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Nigerians have continued to react angrily to a statement by the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle where he threatened reprisal attacks against southerners and their interests in the Northern part of the country over alleged continued killings and attacks on the interests of Northerners in the southern part of the country.
The Governor had in a statement personally signed by him on Thursday, made the threat, considered by many to be ‘caustic in all intent, threatening and potentially condescending in tone and text.’
For many Nigerians, Matawalle, who came into office offering some form of hope for Zamfara, which had been a beehive of banditry, especially for the way he initially handled the pervading insecurity in his state, has unexpectedly lowered the status of his office as governor and a leader in Nigeria with the sweeping threats he made.
Matawalle said in the lengthy statement: ‘Recent happenings in the country have made it expedient for me, as a political leader and a proud Northerner, to issue this important statement’.
‘This is not the time to play politics or to play to the gallery, but a time to tell ourselves the real truth, for the benefit of peace and progress of our country, and to prevent the looming anarchy that some disgruntled, unpatriotic Nigerians want to drag the nation into’.
‘Considering the manner we play politics in Nigeria–politics without conscience–the public may expect a statement like this to come from a governor or a leader of the APC, but I choose to make the following statement even as I remain a proud member of the opposition PDP, for the sake of our nation; for peace to reign and in the overall interest of the North’.
‘Despite what Northerners are experiencing today in many parts of the South-West and South-East in particular, all we hear is the conspiracy of silence from Northern leaders and elites who are supposed to stand firm, in the manner in which other leaders of the South are doing even when they know that their people are at fault. This must not continue’.
‘As northern leaders, our dignified silence in the face of constant provocation and assault, because of our desire for peace, must not be taken as a sign of weakness’.
‘Indeed no community, or region has the monopoly of violence’.
‘If Northerners and their means of livelihood will not be protected, accommodated and be dignified anywhere they choose to stay in any part of the South, Southerners should not expect protection from the North as the North has more than what it takes to respond to any kind of aggression and hatred’.
‘We have seen the destruction, the killings and the devastation recently at Sasha Market against Northerners and their economic interests’.
‘Properties worth billions of Naira were lost in addition to human lives, yet some leaders in the South-West are downplaying the atrocities committed or, worst still, justifying it’.
‘Some of them have shamefully gone to the extent of apportioning blames on the victims and casualties of their aggression’.
‘We will not take that any longer as no human life is worthier than another. No business interest is better than another. In fact, in crisis situation, the South has more to lose in terms of its business interests in the North and the strategic nature they established themselves in the North than Northerners living in the South’.
‘The North is very much aware of such weaknesses and disadvantages the South is exposed to whenever there is such crisis, but we always choose the path of peace and cherish peace beyond any act of lawlessness and hatred’.
‘Simple statistics on instances of unprovoked attacks against Northerners and their economic interests in the South in recent times can tell who is more tolerant, accommodating and peaceful between criminal elements and their backers that are well known in sponsoring such hatred and attacks against Northerners in the South, and our own people’.
Nigeria is one. Whoever doesn’t want to believe in the current constitution, which is so far the legal and legitimate instrument behind our existence, should wait to challenge it through established legal and legitimate means, or pack and leave the country. We will not tolerate any form of intimidation any longer.”
Reacting, some Nigerians on Twitter wondered why a sitting governor would make such a statement instead of looking for solutions to the problems besetting the country, why others asked if the governor is unaware of the atrocities of herdsmen in the southern part of the country.
In his reaction, @Onomucollins wrote: ‘I’m still wondering how’s the protest against Buhari’s medical trip in London is an attack against the North. Are the people protesting because he’s a Northern President or Nigerian President. I must confess this statement by Gov. matawalle is inciting and embarrassing”, while @T_chidi_esq said: “Why have these same governors not condemned the activities of killer herdsmen in the south? Why have you not shown consternation against the activities of these killer herdsmen? Do you think the south will rise to resist their activities just for the fun of it?’
@J_mknite expressed disappointment that a sitting Governor could be careless with words, when he wrote: ‘This is an elected governor. Look how careless his words are. Reprisal attacks on the south for what exactly. For asking killer herdsmen and bandits out of the south or what?. Be it known to him that no region has the monopoly of violence. The south has endured enough”, while @Dzeuata wrote: “That’s why we are where we are. Without justifying violence from and in any part of the country, this statement from a governor in Nigeria is to say the least disappointing. Where was this man when herdsmen were maiming, killing and displacing southerners in their own land.’
For @wcmen007, arresting Governor Matawalle is the right thing to do, as he likened it to attempts at apprehending Sunday Igboho. He wrote: ‘Arrest Matawalle now. You attempted arresting Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu for the same statement. Nigeria can’t be Nigeria again”, while @OdogwuGNR said: “Your lenses did not capture the killer herdsmen all over the South, killing and raping Nigerians? When one considers what you spew and that you studied in UK, a total disconnect from modern democracy and 21st leadership. Did you just say that?’
In his own reaction, @Flexxy73 accused the Zamfara Governor of inciting violence when he wrote: ‘With this reaction, it goes on to show that matawalle is inciting violence and should be arrested.. he’s always quick to defend the Fulanis just as in the case of the two killed by the Yankasai group..bring it on, it’s gonna be fire for fire, the Southerners are ready,’ while @aselugeemain said: ‘The man just threatened the South. Now you can see the thought of a typical Northerner. Insecurity is bedevilling them over there rather than look inwards they’re transferring hatred. Southerners and Easterners you heard him. Westerners continue romancing with them. Well done.’
@kentus007 reasoned that Zamfara would have been the better for it if Matawalle had channelled his threats to the bandits terrorising his state. ‘Please where FFK and PDP people? This is coming from a governor that cannot even take care of his state security problems. I believe if he had channelled all of his threats to the Banditry killing innocent individuals in his state by now, things would have been better….Failure looking for bailout! Nonsense”, he said, while @Adekajola said: These are the kind of leaders that cause disaffection and disunity in the land. How does protest against Buhari’s medical tourism translate to an attack on the north. Nawa oo.’
Mr. Tunde Obaniyi, a hotelier in the Ogba area of Lagos believes that Matawalle, in his emotional rush, northern solidarity and outburst, may have forgotten that he has just done what they have been accusing the south of doing, profiling an entire people and accusing them of crime.
‘Northerners, in their bid to support and defend their own are quick to shout ethnic profiling when herders terrorizing southern communities are referred to as Fulanis, insisting that not every Fulani person is a criminal, which nobody has ever said. But here is Governor Bello Matawalle accusing the whole south of hating and killing Northerners. Has he suddenly forgotten his controversial statement where he said Fulanis are not criminals?’
‘Aside ethnic profiling, the Zamfara Governor needs to urgently withdraw his threats as it was expected from someone like him. Aside being a governor, Matawalle was one of the few governors in the current dispensation that I believe has something to offer. But his recent utterances are fast changing my view of him. What he did is tantamount to inciting violence. I lived in the North before and I know the way the average Northerner on the street thinks. All they need is a careless statement like Matawalle has made to let all hell loose. I believe there is an urgent need to correct whatever damage he has done’, Obaniyi said.
A human rights activist, Dapo Fawobi believes that the Zamfara Governor cannot be blamed for his outburst, saying he has only exposed his true nature as a northern apologist who cares less about Nigeria and its wellbeing.
‘I will not blame him really because he has shown that he is more interested in defending the interest of the North. He has, however, forgotten that as a political leader, he ought to seek ways of promoting peace among Nigerians and cementing our common bonds. For the governor to openly threaten reprisal attacks and even giving an analysis of who will be worse hit, is to say the least shameful and grossly disappointing. What he just did is like beating the drums of war! He must be cautioned,’ Fawobi said.
For Sam-Segun Progress, a media consultant, it is laughable that Matawalle will equate the protests against President Muhammadu Buhari’s trip to London with hatred for the North. According to him, Zamfara may only be preparing the grounds for an eventual defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC)
‘For me, it is gross absurdity that an educated elite and governor, who came to office on the platform of an opposition party and still a member of that same party, would consider a protest against what many, including himself consider to be morally wrong as hatred for the north. Whose interest is the governor serving or protecting?’
‘I see politics in his entire statement, which I consider to be dirty politics. Because, by his statement, he has succeeded in putting the lives of millions of Nigerians in danger. He has succeeded in whipping up dangerous sentiments against southerners living in the North and endangered the already fragile peace and security of the country. Matawalle should just quietly defect to the APC, if that is his motive, and I strongly believe that’s what is in the offing. Political survival should not jeopardize the lives of the populace and engender ethnic or tribal war. Nigeria may never survive it,’ Progress warned.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who does not want his name mentioned, in a chat with DAILY POST, counselled the Zamfara Governor to first champion the liberation of the long-suffering people of his state from the shackles of bandits and other criminals before becoming the champion of Northern interests.
‘Governor Matawalle’s primary duty and focus should be how to secure his state against bandits. He should focus more on how to bring about in his and secure the lives and property of the people, who have been buffeted on every side over the years. It is wrong to want to assume the role of the defender of the North when he has not been able to defend his state and its people. That, for me, should be of greater concern to him. I see him as a good fellow, who is intelligent but his recent utterances have been projecting him otherwise.’
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK