Four days after he narrowly escaped an armed attack, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom on Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja over the incident that caused ripples across the country.
Ortom told reporters after the closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa that they shared ideas on how to manage the security situation in the country.
He appealed for the moderation of comments on the attack since, according to him, Nigeria is already sitting on a gunpowder keg.
Buhari had on Sunday ordered security agencies to carry out what he called an “open and transparent” investigation into the attack. He also advised that the incident should not be politicised.
Ortom was attacked Saturday by about 15 armed herdsmen on his farm at Tya-mu, along the Makurdi-Gboko Highway. He disclosed shortly after the incident that he ran about one kilometre to save his life.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), political parties, and groups had also on Sunday described as shocking, the attempt to cut short the life of the governor.
A group, the Fulani Nationalistic Movement claimed responsibility for the attack.
Narrating his ordeal again after the meeting with Buhari, Ortom added that the President agreed with him that no person or group should be treated as a sacred cow.
According to him, the suspected herdsmen trailed his convoy to a riverbank where he was on foot with his security details and opened fire on them.
He called on Nigerians, especially politicians, to leave anxiety about the 2023 elections for now and pay attention to the insecurity in the country.
The governor said: ”I want to let Nigerians know, especially those who are responsible for making inflammatory statements; we’re sitting on a keg of gunpowder, everybody’s not in doubt in Nigeria today about the security situation and without security, there can be no meaningful progress going on.
“It is therefore important for us all to put heads together and do the things that are lawful. Let us protect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so that everybody will be secure.
“Let there be equity, fairness, and justice. These are what I stand for. I believe that as my President, I do not want to talk about the recommendations. I have been able to recommend in some measures, and most of them agreed that nobody should be a sacred cow.
“If people are found wanting, they should be prosecuted. And I think this is what is good.”
Ortom also dismissed insinuations that the attack on him was stage-managed. He expressed sadness over such thoughts.
His words; ”I want to advise like I said earlier, Mr. President did advise when he was condemning the attack on me, and pleaded with Nigerians that they should not politicise this matter.
“I want to appeal; I want to beg everyone that we should not politicise the issue of attempted assassination on myself.
“If a governor is attacked, then it is an attack on all. And I appreciate my colleagues in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the Northern Governors’ Forum, the Southsouth Governors Forum, the PDP(Peoples Democratic Party) Governors’ Forum and the APC (All Progressives Congress) Governors Forum as well as state governments.
“We should know when to play politics and we should know when to team up to work as a team to salvage this country. Those who are saying that the attack was stage-managed, of what benefit will that be to me? Do I have to come up and say that I was attacked?”
On his state’s controversial anti-grazing law, he said it was not “targeted at any ethnic group or any individual” as being insinuated.
”That law is meant to regulate the activities of herdsmen and farmers and I think we have very good stories to talk about this. Today in Benue State, those who trespass against this law, who are herders, are arrested, their cattle impounded and they are prosecuted,” Ortom explained.
The governor also spoke on the 2023 general elections, noting that though to politicians, the polls are by the corner, the security situation in the country should take precedence over election thoughts.
He, however, charged the political class, especially those in elective offices, to work together to save the country from crippling insecurity.
Afenifere sympathises with Ortom
Also yesterday, Afenifere, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural and political organisation, has sympathised with Benue GovernorSamuel Ortom over the attack on him.
The group, in a statement by its leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, berated President, Muhamodu Buhari over his statement that the attack should not be politicised.
According to the Afenifere leader, Buhari’s reaction to the development amounted to shedding crocodile tears.
He said President Buhari should desist from pretending that he was not aware his Fulani kinsmen were the perpetrators of most of the killings the country has witnessed in recent time.
Pa Adebanjo recalled that the Buhari administration could neither apprehend perpetrators of 2018 Agatu massacre in Benue state nor did anything to stem attack by herdsmen in the state.
‘Rather than help the people of Benue the President told an embattled Orton when he approached the Presidency for help in 2018 rather cynically to go make peace with his neighbors’ , Pa Adebanjo said.
He recalled that even when the then Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, flouted Buhari’s order to visit Benue following the 2018 killings , the Presidency looked the other way.
The Afenifere leader pointed out that the recent admonition by the defence minister , Bashir Magashi, that Nigerians should begin to defend themselves was instructive, signalling a failed state.
According to Pa Adebanjo the myriad of intractable crisis bedevilling the nation appeared to have overwhelmed the President who should urgently consider resigning.
The Afenifere leader pointed out that it was time state governors were given full charge of security in their states. ‘No outsider knows the house better than the landlord’, he stated further.
Pa Adebanjo said , ‘ restructuring still remains the only way out of the doldrums for the nation if disintegration is to be avoided’.
Group calls for state of emergency
Meanwhile, Benue Survival Group (BSG) has urged President Buhari to declare a state of emergency in Benue State.
Decrying the deteriorating security challenges in the country and particularly Benue State, the group argued that only a state of emergency would usher in a fresh breath of peace to the state.
In a statement by its President, Nungwa Tavershima, the BSG pleaded with the President not to allow the security situation in the state deteriorate beyond the level it is now.