Bello Bodejo, the national president of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, says nobody can chase herdsmen away from the forest reserves in Ondo state.
On Monday, Rotimi Akeredolu, governor of Ondo, ordered herders to vacate the forest reserves over rising insecurity in the state.
Akeredolu had said “bad elements” have turned the forest reserves into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating ransom and carrying out other criminal activities.
The governor’s directive sparked mixed reactions, with Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, saying Akeredolu cannot unilaterally oust thousands of herders “who have lived all their lives in the state”.
The Northern Elders Forum also asked the herders in the state to disregard Akeredolu’s order.
In an interview with The Sun Newspaper, Bodejo said the herders will not obey Akeredolu’s directive because he has no right to issue such orders, as the Fulanis have been in the area for over 250 years.
He said the herders do not need anybody’s permission to use a forest for grazing so far as it provides the nutrients needed by their cattle.
“The Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, doesn’t have any right to give such ultimatum to our people. People, including Fulani, voted for him to be the governor; so he should be the governor of everybody in the state,” he said.
“Fulani have been in the forests he is talking about even before he was born; they have been there for over 250 years. After staying there for a long time and their cow dung turns the place fertile, people would begin to come there to farm and to settle and from then, they begin to make claims that our cattle were destroying their farms.
“We are suing the governor and seeking injunction restraining him and others from carrying out his threat. But even at that, nobody, no power can send the herdsmen out of Ondo state.
“No herdsman will obey the governor. The herdsmen will not step an inch out of Ondo forests; they are going nowhere. We won’t obey the governor; it is only the constitution of Nigeria that we obey.
“All the lands in this country belong to the Fulani, but we don’t have any business to do with land if it doesn’t have areas for grazing. If the land doesn’t have cow food, we won’t have any business with it.
“What we consider are the areas that have cow food. If the place is good for grazing, we don’t need anybody’s permission to go there.
“Fulani can settle in any bush or forest they want the moment they have cows. Any person who thinks he owns any forest should be taken to psychiatric hospital. Nobody owns any forest; forests are for Nigerians.”
Bodejo said the governor just needed an excuse to drive out the Fulanis from the state since the criminals are not from the ethnic group.
He alleged that Akeredolu’s “ulterior motive” could be for his 2023 political ambition.
“People are using propaganda to spoil Fulani name, and desperate politicians are in the forefront,” he said.
“The Ondo state governor has a secret agenda for asking our people to leave his state, not the reasons he stated. It is possible that Akeredolu is fighting a political battle. It may be 2023 election, and that is why he is playing up this Fulani herdsmen issue.”