By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos and George Okoh in Makurdi
The Plateau State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Senator representing Plateau North zone in the National Assembly, Jonah David Jang have chided Governor Simon Bako Lalong of the state over an interview in Abuja on Thursday, in which he claimed to have warned Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State against open grazing prohibition bill.
This is as Governor Samuel Ortom has said that attacks on farmers by herdsmen was a national challenge that required the cooperation of all Nigerians to surmount. He spoke in Makurdi at the weekend when he received a delegation from the Arewa Consultative Forum led by the Chairman, Senator John Shagaya at the Benue Peoples House.
They Plateau State chapter of the PDP urged Lalong to apologise to Ortom and Benue people over the verbal attack.
But in a swift reaction, Plateau Regeneration Group (PRG), led by Mr. Chol Badung Chuhwak said the reactions to Lalong’s comment was only a storm in a tea cup, adding the Governor was quoted out of context.
In two separate statements, PDP and Jang described Lalong’s statement on a day that over 70 victims of herdsmen attacks were being buried as mindless and senseless.
In its statement signed by its publicity secretary, Mr. John Akans, the PDP said, “Rather than proceed to Benue State on his return from vacation abroad to commiserate with our brothers and sisters following the massacre of innocent lives and the rendering of thousands homeless, he chose to embark on a misadventure of trying to woo Mr. President to visit Plateau state to endorse his second term bid. As if he has gone mad, he chose to berate Governor Samuel Ortom on a day when those killed by the Fulani herdsmen were being given a mass burial, bragging that he advised him not to implement the anti-open grazing law.
“Secondly, to impress his ‘oga at the top’ and State House press, he said he restored peace in the state within three months of his coming to office, dismissing the recent killings that took place in the last three months in Barkin Ladi, Ryom and Bassa local government areas in which over 50 persons were killed.”
PDP also said Lalong lied by saying that the people Plateau had embraced the ranching policy of the federal government. “If indeed, the policy was embraced, Governor Lalong has failed to mention where the ranches are located in the state. He has also failed to mention which law put the ranching policy in the state in place. It is on record that when he toyed with the idea of ranching on the Plateau, all the critical stakeholders and segments of society roundly condemned same, insisting that land belong to individuals and traditional communities and could not be forcefully taken away from them.
“The cheap outpouring at the presidential villa have clearly exposed Lalong as one who has no interest in delivering democracy dividend. Rather he is simply in pursuit of his selfish political interests. As a lawyer,we expect him to know that land is owned by families and traditional communities, and that there are intricate processes before acquisition, and so should have taken time to consult widely before rushing to chief ogbe’ s office.”
Jang, in his press statement signed by his media consultant, Mr. Clinton Garuba, said, “At a time when the mood of the nation, nay, the states that have continued to suffer decapitation in the hands of marauding killer herdsmen should be sober. It is unfortunate that someone of Governor Lalong’s standing will utter words that will be an insult on the sensitivity of the people, especially of Benue State.
“This is unfortunate not only coming from the Governor but on a day when the government and people of Benue State held a mass burial for hapless women and children who were murdered on the first day of the year, ordinarily a day of jubilation.
“While the people of Benue were at the funeral of their lost brethren, Lalong, in his usual manner was playing to the gallery in Abuja with a view to scurrying cheap political points and portray himself as an insider of the Buhari administration.
“At times when one lacks what to say or would say what is irrelevant, especially in calming frayed nerves, silence become golden. When people who trot around as leaders cannot conduct themselves in that manner, it is only a pointer to the fact that they were never prepared at all for leadership.
Thankfully, the days and months ahead leads us to another electioneering period and with the wisdom Nigerians now have, having suffered all kinds of hardship including escalating insecurity occasioned by herdsmen, it is only a matter of time before the right people will be put in the right places of authority.”
But Chuhwak said, “what Gov Simon Lalong actually meant in the interview was that implementing a policy like ban on open grazing without alternative measures would be counter productive.
“For example, if you ban traders from trading on the streets let’s take for instance the street of Terminus in Jos, as a responsible government you must have provided an alternative market for them to move to, because if not, no matter how you chase them from the streets, they would still come back due to lack of where to go and that has a tendency of creating conflicts between them and the security saddled with the enforcement of the ban.
“As a group we berate those who have taken to the social media to make negative statements and draw political points out of the unfortunate situation in Benue, while the pains in the grieving hearts of the victims where still fresh.
“We want to assure the people of Plateau State and indeed all Nigerians, that dialogue around all the options for peaceful coexistence amongst all citizens, remain the best solution to any situation that is a threat to peace in the country.”
Ortom prayed that other states might not experience a situation where more than 73 people lost their lives to the herdsmen attacks at the beginning of the year alone.
According to him several states including Zamfara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Plateau, Ebonyi, Ogun, Abia, and Niger had suffered attacks which indicates that the problem transcended individual states.
He stated that the photograph he saw of President Muhammadu Buhari at his ranch in Daura recently had given Nigerians the direction that ranching was the way to go in animal husbandry, noting that as a disciplined person, the President knew what was good for the country.
Governor Ortom said he had forgiven all those whose actions and words had caused pains to people of the state including his Plateau State Counterpart, Simon Lalong, who was quoted to have made some uncomplimentary comments about the Benue killings.
He expressed appreciation to President for making frantic efforts to end the attacks including the relocation of the Inspector General of Police to the State and directing the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to provide relieve materials for distribution to affected communities.
The Governor reiterated his position that he had withdrawn from political activities to concentrate on finding a solution to the crisis and advised those politicising the issue to desist forthwith as it would rather aggravate the situation.