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Ortom’s aides behind Benue killings, Oshiomhole alleges

•Says his exit is good riddance to bad rubbish
•Reveals that APC will weed out more
•You called Ortom APC star last week, Ortom aide reminds him
•Says Oshiomhole trying to change pogrom narrative

By Omeiza Ajayi & Peter Duru, Makurdi

THE National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC has lashed out at the Benue state Governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, saying his decision to leave the APC was good riddance to bad rubbish.  Oshiomhole also alleged that some aides of the governor were behind some of the killings in Benue including the ones that felled Catholic priests. Ortomés media aide quickly reacted, saying that Oshiomhole was simply trying to change the narrative of the pogrom in Benue.

Oshiomhole

Addressing journalists Saturday evening in Abuja, Oshiomhole said Ortom was dancing on the grave of Benue residents, saying the governor became the party’s choice in 2015 by accident. He said fielding Ortom in the 2019 elections would have led to a crushing defeat of the ruling party.

“Over the past 48 hours, we have been watching with keen interest the development in Benue state with particular reference to the decision of Gov. Ortom to resign from our party and return to his previous party, the PDP.  Ordinarily, we would not not have made further comments having already responded to his decision in the manner that the Publicity Secretary did but that  was not entirely a reflection of my own thinking.

Why APC wouldn’t have fielded Ortom in 2019

“The first is that as you all recall, Gov. Ortom had said the APC in Benue state had given him red card to leave our party and that they would not field him in the forthcoming governorship election in 2019 and because the door had been shut against him, he had no choice than to leave. Without going into investigations, we invited him to speak to us on the issues. We also invited our leaders of our party in Benue state to also brief us on what the issues were. From the point of view of our leaders in Benue state, their position was clear that they believed that fielding Gov. Ortom on the APC platform in the 2019 election could only lead to electoral defeat for a number of reasons.

They reminded us that in spite of the allocations accruing to Benue state and in spite of the bail out funds amounting to over N20 billion that they had received in two instalments of N10 billion each and in addition to the huge sums of money that Benue state collected from the Paris Club Refund, Gov. Ortom has not, and is not paying salaries to Benue workers as and when due, including teachers, local government employees and the state civil servants.

He is owing some of them as much as 12 months salary, some more than 16 months and so the entire economy of Benue state that survives largely on civil servants salaries is to that extent compromised.

Of course, what is not readily obvious to many, and which they told us, is the fact that most of our elders who have built houses as part of their retirement plans and who expect to live on rent paid by civil servants who are tenants, the fact that the entire civil servants in Benue state are not being paid means that they in turn are defaulting in the payments of their rents and you know the implication of this on traders and the commercial life of Benue state. This element alone substantially explains the vicious cycle of poverty in Benue state that has been deepened under Gov. Ortom.

Ortom dancing on the grave of dead people

“The second is that they drew our attention to the fact that Gov. Ortom has complicated the situation by his own actions and poor judgment of the security situation in Benue state and they drew our attention to the fact that some of those who have been arrested were people who have been associated with Gov. Ortom including people who have been in his employ, including in particular a guy who was known to have been involved in Boko Haram activities and who he knowingly recruited to manage what they call Forest Guards.

For any man of honour, if an appointee of government is involved in heinous crime,including killing, that would be enough for a governor to worry about. Instead, Gov. Ortom played up the ethnic dimension of criminality whereas in truth, some of those who have been killed were killed not by Muslims, they were killed by Christians of Benue state origin, including those he has employed.

So, his attempt to explain away criminality by playing up ethnic sentiments is not helpful to what he should do as governor to manage the situation better. After all, those in Benue state have always been there by whatever description and therefore, Gov. Ortom’s predecessors including Gov. Suswam had found ways to manage this diversity. So, Ortom’s incapacity to manage it and even to seek to make political capital of the death of Benue people is most unfortunate because I believe that even in politics, there should be a level of morality.

Benue indigenes, Fulani Herdsmen complicit in Killings

“It is important to note that the condemnable killing of two Reverend Fathers in a church…those who have confessed to this crime include people who have worked with Gov. Ortom and these killings were done few weeks after one of these Reverend Fathers in a church sermon was extremely critical of the governance in Benue state and of the style of governance of Gov. Ortom and his price obviously was that few weeks after this sermon in which he was very critical of Gov. Ortom including the damage done to family life by the none payment of salaries that he had to pay with his dear life.

For us, the shock is that, I am not about to suggest that Gov. Ortom might have asked anyone to go and kill anyone but that those involved in these killings, some of them are people of Benue state origin and that they are Christians. That is not to deny that some herdsmen have also been involved in the killings but the responsibility of any governor is not to seek to manipulate it but to confront it squarely”.

Questions Ortom’s

reasoning 

“I wanted to simply cross check with him on the allegations made against him and he was to come by Wednesday that is why he organised that drama. And that tells you the quality of reasoning, with all due respect to Governor Ortom, how can you reduce governance to Nollywood, saying “when I wanted to go to Abuja to meet with the National Working Committee, my people blocked the road that I will not go.”  When has it become a case that when a governor wants to travel it is on the radio that he is travelling and this is the purpose?

President, VP only visit Benue on Condolences, not Project Commissioning

“When the APC leaders asked him this question last week to address these allegations, whereas the President and Vice President had visited other states to commission projects, they had only visited Benue on condolence visits. It is okey to lament that there is no federal presence, where is the explanations for the absence of projects in Benue state? His argument was that he had diverted a lot of the fund to security issues. And that raises the question, can you spend N22 billion on security and yet the people are more and more insecure.

“And if he agrees that he is spending money on security, then it means that he appreciates the responsibility as the chief security officer of the state to protect lives and property and not simply pass the buck.

“So I felt scandalized this afternoon after watching him say he had to leave where he is , which is the APC and if your people are not safe there, you return to where you are coming from.

“I am relieved as national chairman and I believe that the leadership of the party in Benue state is also relieved that Ortom has left the party and returned to the club he belongs to. A club whose philosophy is share the money and not develop communities. So we now have a clean platform to search for a clean and credible candidate from Benue that can provide leadership that the great people of Benue state deserve and not someone who seeks to make political capital of human graves and celebrating the death of his own people.

“As a party, we condemn any life that has been wasted by any criminal whether in Benue state or any part of Nigeria and we accept that the government’s irreducible minimum responsibility must be to protect lives and property. But I condemn in strong terms anyone of us who is in government that seeks to get political capital on deaths because we have shared responsibility of Nigerians irrespective of religious, social and political status.

So I just thought that I should clear the air that we are relieved that Ortom has gone and if you look at it, he got our ticket on a platter of gold because he was never a participant during the process of our party’s formation. He became a candidate by accident and the lesson for our party is that never again should anyone become a candidate on our platform by accident. It has to be by conscious choice and as things are, for those of us who monitored my comments since I became national chairman, my aim is that we will have a political party that is defined by clear cut ideology and people will join or abstain from joining except on the premise of conviction”, he added.

Reacting to the allegation by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole that it was Governor Samuel Ortom’s aides that were responsible for the murder of the two Priest and 17 worshipped at Mbalon in Gwer local government area of the state, the Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to the Governor, Terver Akase maintained that the Oshiomhole was only trying to change the narrative of the Benue pogrom as usual.

Akase said, “Nigerians would recall that Governor Ortom was widely applauded for introducing an amnesty programme in the early life of this administration which disarmed hundreds of youths with over 1,000 arms and ammunition recovered from the repentant youths which were eventually destroyed in public glare. “The same Governor cannot turn round to arm youths of the state. So that allegation by the National Chairman of the APC is very unfortunate because it is coming from a man  Nigerians expect to speak with caution since security agencies are still investigating the matter.

“We all know that no one has been convicted over that matter yet, so is Adams Oshiomhole saying that he has seen the investigation report, that he is privy to the court verdict that would later be passed on the suspects?

“Is he telling us that he has seen the investigation report  or what? What does he know that we do not know? So if he has jumped into conclusion that the suspects were sponsored by the Governor, then it means that either the investigation into the matter has been compromised or that he is influencing it. If not, how would he have known that the people who are being investigated were sponsored by the Governor?

“Benue people know who their killers are, and these people are sponsored by Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other Miyetti Allah groups. “We have, at several times,  called for their arrest, so that statement by the National Chairman of the APC is not statesmanly, it is very unfortunate and unbecoming.

“We expected that the national chairman of the ruling party should speak with decorum, he should speak on issues with caution.

“He should speak on matters that would give Nigerians hope not disunite. And he appears to be speaking so much so early and too quickly.

“He, at one point spoke on presidential matters and issues that concern the Federal Executive Council, he speaks on issues concerning Ministers and all that.

“I think he should be advised to concentrate on the job that concerns the office of the national chairman and his party.

“He is not a security man, he is not part of the  judiciary, he is not part of the investigative panel that is investigating the people who were arrested over the murder of the two Priests and the 17 worshippers at Mbalon.

“So, we  advise the national chairman of the APC to speak on matters that concern his office. That is what would make for good governance in Nigeria.

On the issue of Oshiomhole describing Governor’s defection from the APC as a good radiance to bad rubbish, Akase said “you’ll recall that when Governor Ortom met with him in Abuja last week, he described the Governor as an honorable person who has done very well and who is one of the stars of the APC.

“It is on record that he said that. He said all of those things. So the same national chairman cannot turn around to castigate Governor Ortom and call his move as a good radiance to bad rubbish. “No, the words that he used on Governor Ortom when he was standing beside him have already been inscribed in the minds of Nigerians that Ortom is an honorable person, he is a man who is one of the stars of the APC.  “That is what Nigerians have recorded and not what he is now saying after the Governor defected from the APC,” Akase added.

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