By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State Wednesday said the Christmas Day message by Bishop Matthew Kukah was a true reflection of the current situation in Nigeria and urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to listen to sycophants who might tell him that all is well with the country.
He described as unfair and repressive, Federal Government’s reaction to the message of the cleric whom the government accused of stirring hatred against the President.
Governor Ortom in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase in Makurdi appealed to the Federal Government not to muzzle “patriotic Nigerians who are raising genuine concerns over the worsening security situation in the country because all is not well.”
He said, “Bishop Kukah is a selfless Nigerian who only seeks to unite the nation and speaks his mind frankly on national issues calling on the government to serve the people.”
The Governor suggested that instead of politicizing the views of the Bishop and castigating him, the Federal Government should take a second look at the things he raised in the message to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
According to him, “Nigeria is practising democracy which guarantees the freedom of speech to all citizens and not a military regime which suppresses the right of the people to voice their opinions on challenges facing their country.
“It is incumbent on the Federal Government to listen to the views of the people and take steps to address the worrisome security situation and other problems confronting the country rather than combatively engaging anyone who dares to hold an alternative opinion.”
He stressed that at this challenging time in the country’s history, the people expected their leaders to be tolerant, patient, humane, sincere, and always seek to address the issues that affect shared interests of citizens.
Governor Ortom stated that Bishop Kukah was not the first to say that hundreds of innocent Nigerians were being killed in cold blood by bandits, kidnappers, armed herdsmen and other terrorists.
“Many other Nigerians have been making the same call on a daily basis. He was not the first to suggest that the President should be the father of all and not of only a section of the country or a particular ethnic group,” he said.
The Governor pointed out that “even under the worst dictatorships, courageous citizens expressed their views on issues of national interest. Nigeria which is a democratic nation cannot be an exception.
“So whipping into silence, men and women of honour who speak against injustice will not take the country to greater heights. The government needs critics who make constructive observations and recommendations for it to work in the interest of the people.
According to him, great nations of the world got to their enviable heights by harnessing and utilizing ideas of their citizens, not by discouraging those who made bold submissions on the development of their countries.
He said he believed in the unity, growth and potential of Nigeria to overcome its current economic and security challenges and live up the true meaning of its title as the Giant of Africa.