The disturbing security situation in Nigeria appears to have turned two governors against each other as the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai and his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom have thrown caution to the wind, attacking each other over the security situation in the country.
Nasir El-Rufai fired the first salvo, ostensibly in support of President Muhammadu Buhari, when he claimed Governor Ortom only uses the insecurity in his state to attack the Buhari-led administration as a way to cover up for his own failure.
But an obviously agitated Ortom immediately fired back and came down heavily on his Kaduna State counterpart, accusing him of not only misleading President Buhari to gain favours, but also one of the real enemies of the country.
El-Rufai, who first hit at Ortom while responding to a video, which featured Ortom addressing protesters after some killings in Benue State, during a webinar organised by the Africa Leadership Group, claimed he no longer took his Benue colleague seriously.
“I did not hear what Governor Ortom said (in the video) but I know him and he is not somebody I take very seriously, frankly. He has other issues of governance that he is using the Federal Government as a punching bag to distract attention from his failures.
“Go and find out how many months’ salaries are being owed teachers and public servants in Benue State then you can understand a lot of what Ortom is doing,” he said.
El-Rufai, however, admitted that there was a fundamental problem with the capacity of the Armed Forces and the police.
His words: “We have a serious national problem. I wouldn’t say we are totally helpless but we are in a situation, where the Armed Forces and the Police have lost significant confidence in themselves and their institutions.”
He, therefore, said the security agents needed more weapons and that there was a need to increase the manpower of the agencies.
But, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Terver Akase, the Benue governor said El-Rufai was instead a failure in many respects, even as his state remained one of the most unsafe places to live in Nigeria.
According to him, El-Rufai had failed in several aspects as governor of Kaduna State and had no moral justification to accuse another governor.
The statement stated: “A governor, who has divided the good people of Kaduna against one another by not hiding his hatred for indigenes of the state on account of religion and ethnicity is not qualified to judge another governor on any issue whatsoever. A governor, who chose a Muslim deputy in a state, where Christians have a huge population is certainly not one to preach unity and peaceful co-existence.”
The statement noted that, El-Rufai’s attack on Ortom was merely a ploy to make him look good before the Presidency. “He has apparently fallen out of favour at the Villa and wants to use Governor Ortom as a launch pad back to reckoning,” that statement alleged.
It further questioned El-Rufai thus: “How has he handled his own problems in Kaduna? This is a man, who has insulted almost every prominent Nigerian, including the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a man who is his former boss and one who brought him to limelight.”
Berating El-Rufai for saying unprintable things during President Goodluck Jonathan’s era, Ortom said, “He insulted the then president and publicly supported terrorists attacking parts of the country. His statements on the abduction of Chibok girls and several other acts of terrorism are still fresh in our minds. El-Rufai is on record to have said repeatedly that Fulani people must retaliate any wrong done to them no matter how long it takes.
“Is Governor Ortom responsible for El-Rufai’s inability to ensure peace in Kaduna State, where bandits have taken over some communities while kidnappings and killings occur on daily basis?”
Ortom also disclosed that El-Rufai admitted to paying Fulani herdsmen whom he invited from other West African countries in the name of stopping attacks in Southern Kaduna, adding that since he made the confessional statement, attacks on the people of Southern Kaduna have escalated. The Benue State governor stated, “This is why he wants men of good conscience, like Governor Ortom, to be silent to pave way for the conquest and expansion agenda to succeed. Kidnapping has become a common crime in Kaduna State under Nasir el-Rufai.
“Aside the much celebrated cases, it has been estimated that at every given time, not less than 300 persons are abducted in Kaduna by kidnappers, who are always identified as el-Rufai’s kinsmen. He pays them billions to embolden them. He has turned the state into one of the most unsafe places to live in Nigeria today.
“Talking about taking someone seriously, if other Nigerians take El-Rufai seriously, we in Benue do not do same. A man, who has no regard for humanity does not deserve our attention. Nasir el-Rufai is a sycophant, ethnic champion and religious bigot, who hates anyone, who does not share the same faith with him. He is among the very few persons who have misled President Muhammadu Buhari.
“El-Rufai is one of the real enemies of this country, who do not hide their divisive tendencies by elevating nepotism and ethnicity above the good values that have held Nigeria together over the decades. Nasir el-Rufai doesn’t possess the credentials to counsel anyone on payment of salaries and the welfare of workers. This is a governor, who recently sacked 4,000 workers for no just cause. He ought to be ashamed of himself. What happened to the lofty promises he made to Kaduna people in 2015.”
Ortom warned el-Rufai that Benue State would not repeal the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, no matter the amount of blackmail, hatred and threats against the state.
“We advise the Kaduna State governor to focus on addressing the numerous problems he has created in his state and leave Governor Ortom to lead Benue in peace,” the statement said.
THISDAY checks confirmed that Governor Ortom is owing workers in his state several months salary arrears. However checks also revealed that farmers in the state face security challenges each time the venture out to their farms.