Monday, 18 July 2016



It is no longer news that Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on a courtesy call to the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, last week, did declare before the whole world that there are no serious killings of farmers in the state by Fulani herdsmen as is severally being reported in the media.

The governor admitted that only a few (22) farmers have so far been killed, but even those he attributed to the activities of criminal elements from amongst the Fulani and Tiv as well.

According to Ortom, "... killings in Benue State, it is not true.... I know that people have been killed, the numbers are 5, 15, 2 and this is as a result of criminal elements of both the herdsmen and also the farmers. They are two, and as we balance it up as Governor, the truth is that I'm aware of the criminality that is going on."

But prior to the governor's visit to Abuja, the facts on ground put a serious lie to his rather strange claims, as from Buruku to Tarka, Logo, Ukum and Katsina-Ala local government areas of the state scores of farmers have been killed on a rather regular basis and in very hideous manner by Fulani herdsmen who appear to be getting bolder by the day.

Gov. Ortom's statement in Abuja has since attracted widespread condemnation even from some of his ardent supporters, but following closely on the heels of this misadventure the governor's Adviser on Local Government and Chiefraincy Affairs, Titus Zam, led a delegation of some Benue elders to pay homage to the Sultan of Sokoto, a move which is clearly pacifist and rather obsequious, considering that the Fulani are clearly the aggressor in their ongoing crisis with Benue farmers.

It has been argued by some in defence of the governor that his dilemma may be the fear of antagonising President Buhari who's stand on the crisis is comprises in a deafening silence punctuated only on a few occasions by non-committal statements which put the blame on both the herdsmen and farmers in equal measure.

However, the courtesy call to the Interior Minister presented to Gov. Ortom a golden opportunity to situate the insurgency by the herdsmen against Benue farmers in the global attention and in so doing target to appropriate to the people of his state enhanced security both in physical and psycho-social terms.

Doubtless, such an action by the Benue State governor would have gone against the stand of silence preferred by President Buhari and the pro-Fulani lobby, yet it would have more than anything else strengthened the bond between the governor and his people, a development which at this point could offer incalculable social capital.

But Ortom passed up such a precious opportunity and has opted to press on with subservient gestures to the caliphate even as the emboldened herdsmen run amock through Benue villages killing and pillaging at will.

Never before has a government reduced this state and her people to such a humiliating status in this country, with no discernible motive nor focus as could be considered to promise any good in the foreseeable future.

In the past Benue people have severally come into armed conflict with neighboring ethnic groups.

During the George Akume era as governor there was the intractable armed violence between the Jukun and Tiv in Taraba State which spilled over into Benue State and eventually resulted in the Nigerian Army massacres of hundreds of innocent Tiv civilians in Zaki-Biam, Vaase and Gbeji.

Then the ongoing Fulani insurgency against Benue farmers assumed this heightened dimension during the time of the immediate past administration of Gabriel Suswam, with the attendant external pressures from certain pro-Fulani quarters including the caliphate, yet at no point did either Akume or Suswam capitulate and take such an anti-people stand as Ortom has done.

Gov. Ortom in capitulating to the perceptible intimidating demeanor of President Buhari and sending Titus Zam to lead a kow-tow party to go in obeisance before the Sultan, has not only exhibited a saddening level of cowardice at a moment when courage is needed as a major weapon in this conflict, but has also sold the impression to the world that Benue people are second rate as far as the Fulani are concerned.

It may difficult to calculate the possible gains, if any at all, of this cowardly stand of the Benue governor in the face of increasing Fulani belligerence and atrocities against peasant farmers in the state, but it is not difficult to fathom that such a lame stand against a determined aggressor such as the Fulani has never yielded peace anywhere in the history of human conflict.

Bemgba Iortyom is the State Publicity Secretary of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State.

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