Friday, 24 July 2015

Is There An End To Political Killings In #Benue

SOLOMON AYADO in this report examines the rising trend of political killings in Benue State and warns on its negative implication in the once peaceful North-Central state.

Many people including politicians were enveloped in palpable fear and could not believe it when the news of the assassination of a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) filtered the nooks and crannies of the agrarian Benue state, till the family of the deceased formally announced the demise.

Before the murder of the PDP chieftain, Chief Atodza Ihindan in Katsina-Ala town of the state, gunmen believed to be hired assassins had shot and killed a couple, Tarnongo Ajai and his wife, Rebecca when they were taking their dinner. The assailants had also killed the mayor of the town, popularly referred to as the Tor Geri, in similar same.

The agitations and counter agitations as to what must have propelled the gruesome killings, how it was executed and who must have sponsored the dastardly act directed a signal that the atrocities cannot be anything farther than politically motivated.

There have been more adverse throat-cutting of politicians in the state but for the murder of the PDP elder in broad day light when he visited his construction site to inspect a building project, nearly gingered members of both the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the opposition PDP to wreck havoc and caste aspersions on each other.

While the deaths have sent grief to the affected families, public affairs analysts are busy apportioning blames and directing pointers to the former Governor Gabriel Suswam’s ineptitude to secure the lives of the people. They have also alleged that the ugly incidents are the bountiful harvest or aftermath of the sponsorship and procurement of arms for youths which was targeted by the immediate past administration to force victory for its party.

In another hand, the pundits have lashed at the incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom’s administration for rather than setting foot on active mode to root out these abnormalities, it has however, engaged the slow-motion tactic which, according to them, has not yielded any urgent positive result to end or reduce the security breach and enhance peace in the state.

But security agencies have vowed to fish out the perpetrators of the sordid acts and bring them to face the full wrath of the law. One thing that is still worrisome is the fact that not even the intervention of the combined military forces have erased the fear already instilled in the psyche of the people.

Retrospectively, the rate of political killings in Benue state has spanned since the First Republic but the intensity at which it has perpetrated in recent time is rather aggravated and quite disheartening. Apart from gruesome killings that came to bear during political campaigns of rival political parties, random delete of core party men and women is almost a norm rather than forbidden.

During the days of the United Center Party of Nigeria (UNCP), Mr. Lahave Bua, an ardent supporter of an opposition political leader, a former minister of power and steel, Wantaregh Paul Unongo, was gruesomely murdered in Ikyobo-Mbakuhwa council ward of Ushongo LGA. Years later, the wife of the Tor Tiv, Mrs. Avenda Torkula was also murdered in cold blood at her filling station in Gboko town.

The political killings took a more disastrous turn during the tenure of the former Governor George Akume as gunmen believed to be hired thugs opened fire on his convoy at Nassarawa Egon in Nasarawa state. Akume’s official vehicle was shot at, although the governor survived the attack his confidant, Andrew Agom who boarded same vehicle with him was shot and killed on the spot. Apart from the massacre that played out in Kwande LGA and Zaki-Biam town of Ukum LGA due to military conspiracy and election brutality, several other killings came to the fore.

The ugly trend later reared its provoking head into Suswam’s administration. Suswam, known for ensuring peace, law and order that had fostered a sustainable harmony within the entirety of his tenure could not however totally overcome the challenge of the heinous killings.

It will be recalled that a Professor of Law at the Benue state university Makurdi, Gwa Zyande was shot and killed at an unwinding spot near the institution, just as Rev. Adoor, the priest in charge of NKST Iortyer was also killed in the church yard. The likes of Pharmacist Ternenge Labe, owner of LABET was killed in Gboko, Egbe Nack was killed in Ugba town, PDP chairman in Katsina-Ala, Lumunga Dzegegyuve was gunned down by assassins in his home, Tiir ward in Tongov area while a PDP Youth leader in Ushongo LGA, Peter Gbuuga Ternenge, AKA Andoor, was murdered in his private residence in Lessel, just as Francis Akwaya the president of Ngyenev Development association in Ukum among others met their untimely deaths. The list is endless.

At the moment, keen political watchers have asserted that the killings are nothing strange but carefully masterminded by unscrupulous politicians who, they said, felt threatened in one way or another over the towering profile of their opponents and would decide to have them eliminated. What is quite agitating is perhaps whether the ugly killings have impacted positively to the political undertakings of the masterminds and or negatively to the development of the poverty stricken state.

Before now, shortly after his assumption of office, Ortom became seriously worried with the murder trend that was fast eating deep into the political fabrics of the state. He declared amnesty and directed political thugs with varied arms and ammunition to surrender them. This, he said will enable his administration integrate them while saying that those who would refuse tender of the arms after the amnesty duration expired would be arrested and have their arms confiscated.

In fact, the amnesty order have started to yield obvious result hence some youths who said they were armed by some political paymasters during the last general elections have surrendered their arms to the commissioner of police, CP Hyacinth Dagala who has handed them to the governor.

Appeared the recent killings in the state including that of Elder Ihindan are political, and somewhat a battle for superiority between the governing APC and opposition PDP, many varied party supporters are accusing the leaders of the party in the state, Ortom and Suswam for being responsible. While others said the PDP facilitated the killing of its own party stalwarts because of alleged grand conspiracy, outright deceit and collection of huge money from Suswam and the party but failed to deliver victory for the former governors’ senatorial ambition, some have posited that APC fueled to delete the PDP staunch men because they worked against Ortom’s emergency as governor in the last election. But are they really responsible for the misdeeds?

In his remarks, former Governor Suswam said “I have just been told of the death of Elder Ihindan who was my close political associate. He was known for nothing else than politics. His killing therefore can hardly be divorced from his political activities”

However, Governor Samuel Ortom has condemned in strong terms the gruesome murder of the PDP chieftain, Atodza Ihindan and others, saying government would mobilize security agencies to track and apprehend the killers. The governor who described the killings as despicable and totally unacceptable stated this in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua.

As it is, this is high time for stakeholders, irrespective of political affiliations to unite and bring the wanton killings to a halt in order to impact a positive change and foster rapid development for the state.

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