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Ortom and politicians’ crocodile tears


Unlike in the developed democracies where politics serves the interest of interest groups, Nigerian politicians serve none but themselves. The ongoing shedding of crocodile tears by politicians over last week’s attempted assassination of Governor Ortom of Benue State by suspected herdsmen has once again confirmed Nigerian politicians respond to inputs from their environment only when their interest is threatened. To the politicians who take delight in playing the ostrich, the attack came as “a shock and a reawakening”. But to ordinary Nigerian folks, it did not come as a shock. Our politicians sowed the wind. It naturally follows they reap the whirlwind.


But let us set the record straight by going through memory. It was the politicians who at the onset of the fourth republic in 1999 introduced what Obasanjo back then described as “political Sharia”, embraced by the 13 contiguous northern states and hailed by leading northern politicians including General Muhammadu Buhari. The politicians sent some innocent northern youths to Osama Bin Laden, then hiding in Sudan where he was grooming terrorist and planning his attack on World Trade Towers in New York, for radicalization. They set up a terror group that later graduated to Boko Haram, as a balance of terror to settle scores with political opponents. The politicians provided arms and intellectual support for the Niger Delta militant youths, with the aim of replacing their foreign exploiters who deploy Niger Delta resources to build bridges over land in Abuja. It is widely believed Ex-President Obasanjo took sides with a faction of the Niger Delta militant group to serve his own political ends. In the Southeast where election is war, the politicians armed the youths to checkmate political opponents. Thugs were also weapons of election in the southwest with a sitting president deploying state funds to secure the support of banned Odua militant group in 2014.


With the legitimacy of elected politicians being fiercely challenged by the demons they foisted on Nigeria, the chicken has only come home to roost. But rather than address our crisis of nation building, our politicians have continued to play the ostrich. Last week, Garba Shehu, the president’s spokesman told us that his principal who for five years failed to tame rampaging immigrant herdsmen as was done in Ghana due to lack of political will, “has directed the police to undertake a thorough investigation into the attack involving the governor and into all such incidents affecting individuals and communities in the state.”


Once again, the president chose to address the symptoms. Ortom has on more than one occasion publicly claimed he had written more than five different letters to the president and the nation’s security apparatus, calling attention to the fate of Benue people condemned to IDP camps by those who confiscated their farm lands. The president also paid a condolence visits to Benue following the 2018 Agatu massacre and mass burial of about 72 people.


But trying to outdo the presidency in a game of living in denial are our governors. The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), perhaps the only group that saw the attack as “shocking and a rude awakening”, now says “it will continue to encourage its members to stand firm in the service of their people regardless of the evil machinations of those who don’t wish Nigeria well”. Still trying to read the body language of a president who has directed AK-47 wielding criminals threatening Nigerians to be shot on sight, the groveling governors are still unable to talk about criminal herdsmen. Sadly this was long after some members of the forum, including Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna, Aminu Masari of Katsina and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi have publicly denounced the criminal activities of foreign Fulani herdsmen that continue to visit violence on Nigerians even after receiving restitution for their alleged killed cows.


The PDP has also expressed its outrage and “demanded the federal government lives up to its responsibility on the protection of life and property in the state.” The party wants President Buhari to “put machinery in motion by ordering an immediate manhunt, arrest and prosecution of the assailants and beef up security around the governor.”


Other outraged PDP members include Rivers’ Nyesom Wike, a favourite of the militants who according to Itse Sagay, rode to power on the blood of the people. Blowing hot and cold, he told the president: “If you kill Ortom, then be prepared to bury Nigeria.” There was also incensed David Mark who says: “If our government and security operatives can no longer guarantee people’s safety in their homes, farms or places of business, I am worried that the situation may compel citizens to resort to self-help”.


David Mark, a PDP leading light was in the senate for about 16 years serving as senate president for eight years. In 2004, unidentified gunmen attacked the convoy of George Akume, then governor of Benue State. Over a dozen politicians were killed in the first five years of the fourth republic with perpetrators seldom found.


The long list includes the vice chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Aminasoari Dikibo, who was shot dead in his car while traveling to a party conference in Delta State. There was also Bola Ige, who as Obasanjo’s minister of justice and attorney general was killed in his bedroom. His assailants are yet to be found.


Under his watch in March 2014, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, escaped death by the whiskers when his convoy was ambushed by suspected Fulani mercenaries at Tee-Akanyi village in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State. This was just after the rampaging invaders had sacked about 64 villages on the Daudu-Gbajimba axis of the council, killing no fewer than 37 persons.


Also playing the ostrich is Plateau State’s Simon Lalong and his Northern Governors Forum. The forum wants the incident investigated thoroughly. But Plateau had its own fair share of killing. We can easily recall the attack on Razat, Ruku, Nyarr, Kura and Gana-Ropp villages of Gashish District in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State which claimed no fewer than 100 lives. The killing was said to be in retaliation to the killing of over 300 cows according to Danladi Ciroma, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association, MACBAN chairman, North Central zone. The report of the investigation into the incident which many claimed indicted the then IG was suppressed.


Indignant Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo’s vice president for eight years was also out to be counted. He wants “a rejig of the nation’s security architecture and a constitutional framework that empowers the states to control their internal security.” But, Paul Unongo as the then chairman of the Northern Elders Forum,, had alleged that besides having more cattle than anybody, he was the chief financier and most influential member of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, a charge Atiku has since denied


Unongo, a Fulani and a Tiv who should know better also told Nigerians that Miyyetti Allah is “an establishment of the big people, a very rich group of Nigerians and they pack small boys to take their cattle all over the place and then buy all these arms to give herdsmen to go and kill people, and the government is doing nothing!”


Unfortunately, with little or no governance going on under President Buhari’s APC government, it is Unongo’s words against Atiku’s.

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