A former Provost Marshall of the Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Idada Ikponmwen (rtd), has warned governors of the 17 states in Southern Nigeria of an imminent invasion and overrun of their states by Fulani jihadists, if they failed to secure their states.
Ikponmwen, a lawyer and security strategist, said the on-going mass movement of able bodied youths from the far North to the South was an ominous sign that something sinister might be in the offing.
In an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph, he said that the influx of these people especially in recent weeks of the lockdown, night curfew and nationwide ban on interstate travels, had become worrisome and should not be treated with levity.
Ikponmwen observed that over the years, people from the Northern part of Nigeria had had free access to the Southern part of the country without anyone raising eyebrows but said that things have changed with the sustained terrorism and banditry going on the North and the recent threat by the Boko Haram to launch attacks in Southern Nigeria.
According to him, before now, Fulani herdsmen and Hausa traders have been part and parcel of many states in the South as they conducted their trade in cattle and agricultural produces. He, however, said that the current mass migration was different because it involved mostly young men who have no identifiable businesses to transact or wares to sell but were moving down to the South in a suspicious manner.
“These mass movements cannot be for nothing. It must be preparatory to another jihad. In the first one (jihad) by Usman Dan Fodio in 1804, they didn’t even prepare for it as much as this. This one, they have been preparing for it. I think that they are ready and that is why they have been bringing their men down to the Southern region. Before you know it, a Sarkin Hausawa or Sarkin Muslimi will take over your place. That is their plan. Nobody needs to tell you that any more. It is the truth.
“They want to make Nigeria the home of all Fulani’s from everywhere in Africa. It’s so evident that that is what they want to do. It’s very unfortunate that our people are still sleeping while this army of occupation has surrounded us wanting to take over our homeland,” he said.
Ikponmwen acknowledged that under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, every citizen has right to live and do business in any part of Nigeria, but said that such a constitutional provision must not be upheld to a ridiculous level where a group of citizens could claim right to move into any part of Nigeria for ulterior motives. He said the right to free movement and liberty to settle in any part of Nigeria must be predicated on good conscience and desire to engage in legitimate business.
“It is a very worrisome issue, but when you begin to talk about it some people will start telling you it is one Nigeria, there is freedom of movement and you can reside anywhere. All that is b…t because even my own grandfather lived and worked in the North but he didn’t go there with the intent to seize the land of his hosts.
“He worked with the Colonial Administration as a Chief Clerk and he and his colleagues were invited because their services were needed in the region in those days. He worked in Yola, Zaria, Maiduguri and so many other places in the Northern region.
“In the current movement of these Fulani people down to the South, it is not on the invitation of anybody, there are no new factories opening anywhere in the South where they are going to be employed and they are just forcing it down the throat of the people.
“They are shipping them down in trailers and we are made to understand many of them are trained fighters. There are also reports of arms and ammunitions being smuggled into the region. So it is not a question of you can live anywhere you want and you then force yourself on other people,” he said.
Ikponmwen urged political leaders and traditional rulers of Southern extraction to shun political and ethnic differences among them in order to work together to secure their people and their land from all forms of aggression. He said that individual interests have created an atmosphere of silence and inaction among leaders in the South on many issues threatening the existence of the country.
“Some of the governors were aided into power by some Northerners, precisely Hausa/Fulani Muslims from that part of the country. So how would you now expect such governors to talk about resisting the invasion of the South by the youths from the North? Some of our governors cannot even talk about stopping open grazing because if they do, it will touch on the interests of their sponsors.
“For so many years, our people have been complaining about the menace of the herdsmen and what they’ve done to our farms and the livelihood of our communities. But you discover that some of our political leaders cannot openly condemn it even when we all know that many lives have been lost to the farmers/herders clashes in nearly every state,” he said.
Ikponmwen said that many people living in Southern Nigeria want the country to stand as one, united entity but it must be a Nigeria that will serve the interest of everybody and not an entity where some groups appropriate it as their personal estate and treat others as slaves of a conquered territory.
He reiterated the demand by the political elite in the South for the restructuring, reordering and repositioning of Nigeria to make provision for a decentralised policing system that would tackle security threats promptly and more effectively.
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