Ortom, Ranching, Open grazing

•Says APC claim of registering 5 million members is fraud

•Accuses politicians of creating security challenges in the north in order to rig elections

By Peter Duru

Governor Samuel Ortom, in an interview, shortly after the PDP Governors’ Forum and expanded stakeholders meetings, spoke on how the leadership crisis rocking the party was resolved, how politicians were encouraging insecurity in the north to rig the 2023 elections and warned on the dangers of rigging the 2023 elections. He also spoke on the consequences of not transmitting election results electronically.

The PDP Governors Forum held a meeting in Abuja which was followed by an expanded stakeholders meeting of the party. What were the major decisions reached at those meetings?

In our Governors Forum meeting we decided that despite the intimidation, blackmail and persecution from the All Progressives Congress, APC, led federal government we are not going to be distracted. We are focused as members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a party that is ready to take Nigerians from the bottom to the top and not top to bottom as we are now.

That was what Mr. President promised Nigerians in 2015 that he would take them from top to bottom and that is where we are today, we are at the bottom level. But after learning from past mistakes, the PDP have learnt their lessons and are willing to stoop down to be the true Democratic Party that is people-oriented.

So, first of all, we, the 13 governors were unanimous in ensuring that we will project the PDP first and not our personal interest. That whatever that represents the interest of the party which is our platform should be promoted and encouraged. And we resolved that we are not going anywhere, we will remain committed to the PDP because we have seen that the APC led government has failed in all areas of governance.

In the area of the economy they have failed, security they have failed, socially they have failed, in human rights they have failed, in the area of freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of association they have failed completely. And they have also demonstrated that they are not a government that believes in protecting the people and working for the people.

Nepotism and sectionalism is at the highest level in this APC government. Nigeria has never been divided in the manner we have it today since independence. We know that we have over 250 ethnic groups in the country but today it is like everybody is just struggling for himself or his ethnic group.

Nobody is concerned about the country Nigeria and this is led by the APC government. So, we cannot afford to fail Nigerians by not providing an alternative platform as we march towards 2023. At the PDP Governors’ Forum, we decided that we will be unanimous in ensuring that we work together to ensure victory for our party in 2023.

And in the light of that we decided to take the step of meeting with other stakeholders of the party, the BoT, the National Assembly leadership, the former governors, former ministers, lawmakers and several other stakeholders that are relevant to the party and we resolved that the party must remain united.

So, whatever were the issues between the National Working Committee and individuals should be stopped. And that was exactly what we resolved in the meeting. And we also decided that the National Executive Committee of the party should call for an early convention which should take place in October. Secondly, we resolved that the National Working Committee and other members of the party should remain there, based on the provisions of the constitution of our party.

We will not go outside the provision of the constitution of the party so as to avoid certain challenges that may arise as a result of that. We will conduct the convention and by the grace of God at the end, everybody will be happy with the outcome; and this was unanimously endorsed by the people.

So, what that means is that we have decided to draw a line on all the agitations of this person must go or step down and that person must not go or step down, so that such agitations will no longer fester. We resolved that we will support the National Working Committee and support the National Executive Committee of our party to ensure that we have a transparent convention that will usher in a new leadership for our party.

Nigerians are still enraged by the decision of the National Assembly to jettison the provision for electronic transmission of election results in the amended Electoral Act. What do you make of the development?

Well, I have said that because the APC have the majority in both houses of the National Assembly they decided to manipulate the system. I think they are working in collaboration with the President and they intend to sign law even after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, came out to say that they were prepared for electronic transmission of results. And the NCC also confirmed that they have the capacity, that Nigeria has the capacity to do electronic transmission of results.

But you can see that they went there and said no. Do you know that in most states in the north today the security challenges are created by politicians to ensure that no election takes place so that they will rig the election?

And this is what is going on, and honestly, I want to advise the President that there is no need to sign the amended Electoral Act without the provision for electronic transmission of results. I think we have come of age, we cannot be going back to analogue when the entire world is going digital.

Everything is going digital today, whether television, radio or cars. The President must have a rethink, let him not take Nigerians from top to bottom, but rather use the remaining period we have to take us from bottom to top so that we can get things right in this country.

And I think that any attempt to continue to do manual transmission of election results will deny voters the right to vote and to have their votes count which the President promised. Let every Nigerian have the right to cast his or her vote and let that vote count. But from what we have seen the intention is to make sure that our votes do not count.

The Ebonyi/Benue communal crisis has continued to escalate. Few days ago four persons were killed in a Benue community and the people are saying it was because there is no police post on the Benue side of the boundary as they have it on the Ebonyi side

These are security issues. Sometime in the past the President directed that there should be yearly recruitment of 10,000 policemen across the country. If they had kept to the directive, by today we should have had over 40,000 personnel infused into the Nigeria Police.

The fact is that the Nigeria Police is inadequate, they lack the capacity and the logistics is inadequate; and it is something that we have to look at. But the State Security Council is looking at that issue and the Commissioner of Police is also looking towards establishing it despite all the challenges.

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And there are other places we have similar gap that we need to fill. Just last night five members of Nzorov community, who went to the farm were gunned down on their way back by Fulani herdsmen militia. I believe that if we have adequate and enough police men they would have prevented such a thing from taking place.

Though the herdsmen no longer come with their cattle but in some areas they are still there with their cattle and have taken over the land. And in some areas they come to create fear in our people, they come and kill innocent people wherever they get them and take away their motorcycles.

These are challenges we have to contend with and I think that the federal government should resume the recruitment of policemen and personnel into other security agencies immediately.

The e-registration of the PDP has commenced and the Benue State portal will open next week. What are your expectations as your party commences the process in your state?

Of course we have started and we are looking forward to having the process start in Benue state. I think that Nigerians and PDP members are quite enthusiastic and happy that we want to get Nigerians buy into our party so that all of us can work together towards entrenching a real and true democratic process that will culminate into the election of people who will take over the mantle of leadership in 2023.

What is your target in Benue state because Benue APC claimed that it registered five million members in your state…

(…cuts in)…Five million registered where? That is 419. Where are they? We won elections here, we won three senatorial seats, we won seven House of Representatives seat, we won 22 State Assembly seats and we took the governorship. So where are those their five million people? You should know that that is how they start the process of rigging.

But we are not going to give them an inch. And I tell you, we are fully mobilized, anybody that comes to rig in 2023 should say his last prayer. We are not going to allow you. You cannot rig us, it is impossible. They attempted it in 2019 they could not, this time too they will fail. So if you saw what happened in Adikpo Kwande LGA (the defection of Mimi Adzape-Orubibi with her over 80,000 APC supporters in the Benue

North East to the PDP) you should know that APC is fizzling out here. We are doing the same thing in Ushongo LGA and several other places. People are leaving the APC and coming into PDP.

Common Ward Congresses APC could not conduct it well, we have all seen the fallout. When we held our Ward Congresses did you hear any rancour in PDP? That shows you that PDP is in charge. Their claim of five million is another of their 419. Maybe they listed trees and farms. So there was nothing like that but we are equal to the task.

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