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17 Jan 2018

Ortom, El-Rufa’i and the Gang Playing To the Gallery, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

The government must act swiftly to curb the herdsmen challenge and other security issues, but resorting to ethnic, religious and political sentiments out of a mishandled security issue, is nothing but mischief and opportunism, and for all you know, El-Rufa’i may be flying a kite to get the support of the president and governors in the first step towards his anointing, if Buhari does not run.

The herders-farmers’ clash in Benue State, which left 73 people, including children, dead penultimate week, will go down in history as one of the defining moments of this administration, not because of the number of casualties – germaine as this is – resulting from such perennial conflicts from Benue, Kaduna to Taraba and Adamawa but because of its politicisation and perhaps over dramatisation. The narrative shifted from the impacts of the tragedy on the affected communities to ethnic, religious, sectional and political coloration, and by the time the dust settles in no distant future, the tragedy would have claimed a lot of casualties, this time in government houses across the country. Some other people who have made political gains out of the killings to shore up their sagging popularity might also have their recompense in no time.
In this category is the chief mourner himself, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who before the anti-open grazing law, was in the bottom rung among non-performing governors – governors who are notorious for owing workers’ salaries, who allegedly diverted or mismanaged bailout funds and were at loggerheads with organised labour. Some people even insinuated that Ortom instituted the anti-open grazing law, as a populist stunt to divert attention from his poor performance and failure in governance. However, in the aftermath of the killings and his seeming antagonistic and non-reconciliatory stance, Ortom is gradually emerging as a symbol of the struggle to ‘free’ Benue people from the menacing marauders.
Thus in all his press interviews and television appearances, Ortom has become combative, ready to take on anyone and even his governor-colleagues, like Almakura over Benue State refugees in Nasarawa State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who claimed he warned Ortom not to enact the anti-open grazing law until Lalong apologised, and despite the fact that they belong to the same ruling party. He equally defied the president and his minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, also from Benue State, on their proposed colonies in place of ranching or open grazing. Today, I am sure, if there is an opinion poll to determine the popularity of governors in the North-Central, it will return a positive verdict on Governor Ortom. This is how our politicians sometimes profit from miseries and deaths, depending on where the pendulum swings.

Suddenly, politicians are playing to the gallery to either empathise with the Benue people or defend the APC administration at the federal level, depending on the side of the divide you are, or simply taking advantage of a bad situation. While Almakura and Lalong rushed to castigate Ortom, obviously to be seen to be in the good books of the Presidency, El-Rufai and his gang took a daring path of earnestly asking President Buhari at such an inauspicious time to run in 2019. During a visit to the president after last Friday Jumma’at prayer, seven APC governors led by Nasiru El-Rufa’i and others like Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Abubakar Bello of Niger State, Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State and Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State, visited and endorsed the president to run in 2019 because “continuity and stability” are important. Coming on the heels of the Benue crisis, these governors simply capitalised on the pot-shots being thrown at the president over his cold handling of the security challenge to outsmart their colleagues. Rub my back and I do same to you, you may say. Recall that most of these governors rode on Buhari’s popularity to become governors in 2015 and they probably think the same scenario can be re-enacted in 2019. Again, almost all of them, with the exception of Lalong, are in the midst of political battles for survival in their home states, and jumping the gun to endorse the president, they probabily felt, could save them from their impending Waterloo. Although time will tell, how are they sure the president will run and if he will scale through, if he decides to contest. I do not blame them either – a drowning man will clutch at any available straw; and for the embattled El-Rufa’i, Yahaya Bello and Ganduje, all of them serving their first terms and highly unpopular in their States, Buhari is that straw. Almakura has less trouble to cope with being in his last term, but he had to add his weighty voice because in the political chess game, being relevant at all times is the first rule of the game, and don’t forget that he might be eyeing the Senate too.

Other rabble-rousers playing to the gallery have also seized the day to make disparaging remarks or engage in odd things in a show of counter-force against Fulani herdsmen. In this group are Reno Omokri and Governor Fayose. Omokri, the former personal aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan has put a curse on anyone asking Buhari to run, justifying the same with the killing of Christians. Describing the call for Buhari to run as “a betrayal of Christ”, Omokri said “all Christians who campaign for a second term for Buhari who’s done nothing concrete to stop the slaughter of Christian communities by his radical Muslim Fulani herdsmen brethren…will one day answer before a righteous God for their betrayal of Christ”. Omokri forgot to add that many Muslims in Taraba, Kogi, Kaduna and Nasarawa were at one time or the other casualties of senseless ethno-religious conflicts. In any case, does he not know that not all Fulanis are Muslims and the criminals have no respect for any religion? Omokri has taken the discourse in Benue beyond the madness it is to the realm of politics and religion because emotions are heightened when it comes to religion; it is an unfortunate and unhealthy dimension in a doctrinally divided country like Nigeria.Governor Fayose’s parley with local hunters and their display of paraphernalia of prowess to counter what he called Fulani invasion is the most ridiculous of them all. Fayose, who was decked in camouflage to ‘reflect the mood of the nation’, said intelligence report available to him indicated that the ‘Bororo herdsmen’ had infiltrated the State. Talking tough and obviously in a war mood, he told the hunters to go home and defend their communities. For Fayose, everything is politics and politics is everything, and politicising the Benue killings in the way he did, though his usual style of playing to the gallery, is dangerous because we are not at war and hopefully will not fight another civil war.
The government must act swiftly to curb the herdsmen challenge and other security issues, but resorting to ethnic, religious and political sentiments out of a mishandled security issue, is nothing but mischief and opportunism, and for all you know, El-Rufa’i may be flying a kite to get the support of the president and governors in the first step towards his anointing, if Buhari does not run.
By Mohammed Baba Busu There is no doubt, tough situations demand extraordinary decisions and courageous actions to address them. This applies to all spheres of human life. The recent relocation of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to Benue state, as directed by the president to curb the killing of innocent residents of the state by some suspected militia, is a bold step in the right direction. Even though, many Nigerians were of the opinion that military intervention would have better handle the situation considering its enormity, the outcome of the IGP’s visit, however, proved that the Nigeria Police Force have the capacity perform wonders. It would be recalled that after the killings in Benue, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the IGP to immediately relocate to Benue State to address the situation and ensure that it did not escalate. In an effort to get to the root of the matter, immediately he arrived Benue on Wednesday last week, the IGP held a crucial meeting with stakeholders in the state where frank discussions were held. Residents of the state where given the opportunity to ventilate their anger and grievances to the IGP, and by extension the president. Indeed, the IGP heard both the bad and the good from stakeholders who frankly poured out their frustration over the ugly incident. In rare cases some stakeholders applauded the federal government for its intervention. Prior to the IGP’s arrival, 10 Units of Police Mobile Force had already been deployed to the State. Also, more units of the Police Special Forces, Counter Terrorism Units, and Conventional Policemen were also deployed to the state At the meeting, IGP Idris, reiterated the commitment of the Nigeria Police Force to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators of the killings of the 73 innocent residents of the state on New Year day. He vowed that there will be no sacred cows and assured that anyone found to be involved either directly or indirectly in the killings would be brought to book. IGP Idris explained that the meeting with the stakeholders was geared toward finding lasting solution to the crisis and ultimately put an end to it for lasting peace in the state. While vowing that the police would not rest until the perpetrators of the killings were arrested, the IGP said: “I want to assure you that the police will not rest on its oars until these hoodlums are apprehended and brought to justice. “We are conducting investigation into the killings and will take appropriate action against the perpetrators of the heinous crime. “I want to assure you that police have put in place security measures to checkmate the activities of these miscreants.” He reiterated that harsh punitive measures will be taken against anyone found to be carrying arms around. Also, at a courtesy visit to Tor Tiv, Prof James Ayatse and other 10 First Class paramount rulers in Makurdi, the IGP advocated for closer cooperation between the police and the general public, in order to ensure effective policing of the state. Speaking, the paramount ruler, Prof. Ayatse pledged to mobilize the Benue traditional institution and by extension, the entire Benue residents to support the IGP to restore permanent peace in the state. The paramount ruler however, charged the IGP to fish out the attackers and bring them to book to serve as deterrent to those who may want to engage in such devilish acts in the future. The following day, the IGP zoomed to Nasarawa state which shares border with Benue and held a similar meeting with stakeholders with a charge on Nigerians to embrace tolerance and peace to foster unity and development. He assured the residents of the state that police will do all that is within its powers to protect them and their property. Idris also deployed five additional Mobile Police Units to Nasarawa state to ensure the security of the people, especially those in the border communities. On his part, the Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Al-Makura, applauded the President for the initiative and assured that the state government would give the security agencies the necessary support to succeed in the assignment of restoring peace and unity amongst all ethnic nationalities. Al-Makura, however, debunked the allegations earlier raised by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state that killer herdsmen are being harboured in Tunga, Awe local government area of Nasarawa state. He described the allegations as “grievous, unacceptable and terribly speculative”. According to Al-Makura: “This is an unfair comment to make of Nasarawa state, especially that we enjoy very cordial relationship and can always be reached with any evidence in that regards. “I can assure you as the chief security officer of the state that we would give the police all the necessary support to comb every part of the state to ascertain whether there is any such thing,” Al-Makura added. Al-Makura pointed out that Awe, where the killer herdsmen were allegedly being camped had become a sanctuary for displaced persons, mostly of the Tiv extraction from both states. However, some stakeholders of Tiv extraction at the meeting acknowledged that some of their kinsmen had been killed by herdsmen as result of the implementation of the anti-grazing law in Benue. The Nasarawa State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Gabriel Aka’aka, however, wondered why the Tiv people in the state should be attacked when they have nothing to do with the anti-open grazing law in Benue. He, therefore, stressed the need for security reinforcement along the border communities to apprehend the “mysterious killers” and allay the fears of displaced persons in the area. In order to boost confidence and also encourage the people of the areas directly affected by the killings, the IGP visited the hot and trouble spots of Gbajimba, headquarters of Guma local govt area of the state. In order to test the veracity of the allegation raised by Governor of Benue State, Otom , the IGP visited Anyiin and Tunga villages ravaged by the suspected killer militia in the state and assured them of adequate police protection to prevent a recurrence of the attacks. The IGP’s visit to the communities was facilitated by allegations from Gov Orton that militiamen killing Benue farmers were being camped in Tunga, Awe local government area of Nasarawa state, and to see things for himself The police boss who went through aerial surveillance assured that now that he has go round and see things for himself, we are going to make some adjustments of deployments, “we are taking some more mobile policemen to these areas and this we are to achieve because of our personnel assessment of these locations. He also took time to stop over at the IDP’s camps and gave them the assurances of their safety. “ Nobody has the right to attack another person, it is not possible so what we going to do now is that we are going to reinforced the number of mobile men so that they can identity areas where there are build-ups”.

Read More at: https://leadership.ng/2018/01/17/igps-relocation-benue-issues-arguments-harvests/
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