The Middle Belt Forum and its delusional lies on the Adara crisis

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Dr. Bitrus Pogu wears two caps – he is the National Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), one of the many organisations masquerading as champions of the rights of persecuted minorities and that of the Chibok Association, twin leadership positions that have given him unlimited access to the media, which he obviously enjoys, but clearly without the accompanying responsibility. Pogu is undoubtedly a controversial figure because he lacks respect for truth and consensus. Despite his “defender of my people” pretentiousness he is not a democrat, which might explain in part why the people of Borno South Senatorial District rejected him in his bid to represent them in the Senate. They saw through his irredentist agenda which would clearly not advance their cause, who rather would sow division.

In the build up to the 2019 general elections without consultation Bitrus Pogu had announced with magisterial authority the Middle Belt Forum endorsement of Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was swiftly debunked by Gowon Egbunu, the spokesman of the body. Egbunu said, “I watched and listened with regret, one Dr. Bitrus Pogu, the Chairman of Chibok community in Abuja, on Channels Television a while ago, claiming to be speaking for the Middle Belt Forum.There was no time when we came together as a people to endorse Atiku Abubakar as our candidate in the forthcoming elections. Atiku Abubakar is not our candidate and will never be.” The implication of such a sharp rebuke by the members of his association confirms Bitrus Pogu as untrustworthy, dubious and fraudulent with facts.

If only most Nigerian media outlets make that extra effort to fact check the likes of Bitrus Pogu, who due to their notoriety and speciality as cruel murderers of facts should never be trusted as reliable and factual community leaders or public affairs commentators, this rejoinder wouldn’t have been necessary. On Sunday, March 7, 2019, Pogu in a press conference engaged in his favourite pastime of lying and like they say, a single lie is enough to create serious doubt in even the truth. So when Pogu told not one but several lies, the consequence is to treat with extreme caution whatever tale he spins on any issue.

The first white lie by Pogu was that Dr. Maiwada Galadima, the Agom of Adara, was abducted and murdered while returning from a meeting with the governor of Kaduna state over the new nomenclature for emirs and chiefs of Kaduna state. The truth which the Adara Community, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), the Middle Belt Forum have made serious effort to bury are; that there was never any meeting between Governor Nasir el-Rufai and the late monarch. And the reason these bodies have made strident effort to bury the truth is because it furthers their agenda of the demonization of Nasir el-Rufai. The truth and nothing but the truth was that the Agwom Adara was kidnapped on the October 19, 2018 on his way back from Kaduna where he had attended the send forth ceremony of Rehab Amos Galadima, his niece. The pre-wedding event which he presided over as father of the bride held at the Nazareth Baptist Church, Ungwan Boro. The wedding proper between Rehab and her heartthrob Luka Zarmai was scheduled for October 27, 2018 at the Assemblies of God Church, Narayi in Kaduna which the unfortunate incident forced a postponement. This is the incontrovertible fact and these bodies are challenged to prove it wrong.

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The other white lies which scream to the high heavens to be refuted are; that there was a feud between the governor and the late monarch due to the insistence of the governor to “have his way against the popular wish of the people”. And that he was kidnapped after a security meeting on the issue. The truth is that there was a meeting of the Council of Chiefs on October 23, 2018, days after the monarch had been kidnapped. It beats the imagination how both men would have held a meeting? If such a meeting ever held, it is in the mischievous imagination of the paddlers of this fake news, who are determined to paint Nasir el-Rufai black. In the nature of the relationship between a governor and any traditional ruler, which essentially is that between a master and a servant the tales of a feud between both men would never take place, and there is absolutely no need reacting to hallucinations that it took place. The fact remains that traditional rulers are employees of government and can be queried and if need be removed from office, so only a foolhardy ruler will foolishly take on a governor. Many traditional rulers have been dethroned in many states. An illustrious son of Southern Kaduna, Col. Yohana Madakai, once dethroned an emir. The late monarch, being a gentleman and an accomplished public servant, wouldn’t have attempted what the Middle Belt Forum has wickedly and maliciously attributed to him. The Middle Belt Forum does the memory of this man of peace grave injustice for clearly political objectives.

Another white lie which can best be described as the mother of all the lies peddled by Pogu and his co-travelers at that unfortunate Sunday press conference , is that the Kaduna state government and federal authorities arrested innocent Adara leaders in “aberration to natural justice and fairness”. The question is how innocent are the so-called Adara leaders who in actions and deeds have shown that they subscribe to an Adara agenda of ethnic cleansing, which in the first place led to the reprisals by the Fulani, who are known not to forget or forgive. The earlier the message sinks in that nobody has the monopoly of killing, the better it will be for peaceful coexistence. What kind of leaders will allow lies that not only injure the reputation of people, that has led to killings and increased mistrust to fester when simply stating the truth would have helped calm the tension and averted the killings? The fact which the Middle Belt Forum has refused to disclose is that the security agencies in the course of their investigations were convinced the detained Adara leaders have serious questions to answer. The police have appropriately charged them before a competent law court where they can prove their innocence.

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Truth has no agenda. And experience has shown that the truth always prevails in the end, no matter how hard anyone or the Middle Belt Forum tries to hide it. Lies are temporary delay of the inevitable and truth is the ultimate power. The Middle Belt Forum claims that there are “over 15,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs)” who are being “provided for by good spirited individuals, church and community based organisations.” First, the number has been jazzed up to create more sympathy and to further the narrative of genocide, because the figures from the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) is nowhere close to the figure the Middle Belt Forum is bandying. Second, the high figure is to attract “donor funds” in the name of “their people”. Their hatred for Nasir el – Rufai is legendary so it would always be a problem for them to acknowledge his efforts in ameliorating the suffering of the people who are victims of the politics of their elite. Thankfully, Nasir el-Rufai is not the kind of governor that needs applause when he performs his constitutional duty, the fact remains that the state and the local governments have lived up to their expected duty.

Northern Christian minorities have created the impression that they are under siege. Hear them: “The desire to alter the demographic composition of Southern Kaduna and other areas of the Middle Belt for the purpose of taking over land belonging to natives is the reason for the attacks.” Without conceding this as the motive or the reason for the attacks, but assuming the position of the Middle Belt Forum is true, can this same reason explain the crisis in Birnin Gwari axis which in terms of intensity and scale is worse than that of the Southern Kaduna area? For the Middle Belt Forum Muslims on Muslims violence is fine. It’s a shame that we have lost our common humanity on the alter of dirty politics. Unless questions are asked as to what have led to the cycles of killings in communities that have historically lived peacefully? And why has the same security challenge facing the Birnin Gwari axis not assumed religious or tribal dimensions like it has in Southern Kaduna? It is obvious that unless the minorities drop their ethnic cleansing agenda the crisis that have engulfed the region will continue unabated. And they must listen to the governor, who has consistently stated that killings and reprisal killings have not worked, and would never work.

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The low point of the Middle Belt Forum conference is its continued insistence in spite of overwhelming evidence that no Fulani was killed. Hear Bitrus Pogu: “We want the federal government to set up a commission of Inquiry to probe the alleged killings of Fulani as alleged by el-Rufai in order to show proof of killings.” The question is, who killed the Fulani or did the Fulani kill themselves to enable them attack the Adara people? If this was what the Middle Belt Forum alleges happened, it doesn’t make sense, especially as the Fulani are not known to be trigger happy.

It’s become fashionable for the Middle Belt Forum and the other community development associations, whose agenda seems limited to be precipitating and managing crisis, to lie about every crisis. Issues of peace building, education and economic empowerment for its teeming youths are not part of its objectives, because if these youths, who in a sense can be referred to as their standing army, are gainfully engaged they will no longer have cannon fodders to advance their political career. The Middle Belt Forum, the Adara Development Association have a duty to help advance peaceful coexistence. The call on the people of Middle Belt communities to defend themselves and for the state government to train vigilante is highly irresponsible. It should be obvious to the Middle Belt Forum that what they are proposing will only make a bad situation worse. A word is enough for the wise.

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