Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is under intense pressure to prevail on the state assembly to repeal the antigrazing law, which had become a sore point for the Muhammadu Buhari administrarion, findings by the Saturday Telegraph have shown.
The situation has led to a brewing war between the governor and some of his colleagues in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as revealed by impeccable sources within the ruling party. While the herdsmen are hell bent on not obeying the law and go about their open grazing practice unchecked, the leadership of the state is not ready to back down on the implementation of the law, a situation that had put the Federal Government in a dilemma.
The battle ahead, which will see the governor either dumping the party and go with his people or stick with the APC and incur the wrath of Benue indigenes, may alter the political calculations in the ‘Food Basket of the Nation’ ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Further findings by our correspondents show that some APC governors, who felt that Ortom is embarrassing President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC with his insistence on the anti-grazing law, had met with the party leaders and agreed to mount pressure on the Benue governor to reverse his accent to the bill promulgating the law or tone it down by prevailing on the state lawmakers to amend the contentious aspects. However, Ortom, who is also under pressure from his people to maintain the law, has got the backings of some other governors who are encouraging him to stay with his people.
The governor is now said to be in a dilemma as to where his political future lies but sources within the state informed Saturday Telegraph that Ortom will in the coming days take a bold step that would determine his political future. A top rank official in the state civil service confirmed to Saturday Telegraph that there is a mounting pressure on Ortom to reverse the law, because it was the main cause of the recent attack by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
“The governors are doing the biddings of their party leaders but the mood in the state is not favourable towards the APC, and that is the situation the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is capitalising on, to woo the governor into its fold. “It is true that the PDP is wooing him, but the decision will come after all stakeholders had been contacted. Some of the APC governros want him to drop the law but it is going to be very difficult because our people want the law to stay.
The herdsmen have done more than enough damage and that was what led to the law in the first place. “It is not all the APC governors that are with him but he has some supporting him. Those ones asking him to reverse the law are just doing eyeservice to please the president.
They promised Buhari that they will get it done, but Ortom himself had told the president that there is no going back on the law, when he visited him the villa with some of our leaders. “If he reverses the law he will definitely lose the 2019 election. In fact, if he remains in the APC, he will still lose.
The whole of Benue is speaking with one voice on this. Why do you think Dr. Paul Unongo resigned as the chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF)? He is not happy? We are all not happy. No true Benue person can be happy with the way the Federal Government is handling the situation.
The killings are just unforgivable”, he said. However, the media aide to Ortom, Mr. Tarhav Agerzua, told Saturday Telegraph on the phone that the decision to repeal the law was beyond his principal, noting that the legislation came after long term agitations by the people. “None of the governors said it openly, it is possible they said that during their private meeting.
But it is the people’s desire and the governor had to give in. It is deeper than what you know. They want to push us out of Benue Valley so that they can occupy everywhere and have free reign. “They said it at a press conference on May 30, 2017, that they will attack Benue and they carried it out. We have reported them in the past but it seems they are above the law.
“The people prefer to be annihilated than to give in on this law, it is beyond the governor, and it is about the people of the state. The law was made through proper legislation”, the spokesperson said.
Shettima leads APC govs to Benue
Coming on the heels of our investigation, and as if to buttress what our correspondents found out, six governors of the APC yesterday visited Benue State to commiserate with the governor over the New Year’s day invasion that left 73 people killed in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state.
The governors; Kashim Shettima of Borno, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Nasir el- Rufai of Kaduna, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Muhammed Abubakar of Jigawa, and the Deputy Governor of Osun State, Otunba Grace Titilayo expressed regrets over the violent activities ravaging the northern apart of the country, and restated their resolve to take necessary steps in ensuring that the crises were nipped in the bud.
Though Saturday Telegraph could not confirm what they discussed behind closed doors, our sources said it was not unconnected with our findings, insisting that the visiting governors begged Ortom to see to the party’s demand. But in the open, Shetima, who led the delegation, noted that Nigeria had continued to witness series of ethnic and religious uprisings while stressing the need to evolve urgent steps to end the carnage.
“You are the man on the ground, none of us here can claim to understand the challenges of what is happening in the state better than you for they said he that wears the shoes knows where it pinches”.
“We are here to exchange condolences on behalf of 18 sister northern states and 24 sister APC states as brothers and sisters. We know what exactly it is and we share in your pains, we know and share the agonies of those who have lost loved ones and those who have sustained injuries as well as those displaced, and we pray that the Almighty God should bring eternal peace in the state and nation at large”. However, Ortom in his response, made it clear that there is no going back on the law, noting that the state is under siege while revealing that over 80, 000 people had been displaced as a result of the invasion and killings.