A former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has stated that although he is Fulani by tribe, he was not a member of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, nor is the greatest financial of the apex socio-cultural group of Fulani herdsmen in the country.
He made this assertion on Friday in reaction to a claim by the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Paul Unongo, that “The most powerful person who finances the Miyetti Allah is Abubakar Atiku”.
Speaking with a national daily on heels of herdsmen attack on a Benue community that left about 20 persons dead, Unongo said the former Vice President personally told him that he was an influential member of the association, who has more cattle than anybody in Miyetti Allah.
He described the organisation as “an establishment of the big people, a very rich group of Nigerians and they pack small boys to take their cattle all over the place and then buy all these arms to give herdsmen to go and kill people, and the government is doing nothing!”
But denying this claim in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, in Abuja, Atiku said it was wrong to describe him as the chief financier of the Miyetti Allah, stating that Unongo is merely trying to please those who appointed him Chairman of the Governing Board of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council.
While praying for the souls of those killed in the attack, the former Vice President called for a thorough investigation into the killings in Benue, stressing that anyone found culpable should be made to bear the full weight of the law.
He said, “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 against Atiku Abubakar, whom he erroneously described as the chief financier of MACBAN.
“Yes, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is a Fulani and is proud to be one as he has never hidden that fact. However, the Waziri is a thoroughly detribalized Nigerian who would never favour one ethnic group over another.
“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 befitting 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 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, 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.”