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Education

Benjamin Ngutsav: The things Ortom said are coming to pass

Nigeria has had quite a many great leaders, who spoke passionately to the nation’s soul to provide direction in curing the injustices that threaten the unity of the country. Leaders like Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the late Alhaji Maitama Sule and several others had spoken and provided solutions to the myriad of Nigeria’s problems, but their words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s unity is on the verge of collapse again. The signs are glaring, but those who can save the country are either not reading the signs well or are not seeing them at all.

Religion, ethnicity and politics have masked most political leaders barring them to say the truth to save the country. However, amid lily-livered leaders, there has been a brave one diagnosing Nigeria’s current situation while proffering solutions. He has also made several strong statements that could have saved the country if only he was listened to, but his patriotic statements were dismissed, and today, the same statements of his have come to pass.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is writing his name on the sands of history as one of the great leaders of this country who stand for justice and truth, equity and fairness, and one who has the vision to forecast what would become of a situation if the right steps are not taken. I am not saying he is a prophet, but if after reading this you find him fit into the word prophet, that will be fine.

In 2015, Governor Ortom after carefully studying the Fulani herdsmen attacks on farmers in Benue State, came up with the novel solution of ranching and the banning of open grazing in the state. Through the enactment of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, Benue bade farewell to open grazing to welcome ranching. However, the backlash the Governor received was from just one ethnic group, the Fulani tribe who have taken open grazing as a way of life and would not like it changed. Through their social-cultural groups: Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders, Fulani Nationality Movement, and other Northern elites and governors, they opposed the ban on open grazing with threats of attacks on the state, which were carried out unhindered even as the President and security agencies were timely alerted by Governor Ortom.

The opposition could only last for a while because today, they are singing the Ortom song of ranching. They have all agreed with Governor Ortom that Open grazing is not practicable in the present circumstance of Nigeria. Northern Governors Forum in February 2021, resolved that open grazing was out of date. Contained in the forum’s communique, it read: “The current system of herding mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanization and population of the country.” The forum only repeated what the Benue Governor had said a few years ago which they opposed.

Today, the ranching crusade led by Governor Ortom has reached the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. All the regions, North, South, East have banned open grazing as many of the States have signed into law the Anti-Open Grazing law with several other states in the process of doing the same.

While the attacks by Fulani herdsmen were heavy on Benue State with the denial from the Presidency that those attacking Benue were not Fulani herdsmen but bandits, Governor Ortom warned that if nothing is done fast the so-called bandits will be hard to contain. Today the reality is here. Fulani bandits have become more vicious than Boko Haram and even President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state is not spared from bandits’ deadly operations of killing, kidnapping and shutting down the States’ economy in the Northwest.

Recently, President Buhari’s kinsman blamed him for failing the country as security worsened. Prof., Yusuf Usman, former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS, in a report on Arise News at the memorial lecture in honor of Maitama Sule in Yola said “I am from Katsina State where the President comes from. Before this government came, we did not know what IDPs look like. Now, a third of my state, the President’s State is under siege by bandits. Our capital city is filling up with IDPs. We never saw that. The President does not call to commiserate with us, does not speak about banditry. Listen to him, each time he talks about insecurity, he talks about Boko Haram. Banditry is more difficult, and more lethal to this country than Boko Haram and I will tell you why. Boko haram is located in one place: The North East. Bandits are all over this country.”

In December 2020, in a reaction to the killings of 43 farmers Zabarmari village, Jere Local Government Area in Borno, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar -led Jama’atu Nasril Islam, could not hide their anger and disappointment even as their tribesman is the President. They told Nigerians that they are on their own in terms of security under the present Federal Government when they said: “No Nowhere is safe under Buhari.”

“Wanton killings, acts of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, high rate of unemployment among the youths, rape and all forms of terrorism have now become the new trend in our communities. Nigerians have become so much terrified, as nowhere is safe; the home, the farms and the roads. Bandits now rule in many communities; they set rules that must be obeyed,” they said.

While bandits have occupied every part of the country with their lethal operations, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State vindicated and validated what Governor Ortom had said that those attacking his people are Fulani herdsmen. Speaking to Channels Television in September 2021, Masari said “Majority of those involved in this banditry are Fulani, whether it is palatable or not, but that is the truth.”

The ‘fight’ against banditry by the Federal Government has been treated with kid gloves which is why they have continued to fearlessly operate on Nigeria’s territory unchallenged. Just like the Federal Government was quick to proscribe Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and declared it as a terrorist organisation, Governor Ortom has demanded that the gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen who are today nicknamed bandits be declared as a terrorist group which after all is the fourth deadliest terror group on the Global Terrorism Index. In the usual way of the people from the North, particularly, Fulani and the Presidency, they came on Governor Ortom as a lion going after its prey.

A presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in an interview with BBC News Pidgin in August, replied to Governor Ortom’s call for bandits to be declared terrorists. He said the President is doing more to the bandits than declaring them terrorists. “What the Buhari administration has done to the arms-wielding bandits is worse than being declared as terrorists. There is a subsisting order by the President that any arms-wielding, AK-47 bandits should be shot on sight. Yes, IPOB has been proscribed by law of the land, there is no shoot-on-sight order,” Shehu said. To the presidency, Shoot-on-sight is far weightier than declaring bandits as terrorists. His reply best fits as lame and unintellectual.

Not minding Garba Shehu’s dull justification, Governor Ortom continued to receive support for the call for bandits to be declared terrorists. Interestingly, barely a month after the presidency’s weak explanation on why bandits are not to be declared terrorists like IPOB, the National Assembly called on the President to declare bandits as terrorists. Equally too, speakers of the 36 State Houses of Assembly have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare bandits as terrorists and enemies of the nation. It is glaring that Garba Shehu and his Presidency are in the minority on this issue.

When Governor Ortom advocated licensing of AK-47 to private individuals for self-defence, it first appeared as though it was an unpopular opinion. Of course, Ortom knew what he was saying; he knew things were getting out of hand as the situation has not gotten any better even today. Just like his other patriotic calls, which took time before the authorities accepted, it does appear that it would only take some time for licensing of guns for private individuals to begin in Nigeria. Now, you can call it ‘Ortom: The making of a true prophet’.

Shockingly, the Presidency and other members of the All Progressive, APC, both at the Federal and state have baselessly regarded Governor Ortom as an enemy of President Buhari when he speaks on issues concerning Nigeria. How is Ortom an enemy of the President? When did it become an offence to look your leader in tye face and tell him where he is wrong and where he is right. Governor Ortom has, on several occasions, commended President Buhari when he does the right thing. But the Governor also owes no one any apology when he tells the President where he is wrong.

In my opinion, Governor Samuel Ortom is the best friend of President Buhari who wants him to succeed. Those who flatter Mr President with lullabies to lure him to sleep while Nigeria burns are the real enemies of this country, not Ortom.

When Governor Ortom said the President is the worst President regarding issues of security and keeping his promises, there was a media buzz and the presidency almost rolled out the entire weaponry to crush Ortom as if he was wrong. The Benue Governor was speaking the minds of the people and from the information at his disposal. Governor Ortom’s position has been collaborated by many other people including Buhari’s tribesmen.

Just recently, Comrade Isa Tijjani, former National Labour Congress NLC national Chairman at the memorial lecture in honor of Maitama Sule in Yola, without mincing words, declared Buhari a complete failure and warned that his type should never be given an opportunity to ascend to power again. “We should not pay attention to religion, we should not pay attention in choosing leaders by ethnicity because we have done so and we have failed woefully. That was what we used in electing Buhari and we have seen the result today. The government has failed thoroughly and totally”, Tijjani stated.

Governor Ortom has stood out as one of the outspoken Governors in the times where many have tucked their tails between their legs for fear of losing power and money. The Benue State Governor is the crusader of justice for all, the justice the country needs to correct the many decades of impunity, injustice, marginalization and subjugation.

Governor Ortom speaks from the vantage point of one who is concerned about the unity and progress of the country and he has said a lot that were ignored but have come to pass as the country battles with the grave consequences of its negligence, the negligence of the voice of reason.

President Buhari and those around him need to listen to Governor Samuel Ortom whenever he speaks, not minding which political party he belongs to. The cardinal point for the Presidency should always be the message and not the messenger.

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