By Yinka Odumakin
IF the revelations of Mr. Samuel Ortom,Governor of Benue State, when the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Security visited the latest killing field of Fulani herdsmen are true, then the current leadership in Nigeria has become a short-hand for systematic cruelty and horror on an enormous scale.
After reading the frank submission of Ortom, it was Ibrahim Bakayoko in God’s Bits of Wood a 1960 novel by the Senegalese author Ousmane Sembène that concerns a railroad strike in colonial Senegal of the 1940s that raced to my mind. As the strike crippled the system, the colonial authorities enlisted organised religion to persuade the strikers to call off. But Bakayoko deflated all their platitudes by asking the religious leaders if they had forgotten that hungry folks would most likely forget the roads that lead to Churches and Mosques .The authorian intrusion explained the source of the fiery of Bakayoko as “the cold fireplace in an empty kitchen”.
For Ortom, the mass graves, the blood on the streets and the tears that never dry must have been it as he was creating worry to not a few people when all this started.He drew a lot of flak last October when he went to the Villa to report the Miyetti Allah to the President .
As he stepped out of the villa he told reporters his mission :
“I have come to brief the President on the security situation in my state, about the threat by Miyetti Allah members that have even taken us to court; threat that they will make the Anti-Open Grazing Act impossible for the people of Benue State. I also intimated him on the general security situation in the state.
Those who want to stay in Benue State and do cattle business must ranch their cattles, this is what we are saying.
As far as we are concerned the law is not targeted at any individual, group of people or ethnic group. It is meant to protect everyone who is living in Benue State.
“Miyetti Allah has taken us to court and we are there with them. But I don’t see how they will come and overrun Benue and make it ungovernable, it is not going to be accepted.”
He did not wait to see what action would be taken on his complaint before he started campaigning for the re-election of the President in the same breath saying there was no other credible candidate for the 2019 presidential election that had the capacity to move Nigeria forward apart from President Muhammadu .
“Now we see him bouncing every day to the glory of God. We appreciate this and we look forward that God will help him to take us through 2015 to 2019 and then 2019 to 2023,” he said, adding, “for now, there is no credible candidate as far as I know that has the capacity to take Nigeria out of where we are today “.
From then until the latest mass murder of his people, it was as if he was going to take over Rotimi Amaechi’s job as campaign Director General .But all that did not impress the butchers as they carried out the cruel killings of his people. A stunned Ortom realised belatedly that expansionists and terror merchants are not interested in your party card and he declared :
“Henceforth, I have withdrawn from any political activity for now, till peace returns to Benue State. No one should think of 2019 for now; the year will take care of itself. I was elected to lead the living, not the dead. I’m not afraid of death.
“I would rather die defending my people. This is beyond politics, I have called all former governors of Benue, David Mark and party leaders, even in the opposition. Let us chase the fox before we scout for the chicken.”
Free from party encumbrances,he had the testicular fortitude to say it as it is when he met the Senate Committee. Ortom said, “We wrote to the vice-president on the planned attacks on parts of Benue by Fulani herdsmen, because the threat was everywhere on the streets, but he refused to reply.
“However, when Mr. President returned from the United Kingdom, I intimated him through a letter. The documents are here.
“I wrote to him on the planned attack by Fulani herdsmen because the threats were on the streets.
“On October 7, 2017, I wrote to the Inspector-General of Police; I told him of a planned attack on our people when there was no response (from the Presidency).
“On October 27, 2017, I reminded him that these people were planning to attack us, that we are law-abiding, we have disarmed our youths and we are looking unto security agencies, and that the way to do it was to arrest those people who were inciting the herdsmen to combat us, and we knew they were going to come.”
He added, “I also wrote to the Senate President (Bukola Saraki), and the Speaker (House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara) on October 7. I also wrote to the National Security Adviser and the Director-General of the Department of State Services to intimate them on the planned attacks. When there was no action, I followed it up with a reminder on October 27, 2017.
“There was no response from any of them. In fact, the National Security Adviser invited us to a meeting two times but it was put off.
“This is very sad. I know those people who are responsible for the killings. I accused them and I have evidences against them.
“If I had bought guns and gave to my people, would they have been killed in the manner they were killed? I disarmed my people. I’ve not bought a single gun, I’m a Christian. If I bought, I would say so.”
If we were not in some “sh..hole”,these allegations are enough for a government to step up all its leaders are being accused of being accessories before the fact of murder!?”
Ortom also had some words for the pathetic figure who is governor in Plateau state who claimed he warned him not to promulgate anti-open grazing law. “How can he warn me? Am I the Governor of Plateau State or am I his member of staff? Do I work for him? I’m Governor of Benue State, and my responsibility is to do what my people want. That is what democracy is.”
Ortom has stood firm at the descent of barbarism in our land and he should be commended for standing as a man in a season where killers have taken over the land. All lovers of freedom should stand with him and all the people who are at the receiving end of savagery in these days of evil unhinged in our land knowing well that this too shall pass.
We have to stand firm to defend the sanctity of human life in our land. We must stand up to the killers in our midst with the slogan used during the Battle of Verdun in the First World War by French General Robert Nivelle: No pasaran (They shall not pass).?
Re: Adunni Oluwole warned against this independence
I READ your articles all the time and I want to appreciate you for your stand for the good of the country and for speaking the truth. I pray the LORD protect, bless and guide you as you continue to speak the truth.
I just read your article with the above title in the Vanguard newspaper . It is amazing how the black man behaves. Are we saying our independence is not a blessing, as autonomous people, but a curse? I ask because this is not what our founding fathers fought for.
My greatest concern is the level of injustice done to the governed by those in the driver’s seat of governance. In a sane country, what has happened in Benue state would not have occurred in the first place if the appropriate steps had been taken when this whole herdsmen madness started, many people lives would have been spared today, not to talk of people’s livelihoods.
This is absolute madness and lack of intergrity, empathy, justice and what have you on the part of the government. So now tomorrow when another president comes in it will now be the turn of his clansmen to misbehave and say after all we are now in government and can do whatever we like. This president is setting a deadly precedent, borrowing from Chinua Achebe, this is an ill wind that will do nobody any good.
I am just so sad because this country is too great to have all these happening to it. I hope the people will put sentiments and pettiness aside and vote wisely in the coming elections.
Please Mr. Odumakin continue speaking the truth, hopefully one day the people will see the light and say enough is enough and do what is needful for the good of the country.
Thank you once again and God bless you. With people like you, there is hope that Nigeria will get better one day.