Few days ago, we watched and read in utter dismay over the print and electronic media, the nebulous press conference by the Honourable Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Duties, Senator George Akume, designed to mislead, misinform and cast unmitigated aspersions on not just the Executive Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, but the entire people of the State.
It is evidently malicious that the honourable minister, an indigene of the State, would start his first ministerial press briefing, not in addressing Nigerians on the achievements recorded by his ministry since his inauguration as the helmsman two years ago, but rather, unfortunately, by dissipating his energies into pummeling the good people of Benue who have entrusted him their mandate on two previous occasions.
The biggest problem bedevilling our great State for the past years is the incessant attacks on our peace loving and hardworking villagers by rampaging Fulani Herdsmen so well determined to invade, conquer and occupy the ancestral lands of the Benue people. This specie of Fulani herdsmen are not same with the Fulani’s that have lived amongst our people for ages without crises. Their carnage has left us with close to two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltered in about 6 camps across the 3 Senatorial districts in the State. It is puzzling that Senator Akume never found it worthy at any time to use his office to make a case for the IDPs, even when majority of the refugees are housed within the zone he represented thrice in the Senate.
We have found the entire 33 paragraphed press release very malignant and a clear case of trading the blood of his people to secure his bread.
The Forum of Principal Special Assistants of Benue State Governor, elects to briefly address some of the fallacies raised in it;
1) The Senator used the most uncouthed language to describe Governor Ortom who has constantly been given a vote of confidence by the Benue people, just to impress the Presidency in a bid to redeem a conference he is fast loosing as an APC local warlord. He has in his statement attempted to glorify the immaturity and pettiness often exhibited by Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu as a virtue to model after. Governor Ortom has always reserved the highest respect for the office of the President and the holder of the office, Mohammadu Buhari, while not shirking nor shifting grounds on his hallowed duty to the people of Benue State. This accounts for the numerous visits and letters from the Governor which have obviously fallen on deaf ears owing to the President’s obsession and fixative disposition over cattle routes and grazing reserves.
2) If there is any individual who has a notorious record for disrespecting President Mohammadu Buhari, that one person in Benue State is Senator George Akume. We cannot forget in a haste his decision to frustrate, on two occasions between 2003 and 2007, the aircraft of the then ‘candidate Buhari’ from landing at the Makurdi airport for his campaign tour of the State, and the unsavoury statements he has made on the character of the President.
3) Mr. Akume has attended several Benue stakeholders security meeting where issues of the frequent herdsmen attacks on our people were always on the front burner. Stakeholders have agreed on a number of occasions for the Governor to activate the State Volunteer Guard, a quasi security outfit which is a product of Law enacted by Akume himself in the year 2000 as the then Governor of Benue State. It is, therefore, treacherous to turn around to describe such a guard, together with the Benue State Livestock Guard, another creation of Law as, “Ortom’s militia.”
4) The Governor is known far and wide as a peaceful man who detests brigandage and thuggery. That’s why he has never been associated with any act of political thuggery, either directly or indirectly, throughout his 6 years in office. This is unlike Akume who championed such a malaise for the entire duration of his tenure in office. Brutal political killings led to the loss of hundreds of lives in Kwande, Katsina Ala and in his Local government, Tarka, Terror reigned for the 8 years of his tenure as governor through the use of his local militia called ‘strike Force’ which was fueled for the targeting and elimination of political enemies.
5) It is both insulting and a dance on the graves of innocent children, women, the aged and adult male who were massacred by marauding Fulani militia, for the minister to describe their death as a result of “altercations between our people and herders.” We believe even the President would be very shocked by this futile attempt to distort facts and to defend a people who have openly confessed to their crimes against the Benue people . The efforts by the Governor to be blunt by calling out the people carrying out this murder spree led the minister into describing it as an “ethnic profiling” just to be in the good books of the cabal in the Presidency in furtherance of his aspiration to be the National Chairman of the APC. It is only the unwise that seek to denigrate his own people for personal elevation.
6) The Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition & Ranches Establishment Law which was unfortunately tagged as “fraud” by the minister in that infamous press conference is the aggregate desire of the totality of Benue people. The validity of the Law was affirmed by the Judiciary when it was tested. Furthermore, Ortom has received overwhelming support by Nigerians in diaspora and the United nations and partners in by the endorsement of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law which is see as global best practice and standard for livestock rearing to ensuring peace and promotion of food security. The purpose of that law was to trigger peace, cooperation and unity between farmers in Benue and cattle grazers, most especially. Benue ought to have been applauded for finding a more perfect approach to peace, and not the sort of intense animosity our Governor and Government are facing from the federal government and her lieutenants like George Akume. Many of the States of the Federation, many of whom are APC controlled states, have already keyed into the ranching Law made famous by Benue as the best method of animal husbandry.
Akume has failed to be in touch with the reality of the political space; for while he was crucifying the governor for the enactment of the anti- open grazing law, some states of the south west where signing a similar bill into law. Ortom has not only assumed the position of a trailblazer in the circumstance, he has remained the Nostradamus of our political generation.
7) On the baseless allegations of misappropriation of funds accruing from federal allocations and other sources , it is important to state that Senator Akume who once steered the ship of Governance in the state is deliberately displaying ignorance on the running of government, especially as it concerns capital and recurrent obligations. These, Governor Ortom has discharged commendably in relation to the peculiar challenges that has challenged his concentration of which Senator Akume is one.
We are aware of the deteriorating political value of Senator Akume in Benue and Nigeria. He must not insult and defame the personality of our Governor for his profile to rise again. He should rather seek for forgiveness for his failed attempt to sell the State and her people for a pot of political porridge.
While the minister is still happily feeding fat and dancing on the decayed flesh of our dead brothers, sisters, wives , husbands, children and parents on his course to attainment of political relevance, we make bold to make the following demands:
i) That the minister offer an unreserved apology to the Governor, government and people of Benue State for his unguarded utterances, garnished wholly with the spice of defamation and indecency.
ii) That in the event where (i) fails, the President should remove Senator Akume as Minister and replace him with any of the numerously better qualified Benue sons and daughters in the APC who would be a veritable bridge between him and the government of Benue, in the quest for peace and promotion of our cherished value of unity.
iii) That the minister must visit the IDP camps to make peace with the refugees and seek for their forgiveness for his lack of empathy and maligning them, and conjuring falsehood on their plight as he seeks to match on their backs to his political advantage.
We as a forum, remain solidly behind the Governor in his policy on privatization of Benue’s moribund enterprises in the interest of profitability and best global practices.
We by this urge Governor Ortom to remain resolute, undaunted and courageous in his defense for truth and his sworn constitutional obligations to his people, a commitment that the federal government seem to have lost as bandits grow more in the atrocities to the extent of attacking the nation’s citadel of military excellence.
When a dry rib burns, it quenches at the nodd; Akume’s political nodd has been touched.
Forum of Principal Special Assistants to the Executive Governor of Benue State.