The newspaper could not but come to terms with the fact that climate change and criminality remained key drivers of the farmers-herdsmen conflict.

Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

The Presidency has described as wicked and unfounded insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari is sympathetic to the activities of violent herdsmen and has been indifferent to their atrocities.

Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, dismissed an editorial in a national newspaper, which alleged that president Buhari has sympathy for criminality perpetuated by a misguided group.

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 “The editorial was not only disrespectful of the president and his office, but was also reckless, thoughtless, inflammatory and totally irresponsible. It is steadily becoming clear that it will explore every opportunity and twist every fact to declare every Nigerian and ECOWAS member with Fulani blood a terrorist, who must be stripped of their rights as citizens, or worse subjected to ethnic cleansing. 

“We believe and strongly insist that criminality perpetrated by some miscreants should not be used to demonize other responsible and decent members of the same ethnic group. The collective demonization of any ethnic group because of the misguided behaviour or conduct of criminals is improper and no responsible government will ever do so.

“The editorial is, therefore, sheer blackmail and mischief designed to push its own sinister and unpatriotic agenda disguised as free speech. By inciting the people against an ethnic group because of the criminal activities of a few is unhelpful and deleterious to peace.

“Rather than proffer solutions, the editorial only regurgitated simplistic narratives of complex national issues, deliberately neglecting the broader and unbiased understanding and interpretation. The newspaper could not but come to terms with the established fact that climate change and criminality remained key drivers of the farmers-herdsmen conflict.

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“Currently, a massive and fierce military operation is going on in Zamfara State to neutralise the activities of bandits who have been sacking communities and killing innocent people, and the security outfits have been deployed to safeguard lives and property. In its attempt to build a case against the president and tarnish his hard-earned reputation, the newspaper misquoted and removed from the actual context words attributed to him, one or two of which we wish to clarify here.

“In pointing out that some Nigerians, who dare the desert and the Mediterranean, in order to migrate illegally to Europe have to blame themselves, the president had a context, following severe warnings by local authorities that were clearly being ignored. The unfortunate Nigerians were always lured into harmful and unsafe journeys, with high likelihood of death or slavery. The President said the ECOWAS protocol allows freedom of movement but Nigeria will not tolerate illegality. An administration that paid $500,000 to evacuate 3,000 stranded Nigerians in Libya and a similar amount, to bring back those who went to Russia to watch the World Cup this year cannot, in all fairness, be accused of insensitivity to the plight of illegal migrants. 

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Are we to say nothing, do nothing when our young citizens make the wrong choice of embarking on journeys that lead to slavery and death in the Mediterranean? Is it out of place to warn of the dangers of such wrong decisions?”