Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt Saturday as suspected herdsmen ambushed him on his farm in Tyomu community, less than 20 kilometers from the Benue State capital, Makurdi.
According to the Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Terver Akase, the herdsmen opened sporadic gunfire on the governor but that he narrowly escaped unhurt.
Ortom, while briefing journalists on his experience at the Benue Peoples House after the attack, disclosed that he had to run over 1.5 kilometers to escape the ambush.
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday condemned the attack on the governor, and while demanding the arrest as well as the prosecution of the perpetrators, claimed the attack was deliberate and intended to assassinate him.
Shedding more light on what happened and how, the Benue governor told journalists that he was inspecting his farm, when the militia herders, who dressed in black, ambushed him and his security men and opened fire.
He said it took the swift response of his security aides to repel the attack, while he ran for a long distance to escape unhurt.
The governor lamented that the attack came a few days after the leadership of Miyetti Allah, Kautal Hore held a meeting in Yola and singled him out as a thorn in their flesh, who must be eliminated, pointing out that he received intelligence to that effect.
Ortom said his life is in the hands of God and no Fulani militia has the power to take it without God’s permission, noting that as many times as they try, they would continue to fail.
He stated that the ranching law of the State would not be repealed for any reason, stressing that no intimidation could force his administration to reverse the decision of Benue people against open grazing.
The governor, however, said he would send a petition to the President and security chiefs against Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because allowing their leadership to walk freely with security personnel attached to them was not in the best interest of the country.
Meanwhile, the PDP, while condemning the attack called on President Buhari to put machinery in motion by ordering an immediate manhunt, arrest and prosecution of the assailants as well as beef up security around the governor.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP expressed shock that the assailants trailed Governor Ortom and opened fire on him and his aides along Makurdi/Gboko road, in an attack that by every indication was intended to assassinate the governor.
“Our party is worried that this brazen attempt at Governor Ortom’s life is coming on the heels of his outspokenness in exposing those allegedly behind the incessant attacks on communities in the state and demanding that the federal government lives up to its responsibility on the protection of life and property in the state,” the PDP asked.
The party also feared for the life of Ortom and urged Nigerians to hold the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration responsible over its failure to take a decisive step to check the escalated insecurity and brazen attacks on innocent Nigerians.
The PDP also called on Ortom not to be deterred by the attack but remain courageous and at alert, at all times while providing leadership to the people of his state.
In the same breath, the party called on the people of Benue State to be calm and vigilant while providing useful information to security agencies to flush out the bandits and other criminal elements from the state and other parts of the country.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi