Niyi Odebode, Eniola Akinkuotu, Olaleye Aluko, Adelani Adepegba and Godwin Isenyo
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and the Christian Association of Nigeria have clashed with the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, over a radio licence acquired by the Federal Government to reach herdsmen.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had in an interview with journalists on Wednesday said the Federal Government had acquired an Amplitude Modulation broadcast radio licence for the herdsmen as part of efforts to end perennial farmers-herders’ clashes.
According to Adamu, the radio station will operate on frequency of 720 KHz and will broadcast in the Fulfulde language, mainly spoken by the Fulani people.
Adamu said, “The radio service will serve as a vehicle for social mobilisation and education, in addition to interactive radio instruction methodology that will be adopted to reach the very hard-to-reach segment of our target population.
“Additionally, it will enhance our capacity to address crisis between herders and farmers with attendant consequences to loss of lives, destruction of productive assets, nomadic schools, facilities teaching and learning resources.”
But while the SMBLF and CAN flayed the Federal Government over the radio station, the foremost Islamic group in the country, the JNI, berated those who opposed it.
CAN faulted the plan by the Federal Government to set up a radio station purportedly to reach out and persuade Fulani herdsmen to stop killing farmers.
It described the plan as a confirmation of the allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo about the planned Fulanisation of the country by the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.
The CAN spokesman, Pastor Bayo Oladeji, faulted the government approach to the herdsmen-farmers’ crisis, noting that setting up of a radio station could not be the solution to the challenge.
He accused the FG of pampering the Fulani herdsmen, whom he said, had been described as one of the deadliest terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.
Oladeji observed that despite the wanton killings by the group in the North-Central, not a single person had been prosecuted by the government.
He said, “It was reported in the newspapers that the government planned to give the Miyetti Allah N100bn. The government denied it only for the Miyetti Allah to own up, saying it was approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Who is fooling who?
“Why didn’t they set up a radio station for farmers too? Where is the radio station for the bandits in Zamfara, or for the Niger Delta militants? No single person has been prosecuted for the killings in the North-Central. Is the allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that there is a planned Fulanisation of the country not playing out now?”
The Christian body wondered why the government could not reach out to herdsmen through the existing radio stations.
“Every adult in the North listens to the radio, so why can’t they reach the herdsmen on the existing radio stations? Why do they need to set up a different radio station for them? They should stop fooling us,” it added.
FG’s decision, right step in right direction – JNI
But the Secretary-General of the JNI, Dr Abubakar Khalid-Aliyu, disagreed with CAN and all those who opposed the Federal Government’s decision to acquire the licence.
The JNI secretary told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the Federal Government’s decision was a right step in the right direction.
Khalid-Aliyu, therefore, wondered why Nigerians would oppose everything “positive.”
He noted that it would not do Nigerians any good to always criticise virtually everything based on ethnicity or religion.
He further argued that there was nothing wrong if the government aided the Fulani race “who suffers the problem of not being well informed.”
Khalid-Aliyu added, “What is bad when the Fulani man is being educated to become well-informed members of the society? I wondered what is happening to Nigerians that whenever something positive is brought on board, it will be given miscellaneous interpretations just to show that we don’t agree.
“As far as we are concern, radio is part of the tools which can be used to enlighten the people, through the radio, education is being achieved and bringing people together is also being achieved. So, I wonder what is bad in this. It is a right step in the right direction.”
It smacks of hypocrisy – SMBL
But the SMBL, in a statement jointly signed by Yinka Odumakin, Prof Chigozie Ogbu, Senator Bassey Henshaw and Dr Isuwa Dogo, said the move was ill-advised.
The forum described the move as an indictment on the President Buhari administration.
In a statement titled “Fulani Herdsmen Radio: Is it Fulani Government of Nigeria (FGN) now?” the group said, “The announcement came at a time the Federal Government has been acting as the information arm of the Boko Haram sect and Fulani herdsmen by dissecting the correct interpretation of the groups’ activities as an attempt to Fulanise Nigeria. We totally reject this insensitive decision of the government.”
The forum said the setting up of the radio station smacked of hypocrisy and deception by a government that had in the last four years denied responsibility on behalf of the Fulani herdsmen for crimes the herdsmen even owned up to.
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The group noted that Section 55 of the 1999 Constitution recognised English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo as languages in which the official business of the National Assembly could be conducted.
“There was no mention of Fulani which is not a language most northerners even understand. Why its sudden promotion to a language the Federal Government will set up a radio to promote? Will it also set up radio stations for the officially recognised languages and the over 250 languages spoken in different parts of Nigeria?” the group asked.
It added, “We fear seriously that the proposed radio will become a weapon of spreading hate propaganda against other nationalities in Nigeria given the kid glove’s treatment with which the Buhari administration has handled the killings of thousands of Nigerians in the last four years.
“We recall the genocide-aiding role radio played in inciting ordinary citizens to take part in the massacre of the Tutsis and the moderate Hutus during the Rwandan genocide.
“From 1993 to late 1994, the RTLM was used by Hutu leaders to send an extremist Hutu message and anti-Tutsi disinformation by identifying specific targets and areas where they could be found and encouraging progress of the genocide.
“In 1994, Rwanda Radio began to advance the same message by issuing directives on where to kill the Tutsi and congratulating those who had already taken part.”
FG’s decision commendable, says ACF
However, the Arewa Consultative Forum said the Federal Government’s decision on the radio station for the Fulani was commendable.
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim-Biu, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that lack of education contributed to the spate of banditry in the country.
The ACF said, “The radio licence obtained by the Federal Government for the purpose of public enlightenment, particularly for herdsmen against violent attitude, especially killing of innocent people which is a criminal offence is commendable as long as perpetrators of such crimes are sanctioned in accordance with the law.
“As you are fully aware, lack of education contributes in no small measure in stoking banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, insurgency and unwarranted killings by some bandits and gunmen.
“The ACF therefore supports the wisdom in the FG decision to obtain a radio licence for the purpose of enlightenment of herdsmen on peaceful co-existence and unity.
“After all, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria station in Kaduna runs a Fulfulde enlightenment programme for the Fulani-speaking Nigerians on government policies and programmes.”
However, a Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Muhammed, said he did not believe a radio station could resolve the farmers-herdsmen’s crisis.
Junaid said, “If it is really a crisis and the Federal Government is sincere, I don’t believe a radio station by itself can resolve this problem.
“I don’t believe that the initiative can resolve any crisis. What needs to happen and must happen is political leadership. Without adequate political leadership, there is nothing a radio station can do. If someone has already packaged a bid for equipment and money, he can come and say, yes, a radio station is the way.
“The National Broadcasting Commission’s management is suspended and is being prosecuted for one allegation or the other. With this kind of background, a radio station is not the best way to resolve the crisis.”