Pres­i­dency Warns Benue Gov against Du­bi­ous Cam­paign

Guilty con­science at work, state govt replies

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Omololu Ogun­made in Abuja and Ge­orge Okoh in Makurdi

The pres­i­dency yes­ter­day in Abuja warned Benue State Gov­er­nor, Mr. Sa­muel Or­tom, to de­sist from what it de­scribed as his "non­sense" and "du­bi­ous" at­tacks on Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari and fo­cus on the state's chal­lenges.

But in a swift re­ac­tion, Or­tom stated that the guilty con­science aris­ing from the fail­ure of the pres­i­dency to fore­stall the at­tacks by Fu­lani herds­men on the peo­ple of Benue State and their enor­mous deadly con­se­quences that might have prompted the pres­i­dency to make the ac­cu­sa­tion.

Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a state­ment, ac­cused the gov­er­nor of run­ning cam­paigns of false­hood, divi­sion and ha­tred against the pres­i­dent.

He also said Or­tom's cam­paign was ca­pa­ble of di­vert­ing Benue peo­ple's at­ten­tion from his in­abil­ity to pay salaries and pen­sions for sev­eral months.

De­scrib­ing the cam­paign as un­fair to Buhari whom he said al­lowed Or­tom to im­ple­ment his open graz­ing pro­hi­bi­tion law, Shehu warned Or­tom to hence­forth stop the at­tacks on the pres­i­dent.

He also ad­vised the peo­ple of Benue to ig­nore such at­tacks and in­stead, hold Or­tom ac­count­able for non-pay­ment of salaries and pen­sions.

Shehu said, "It has been noted that the gov­er­nor has been vis­it­ing churches in the state where he falsely tells con­gre­ga­tions about Pres­i­dent Buhari's so-called plans to Is­lamise Benue State.

"This non­sense has formed the ba­sis of his cam­paign, be­cause he has noth­ing to of­fer Benue peo­ple.

"The al­le­ga­tions com­ing from Or­tom were par­tic­u­larly un­fair, when one con­sid­ers how much sup­port the gov­er­nor re­ceived from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which sup­ported his graz­ing laws as a means to end the farmer-herder crises that have plagued the state.

"If not for Pres­i­dent Buhari's in­sis­tence that the gov­er­nor be given a chance to ef­fect the law, he would have faced re­sis­tance from dif­fer­ent sources and found it dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment.

"While ad­vis­ing Or­tom to im­me­di­ately stop his du­bi­ous at­tacks on Pres­i­dent Buhari, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment calls on the peo­ple of Benue State to not fall for Or­tom's de­cep­tion and al­low them to be hood­winked by such a neg­a­tive cam­paign.

"They should in­stead, ask him why he has re­fused to pay staff salaries and pen­sions for months, and what he did with the fund­ing from the ex­cess crude ac­count, which should ideally have gone to­wards ad­dress­ing such pay­ments."

Guilty Con­science Trou­bling Pres­i­dency

Mean­while, Or­tom has stated that the pres­i­dency was be­ing trou­bled by guilty con­science aris­ing from its fail­ure to fore­stall at­tacks by herds­men on the peo­ple of the state.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment last night by his Spe­cial Ad­viser on Me­dia and ICT, Mr. Ta­hav Agerzua, the gov­er­nor said he had never ever stated any­where that Buhari was plan­ning to is­lamise the coun­try or said what could be re­garded as hate speech against him.

“He prays daily for the pres­i­dent; for God to grant him good health and wis­dom; and com­mends him for up­grad­ing Ex­er­cise Ayem Ak­pa­tuma to Op­er­a­tion Whirl Stroke, which has been able to re­duce Fu­lani herds­men at­tacks in Benue State to the barest min­i­mum,” Agerzua said.

The state­ment re­called that Or­tom was one of those who or­gan­ised prayers and fast­ing for the pres­i­dent when he had pro­tracted health chal­lenges in 2017.

He said, “The gov­er­nor has con­sis­tently quoted of­fi­cials of Miyetti Al­lah Kau­tal Hore, who ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence in Abuja on Tues­day, May 30, 2017 stat­ing that they would mo­bi­lize their kith and kin across the world to re­sist the Open Graz­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion and Ranches Es­tab­lish­ment Law 2017 en­acted by the Benue State Gov­ern­ment.

“They stated that the cri­sis in Benue State was a strug­gle for the nat­u­ral re­sources of the Benue Val­ley. The gov­er­nor, the State House of As­sem­bly and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers wrote to the pres­i­dency and the rel­e­vant se­cu­rity agen­cies com­plain­ing that the po­si­tion of the Fu­lani so­cio-cul­tural group amounted to dec­la­ra­tion of war on Benue State and that the lead­ers of the group should be ar­rested and pros­e­cuted. Noth­ing was done un­til the threat was car­ried out on New Year day, 2018.

“Benue State had to bury 73 vic­tims of Fu­lani herds­men at­tacks on Guma and Logo lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas. On Jan­uary 13, 2018, the Fu­lani Na­tion­al­ity Move­ment, FUNAM, met in Kano and is­sued a state­ment that what was hap­pen­ing in Benue State was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the 1804 Ji­had when re­cal­ci­trant Benue in­di­genes stopped them in their quest to dip the Qur'an in the sea. They stated that they were cur­rently equipped with weapons and po­lit­i­cal power to con­tinue with the agenda. This was also re­ported to the pres­i­dency and the se­cu­rity agen­cies but noth­ing was done.

“It must have been the guilty con­science aris­ing from the fail­ure to fore­stall these at­tacks and their enor­mous deadly con­se­quences that may have prompted the pres­i­dency to is­sue to­day's mis­chievous state­ment. More so that in the af­ter­math of the at­tacks Pres­i­dent Buhari did not of­fer any mes­sage of sym­pa­thy or con­do­lence to the be­reaved fam­i­lies and the peo­ple of the state.”

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