From Paul Orude, Bauchi
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State has challenged his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, to substantiate his claim that he (Mohammed) is in cahoots with anybody to kill (Ortom).
This is the first time that Mohammed officially replies Ortom who called the Bauchi governor a terrorist and urged people to hold him responsible if anything happens to him.
A statement signed by Mukhtar Gidado, the Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Governor Mohammed, distributed to reporters late Wednesday evening, said: ‘One of the main attractions of democracy is the freedom of speech which we relish very much in this country. That is why anybody can rise and make any allegation as they choose. However, as the legal dictum goes, he who alleges, must prove. So, if Governor Ortom is not playing to the gallery, we challenge him to substantiate his claim, that Governor Bala Mohammed is in cahoots with anybody to kill the Benue State Governor.’
The statement said: ‘In our resolve to deescalate the tension that has gripped the country over the sacking of Fulani herdsman from Ondo State, we had resolved not to join issues with any other person over the position of His Excellency, Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, CON, on the issue. However, while standing on that resolve, it will be irresponsible of us to ignore two unfortunate claims made by the Benue State Governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, at a press conference last Monday…
‘No doubt, the fact that people, even governors can disagree, vehemently on issues, does not make them enemies or provide an alibi for allegations that border on extreme criminality. We are therefore shocked that Governor Ortom could, in good conscience, address a fellow Governor whom, he had described as a brother, as a terrorist and who should, to wit, be placed under watch should anything untoward happen to him (Ortom). We want to state that Governor Ortom has carried the unfortunate theatrics, for which he is well known, to a very precipitous level of brinkmanship.
‘As a journalist and democrat, Governor Bala concedes to Governor Ortom the right to reply. However, through his unfounded and grave allegations, the Benue State Governor has over-personalised the matter, thereby reducing the debate to a level of toxicity that is neither healthy for the country nor helpful to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
‘We vehemently protest this recourse to criminalising Governor Bala just for the simple reason that he holds a contrary view with his Benue State counterpart. Since Governor Ortom says that Governor Bala Mohammed is his brother, should we then say he is the brother of a terrorist? Should Governor Ortom, as the self-professed brother of a “terrorist”, also be placed under watch, lest he carried out terrorist attacks on others?,’ he queried
He urged members of the public to ignore his antics. ‘As a matter of fact, Governor Bala is so preoccupied with his administration’s resolve to lift Bauchi indigenes and residents from poverty to prosperity that, he has little or no time for brickbats with members of his political family of which his brother, Governor Samuel Ortom is a respected member of the PDP.
‘The Governor is consoled by the fact that his comments have not gone unnoticed. If anything, they have elevated the smouldering crisis to the level of a national priority and is confident that, from the rumbles of the ongoing national conversation, a pathway to resolving the current crisis will emerge.’
He reiterated that the fact that ‘Governor Bala is a patriot and nationalist with no criminal record whatsoever. A peace-loving democrat, who has gone to great lengths to ensure that the letters and spirit of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are faithfully upheld. He has demonstrated, time and again, that he holds sacrosanct, the unity and oneness of Nigeria; and that it is the inalienable right of any Nigerian to live anywhere in the country and to pursue one’s legitimate business without any form of discrimination.’
The statement said ‘Governor Bala retains the view, which he shares with many other patriots, that it is not only unfair but antithetical to national unity, to profile an entire ethnic group, for good or for bad, and the proper approach to tackling criminality is to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any suspected criminal: kidnapper, armed robber, confidence trickster, rapist or assassin, no matter the person’s ethnic background or station in life.
‘As the nation passes through these trying times, rather than stoke the embers of ethnic particularism, leaders, at all levels, should do well to emphasise our unity, reassure those whose confidence has been shaken by the unfortunate events of the past few weeks and seek avenues to heal the wounds inflicted on compatriots of various ethnicities, in the macabre rage that has engulfed the country, and reassures non-indigenes residing in Bauchi State of their safety.
‘He maintains that Bauchi is safe for every Nigerian and foreigners alike and admonishes all to go about their legitimate businesses, devoid of any apprehension while keeping vigilant as the price we all have to pay, for our liberty.’