By Ogochukwu Isioma
The Benue State Governor, Mr Samuel Ortom has accused the APC-led federal government of complicity in the killings in Benue State, saying the alleged mass murder by Fulani herdsmen has the full endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ortom stated this on Thursday through his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, while reacting to an earlier statement by the President issued through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu.
President Buhari had in the statement on Wednesday, in Abuja, accused Governor Ortom of frustrating all peaceful efforts made by his administration towards solving the security situation in Benue State.
He said instead of embracing the Federal Government’s efforts to tackle insecurity in Benue, the governor was busy ignoring intelligence reports and politicising everything.
The President also mockingly said Governor Ortom failed to win his February 25, 2023 National Assembly election to go to the Senate over his alleged abysmal failure in office as governor for eight years.
According to Buhari, the people of Benue would heave a great sigh of relief when Ortom finally leaves office on May 29 and usher in a more responsible governor, claiming that the Benue people have rejected Ortom.
Reacting, Ortom’s aide said the presidency’s statement was the height of recklessness and gross insensitivity against Benue people, saying Ortom had given full cooperation to all layers of security agencies working in the state to help curtail the killings by Fulani herdsmen.
He accused the president of empowering and emboldening the Fulani pastoralists in their “expansionist agenda including killings”, saying Buhari has failed woefully in securing Nigeria, and Benue state in particular.
According to him, the presidency, going by its recent comments, has shown that the Buhari-led government has placed cows above human lives and made animals urinate on graves of those massacred in Benue.
Commenting on the mockery by the presidency over Ortom’s failed senatorial bid, the governor’s aide accused President Buhari of supervising massive deployment of security personnel to the state to rig the elections.
Read the full statement below;
Re: President Buhari’s Benue record speaks for itself, let the people of Benue speak for themselves too
Shehu Garba’s infantile statement on the security situation in Benue State has once again confirmed our position that the killings; mass murder in Benue by the Fulani militia has the full endorsement of the Buhari government. It also goes to confirm that the Presidential spokesman does not only speak for Buhari but for some terrorist Fulani groups too.
Indeed, the Presidential spokesman’s futile attempts to twist events and history in Benue State is unfortunate and reprehensible. It shows how much he and others in that league have misled the government and Nigerian people in the last inglorious eight years.
It is common knowledge that as the Commander-in-Chief, Buhari has empowered and emboldened the Fulani pastoralists in their expansionist agenda including killings. It is equally a known fact that President Buhari has failed woefully in securing Nigeria, and Benue state in particular.
It is on record that Governor Samuel Ortom has repeatedly pleaded with the Buhari government to intervene in the incessant invasion of Benue State by Fulani militias. The President sadly chooses to endorse the invasion and merely asks our people to learn to accommodate their neighbours who derive pleasure in killing and dispossesing them of their ancestral lands.
What the Buhari administration has done to our people through the Fulani militants as confirmed by Shehu Garba is to spit on the graves of our compatriots mowed down needlessly by Fulani militia. We shall not forget these atrocities.
Besides unleashing Fulani killers on our people, the Buhari government denied Benue State any meaningful project in the last eight years, including the repair of federal government roads in the state which are now death traps. We have tried in vain to find out the offense of Benue people, but we found none, except that our people are responsible, law abiding citizens.
For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Samuel Ortom was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 to defend the interest of the people of Benue and never to be a lackey in the hands of expansionists using every means to perpetrate evil against the Benue citizens.
By Garba Shehu’s latest statement, the presidency has clearly demonstrated that Governor Ortom is right when he consistently accused the APC-led federal government of complicity in the killings orchestrated against Benue people by the Fulani herdsmen as represented by Miyetti Allah Kautal, Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM and other Fulani socio cultural groups.
If the Presidency can find it convenient to lay the blame of the massive killings that the Fulani have continued to perpetrate in Benue on Governor Ortom, what can it say of the massacre and kidnappings in Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto and President Buhari’s home state of Katsina among other states where the killing of innocent citizens has continued unchallenged?
The Presidency has shown in this recent public statement that they have placed cows above human lives and made the animals to urinate on the graves of those they massacred in Benue and elsewhere across the country. If not, they wouldn’t have gone to town to mock the slain in their graves.
It is an insult on Benue people including those killed and butchered children, the maimed, raped and abused women and the over two million people living under squalid conditions in Nigeria’s largest Internally Displaced Camps in the state.
The Presidency’s statement is a reckless stab by agents of genocide against the Benue people by blaming the victims.
Let Garba Shehu and occupants of the current Presidential Villa be informed that the ongoing pogrom in Benue State is a designed plot by the Fulani against the Benue people to disposses them of their lands and these atrocities are well documented. The perpetrators are also well known to local and international authorities. By this recent posturing, everyone is now aware that the perpetrators have the backing and sympathy of the Federal Government.
The Presidency’s attempt to mock Governor Ortom over the loss of his senatorial seat and the PDP in the Governorship has furthermore strengthened our belief that the massive deployment of security personnel for the elections in the state was planned and hatched in the presidential villa and supervised by agents of the APC.
But let the Presidential spokesman remember that Governor Ortom is extremely grateful to the people of the State for always giving him the opportunity to serve them. As he has often quoted Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” The Governor stands for justice, equity and fairness and no amount of blackmail and impunity as orchestrated by the Buhari administration can make him to change his advocacy against injustice and oppression.
In fact, before the elections, Governor Ortom had publicly stated that he was ready to sacrifice his senatorial ambition for the sake of the survival of democracy where the likes of Garba Shehu and their collaborators would rather want it truncated. It is public knowledge that the 2023 elections were heavily rigged using some security operatives, money, federal might and electronic means. Governor Ortom’s decision not to challenge the result of the Benue North West Senatorial election in court again points to the fact that he is not a selfish and desperate politician.
Benue people are well aware that Governor Ortom has been a target of the Buhari presidency since 2017 when he boldly signed a law banning open grazing of livestock in the state. The Governor has been subjected to many coordinated media attacks, probes, freezing of state accounts and other punitive measures to frustrate and cripple his administration. While other states were given infrastructural loans, Benue under Governor Ortom was denied access to the funds. The same thing happened when the Benue State Government met all requirements to secure N42 billion to clear the backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuity.
In a nutshell, the presidency’s statement is the height of recklessness and gross insensitivity against the people of Benue. It is on record that Governor Ortom has given full cooperation to all layers of security agencies working in the state to help curtail the menace of the Fulani killing squad displacing various communities in the state and other internal security skirmishes.
Between 2015 and this year, Governor Ortom has constantly held security meetings and gathered intelligence to support security agencies operating in the state. He has however consistently pointed out that the security agencies are grossly underfunded and deserve to be better equipped and motivated to tackle insecurity in the country.
It is therefore laughable when Shehu ignorantly tries to whip up an unfounded lie against the Governor.
Governor Ortom is performing his duty as Governor of Benue State and will continue to do so until May 29, 2023 when he leaves office. We expect the outgoing President to also do what he was voted to do for Nigerians.
Lastly, we are tempted to conclude that President Buhari was not aware of Garba Shehu’s statement, because if the President were aware, he would not have permitted his media aide to release a statement that rather indicts him as Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces for abdicating his constitutional duty of providing security to Benue State and other parts of the country, admitting failure and opting to blame a state Governor.
Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor