The shameful Press statement from the Presidential villa, Abuja authored by Mr. President’s attack dog, Garba Shehu does not qualify for the official seal or response by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. But for the less knowledgeable, we’ll put records straight.
Governor Ortom in the AriseTV interview raised fundamental issues every reasonable government should be bold enough to address without qualms. The Governor decried the rate at which the sovereignty of Nigeria is daily being compromised with the activities of armed Fulani herdsmen that has continued to kill and sack communities across the country. The President Buhari’s state of Katsina is badly hit with the activities of these terrorists. It is the President’s failure to secure Nigeria that has allowed terrorists to take over most states. This is not the making of Governor Ortom.
Benue State where Ortom governs, like many states across the country is severally attacked and people sacked from their ancestral lands by armed Fulani terrorists. The result is that, more than 1.5 million Benue citizens now live in squalor in IDPs not fit for human habitation. From north to south, insecurity pervades the landscape of Nigeria with even the military looking helpless in face of superior firepower of the armed terrorists. Should Governor Ortom keep quiet in the face of this?
For more than a year, the Governor has been shut out from seeing the President. Is this too a lie? Did Governor Ortom lie when he said that under President Buhari’s administration, the dollar skyrocketed from 190 naira in 2015 to almost 600 naira in 2022?
Has President Buhari’s government not spent billions of dollars in ‘Turning Around the Maintenance’ of the nation’s refineries without commensurate results from the facilities? Is it Governor Ortom that stopped the President from revamping the country’s refineries after such humongous sums were spent on it? Who has been held accountable for this? Why did Garba Shehu fail to see all of these but chose to gloss over them?
In the AriseTV interview, Governor Ortom reiterated his call for the President to convene a national security summit to find ways out of the present state of insecurity. Is this not a more reasonable position from a Governor that cares for the unity of this country? What is the President hiding that he is afraid of such a convocation?
Governor Ortom in that interview reiterated that Benue State will never cede any of its land for cattle routes, grazing areas or colony. Why should this administration be compelling its officials to rediscover grazing routes for cows in the 21st century as a means of breeding livestock? This is akin to returning the citizens to the stone age. It is a gross abuse of Nigerians. And Governor Ortom vehemently opposes this. For the avoidance of doubt, we have opted for ranching in Benue State and there is no going back.
It is therefore curious that, Garba did not address the issues Governor Ortom raised in the interview with AriseTV. Rather, he went about chasing shadows, trying in vain to paint the governor in bad light. In doing so, he turns to accuse the governor of funding a militia group. This is the height of irresponsibility. It is on record that since 2015 when President Buhari came to power, Fulani terrorist groups have been emboldened, killing and taking over positions of governance in most parts of the country and rendering citizens destitutes in the own land. These are glaring facts that this APC-led government of President Buhari has become inept and clueless and unable to protect the sovereignty of the Nigerian State. These are issues Governor Ortom sought to ask Mr President to address.
Rather than take the advise Governor Ortom offers for the collective good of the nation, Garba Shehu and those hired to insult the Governor finds it easy to ignore the weighty issues that bothers on national security but rather go about in circles. We think the President and his handlers will do well to take Governor Ortom seriously when he speaks than indulging in unnecessary mudslinging.
It is uncharitable and truly a betrayal of hope for the President Muhammadu Buhari government who has consistently blamed past administrations to now find it convenient to accuse Governor Ortom of blaming others before him. This is ridiculous and has exposed the Buhari government of being bereft of ideas and indeed empty of tackling the nation’s myriad of problems.
The Buhari government boasts that it has recovered loot from past public office holders. This is commendable. But where are all the recovered money good enough to fund the national budget? It is a sad commentary that even with the acclaimed loot recovered, borrowing has become synonymous with the Buhari government. As at the last count, the current APC government led by Buhari has regrettably mortgaged the future of Nigerians with the unabating borrowing.
The World Bank in its November 2021 update on Nigeria reported that eight million more Nigerians were added to the poverty level in less than two years. This report debunked President Buhari’s claim that he took 10.5 million people out of poverty in six years. For sure, this is not Governor Ortom’s footprint.
I make bold to say that the Ortom government in Benue State is a responsible administration that hearkens to the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens. Governor Ortom in 2015 inherited pensions and salary arrears of over N70billion. Benue was supported. Interestingly, all APC controlled states were given in full. Some even close to election period. So from 2018 till date, we have been paying salaries. What is left are the arrears.
To end the challenges of retirees, the State Government domesticated the PENCOM Law. Through the efforts of the Benue State Pension Commission, the state has saved more than N4billion from contributions of civil servants including that of the state government share. And he is determined to leave the state better than he met it.
Governor Ortom’s electoral value is not in doubt. He has been winning elections and will continue to do so because of the confidence the people have in him. But we challenge Garba Shehu to attempt contesting for a councillorship position in his home state of Jigawa and see if he will receive the kind of support Ortom gets.
This is the reason why the Governor and his colleagues are committed to the resolve by the leadership of the PDP to rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the APC-led federal government. And so no amount of distractions from a hundred Garbas would distract him from serving the people.
Ikyur is the Chief Press Secretary to the Benue State Governor.