- Guilty conscience at work, state govt replies
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi
The presidency yesterday in Abuja warned Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, to desist from what it described as his “nonsense” and “dubious” attacks on President Muhammadu Buhari and focus on the state’s challenges.
But in a swift reaction, Ortom stated that the guilty conscience arising from the failure of the presidency to forestall the attacks by Fulani herdsmen on the people of Benue State and their enormous deadly consequences that might have prompted the presidency to make the accusation.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, accused the governor of running campaigns of falsehood, division and hatred against the president.
He also said Ortom’s campaign was capable of diverting Benue people’s attention from his inability to pay salaries and pensions for several months.
Describing the campaign as unfair to Buhari whom he said allowed Ortom to implement his open grazing prohibition law, Shehu warned Ortom to henceforth stop the attacks on the president.
He also advised the people of Benue to ignore such attacks and instead, hold Ortom accountable for non-payment of salaries and pensions.
Shehu said, “It has been noted that the governor has been visiting churches in the state where he falsely tells congregations about President Buhari’s so-called plans to Islamise Benue State.
“This nonsense has formed the basis of his campaign, because he has nothing to offer Benue people.
“The allegations coming from Ortom were particularly unfair, when one considers how much support the governor received from the federal government, which supported his grazing laws as a means to end the farmer-herder crises that have plagued the state.
“If not for President Buhari’s insistence that the governor be given a chance to effect the law, he would have faced resistance from different sources and found it difficult to implement.
“While advising Ortom to immediately stop his dubious attacks on President Buhari, the federal government calls on the people of Benue State to not fall for Ortom’s deception and allow them to be hoodwinked by such a negative campaign.
“They should instead, ask him why he has refused to pay staff salaries and pensions for months, and what he did with the funding from the excess crude account, which should ideally have gone towards addressing such payments.”
Guilty Conscience Troubling Presidency
Meanwhile, Ortom has stated that the presidency was being troubled by guilty conscience arising from its failure to forestall attacks by herdsmen on the people of the state.
According to a statement last night by his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Mr. Tahav Agerzua, the governor said he had never ever stated anywhere that Buhari was planning to islamise the country or said what could be regarded as hate speech against him.
“He prays daily for the president; for God to grant him good health and wisdom; and commends him for upgrading Exercise Ayem Akpatuma to Operation Whirl Stroke, which has been able to reduce Fulani herdsmen attacks in Benue State to the barest minimum,” Agerzua said.
The statement recalled that Ortom was one of those who organised prayers and fasting for the president when he had protracted health challenges in 2017.
He said, “The governor has consistently quoted officials of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who addressed a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 stating that they would mobilize their kith and kin across the world to resist the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 enacted by the Benue State Government.
“They stated that the crisis in Benue State was a struggle for the natural resources of the Benue Valley. The governor, the State House of Assembly and various stakeholders wrote to the presidency and the relevant security agencies complaining that the position of the Fulani socio-cultural group amounted to declaration of war on Benue State and that the leaders of the group should be arrested and prosecuted. Nothing was done until the threat was carried out on New Year day, 2018.
“Benue State had to bury 73 victims of Fulani herdsmen attacks on Guma and Logo local government areas. On January 13, 2018, the Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM, met in Kano and issued a statement that what was happening in Benue State was a continuation of the 1804 Jihad when recalcitrant Benue indigenes stopped them in their quest to dip the Qur’an in the sea. They stated that they were currently equipped with weapons and political power to continue with the agenda. This was also reported to the presidency and the security agencies but nothing was done.
“It must have been the guilty conscience arising from the failure to forestall these attacks and their enormous deadly consequences that may have prompted the presidency to issue today’s mischievous statement. More so that in the aftermath of the attacks President Buhari did not offer any message of sympathy or condolence to the bereaved families and the people of the state.”