By Beifoh Osewele, Deputy Editor, Business
“IT takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” This quote of J.K Rowling in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone must have energised Benue Governor, Samuel Ortom, to stand up resolutely in defence of his people.
Soon after he was elected governor on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 Ortom fell out with the acclaimed leader of the party in the state, Senator George Akume.
All seemed to be going on well between godfather and godson until the invasion of the state by suspected herdsmen, followed by the massacre of farmers by the invaders. That made him heed the call of the people to assent to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017. Efforts to make Ortom see “reasons” and either backtrack on implementing the law or even review it met a brick wall, as he decided to team up with the people to check the incessant herdsmen’s attacks and its attendant human and material casualties. He maintained his stance on the law, insisting that ranching remained the global best practices for rearing livestock and ensuring peace between herders and farmers in any society.
His defiance did not go down well with his godfather, as Ortom went ahead and commenced the implementation of the law.
On New Year day in 2018, Nigerians woke up to the news of the killing of 73 people by suspected militias in Guma, Logo and Makurdi Local Government Areas of Benue State. This was followed by several other killings across the state. Thousands of Benue people became residents of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Many were orphaned and others widowed even as several farming communities were left in ruins while the invaders took over ancestral homes.
Since Ortom was then serving his first term in office and was planning to go for a second term, some people expected him to trade the peace of the state for his ambition. But he did not, electing instead to embrace the admonition of Winston Churchill: “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
He eventually returned to his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Although, the APC cited non-performance as the reason he was rejected by the party, Ortom insisted it was because he stuck to his guns to be on the side of the people.
The Benue people stood by him during the election and ensured his return to the Government House. The victory has been described by many as a just reward for courage and leadership.