Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Southeast Zone
The Southeast Zonal chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, has cautioned Nigerians against inflaming ethnic passions in order to ensure peaceful coexistence.
Siddiki who spoke to Fides while appraising his performances as the leader of Miyetti Allah, and while specifically addressing the issue of the migration of some northerners to east, said while the fears being expressed by Southeasterners about the possible infiltration of bad elements into the east from the north, however expressed worry about the way the issue was, according to him, being blown out of proportion.
‘Ordinarily I will not want to address this growing concern which I think is largely being blown of proportion by the media, but for my sincere thinking that Southeasterners should be the least of people to discourage people from migrating from their native communities to other places and states in search of greater meaning to their material lives. I say this in good conscience, knowing that people of the Southeast themselves enjoy the greatest spread in space and number across all the states in Nigeria at least.
‘I however share the sentiments and worries of people and governments who feel apprehensive over the infiltration of people suspected to be possible security threat. In this case, the authorities should promptly swing into action to investigate and apprehend the persons involved, whoever they may be.
‘I do not think it is fair for some people, particularly knowledgeable
people who are opinion leaders, to be quick in handing out blanket condemnation on other people. For instance, in an online publication, a national paper reported the Methodist Bishop of the Diocese of Onitsha, Rt. Rev. Biereonwu Onuegbu, as insisting that there were no greener pastures in the Southeast for Fulani herdsmen.
I sincerely consider this declaration improper, coming from a respected religious leader whose relatives and friends constitute a huge population of residents in other parts of the country in search of greener pastures.
‘And come to think of it, the statement was made in a very formal platform: the 18th Diocesan Synod at St. Andrew’s Methodist Cathedral, Onitsha. It could therefore pass for an official position of the Methodist Diocese on my people,’ Siddiki stated.
He said he had repeatedly explained and pleaded that herdsmen, particularly MACBAN members in the Southeast, for whom he spoke, were neither criminals nor terrorists.
He said that while those he described as felons at times hid under the pretext of other people’s identity to commit crime, it did not outrightly incriminate the ones impersonated.
‘There is no gain in willfully demonizing any group. Criminals could be found even in sacred places. I would wish to hear that the Rt. Reverend was misquoted on this subject,’ he said, even as he insisted that those involved in criminal activities anywhere in the country must be punished.
He said that as the Zonal Chairman of MACBAN, South East, his primary duty was to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his fellow
Fulani herdsmen plying their trade in the Southeast, and to educate his people on the need to avoid acts that might bring friction between them and the natives across the length and breadth of the zone.
‘I also liaise with governments and traditional authorities in the zone on terms that will enhance peaceful coexistence between herders and their landlords. Where misunderstanding arises between our people and the natives, it is also my responsibility to lead my people in seeking ways of restoring harmony and ensuring greater understanding amongst the people,’ Siddiki said, while expressing satisfaction that his leadership had limited friction between his people and their host communities.
expressing satisfaction that his leadership had limited friction between his people and their host communities.
He attributed this to what he termed the hospitable disposition of Southeasterners to strangers, noting that it was the reason the zone had recorded less incidences of sustained violent clash between our herdsmen and the natives than many other parts of Nigeria.
This is even as he praised the Southeast governments and other relevant authorities for creating a conducive environment for a peaceful coexistence.
On the coronavirus disease and his people’s response, he said it was an additional challenge to every leader worldwide, while recalling his efforts at enlightening his people in their distant locations and in nearby localities. He said none of his members had been diagnosed of the pandemic.
On the establishment of ranches across the country, he said he was open to any arrangement that would enhance his people’s yield and give them greater comfort, even as he however urged the government to put things in place to gradually change the orientation of majority of the herdsmen whose life of grazing in the fields was a long standing culture.