan, told PREMIUM TIMES Friday that the president would not have referred to his principal.
Also, the last time Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State visited Mr Buhari was early January.
He was in Aso Villa to seek collaborations from the federal government in rebuilding Lagos State following the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests which led to the destruction of properties in the state.
Also, Lagos does not experience farmers-herders clashes, at least, not on the scale of other South-west states.
In February, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, met with the president to present a report on the farmers-herders crisis rocking his state to him.
Mr Abiodun, who shared pictures of the meeting on Twitter said “At State House Abuja, I presented the Report on Farmer-Herder Crisis in Ogun State to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.”
This was after the governor had doused tension in the state and already set up committee to look into the crisis.
Makinde, Akeredolu react
When contacted for reaction about the statement by the president, Mr Makinde’s spokesperson, Taiwo Adisa, told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Buhari was merely running away from taking responsibility as leader of the country.
“The much that all of us know about the constitution of Nigeria is that there is only one commander-in-chief. There’s no even deputy commander-in-chief but let me say that the visit of governor then was on the incident on Sasha market then.
“But as to what the president said on Arise TV, I think the president is shifting blame and trying to shy away from his responsibilities and power. People have raised issues about the management of security in Nigeria and about his nepotism.
“Why is it that the name of a particular ethnic group keeps coming up when insecurity incident arise and the government of the day is not doing anything on that? The president should see it as a wake-up call and not shifting blames.”
On his part, Mr Akeredolu spokesperson, Olabode Richard, said his principal and Mr Buhari know how “to resolve their thing.”
“President Buhari did not mention anybody’s name and after that January, many other Southwest governors have seen the president. I know governor Fayemi has seen the president.
“Aketi went there with already prepared solution. I know my boss did not go to Villa to complain. Leave my boss out of this. The president is his father and they know how to resolve their thing”, he said as he declined to make further comments.
Governors take actions
The 17 southern governors in May declared a ban on open grazing, asking the mainly Fulani herders to practise a settled form of livestock production to control their incessant violent conflicts with farmers and host communities over resources.
But in the wake of that declaration, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, controversially challenged the governors and set an equivalence between banning open grazing and banning auto parts trading in the north.
This newspaper also reported how Mr Malami’s comparison was seen as a false equivalence and disguisedly targeting the Igbo group, who are known for auto parts trading, prompting protests on social media.
After Mr Malami, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, also said the ban by the southern governors was lawless and his principal had a better plan.
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