Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom may not have decided to align forces with his former political party juggernauts in the now opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) circles to fight what he frequently called “injustice” meted out to him by the governing All Progressives Congress-led government over herdsmen killings to enable him sail through the troubled waters to actualize his second term ambition, the handwriting on the wall appears to be speaking volumes.
Before the governor was elected into the position he is occupying today, he passed through several huddles as a chieftain of the same PDP. There, he became Minister of State, Trade, Industry and Investment in the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, but was denied the party’s ticket as candidate for the 2015 governorship election in the state.
In the build up to that general elections, in his determination to achieve his dream to govern the state, Chief Ortom dumped the PDP after he lost out woefully in the gubernatorial primaries. Statistics showed that he polled 111 votes, while Hon. Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, an anointed candidate of the party in the state clinched 517 votes to pick the keenly contested ticket.
Ortom’s poor outing compelled him to seek alternative platform to forge ahead with his ambition and officially resigned his membership of PDP in his Nzorov council ward in Guma local government area of the state and picked nomination form to contest the gubernatorial primaries of the APC. The decision, he said, followed mounting pressure from his supporters and other stakeholders to seek an alternative party to pursue his dream.
At the polls, where he locked horns with the PDP’s Tarzoor, Ortom floored him scoring 422, 932 of the total votes cast against Tarzoor’s 313, 878 votes to emerge runner-up.
Soon after he assumed office barely three years ago, one of the greatest challenges that continued to stare the governor in the face, apart from non-payment of salaries which had accumulated between seven to 12 months, including pensions is the growing insecurity situation where suspected Fulani herdsmen have continued to invade, attack and kill thousands of innocent people with property worth billions of naira also destroyed with no compensation for the victims.
The killings however, predate his administration as it started way back in 2011 and from that time till now, the people have been attacked 47 different times. Several times, the Muhammadu Buhari-controlled Federal Government had treated letters written by the governor to the presidency over planned attack by the Miyetti-Allah Kuatal Hore leadership to kill the people with levity.
Governor Ortom had repeatedly called on the Federal Government to arrest the situation but no proactive measures were taken to contain the situation. Over 700, 000 internally displaced persons are currently in the seven camps in the affected local government areas including those from neighbouring Cameroon over crisis.
The deployment of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the visit of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau failed to help matters as the crisis worsens.
But significantly, the massive killing of 73 innocent people in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state on the New Year day by armed Fulani herdsmen has continued to attract the sympathy of Nigerians from all walks of life including both APC and PDP serving governors and business moguls.
The first set of APC governors that visited to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the killings were Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna State), Simon Lalong (Plateau State), Alhaji Yahaya Bello (Kogi State), Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar (Jigawa), Mrs. Grace Titilayo (Deputy Governor of Osun State) and Alhaji Kashim Shetima (Borno State).
On the side of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the governors that have so far visited included Nyesom Wike (Rivers State) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State.
Other distinguished Nigerians that have paid sympathy visits to the governor included President of the Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA), Mahmoud Abubakar and former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa.
But out of these visits, the one Benue people considered most embarrassing was that of the APC governors led by Governor Shetima. Their visit is seen as adding more pains to injuries inflicted on the people as they saw what happened to their colleague in APC as nothing even as Governor El-Rufai was busy fondling his i-pad at the New Banquet Hall of the Government House when they came without relief materials for the IDPs. Their visit lasted for less than 25minutes.
But the visit of the PDP governors indeed put smiles on the faces of Benue people especially the IDPs as Governor Wike who proceeded to the grave yard where the 73 people were buried, donated N200 million while his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayodele Fayose who also went to the grave yard to see things for himself, donated N10 million to assist government purchase relief materials for the IDPs.
That was not all, the PDP governors from Government House proceeded straight to the residence of former governor of the state, Dr. Gabriel Suswam in Makurdi where serious political issues were allegedly perfected to put mechanism in place to ensure their “romance” with Ortom turned out well.
Currently, Gabriel Suswam is angling to contest the Benue North East Senate seat to pull the rug off the feet of former PDP National Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, whose posters have already flooded Makurdi metropolis for president, though no political party logo in on the posters for now. Gemade is currently representing that zone in the upper legislature on the platform of the APC.
Governor Ortom’s major sin in the eyes of the Federal Government is his firm position on the Anti Open Grazing and Ranching Law which he promulgated as a deliberate measure to end years of conflict between Fulani herdsmen cattle rearers and Benue crop farmers. His resolve not to allow the invaders take over the rich land given to the people by God has placed him in the bad books of the government in power which it is alleged to be working round the clock to plot his fall in 2019 a decision that informed his rumoured flirting with the PDP in recent times.
The governor had revealed that he will dump APC for the PDP immediately the people of state ask him to do so. He was responding to the call by the Governor Fayose who paid him condolence visit following the killing of several people of the state by Fulani herdsmen.
Fayose had told him to change to another vehicle if the vehicle conveying him cannot take him to his destination and or it is faulty.
Ortom is a swift response said, “I am a member of the APC and about the issue of joining another vehicle, Benue people are here and they are hearing you. I cannot decide for Benue people, the people will decide, it is what they want that I will want. Anything Benue people say I should do, I will do.
“Nigeria can never be the same, Benue can never be the same because there is going to be a paradigm shift; there is going to be a turnaround never witnessed in our history. And one of them is that I have joined my brother Fayose to be outspoken on things that are done wrongly in this country. We have a constitution and laws guiding us and I believe in the rule of law and due process and anything outside that whether here or at the national level I must challenge.
“Those who think that I am talking should give me justice; let there be equity; let there be fairness; let there be transparency in what we are doing. Not hiding under to intimidate and engaging in name calling. It will not be accepted.
“I am an elected governor and I must speak on behalf of the people who put me there and nothing more, because I am accountable to them and whatever they want is what I will do. With the State Assembly we are working together, the law was a product of the people.”
But whether the governor will defect to PDP remains the major issue being discussed on the streets of Makurdi, the Benue State capital. For now, he has said the matter is not on his table and that he has suspended all forms of political campaigns ahead of 2019, as a result of the bloody clash between herdsmen and unarmed farmers in the state.
The governor’s statement has been interpreted in some quarters to mean that he was set to dump the APC for PDP. His Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, declared that there is no way the governor could contemplate decamping to a another political party. “How can someone even think of that? There is no plan whatsoever for the governor to join another party,” said.
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