In a series of apparently syndicated editorials, this country’s newspapers – the Daily Trust and ThisDay – have attempted to lay the blame of the dire security situation in Benue State entirely at the feet of the outgoing president. As for the man who has actually presided over Benue State for the past eight years, its outgoing governor Samuel Ortom, the editors of those publications, in their near identical articles, elected to give him a free pass.
Fortunately, the people of Benue State know the truth. After all, it is they who have suffered under Ortom’s “leadership” – if one can call it such. It is they who have experienced first-hand the mass killings, the torture, the litany of atrocities as Benue’s security situation plummeted ever further. It is they who buried their loved ones while watching their careless, irresponsible and incompetent governor politicise on those freshly dug graves.
And it is they who turned to the last privilege they had left: their democratic privilege, to resoundingly kick out Ortom and his so-called People’s Democratic Party in favour of a new governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Iornem Alia from Buhari’s party, the APC.
But since the Daily Trust and ThisDay may not be as well informed as their Benue compatriots, this blatant rewriting of history must be addressed. For their education, we humbly submit a list – far from exhaustive – of the steps taken personally by President Buhari to address the deteriorating situation in Benue. These were, in many cases, roundly ignored – if not outright obstructed – by former Governor Ortom:
i. A number of in-person meetings with the Governor of Benue State and other community leaders, assuring them of the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting farmers and communities.
ii. The establishment and funding of Joint Security Operations, code-named Operation Whirl Stroke (OWS). To date, the OWS Team remains in place. A number of OWS security agents have given their lives protecting the people of Benue. Many were endangered further by Ortom’s fake news and disinformation campaigns, and his unwillingness to engage with the project.
iii. The deployment of special security forces to flash-points in the State including the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Department of State Services and other security agencies.
iv. The deployment of an array of NAF fighter aircraft, Mi-35 helicopter gunships as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms.
v. The Deployment of ten (10) Units of the Police Mobile Force, Ten (10) Units of Police Special Forces (Tactical Operation Units) and Aerial Surveillance Teams (Police Helicopters).
vi. The Acquisition and deployment of modern military armaments.
vii. The provision of timely and actionable intelligence to Ortom (which were routinely ignored).
viii. The prompt provision of humanitarian support to victims via the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Despite these efforts, we know that the new Governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, has his work cut out. In his own words, he is inheriting a State that is in the Intensive Care Unit. Perhaps if disgraced Governor Ortom had been more concerned with doing his job than politisicing the tragedies so frequently taking place under his watch, the situation in Benue might be very different, like in any of its neighbours – Taraba, Nasarawa, the FCT – which all enjoy peace.
Instead, Ortom stubbornly refused to engage with the detailed, holistic approach clearly spelt out by the Federal Government. He arrogantly chose his own, destructive path. He blamed the Fulani for every problem that arose. He ignored numerous intelligence reports passed to him for action. He rejected police findings into investigations that didn’t meet his egotistical worldview. He politicized every life lost on his watch.
So, thank God the people of Benue rejected him so roundly at elections. His contract was not renewed. He failed a Senate election. Even the person he endorsed for Governorship was rejected.
They know better than anyone else the true reasons for the situation in Benue. If anyone is looking for someone to blame, just ask the people of Benue.
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
April 19, 2023