Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has been sitting on a pressure cooker since the beginning of 2018. The killings in his state, which started with the murder of about 73 people in two local governments, brought the year to a sad beginning for the state. Since then, hundreds have been killed in Benue.
But the summary of it all was that Ortom, elected in 2015, who has the duty as the chief security officer of the state, has been portrayed as incompetent, unable to rein in the insecurity in the state.
Like every other governor in Nigeria, Ortom is hamstrung by the fact that he neither controls the police nor the army. But, he needed to arrest the ugly situation. At the most critical time of need in Benue, the security forces failed him, reducing him to a governor that conducts mass burial for citizens.
Since he left the All Progressives Congress (APC) about two weeks ago, developments in the state seem to corroborate his long-held assertion that security agents were culpable in the killings in his state.
The recent attempt by eight of the 30-member Benue State House of Assembly to impeach Ortom is the best pointer to that. The move was made with the cover of the police, who had earlier chased away the other 22 members of the assembly, who impeached the speaker of the House and replaced him with another member. It is instructive that the police had earlier stopped the 22 lawmakers from sitting in the House, causing them to perform their legislative duty at the old Government House.
We recall that under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, several of such illegal moves were made in different states of the federation, using the instrumentality of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in removing the likes of Governors Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Diprieye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo) and Peter Obi (Anambra). They were removed between 2005 and 2006.
Fayose was impeached on October 16, 2006 on alleged mismanagement of public funds and serial killings. Obi was impeached on November 2, 2006 on alleged gross misconduct while Dariye was impeached on November 13, 2006 on allegations of siphoning public funds and money laundering in London. Ladoja was impeached on January 12, 2006 by 18 legislators and Alamieyeseigha on December 9, 2005 on alleged theft of public funds, abuse of office, and money laundering.
The removals were not only condemned but were also upturned by different courts of the land, who declared the impeachments as illegal. During the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2014, Governor Muritala Nyako was impeached on allegations bordering on corruption, including theft of public funds, abuse of office and money laundering.
We recall that why most of those impeachments could not stand the test of time was ostensibly because of the manner in which they were conducted and the political motives attached to them, which included falling out with the centre.
We note with dismay that the current government has not learnt any lesson from previous mistakes made in that direction. The case of Ortom is another step in the wrong direction. Ortom’s defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the main offence, leaving his sponsors in Benue State short-handed.
We also consider as very unfortunate a situation where the police, whose inspector-general refused to obey the order of President Muhammadu Buhari to relocate to Benue, when there were massive killings in the state, can now volunteer enough men to chase away the majority of Benue lawmakers from the Assembly and provide cover for only eight men to begin the process of removing the governor.
We know for a fact that the defection of Ortom and others from APC has not gone down well with the APC leadership. That is even evident in the tirades of the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, soon after Ortom made his intention to leave APC open. Oshiomhole had described the governor as a good riddance. We do not begrudge the former Edo State governor for his anger. Neither do we support any governor, who has not delivered up to expectations of his people. But we make bold to state that APC, being the government at the centre, elected on the mantra of change, cannot, in any way, support illegalities condemned under the PDP because of political differences.
We are gladdened to hear the denial from the Presidency that President Buhari would not be a party to such illegalities. But we expect that beyond the denials, questions should be asked of the IGP and the Police commissioner in Benue on the involvement of the police in that fiasco.
We submit that for whatever it is worth, democracy is a choice. The people of Benue have their chance in 2019 to vote out Ortom, if they are not happy with him. APC as a party also has the chance to bring his sins to the campaign grounds to convince the people to throw him out. But the tacit encouragement of undemocratic acts of eight members of the 30-man House is completely unacceptable.
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