Prof Usman Yusuf, a former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), has accused Southerners in the country of profiling the Fulani ethnic group even though some tribes from the region are allegedly responsible for some vices in the Northern region of the country.
Speaking in an interview with The Sun, Usman alleged that agitations for restructuring and secession are blackmail tools being employed by the Igbos and Yorubas to force their way into the Presidential Villa in Abuja in 2023.
When asked why he said the 17 Southern governors should have consulted Fulani groups before banning open grazing even though Kano and some other northern states banned the consumption of alcohol without carrying along other stakeholders, Usman said;
“I said and I’m repeating it that the Asaba declaration is unconstitutional based on Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution, which guarantees every Nigerian the right to live and earn a living in any part of the country regardless of ethnicity, politics or religion. What they did was unconstitutional, null and void. Secondly, making a particular law that is specific against an ethnic group is dangerous. I also said that Asaba declaration is nothing but a premeditated quit order for all Fulani to leave the South. It is just like the governor of Kano or any state in the North saying, ‘do not sell spare parts’ and does not provide an alternative place for Igbo traders to sell their wares.
Many of these Fulani in the South have lived there for generations; many don’t even speak Hausa. So, if I’m governor of a state in the North and say, do not sell spare parts in this place, but I did not provide an alternative place for you to sell spare parts, it is just like saying Igbo spare parts dealers should leave my place. Asaba declaration was nothing but a quit order for all Fulani to leave the South. Fulani herders have started leaving the South-East, which is very dangerous. Leadership matters.”
Those 17 governors didn’t think through the national security implications of their political gerrymandering in Asaba. Those herders are citizens of the South; you don’t make laws without consulting them. They have lived there for generations more than many of these governors. All of a sudden, you tell them not to do what they have done for generations. You vilify them for all the crimes in the South. What of the Eastern Security Network and IPOB that are killing police and everybody there? Let’s see if these killings will stop as Fulani are leaving the South.
Southern governors need to be sensible. They are saying all the security problems in the South are because of Fulani herders who have lived there for generations. They are just trying to find an ethnic group to vilify and I warned that they should be very careful. There are over 15 million Igbo living peacefully in the North. We elders and all our traditional rulers, as well as clerics have been trying to keep things down. We have seen seven Hausa Suya sellers killed in Imo; we have seen pictures posted online by ESN IPOB of Fulani families, women and children they killed. I have personally interacted with these families.
Nobody is saying anything. I blamed Igbo leaders for their silence. If anything happens to the Igbo in the North, the first people that will come out are traditional rulers and the clerics will be calming down the situation. But in the South-East, Nnamdi Kanu and ESN are doing that rascality specifically targeting another ethnic group, but I do not hear a word from any Igbo elder. They are in Abuja looking for Igbo presidency.
The way they are going, South-East will be worse than the North-East. These Igbo leaders that are shouting Igbo presidency will run to Abuja or Lagos. They are afraid of Nnamdi Kanu and are trying to appease him. In the South-West, Igboho, who is nothing but an illiterate, a political thug is doing all this nonsense and now calling the shots in the region that claims to be very educated, but everybody is keeping silent. The North is looking and watching quietly. All of a sudden, the South-West leaders ran to Lagos to say, they are not for secession. You cannot have your cake and eat it.
You can’t gather 17 of you in Asaba and give people quit notice and came to Lagos and say, we are not together with them. No, you are together. Asaba declaration is unconstitutional, null and void and they need to be very careful. Politics is not threat, it is not blackmail. It is reaching out to people.
Usman also alleged that the Igbos broughts drugs to the north, while the biggest armed robbers in North have allegedly been Igbo, Yoruba and Edo people.
I’m 60 years old and I have lived in this country long enough. All they are saying is bullshit and they know that. All thee SANs, many of them are my juniors and interact with them and they call me. They are telling us that the Fulani are the cause of the security problem in the whole of the South. The Fulani have left the South-East now and it is scary. They can do all their talks. These SANs you are talking about are in Abuja, they should be in the South-East engaging IPOB, just as we go inside the forests to engage the bandits.
If I use my cows to destroy your farm, isn’t there a law against it? Why should they paint the whole of the Fulani in the South in bad light? The Igbo brought drugs in the North and they are also into robbery. The 19 governors have never tainted the Igbo. The biggest armed robbers in the North have been Igbo, Yoruba and Edo people and they are also the biggest kidnappers. Go to Kano, the drugs are brought from the East. We are warning the South against profiling, vilifying, dehumanising an ethnic group, as this will not get us anywhere. So they can do all the nonsense, we are very educated too. The constitution is clear; Section 4 protects every citizens. There are a lot more Yoruba, Igbo and other Southerners in the North living very well and peacefully.
The Southern governors need to be very careful. Ondo State governor, Akeredolu, who is spearheading this, did his NYSC in Yola and stayed in Yola to practise as a young lawyer. The hospitality of the Fulani in Yola is what made him what he is today. He is married to an Igbo woman and so, is supposed to be a better Nigerian that any other person. People need to be very careful; these politicians will mess this country and run away. This country we call Nigeria was brought by the blood and sweat of people, not this opportunistic politicians. If they continue making laws vilifying an ethnic group, Igbo will be the losers.
That is why we elders in the North are raising our voices to say that the Asaba nonsense must stop. The killing of Northerners in the East by the so-called unknown gunmen who you all know are IPOB/ ESN must stop. Igbo have far real estate and financial investments in the North, courtesy of the goodwill, the kindness and the generosity of our people across the North. If a governor decides to revoke or do any law to revoke their real estate or their financial investments, Igbo will be losers.
Igbo need to be very careful; they have so much investments and so many of them are living in the North. The North hasn’t anybody in the South, as they have now kicked out all the Fulani herdsmen in the South-East.
On Southern Governors asking for restructuring, Usman stated that it is equitable for northerners and also questioned the number of votes people from the South-East gave Buhari.
It is not equitable for us in the North. I’m from Katsina, the same state with the president. How many votes did the entire South-East give him? We gave him 1.2 million votes. What do we have to show for it? We have nothing to show but death and destruction. You guys say that Buhari is nepotistic. Is there any state that a president has fired four chief executives of key agencies from his state during his administration? Which state is that? It is Katsina. Lawal Daura, DSS; myself, Prof Usman Yusuf, NSIF; Prof Naimek Ahmed, and Hadija Bala Usman, NPA. These are four key agencies in this country that the president fired. Has he done that in any state? He is nepotistic when it comes to appointment and also nepotistic when it comes to firing.
The NHIS former executive secretary however doubled down and claimed that the north is not afraid of restructurig.
When told that the South cannot push for restructuring because the North will shout it down, he said;
Who is afraid of restructuring. People in the South think that the North is afraid of restructuring, and they are absolutely wrong. Our lives in the North were better than it was with all these states. All these people gathering themselves as Middle Belt Forum and this forum are not representing anybody; they are just representing themselves and trying to be relevant for 2023.
Nobody in the North is afraid of restructuring. Secondly, all those asking for restructuring don’t even know what they want. Thirdly, there are people who wrongfully believe that restructuring will change their electoral equation that will make their ethnic group to be the next president in 2023 and there are those who are using restructuring and secession, Biafra and Oduduwa Republic as blackmail tool, thinking that they will blackmail themselves into the Villa in 2023.
Restructuring can never happen without interrogating the 1999 Constitution as amended because it recognises 36 states. For you to do anything you must interrogate that constitution. I’m talking about going back to true federalism, where we were. Serious nations are charting the way forward, but selfish politicians want to take us backward where they will be the premier. These warlords that call themselves governors, can they relinquish their offices? They won’t. You want restructuring, go and interrogate the constitution. You can’t do it in the street of Orlu, in Sambisa Forest, in the forest of Niger, or in Igboho land. You can only do it in the House of Assembly through your elected representatives. All members of House of Representatives and Senators got their tickets through these governors who gathered in Asaba. They should assemble and tell them to push for the interrogation of the constitution to give way for restructuring. This is how politics is done.
Democracy is about number. How did Hope Uzodimma become Imo State governor? How did Wike become governor? Is it not because of the majority of the votes? That is democracy; a minority cannot impose its wish on the majority. If the minority wants its way, it reaches out. You gather 17 governors in Asaba and Igbo that are only about 15 per cent of the population want to intimidate a group with a larger population?
He also accused the Yorubas of making noise and also described their position as “nonsense”.
Yoruba have louder mouths than other people; they have the media, etc. The number two in this government is a Yoruba man. The number four is Yoruba. Fashola, a Yoruba was given three ministries. The South-West has benefited far more in this government than the North-West, and nobody from the North is making noise. They have been making noise and their position is nonsense. The South-West governors, after they went and romanced with the South-East and South-South governors, came back to Lagos to say we are not for secession. They should know that 17 governors or 17 states cannot make up the president. They need to learn politics. If you have a problem with the 1999 Constitution, go to the Senate and the House of Representatives. It wasn’t made in Katsina; wherever it was made, we need to sit down and sort it out.