The National Coordinator of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) in Benue State, Garus Gololo, has slammed presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, as a divisive figure.
Atiku had recently cautioned Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari, his opponent at the polls next year, is incapable of addressing the wanton killings carried out by herdsmen in the country and should not win re-election.
Atiku said if Buhari wins the 2019 presidential election, the killings will continue and likely escalate into a series of ethno-religious crises.
In reaction, Gololo said Atiku's inciting comment is capable of dividing the country even before he's president. He said the former vice president has a questionable track record as a politician and is not a credible candidate for the 2019 presidential election.
He said, "We Fulani herdsmen are not killers and before Buhari came to power, there were crisis between farmers and herders in Benue, Tarawa, Nasarawa, Adamawa and some other states. I am disappointed in Atiku because he had already divided Nigeria even when he has not come to power.
"Buhari has nothing to do with herdsmen, he is a Nigerian and it is the people of Nigeria that voted him into power and l believe they will still vote him again in 2019.
"Nigerians should ask Atiku about the N68.8 billion proceeds from NEPA which he sold when he superintended over the privatisation process of the then NEPA.
"People should talk about the power plants or the money he raised from the sale of that public asset.
"As far as I am concerned, Atiku is not a credible candidate to contest the coming presidential election in Nigeria because he is so sentimental and if they vote him in as president, he would divide Nigeria the more."
Gololo said Fulani herdsmen are not killers and have nothing to do with President Buhari who has been widely-criticised over his handling of the killings because he's Fulani himself.
Herdsmen crisis in Nigeria
The struggle for economic resources like land and water between farmers and nomadic cattle herders, usually of the Fulani extraction but not exclusively, has led to a lot of bloodshed in the country in 2018.
Countless attacks have been attributed to herders after an escalation of simmering tension with local farming communities, tension that was worsened by the implementation of anti-open grazing laws in Benue and Taraba, two of the worst-hit states.
According to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index, nearly 1,700 violent deaths have been attributed to herdsmen in attacks carried out in 2018 alone.
"Nearly 1,700 violent deaths have been attributed to the Fulani Ethnic Militia from January to September 2018. An estimated 89% of those killed were civilians," the report read.
A recent report by Amnesty International noted that the Federal Government failed to prevent the killing of 3,641 Nigerians by herdsmen in the last three years of Buhari's administration.
In reaction to the report, Atiku had accused Buhari of putting Nigeria "on the verge of disintegration" by displaying gross incompetence and failing in his duty to protect the lives of Nigerians.
2019 presidential election
While next year's election, scheduled for February 16, 2019, is expected to be keenly-contested between Buhari and Atiku, they both face competition from other candidates including Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC).
Others are Tope Fasua of the Abundance Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party (NIP), Adesina Fagbenro-Byron of the Kowa Party (KP), Chike Ukaegbu of the Advanced Allied Party (AAP), Hamza Al-Mustapha of the People's Party of Nigeria (PPN), Obadiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and many more.
79 candidates will contest in the election, the highest number ever in Nigeria's electoral history.