JOSHUA EGBODO examines how members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Reps and other stakeholders sternly condemned the sudden call for declaration of a state of emergency on Benue state by the Minister for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume
The former governor of Benue state, who claimed to be speaking for stakeholders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, described as alarming, the lonesome bitter and sustained campaign of calumny launched by the Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom, on the person and office of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ortom undoubtedly had remained one of the leading critics of the President over the handling of the security situation in Nigeria, especially the recorded clashes between herdsmen and local farmers in the state, for which he accused Buhari of doing little or nothing because of his personal bias and intent to protect his kinsmen; the Fulani herders.
Akume in a media briefing held in Abuja early last week however described Ortom’s criticisms against the President as “unwarranted and ill-motivated”.
He said the Benue APC stakeholders recognised Dr. Ortom’s right as a free citizen of Nigeria to air his views and promote them wherever he wants; but that they also expect him (Ortom) as an elected governor to be conscious that his public statements are weighty enough to be construed as the general opinion of the people of Benue state.
“We cannot, however, stand by and watch this brazen show of shame by the governor through infantile and irresponsible public statements on Mr. President and the possible destruction of the cordial relationship Benue state as a federating unit has always enjoyed with the centre.
“This press conference is therefore called to address three (3) key areas that have often characterised Governor Ortom’s regular outpourings in the social media, television networks and other media, this will include a review of his manner of approach, the true perspective of insecurity in Benue state, and most importantly, the true position of affairs in the state, kept away from public scrutiny”, he said.
Ortom’s approach condemned
Akume argued that Ortom’s manner of approach to President Buhari was devoid of simple decency and respect required of a younger person, both in age and official government hierarchy. “Democracy or no democracy, the hallmark of values in Africa and particularly in Nigeria is hinged on respect for age, and authority. Many other governors in Nigeria are affected by various cases of insecurity, but none has overused such uncouth, belligerent and provocative language to insult our president or cast aspersions on his government. We are ashamed to be identified as Benue state citizens, where its governor speaks in gutter language like a tout and has no respect to superior authorities. We train children to seek honour and imbibe egalitarian values in which the dignity of individuals, older or younger, is respected. We cannot tolerate such rude, irresponsible and uncivilised acts from the leadership of our state, hence we condemn it totally,
“It is most disturbing that President Muhammadu Buhari, (GCFR), has never publicly insulted or undermined the office and person of the governor of Benue state or any other state for that matter, talk less of joining issues with Governor Ortom’s postulation about his instant Armageddon of Nigeria. As far as we know, the president has delivered all his obligations to the governor and people of Benue state by ensuring regular and prompt releases of state’s and local government’s monthly federal allocations, all which amount to about Five Hundred Billion Naira (N500 billion) since Ortom’s assumption of office as Governor in 2015. Furthermore, President Buhari had released Forty Billion naira (N40 billion) to the Ortom administration as bailout funds to enable him pay outstanding salaries, pensions and allowances, as well as another Twenty-Eight Billion Naira (N28 billion) released to Governor Ortom as refunds from the Paris Club refund, just as also, the President graciously sent an extra Ten Billion (N10 billion) to the Benue state governor to enable him provide infrastructures for the people of Benue State.
“We hasten to say that all those monies have been mismanaged or out rightly diverted or misapplied by Governor Ortom and members of his government, as there is nothing on ground to show by way of infrastructural development or payment of salaries and allowances. But that is for another day”, Akume stated.
While the former governor made a lot of efforts at promoting the good deeds of his principal, President Buhari towards Benue state, he demanded accountability from the incumbent governor, Ortom, who he said was seemingly incompetent to lead the state. What shocked many however was the call for a state of emergency to be proclaimed on the state, though he was quick to place same on a supposed earlier call by Ortom himself.
“His ranting are irritating and smacks of tricks of a conman. It is crystal clear that the ultimate solution to the Benue insecurity would be, as Governor Ortom himself had earlier this year said that the President should declare a state of emergency in Benue State with approval of the National Assembly. Governor Ortom is clueless, his gangsterism and foul language to disparage decent people could further deteriorate the security situation in Benue State. We urge security agencies to immediately arrest all criminal elements Governor Ortom is using to perpetuate insecurity and bring normalcy to the troubled state”, Akume said.
Suswam’s wise counsel
While Akume’s reaction generated a lot of reactions, his successor in the governance of Benue state, Senator Gabriel Suswam appealed for peace amongst all citizens of the state. According to him, in the face of an existential threat, no sensible leader will allow his people to be murdered gruesomely. “Governor Samuel Ortom’s justifiable worries are therefore, borne out of genuine concern that many states in Nigeria have become unsecured due to the criminal activities of different terrorists groups which are determined to tear the fabrics of our national unity”, Suswam was quoted in a statement by his senior legislative aide, Moses Ukeyima.
Reps, Moro condemn call
In response to the call for emergency rule and other perceived vituperation contained in Akume’s statement against Ortom, Benue state members of the House of Representatives on the platform of the opposition PDP rose in unison last week to reject the call. The Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Aba Moro also condemned the call.
“I couldn’t imagine that Sen George Akume, an esteemed leader who once administered the affairs of our dear state, and should therefore be working hand in hand with the incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom, regardless of his political affiliation, and come up with better suggestions as to how the security situation in Benue can effectively be tackled, in the interest of our people, would rather be requesting the President to declare a state of emergency in Benue state. I don’t understand why any well-meaning Benue citizen would think that the best way to address the issue of insecurity in the state will be to declare an emergency rule”, Moro stated.
Expressing its displeasure with Akume also, the Benue PDP Caucus in the House during a press conference anchored by Hon. Mark Gbillah said it was “displeased with the improper language deployed by the Minister, in addressing His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ioraer Ortom, the Defender of the Benue Valley.
“The Caucus, calls on the Leader of the All Progressives Congress in Benue, and indeed all stakeholders behind his onslaught against the government and people of Benue State, to retract the CALL FOR EMERGENCY RULE in the state, for the interest of democracy and explore other means of resolving the nagging insecurity in the State.
“The Caucus calls on President Muhammadu Buhari, to embrace his conscience, rise up and end the bloodletting caused by his kith and kin in Benue state, now”, and that “Caucus calls on the former Governor of our state, Dr. George Akume, to retrace his steps and employ dialogue and amity with the Governor of the state, His Excellency, Dr. Samuel Ortom”.
Though the caucus denied any element of politicking in the entire saga, many observers were of the opinion that all may be more of political interests. Akume for instance said he was speaking on behalf of Benue APC stakeholders. The lawmakers that spoke in condemnation of his message were all of the opposition PDP extraction, including Senator Moro, leaving analysts in the belief that political party loyalty may have been of paramount consideration after all.