By JACOB KUBEKA
Former Vice President and chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has denied claims that he is the chief financial of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MMACBAN), the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen in the country.
“Let it be known that though Waziri Adamawa is a Fulani, he is not a member of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria nor has he ever been a member,” Atiku’s Media Adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, declared in a statement on Friday.
He was reacting to a statement credited to second republic Minister of Power & Steel Development, Chief Paul Unongo, alleging Atiku Abubakar was the chief financier and most influential member of the group.
Unongo, who is the Chairman, Northern Elders Forum (NEF) was quoted o have made the allegation in an interview with the Punch, in which he also called on the former Vice President to caution the herdsmen, who have been slaughtering hundreds of people in the country.
“The most powerful person who finances the Miyetti Allah is Abubakar atiku and he is a prince of the Tiv court. The Tiv gave him a traditional title, meaning, ‘the biggest shade of the Tiv People,” Unongo was quoted to have said in the interview, granted in the wake on the massacre of over 50 defenceless farmers in Benue State by aremed Fulani herdsmen.
But the Atiku Media Office, in its statement, insisted, ”Yes, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is a Fulani and proud to be one and has never hidden that fact. However, the Waziri is a thoroughly detribalized Nigerian that would never favour one ethnic group over another.”
The rest of the statement reads:
“It is very disheartening that in this period of intense grief in Benue State, Chief Paul Unongo would choose to level these desperately sad and false allegations on the person of Atiku Abubakar whom he erroneously described as the chief financier.
Last year during the massive flood in Benue State which affected over 100,000 families, Waziri Atiku Abubakar, who holds the Tiv traditional title of Zege Mule U Tiv, donated cash to the Benue State Government for the care of the victims.
This is fitting for a man whose Tiv traditional title means ‘the biggest shade of the Tiv people’.
It is strange that Chief Paul Unongo chose to neglect that act of love and care from the Waziri Adamawa to the people of Benue. Not only did the Zege Mule U Tiv make a financial donation, he also called on the Federal Government to do more to assist the flood ravaged communities.
Let it be known that though Waziri Adamawa is a Fulani, he is not a member of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria nor has he ever been a member. He has also never discussed about that group with Chief Paul Unongo.
Furthermore, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar enjoins that a thorough investigation be made into the killings in Benue, and that anyone found culpable be made to bear the full weight of the law.
Having said that, it has not escaped our notice that Chief Paul Unongo is the Chairman, Governing Board of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), a position he was appointed to in April of last year.
Understandably, Chief Unongo would be very grateful to those who gave him such a position and may feel it is his duty to attack and sully those in their bad books.
If that is the case, it would be a very sad day when a supposed elder chooses to make mileage of the sufferings of the people of Benue State who have had to endure the impunity of these killings for far too long.
Waziri Atiku Abubakar prays for the souls of the departed and as a traditional title holder of Tiv land he assures the entire people of Benue (including the Idoma and Igede) that he would do everything in his power to bring justice, relief and compensation their way, so help him God.”