We read statements credited to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), a group without base, in which it accused Governor Samuel Ortom of fuelling crisis in Benue State and blaming it on armed Fulani herdsmen.
In the statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Casiddy Madueke, the group also alleged that Governor Ortom celebrated the murder of 73 Benue indigenes in January 2018 with what it called ‘a parade of coffins and a jamboree burial’ to blame Fulani pastoralists. BMO also accused Governor Ortom of arming, shielding and using the wanted Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, as well as Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku to massacre Benue people.
We are not in any way surprised to read such comments from the Buhari Media Organization. The latest outing of the group is only part of the blame-the-victim strategy employed by enemies of Benue State from within and outside the state, who, having failed in their bid to oust Governor Ortom through the electoral process, have resorted to shameless lies to tarnish his reputation.
Now is the season in which political jobbers such as Niyi Akinsiju and Casiddy Madueke are jostling for appointments from the Presidency, and one of the ways to curry favour is to launch unprovoked attacks on Governor Ortom so they will be seen as ‘hardworking and deserving’ of appointments.
The Buhari Media Organzization was not only confused about what to write in the hurriedly published statement but also made a jest of its name with the unfounded allegations regarding the Benue State security situation.
For the information of the group, Fulani pastoralists under different names such as Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, MACBAN, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Herders Association, as well as Fulani Nationality Movement, FUNAM have all confirmed that indeed the Benue attacks were carried out by their members who claimed that their livestock were rusttled.
For instance, National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Abdullahi Bodejo and Secretary General, Saleh Alhassan addressed a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday 30th May, 2017 and stated that the crisis in Benue State was a struggle for the natural resources of the Benue Valley.
These groups came out boldly to declare fierce resistance to the Benue State Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 and threatened to mobilize other pastoralists from all parts of West Africa to invade Benue and stop implementation of the Ranching Law. They followed their threats with attacks beginning on 1st January 2018 and the larger part of that year until the Federal Government, acting on repeated calls from the Government and people of Benue State, deployed the military to commence Operation Whirl Stroke to chase the armed herders out of the state.
The Fulani National Movement, FUNAM, in one of its statements, also declared that the people of Benue State deserved to killed by the herdsmen.
“The killings in Benue of Tiv is well deserved. It was a revenge attack on the series of onslaught on the Fulani which was most horrendous on November 17, 2017 when 30 Fulani men and women were killed in Nasarawa State. We notice the recalcitrant culture of the Tiv people as demonstrated even during the 1804 Jihad when they obstructed our ordained conquest of Nigeria,” FUNAM added in a widely publicized communique in January, 2018.
In their bending over backwards to impress their sponsors, the BMO erroneously stated that Terwase Akwaza was Governor Ortom’s aide. Mr Akwaza, also known as Gana had at no time been appointed as an aide to the Governor. He was a key beneficiary of the amnesty programme initiated by the Ortom administration. However, the very moment he reneged and was accused of having a hand in the killing of the Governor’s former security aide, Denen Igbana, the police declared him wanted and the State Government immediately placed a reward of N20 million for anyone with information that could lead to his arrest. The reward still stands.
The group equally needs to be reminded that Governor Ortom had discussed the state’s amnesty programme with President Muhammadu Buhari before it was granted.
When Gana went back to his old ways, Governor Ortom did not shield him, rather the State Security Council of which he is chairman authorized several expeditions to his hideout in order to arrest him.
What the Buhari Media Organization refused to include in their statement was the fact that leader of All Progressives Congress, APC in Benue State, Senator George Akume, visited Gbishe, Gana’s village and reportedly met with him before the 2019 elections. It is believed that he solicited the services of the gangster to help APC in rigging the elections. With Gana’s support the APC rigged the Presidential, Governorship and State Assembly Elections in Katsina-Ala local government area. Their action is being challenged at the tribunal.
On the allegation that Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku was used in the murder of two Catholic priests and 17 parishioners in Mbalom, again, the Buhari Media group has only displayed gross ignorance of the facts on ground. It should be recalled that Alhaji Tershaku was arrested after the Mbalom incident and released without any trial in court. No charge was preferred against him and till this day, no reason has been made public by security agencies regarding his arrest and subsequent release.
Meanwhile, reputable media organizations interacted with survivors and victims of the Mbalom massacre who stated unequivocally that their attackers were Fulani herdsmen militia. These reports were aired and the general public watched.
Meanwhile, we expected the Buhari Media Organization to tell Nigerians that shortly after his release from detention, Alhaji Tershaku joined APC and worked assiduously for the party in Benue and Nasarawa States. In fact, he formed a support group for President Buhari ahead of the elections.
We are aware of the sustained campaign to change the narrative that Benue people are killing themselves. But what the desperation of those behind the campaign cannot change is the truth that Benue people, other Nigerians and indeed the international community know that Fulani herdsmen militia have been responsible for the invasion and attacks on hundreds of children, women and aged people across Benue and several states across the country.
Yet, Governor Ortom has also never hidden the fact that there are other criminal elements in some parts of the state, (like any other state) who are responsible for cases of kidnappings, assassinations, robberies, cultism and other criminal activities. The Benue State Government has not failed to deal decisively with the situation as witnessed in the Governor’s recent declaration of crackdown on criminals.
Governor Ortom is a peace-loving man who has demonstrated courage and determination in defending his people and has no reason to use criminals for whatever purpose. This current campaign of calumny against the Governor will fail as all the previous ones.
We advise the Buhari Media Organization that elections are over. Now is time for governance, so they should allow those given the mandate of leading the people to concentrate on their duties.
Sponsors of the group ought to find a decent way for its members to lobby for jobs from the Presidency instead of allowing them to wallow in character assassination, and deliberate distortion of facts as we have seen in their published statement.
Special Adviser, Media and ICT
20th May, 2019.