Chief Ochi Emmanuel Ode, Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) and the Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla, is one of the nominees for the award of jamesibechi.com Person of the Year 2017 (Excellence in Leadership) award. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he laments the Fulani herdsmen a
nd farmers’ killings in the Middle Belt. he also speaks on political issues.
Adamawa State has been on the news recently over killings by the Fulani herdsmen, especially the sacking of several communities by the gun-wielding herders. What is the view of the MBTC over these killings as the people appear helpless so far?
The position of the MBTC over these senseless and needless killings is that the Federal Government should live up to its responsibilities of protecting lives and properties, which is the key function of governance. These killings are too many. Life is precious. No one should be allowed to take lives in this kind of senseless manner. The Federal Government should rise up against open grazing and all hands must be on the deck to stop open grazing in every part of the country.
The Sultan recently warned against the killings of the Fulani following some incidents in four Numan villages. How has the northern traditional institutions been treating the protracted herdsmen, farmers’ crisis in the North Central geo-political zone of the country?
No killing in whatever name and guise should be allowed, whether of Fulani extraction or the natives. No killer should be protected. No life is more precious than the other. We are worried in the Middle Belt because the government and almost all the people who should be concerned are paying lip service in stopping the carnage. If all and sundry rise up against these killings, those perpetrating such would have seen that they are on their own and retrace their steps. But, because those concerned are paying lip service to it, that is why the killings are continuing.
The Sultan should have done more than just speaking up now against the killing of the Fulani. All hands must be on the deck and voice out against the killings and the Federal Government should do the needful because the instrument of security is in its hands. It must do its best to stop these killings. I think the Sultan is in a position to influence the Federal Government to do something about these killings. He is also in a position to talk to the Fulani on how to stop the killings too.
Benue State has come out with an anti-open grazing law, which has gone down well with the Fulani communities. Don’t you think the states in the North Central should come up with a common policy on the farmers/herdsmen’s crisis to bring a solution to the problem?
To me, it should be only selective states in the country. It should be total. The Federal Government should hands off the issue of ranching for the herdsmen. The issue of ranching is not that of government. What the Fulani are doing is animal husbandry, which is their own brand of farming. It is not the business of government to provide ranches for them. Since it is their business, the Fulani should approach land owners to acquire lands for their ranches.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently ordered the release of the 50% balance of the Paris Club Refund to state governors to pay workers’ salaries. What is your advice to the governors in the Middle Belt in this regard?
Sometimes, the Federal Government will say it does not have control over the states. In this matter, the money should be tied to specific goals and the governors should be monitored on how they spend the money. The Federal Government should specifically make the governors state what they need the moneys for so that the EFCC and ICPC will have the template to monitor the governors because of the experiences of the past where governors use the moneys given to them to travel abroad wastefully. This is necessary for proper monitoring by the anti-graft agencies. If the governors fail to state these, the money should not be released to them.
As several states now form regional forums for economic integration, nothing much is heard among those in the Middle Belt in this regard. What is your take on this?
Any move to enhance development should be encouraged. If that is the way forward for them to compare notes and enhance development, why not? We do not to blame them if they have not done so yet. May be they want to go solo. But, there is power in unity. The MBTC will encourage this move if the governors will realise the need for them to come together for economic integration of the North Central region.
This is a season of endorsements of governors and legislators in several places, including the Middle Belt states. Do you think the governors in the region have done enough o deserve second terms?
The issue is, if you are sent on an errand, you must give account of the errand. That is the only way people can be endorsed for second term, be it the governors or the lawmakers. Have they done well? The issue of endorsements or otherwise does not arise because they must come to give account of their stewardship so far, what they have done. If it is alright and the people are satisfied, then the people may decide to send them again.
What will be the shape of things in the Oji/Obi federal constituency where you come from, as several endorsements have been going on there in recent time for the House of Assembly, Senate and House of Representative seats?
On who represents us at the state and national levels, I think it is still early to say so. The scorecard of people cannot be complete now. When it gets to a stage when they will give us the account of their representation and they do so, that is when we can tell them that they have done well and should go back. Now, no one can lay claim of any representation. It is early to start angling for anything. I advise those agitating and those endorsing people now to mellow down till when the time is ripe. To me, it is not ripe yet. It is premature for people to be agitating, both at the state and national level. For now, people are just trying to outplay themselves. When the time comes, their genuineness will come out.