A leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Wantaregh Paul Unongo has fingered the federal government in the sacking of Jato-Aka village in Benue State, purportedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen, alleging, instead, that it were soldiers of the Nigerian Army that perpetrated the act.
Unongo, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, on Friday, also flayed the forthcoming constitutional conference as a monumental waste of resources from which those with the requisite experience and exposure, like himself were excluded by the federal government because they were critical of its approach to governance.
The elder politician, who once contested for the governorship of Benue State and lost under the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP), advised President Goodluck Jonathan to, as a matter of urgency, sack the service chiefs, who were allegedly insubordinate to the minister of defence, Gen. Aliyu Muhammad Gusau.
Narrating the story of the attack on his Jato-Aka village by the soldiers, Unongo said on the day it happened there was a stampede in the village that Fulani men were about to attack the villagers and forcibly convert them to Islam. He said upon hearing this he didn’t believe it because for more 100 years the Fulani and Tivs have been co-existing peacefully.
Nonetheless, he instructed the village vigilante group to summon courage and arrest any person among the anticipated marauding party that comes to the village. The vigilante men were successful in their
task. But it turned out that those they apprehended were not Fulani herdsmen but soldiers of the Nigerian Army from a barracks in Takum, Taraba State.
He further narrated that upon their arrest, the soldiers were handed over to the police, who took them to Adigbo town. â€œEventually, they were taken to Makurdi. And that was the end of the matterâ€, as nothing
was heard again about the saga which shook Jato-Aka residents and left Unongo himself with a huge loss on his business and other private property.
Commenting on the matter and others similar to it that occurred in Katsina, Nassarawa, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Kaduna States recently, the septuagenarian expressed concern that the whole spectre of violence unfolding in the North were being deliberately planned to cause disaffection between people of the region. “Who is playing with the intelligence of Nigerians?,” he asked.
“Is somebody organising this disagreement (between Fulani and farmers) and destabilisation so that it will appear that Northerners are killing themselves. This is bad politics, bad tribalism and bad bigotry,’ he said.
He recalled that when President Jonathan assumed power the NEF advised him on how to tackle the problem of Boko Haram insurgency.
According to him, the elders told the president that the problem was a precarious one that could be solved through a multi-dimensional approach akin to that employed by late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in engaging the militancy in the Niger Delta.
He said instead of heeding their advise, the whole issue was politicised and given a religious coloration, noting that the “tragedy in Nigeria is that we are not honest to ourselves. We are not clinical in solving problems. And unless we avoid these, we will still have problems.”