… Says security should take precedence over 2023 elections
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
GOVERNOR Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said that Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Speaking to State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Ortom also warned the political class to preoccupy themselves on how to solve the worsening security situation that was threatening the unity of the country and forget about the 2023 election.
The governor, who recently escaped an assassination attempt on him by about 15 unknown gunmen in his state, told journalists that he had deep discussions with President Buhari on the attack on him and security situation in the country, adding that the President agreed with him that no person or group should be left as sacred cows.
According to him, “I want to let Nigerians know, especially those who are responsible for making inflammatory statements; we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, everybody is not in doubt in Nigeria today about the security situation and without security, there can be no meaningful progress going on.
“So, it is important to put heads together, do the things that are lawful, let us protect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so that everybody will be secure.
“Let there be equity, fairness and justice. That is what I stand for. That is what I am fighting. I believe that as my president, I do not want to talk about the recommendations.
“I have been able to recommend in some measures, and most of them, they agreed that nobody should be a sacred cow.
“If people are found wanted, they should be prosecuted, the police should prosecute them. And I think this is what is good” he said.
On the 2023 general elections, Governor Ortom noted that though to politicians, the elections were by the corner, the security situation in the country should take precedence over election thoughts.
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He, however, charged the political class, especially those in elective offices, to work together to save the country from the crippling insecurity besetting all that the country stands for.
He said, “So it’s not just enough to say that one criticises the policies of the President, but when he does a good thing, it is our responsibility to team up with him to ensure that it’s done because it is when we are peaceful, when we have security, that we can talk about tomorrow.
“I want to also appeal to Nigerians, 2023, yes to a politician is not far, but it’s still a long way. If we secure our country and everything is working fine, then we can talk about 2023, but the way things are going if we don’t secure the country, there is no way we can be talk about 2023, that is why I always dismiss people who come to me to say that we will contest this, we will contest that.
“For me, I want us as leaders of this country, who have taken Oath of Office, let us abide by those things we have said, work together as a team, leave politics aside, leave ethnicity aside, then secure the country, Nigeria. We have no other country other than Nigeria.
“Today, we cannot go to Cameroon or Senegal or any other country and claim responsibility So my appeal to everyone is to ensure that we work together. Security matters are not just for the security agencies alone. We as people who are being led, we have a responsibility, we who are leaders, we have a responsibility.
“It is only when we team up together that we’ll be able to surmount this challenge. But I think that there shouldn’t be room for people who are creating problems for us. We have a constitution, we have laws of the land. If people are found wanting, they should be cautioned, they should be arrested, be prosecuted and let the right thing be done”, he said.
Fielding question on the insinuations that the reported assassination attempt on him was stage-managed, Ortom expressed sadness over such thoughts about him, wondering why he would need to fake an attack on himself.
He said, “I want to advise, like I said earlier, Mr. President did advise when he was condemning the attack on me, and pleaded with Nigerians that they should not politicise this matter. I want to appeal, I want to beg everyone that we should not politicise the issue of attempted assassination on myself.
“If a governor is attacked, then it is an attack on all. And I appreciate my colleagues the government’s irrespective of party affiliation, the chairman of our Governance Forum, the chairman of northern governors forum, the Chairman of Southern governors forum, the chairman of PDP governors forum, the Chairman of APC governors forum.
“All of them by way of call or text messages or press statement, they have communicated to me condemning this attack. That is how it should be. We should know when to play politics and we should know when to team up together to work as a team to salvage the country. That is what I’m saying. Those who are saying that, what benefit Do I have to come up and say that I was attacked.”
Commenting on the State’s controversial anti-grazing law, the Governor said it was not targeted at any ethnic group as being insinuated.
“We cannot continue in this manner. Democracy is anchored on the rule of law that is why for some of us, you see that I have not done anything illegal including the prohibition of open grazing, which my people told me to present to the House of Assembly and eventually it was signed into law.
“That law is not targeted against any ethnic group or individual but it is meant to regulate the activities of herdsmen and farmers and I think we have very good stories to talk about this. Today in Benue State, those who trespass against this law, who are herders, are arrested, their cattle impounded and they are prosecuted.
“Those who rustle cattle form herdsmen, we also go after them so nobody is spared; even the people in Benue State, Idoma, Tiv and other ethnic groups have also been prosecuted when they contravene the provisions of the law,” he said.