By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
The All Progressives Congress, APC is set to lose Benue state. Interplay of factors in state in the last two months may have greatly eroded support for the party among Benue people. Credible sources told this magazine that recently prominent religious and political leaders in the state met and handed the Governor, Samuel Ortom an ultimatum to quite the APC to fully drive home, the people’s disenchantment with President Muhammadu Buhari over the continuing armed Fulani herdsmen’s blood chilling mayhem in the state failing which he and the party will be voted out in 2019.
Marauding armed herdsmen murdered 73 people in the state on the 1st of last month and more killings have taken place since then. Uncoordinated government response to the wanton killings has led Benue leaders to insist that the Buhari government is tacitly backing the herdsmen hence the intense pressure on Ortom to not only bark but bite by the way of dumping the APC.
Snippets of what to expect from Benue and Ortom in the days to come could be gleaned from his refusal join some governors of the North Central states to welcome President Buhari to Nassarawa state last week. Ortom said he could not leave Benue to welcome Buhari in Nassarawa while his people were still being killed back home.
Governor Ortom laments that government security forces have failed the people of the state. He said Benue people are no longer ready to turn the other cheek hence he has asked them to defend themselves against Fulani herdsmen’s aggression.
A Benue leader who spoke to The Source lamented what they termed federal government’s romance of the killer herdsmen.
“First, we were told that the killer herdsmen are not Nigerians, later they were dubbed ISIS fighters, and then in the same breathe, the President pleaded with us to accommodate ‘our countrymen’ If these armed Fulani herdsmen are foreigners or ISIS fighters, why was the President asking us to accommodate killers, terrorists and foreigners?” Why is government making excuses for the killers, trying to downplay their origin and rationalizing their dastardly acts when certain elements in Miyette Allah and other Fulani organizations has boldly claimed credit for the killings?, one of the leaders queried.
Justifying why Ortom should make a strong show of displeasure with Buhari by quitting the APC, another prominent leader of the state pointed out that Defense Minister, Mansur Muhammed Dan Ali and Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris’ alleged reference of the Benue anti- Open Grazing law as the cause of the mayhem align with the position of Miyetthi Allah, the umbrella body of Fulani Cattle Breeders.
According to him, “the two key functionaries of the Buhari government turning themselves into Miyetti advocates clearly indicate the attitude of government towards the people of Benue. You can see that their sympathy is with the aggressor rather than with the victims. This is unfortunate” .Governor Ortom himself has accused the Defence Minister and the IGP of turning themselves into Miyetti Allah’s spokesmen and has vowed that the anti-Grazing Law would never be repealed or relaxed.
Meanwhile, it’s not clear yet where Ortom is headed but sources disclose his former party, the People Democratic Party, PDP, is making strong overtures to him. Last week, Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Ekiti state governor Ayo Fayose paid him a solidarity visit. Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike has also equally donated millions of naira to victims of herdsmen attack.
Ortom was a Minister in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.He resigned his position to seek the ticket of the PDP for the 2015 Benue guber election but lost. A day after he was denied the PDP ticket, he surfaced at the APC and was handed the party’s ticket. Multiple sources close to the governor reveal that he would have still loved to tag along with the APC but the level of resentment against the party in Benue currently is such that he will roundly be defeated if he attempts re-election on its platform hence his decision to heed ultimatum of Benue leaders.
On the other hand, it has been learnt that President Buhari faction of the APC is not happy with Ortom over his uncompromising stance on the Anti-Grazing Law. Intense pressure, intimidation and outright threat, this Magazine was told, have been brought to bear on the governor with the view to making him reverse the law and recant some of his incendiary comments against the federal government.
To this end, just as Ortom is weighing his future with the APC, Buhari wing of the party is also plotting his replacement with a more amenable person who whose first task upon assumption of office will be to repeal the law and allow Fulani herdsmen unfettered access in all nooks and crannies of the Benue.