The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, have urged Nigerians to “defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands” over comments emanating from the now suspended Ruga settlement initiative.
The traditional ruler and the playwright stated their position during a state of the nation meeting which held at the latter’s home in Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Thursday.
Stating the resolutions of their meeting in a communiqué issued on Sunday, both personalities said the comments by the Coalition of Northern Groups threating to expel all southerners from Northern Nigeria over the non-implementation of the Ruga initiative is an infringement of the rights of Nigerians.
They noted that the group could not ask the Federal Government to force Nigerians to give up their land for the initiative, following the group’s 30-day ultimatum.
The communiqué read: “In this regard, the recent ultimatum delivered by a sectarian order to the President of this nation to set up the so-called Ruga cattle settlements across the entire nation within a stipulated time, despite the national outcry, should be acknowledged as an entitlement under the bounty of freedom of expression.
“In return, we exercise ours, and call upon Nigerian nationals across state demarcations to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands. This birthright has never been annulled, not even under colonial occupation.”
The Ooni and Soyinka called on the Federal Government to concentrate their efforts in resolving security issues, particularly the insurrection led by Boko Haram, instead of satisfying the desires of a group they described as acting “above the laws.”
They both warned that Nigeria might not be able to survive its forced co-habitation should a full-scale crisis emanate as a result of the threats.
“Among such issues of urgent import are the ongoing insurrectional movements that derive from religious fanaticism and intolerance, exemplified by Boko Haram and allied tendencies, as well as aspects of commercial enterprise, in which some groups consider themselves especially privileged, singular, and above the laws and entitlements that are binding on other sectors of commercial and industrial undertaking. We have in mind destructive forms of social transactions that characterise groups such as nomadic cattle herdsmen, and their umbrella groupings in the nature of Myetti Allah.
“We confess ourselves increasingly distressed and appalled, that the hitherto harmonious cohabitation, even routine collaboration, among the productive arms of society that Nigerians have taken for granted even from pre-colonial times, have deteriorated to unprecedented levels of barbarity, contempt for human lives and a defiant trampling on the civic entitlements of other productive sectors such as farmers, the providers of both food and cash crops. This abhorrent, yet consistent pattern of sectarian, and homicidal arrogance is obviously not merely counter-productive but inhuman, criminal and divisive”, the communiqué read.
Both personalities called on the Federal Government to take measures to preserve the distinct cultural identities of Nigerians and enhance the ideals of mutual co-existence.
The communiqué read: “We consider it a primary imperative of nation existence that the constitutive parts of the nation take steps to preserve and enhance their distinct cultural identities, including tested and relevant pre-colonial values, their spiritual apprehension of phenomena and worship, all without detriment to the principles and ideals of mutual co-existence.
“To this end, we undertake to create state-of-the-art ethnic museums for our people both at home and in the Diaspora, where present and future generations can access their histories and cultures vividly, as living expressions of their very humanity, not simply as relics of eras vanished for ever or irrelevant to the present.”