Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, has drawn the attention of Nigerians to the looming tragedy posed by the worsening insecurity in the country, and warned that if not properly managed by all and sundry, it could explode the country in pieces.
The governor who made this submission when spoke to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in his office at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday, said all attention should focus on solving the challenges posed by insecurity rather that the obsession of many elites with the politics of 2023 elections.
Governor Ortom recently escaped an assassination attempt on him by unknown gunmen in his state, at the weekend. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had since deployed Force Criminal Investigation Department officers to the state while the Governors Forum had directed the security agencies to fish out the gunmen immediately.
Speaking with journalists, Ortom said he had fruitful discussions with President Buhari on the attack on him and security situation in the country, noting that Buhari agreed with him that no person or group should be regarded above the law in the land.
“I want to let Nigerians know, especially those who are responsible for making inflammatory statements; we’re sitting on a keg of gunpowder, everybody’s not in doubt in Nigeria today about the security situation and without security, there can be no meaningful progress going on.
“So, it is important to put heads together, do the things that are lawful, let us protect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so that everybody will be secure.
“Let there be equity, fairness and justice. That is what I stand for. That is what Im fighting. I believe that as my president, I do not want to talk about the recommendations. I’ve been able to recommend in some measures, and most of them, they agreed that nobody should be a sacred cow.
“If people are found wanted, they should be prosecuted, the police should prosecute them. And I think this is what is good” he said.
He dismissed the current preoccupation of politicians with the politics of 2023 general elections, stating that the security situation in the country should take precedence over election matters for now.
He said: “So it’s not just enough to say that one criticises the policies of the President, but when he does a good thing, it is our responsibility to team up with him to ensure that it’s done because it is when we are peaceful, when we have security, that we can talk about tomorrow.
“I want to also appeal to Nigerians, 2023, yes to a politician is not far, but it’s still a long way. If we secure our country and everything is working fine, then we can talk about 2023, but the way things are going if we don’t secure the country, there is no way we can be talk about 2023, that is why I always dismiss people who come to me to say that we will contest this, we will contest that.
“For me, I want us as leaders of this country, who have taken Oath of Office, let us abide by those things we have said, work together as a team, leave politics aside, leave ethnicity aside, then secure the country, Nigeria. We have no other country other than Nigeria.
“Today, we cannot go to Cameroon or Senegal or any other country and claim responsibility So my appeal to everyone is to ensure that we work together. Security matters are not just for the security agencies alone. We as people who are being led, we have a responsibility, we who are leaders, we have a responsibility.
“It is only when we team up together that we’ll be able to surmount this challenge. But I think that there shouldn’t be room for people who are creating problems for us. We have a constitution, we have laws of the land. If people are found wanting, they should be cautioned, they should be arrested, be prosecuted and let the right thing be done”, he said.
He denied allegations that the reported assassination attempt on him was stage-managed, saying:
“I want to advise, like I said earlier, Mr. President did advise when he was condemning the attack on me, and pleaded with Nigerians that they should not politicise this matter. I want to appeal, I want to beg everyone that we should not politicise the issue of attempted assassination on myself.
“If a governor is attacked, then it is an attack on all. And I appreciate my colleagues the government’s irrespective of party affiliation, the chairman of our Governance Forum, the chairman of northern governors governors forum, the Chairman of Southern governors forum, the chairman of PDP governors forum, the Chairman of APC governors forum.
“All of them by way of call or text messages or press statement, they have communicated to me condemning this attack. That is how it should be. We should know when to play politics and we should know when to team up together to work as a team to salvage the country. That is what I’m saying. Those who are saying that, what benefit Do I have to come up and say that I was attacked”, he said.
He also spoke on his State’s controversial anti-grazing law, which he said is not targeted at any ethnic group as being insinuated.
“We cannot continue in this manner. Democracy is anchored on the rule of law that is why for some of us, you see that I have not done anything illegal including the prohibition of open grazing, which my people told me to present to the House of Assembly and eventually it was signed into law.
“That law is not targeted against any ethnic group or individual but it is meant to regulate the activities of herdsmen and farmers and I think we have very good stories to talk about this. Today in Benue State, those who trespass against this law, who are herders, are arrested, their cattle impounded and they are prosecuted.
“Those who rustle cattle form herdsmen, we also go after them so nobody is spared; even the people in Benue State, Idoma, Tiv and other ethnic groups have also been prosecuted when they contravene the provisions of the law,” he said.