The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has called on the presidential aides to stop what it described as discriminatory response to terror attacks ravaging the region.
According to MBF, the gabble of a response signed by the presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, over the interview Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State granted Channels television was unfortunate.
“It is irrefutable that while the Benue State Governor came out speaking truth to those living in self-denial, we find it incompressible and strange on why Mr. Shehu refused to speak on issues raised by the governor but resorted to accusing Ortom of attempting to incite genocidal attacks against the Fulani.
“It is either the presidential spokesman is incapable of comprehending the content of the interview or he was simply being simply mischievous or both,” a statement issued by the MBF President, Bitrus Pogu said.
“The MBF wishes to state that the indelible footprints of Governor Ortom on our nation’s political sands speak of a patriot who is not afraid to speak when it matters the most. Watching the interview, Dr Ortom made no pretense over the real problems confronting Nigeria.
“True to his character, the Governor has never left anyone in doubt as to his position on national issues, especially on matters relating to matters of insecurity and the urgency required in tackling the myriad of tragedies ripping across Nigeria caused by killer herdsmen. Unlike some state chief executives that would prefer to remain silent in the face of existential threats, Governor Ortom has always identified with his people,” MBF said.
“The embarrassing silence and discriminatory disposition by the Federal Government over the intentional obliteration of our communities and massive massacre of our people must be brought to an end. The Buhari-led government must stop its discrimination in the manner it reacts to terror attacks on other groups and take swift actions against perpetrators. Governor is not an instigator of violence, but a patriot who can’t keep silent in the face of glaring multiple injustices and destruction of communities. He ought to be praised for what he stands for and not to be vilified by a biased presidential spokesman that is living in self-denial.
“In our democracy that is fraught with subdued silence for fear of higher political forces, Governor Ortom remains a symbol of hope for a nation whose democratic leaders have remained impotent in speaking out against unprovoked murders and premeditated decimation of communities in the country, especially in the Middle Belt Region.
“We reject in totality Mr. Shehu’s unfounded accusations that Ortom’s interview is capable of inciting genocidal attacks against the Fulani. With the record of being a friend to many Fulfulde-speaking people, Dr Ortom has never borne any form of hatred towards anyone on account of their ethnic and religious identity,” the statement added.
MBF said contrary to insinuations from certain quarters that are promoted by some ill-informed presidency officials like Shehu, added that the Governor is known to have employed Fulani to work in his ranch just as some of his best friends are Fulani, with their friendship spanning over decades.
“As the Governor rightly declared when he celebrated his birthday in April 2021, he has never hated any Fulani man who is in love with peace, but he has consistently opposed killer herdsmen that are mostly from foreign countries who destroy communities and turn the country into killing fields. When Mr. Shehu described Governor Ortom as an instigator of genocidal attacks; he was simply attempting to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
“The Forum is not unaware of plans to instigate an unmitigated crisis in Benue State with the sole intent of forcing the Federal Government to declare a State of Emergency on the State. We are totally opposed to such a planned move that is being orchestrated by some deceitful and wicked elements in order to throw Benue State into a state of unprecedented violence. The MBF hereby warns those behind the reprehensible plot to desist from carrying out such dastardly machinations as the Forum is fully identified with the patriotic zeal of Governor Ortom whose commendable strides have given hope to not only the state citizens but other Nigerians living in the darkest period of our country’s history.
“The Presidency must protect the rights of Nigerians to express divergent opinions as necessary ingredients for the deepening of our democracy. The planned review of grazing reserves and routes as directed by President Muhammadu is a violation of the Land Use Act that exclusively gives governors the right to hold lands in trust for state citizens,” the statement added.
For Governor Ortom whose political path has been symbolised as a metaphor for astuteness and deft political moves, he has emerged as the voice of the voiceless and one whose struggle is predicated on the enthronement of equity and justice for ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, especially in the Middle Belt Region.
As someone who is in his second and final term as Governor, the presidency needs to be reminded that Dr. Ortom remains a popular political leader in Benue State, and that it was that popularity that earned him a second term despite ploys by the All Progressive Congress (APC) to truncate his comeback bid in 2019. That he is still the Governor of Benue State today is a clear demonstration that he carries the flame of overwhelming acceptability that was freely given through the ballot by the electorate in Benue.
Against the backdrop of genuine and excellent performance of Governor Ortom in the last six years plus, the presidency must stop painting Dr Ortom in bad light in order to portray him as the problem. In a democracy like ours, the silence of Governor Ortom amounts to encouraging forces of evil that are committed to unleash devastating attacks on our people in the Middle Belt.
President Buhari must be told that his actions and inactions are the major instigators of genocidal killings. The government should rise and deal with demons of terror decimating our communities and unleashing coldblooded murders on our innocent citizens. President Buhari should recall his attack dogs from the trenches and halt the hate-filled propaganda targeted at Governor Ortom.