The presidency has reacted to some recent utterances by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, where he accused President Muhammadu Buhari of making grazing routes a condition for peace. The presidency described the governor as an ethnic jingoist out to cause disunity among Nigerians. It also accused Ortom of being an ethnic irredentist, who had failed politically, having moved from one party to another for a record five times.
In a release issued Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the presidency said it was unfortunate that a fair-weather governor, who played up ethnicity and sectarianism to achieve his goals, governed Benue State.
According to the statement, Ortom stirred up hatred by targeting one single ethnic group in Nigeria – using language reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide.
The presidency said, “As was the case in Rwanda, where the then Hutu leaders of the country incited their countrymen against each other, claiming there was a ‘secret Tutsi agenda’ over the Hutu, Ortom claims there is a ‘secret Fulanisation agenda’ over other ethnic groups in his state and in Nigeria. This is a copy of the language of Hutu Power – which falsely, and intentionally, accused the Rwandan Tutsi of plans to dominate the country.
“This wicked talk is aimed at giving cover to his so-called ‘policy’ on the Ranches Establishment Law, which in reality is purely an act of denial of the law, intended to withhold rights and freedoms from one ethnic group alone, whilst inciting race hatred against them amongst all others.”
The statement also said, “Governor Samuel Ortom has few political principles. We can see this from the fact that he has changed political party five times during his undistinguished career. Every time he feels the wind may be blowing in a certain direction, he follows it.
“Unfortunately, for the good citizens of Benue State, the most dangerous direction he blows in today is that of sectarianism and ethnicity.
“In an attempt to boost his sinking political fortunes, Ortom takes the cheapest and lowest route possible by playing on ethnic themes – and in doing so knowingly causes deaths of innocent Nigerians by inciting farmers against herders, and Christians against Muslims.”
It also averred that Ortom was unbefitting to hold public office but took solace in the fact that 2023 was close-by for Benue people to vote right and restore the dignity of the state.
The statement continued, “These are not the actions of a man, who should be trusted with running public services or holding public office. For the governor of a major state in Nigeria to be politically driven by ethnic hatred is a stain on our country.
“The good, and fair-minded people of Benue State deserve more than this, and we look forward to the next elections, when they have an opportunity to restore its greatness.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja