From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has expressed sadness over those expressing doubts that his convoy was attacked by gunmen suspected to be herdsmen while on a visit to his farm, Saturday.
While wondering what benefits would accrue to him from claiming what did not happen, he prayed that his worst enemies do not pass through what he went through.
Ortom spoke to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, where he said he came to commend the president for the statement made condemning the attack in his farm along Gkoko road in the state.
“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?”
The governor disclosed that President Buhari has accepted the suggestions he has made on the security situation in the state which includes no one should.
Ortom said: “I have been able to recommend some measures and most of them he agrees with that nobody should be a sacred cow. If people are found wanting, they should be prosecuted by the Police and I think this is what good; the other time he also gave an order for all those carrying AK 47 irrespective of where you come from, you should be shot at site and that us welcoming and it is the best thing to do in a situation like this.
“The order for the Immigration and other security agencies to protect our borders, all these are commended. So, its not just enough to criticize the policies of the Federal Government or the President but when he does what is good, it is our responsibility to team up with him to ensure that that is done because it is when we are peaceful and have security that we can talk about tomorrow.”
Ortom urged Nigerians to deemphasize politics on the issue of security, saying that all hands must be on deck to tackle the menace.
He said: “I am aware that the security challenges in our country today are not about the President or we Governors, they are about every citizen of this country so we must work together to surmount this.
“I also want Nigerians to know, especially those who are responsible for making inflammatory statements, we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder and everybody is not in doubt in Nigeria today, about the security situation, without security there can be no meaningful progress and so it is important to put heads together.
“Let’s do the things that are lawful, protect the provisions of the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria so that everybody will be secured, let there be equity, fairness and justice. That is what I stand for.”
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.
He commended his colleagues, governors, for standing by him over the attack.
The Governor also appealed to Nigerians not to allow their aspirations for the 2023 general election jeopardise the unity and progress of the nation.
“I want to also appeal to Nigerians. 2023, yes to a politician is not far but it is still a long way. If we secure our country and everything is going 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 talking about 2023.
“For me, I want us as leaders of this country, we have taken oaths of office, let us abide by those things we have said and work together as a team; leave politics aside, leave ethnicity aside and secure the country Nigeria. We have no other country than the Nigeria we live in,” he said.
Ortom had said the gunmen, numbering about 15, had trailed his convoy to the river bank where he was on foot with his security details and opened fire on them.
His colleagues on the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), has described as shocking and a rude awakening, the attempt to cut short the life of Ortom.
President Buhari, had on Sunday, ordered security agencies to carry out what he called an “open and transparent” investigation into the attack.