It is not clear if the governor is to be taken seriously in view of his retribution (self-carved reputation for that matter) as a court jester. The current situation in the country must therefore be aimed at curtailing that performance, if he can thrive at all in the present circumstances. Considering the killings and state of insecurity attracting concern and inevitable criticisms lately from all quarters including the almighty north, we seem to have forgotten that it all started in Benue state which was then disguised as being virtually under siege from foreign cattle rearers.
That was a semi-official explanation of the Federal Government. From whatever quarters, that is even if it was true that Benue state was under foreign invasion, the more reason Federal Government must discharge its statutory function to its citizens in Benue state but also repulsing the disgrace of any African country. Or na only mouth the so-called African giant get? Governor Samuel Ortom continued to agonise on the killings of his people such that, Commander-in-Chief Muhammadu Buhari had to order the (then) Police IG to relocate to state capital Makurdi, with the aim of halting the killings. Feeling abandoned to fat, governor Ortom had to sign a bill enabling him to confront the murderous cattle rearers.
Still the killings continued. If a neighbouring state governor couldn’t assist, he at least could shut up. Instead, what happened? Plateau state governor, Simon Lalong, chose that very moment for some unknown reasons, to sabotage his neighbour Samuel Ortom of Benue state for taking the bull by the horns to halt the killings in his state. But the criminals openly bragged that they would make the new law unworkable. Tension hightened as more killings were recorded amidst Benue state government’s determination to protect its people under the new law.
Exactly at that time, Plateau state governor Simon Lalong went to Aso Rock and with an “it serves him right,” told reporters that his Benue counterpart ignored his advice not to sign the new law, which he claimed was the cause of continued killings in Benue state. Nigerians were aghast. Should Governor Ortom have remained unconcerned in the light of serial killings of his people by purported foreign cattle rearers? But that was if at all Simon Lalong ever discussed the issue with the Benue governor. Worse than that was that Governor Ortom denied ever meeting Lalong at that time or ever advised against the law by Governor Lalong. It was impossible to know who was telling the truth. That particular truth soon emerged as Lalong, within days, returned to Aso Rock to publicly admit he and Governor Ortom never met in recent weeks and that there was never a time he advised Ortom against the new cattle law. What then could a state governor have stood or was hoping to gain by telling lies against a colleague or by sabotaging his closest neighbour on such a sensitive issue as the killings of defenceless Nigerians by purported foreigners?
Governor Ortom must have felt vindicated not only among his people but throughout the country. Concerned people of Plateau state must have pushed Lalong back to Aso Rock to correct himself. Rather shamefully, he did just that. After membership of House of Representatives and the Senate, one after the other, and from where he was elected a governor, any Nigerian’s legacy was to be seen as his own man not only saying it as it is, but also never to acquire the reputation of an unserious fellow even if that meant losing a re-election bid
Yet, despite being a lickspittle, Governor Lalong was to taste the blooshed being inflicted on the people of Benue state by cattle rearers, a disturbing episode against which Samuel Ortom has been waging a solo battle. So soon after his re-election in 2019, Governor Lalong cried out after another bloodletting among his people carried out by the lawless notorious criminal gang. Meanwhile, as various killer gangs were committing crimes against humanity in Plateau, Zamfara, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, southern Kaduna and even parts of Bauchi, a separate killer gang, the disbanded SARS, (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was committing murder more unlawfully all over down couth, under the banner of the state. The situation became no longer tolerable after series of public complaints against unlawful murders by members of the squad yielded no results. Ordinary defenceless and unarmed young Nigerians decided to stand their ground by mounting a peaceful protest at Lekki toll gate in Lagos, in demand for the disbandment of the killer gang. And who was the first to, not only acknowledge but also concede the demand as as legitimate and irresistible? President Muhammadu Buhari who was almost instant enchored by Police IG Adamu. The development was like a miracle. In a country where protests or strikes normally lasted a few days at the longest, the Lekki protest lasted up to a fortnight with prospects of being indefinite in duration. Suddenly, the other side hired armed thugs to infiltrate the otherwise erstwhile prevailing peaceful atmosphere with unprovoked violence far away from the scene of the sit-down protest. As that would not work, the other side extended its violence to Lekki area to offer excuse for soldiers to shoot to disperse the protesters.
The warning given in this column more than four times against any violence on civilian agitators but ignored all along, eventually attracted the attention of international organisations like the United Nations African Union, ECOWAS, powerful nations like United States, Britain, European Union, other western countries, all opposed to crimes against humanity and of course, international satellite media like CNN, BBC, Sky NEWS and Aljazeera, while not forgetting Nigeria’s Channels and Arise News merely discharged their professional obligations as demanded in modern times, no matter the culprit country. It was the first time world media focussed so massively on internal dispute in Nigeria.
Regretfully, Nigerians of northern extraction, met in that capacity in an atmosphere group of persecution complex and impliedly branded as anti-Buhari and anti-north a protest and demand President Buhari had himself conceded to be legitimate. What changed except that extraneous elements hired thugs to introduce violence into a simple exercise of human right guaranteed under Nigerian constitution? The language was clear — a rallying call on the north to stand as one and behind Buhari.
Those at the meeting were from all walks – politics, business, economy, professions, religions, civil service, Even a serving Police IG, (supposed to be serving the country impartially and who conceded the protest to be legitimate) dropped his guard and tactlessly attended. The only notable absentees are former Heads of States General Yakubu Gowon, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubarkar. Never has the self-depreciation of the north been on display perhaps unconsciously. Suddenly, Buhari became their in whom they were well pleased and other Nigerians, whose complementing efforts helped in getting Buhari elected twice, were reduced to his enemies.
President Buhari himself, presumably, must have been embarrassed since he is not only Nigeria’s son but was also voted into office by Nigerians. After all, is not Nigerian political history that on three previous occasions – 2003, 2007, and 2011 – he (Buhari) could not win Aso Rock until the south embraced him in 2015 presidential election, and also solidly stood by him to be re-elected in 2019.
The self-depreciation was made clear beyond every doubt in the communique at the end of the Kaduna meeting, where, after much rambling, the conclusion was announced that the Lekki protest against SARS was subversion against Buhari. And who read the communique? The same Simon Lalong, Plateau governor. Anybody familiar with issuance of communique will attest to its emptiness and mutual deceit, being a rehash of conclusions cooked up well in advance of meetings even at international diplomatic level.
As it happened, whatever Samuel Lalong and his collaborators hoped for never materialised. Indeed, they could not even believe themselves that the Lekki protest was to subvert Buhari and consequently diffused within days. Hardly had their Kaduna meeting dispersed than, as if in total self-dissociation from the contents of the communique, protests and criticisms by northerners spread, notably throughout the north. The protests, with which the south was blackmailed continued to spread in the north till now. In these matters, what is the difference between protest and criticism? But none is appreciation. Who and where were the sources of the protests and criticisms from the north?
Jama’atu Nasir under the leadership of the Sultan, Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Coalition of Northern Groups, NLC, Northern Governors, Scholars, Politicians, Business men. Which group remains in the north? Are the above groups necessarily subverting Buhari or seeking regime change? They are merely excercising their freedom of expression and their right to criticise government and Buhari as guaranteed under Nigerian constitution. The criticism and/or protest at Lekki in Lagos was not even as widespread as in the north. Those who criticised Buhari either at Lekki in Lagos or the north are his better and genuine friends than useful idiots telling him only what he wants to hear.
In the midst of it all, Plateau state governor has disappeared in total silence and he is nowhere to be seen or requested to compare the protests/criticisms from the north to the Lekki, Lagos episode which he maliciously described as subversion of President Buhari.
And then, the clincher. If there was any doubt on whether the peaceful protest in Lekki, Lagos was infiltrated by the other side which hired thugs to violently discredit the sit-down protesters such doubt eventually disappeared. Following protests and criticisms all over the north, the Coalition of Northern Groups organised a meeting at Arewa House, at which were in attendance responsible and respectable northern dignitaries. Moments before the meeting took off, armed thugs hired by the other side, stormed the venue and forced attendees to run for their dear lives. Since the other side far away in Lekki, Lagos got away in violently dispersing sit-down protesters, it was even far easier to similarly disrupt the peaceful gathering of concerned dignitaries shortly before the start of their meeting at Arewa House.
Since the north did not speak against the violence visited on peaceful protesters in Lagos, who could speak for the north against the hooligans paid to invade Arewa House and abort a peaceful protest? Certainly, not Plateau state governor Simon Lalong. Where is Lalong, anyway, in the light of the uproar in the north? Is that also a subversion against President Buhari?