From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said Governor Samuel Ortom has tremendous respect for President Muhammadu Buhari but cannot be silent while his people are being gruesomely murdered.
Mr. John Ngbede, chairman of the party in Benue State, disclosed this in a reaction to the statement by former governor and Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume in Abuja on Monday.
He stressed that the tremendous respect Ortom has for the president cannot stop him from calling on him to live up to the duties of his office.
“The governor only called on the president to discharge his constitutional responsibilities of safeguarding his subjects who are being killed on daily basis by herdsmen. The governor had demonstrated his love for the president in 2017 when he was sick and hospitalised.
“Through his instrumentality, the Benue State Government in conjunction with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) organised a three-day prayer and fasting session from May 12 to 14, 2017, for the speedy recovery of the president.
“The governor was also part of a six-man delegation of governors that visited the president on his hospital bed in London.
“On his return, the governor called on all Nigerians to pray for the president with the belief that when the president is sick, the whole country is sick,” he said.
He, therefore, said for Akume to say Ortom did not have regards for the president was a pure lie aimed at sowing seeds of discord between the two.
He also lampooned the minister over his call for a declaration of a state of emergency in the state, saying his call was a strategy to use federal might to get through the back door what he failed to achieve at the polls in 2019.
“Akume is attacking the governor for his concerns about the insecurity in the state. We find this line of attack baffling. The minister seems to be citing nationwide insecurity as a reason why Benue State should not expect justice over the concerted herdsmen invasion in Benue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Governor, Ortom has vowed to take Senator Akume to court over his allegation that he mismanaged funds accruing to the state in the last six years.
The governor, who addressed newsmen in Makurdi, said the onus of proof of all the allegations against him rested on the former governor.
“I am taking Akume to court for him to come and prove all the allegations against me. The onus of proof lies on him. He should go and prove it in court. I have chosen to take the honourable way,” Ortom said.
“I want to let the world know about the recent rantings by Minister of Special Duties. I don’t want to join issues with him but I have to put the record straight. What he has done amount to betrayal.
“All he said were just mere lies to secure his meal ticket from his paymasters. My first commitment is to the people of Benue State. To send a message to the entire world, I decided to do something that Akume will justify all those allegation.
“He attempted to impeach me in 2018 but by the grace of God, the people of Benue rejected him and all the people he put forward to contest too.
The governor, who noted that the former governor and his All Progressives Congress (APC) no longer has any structure in the state, disclosed that in the last election, the PDP won three senatorial seats, seven out of 11 House of Representatives seats and 22 out of 30 House of Assembly seats and asked, “where is Akume’s structure in the state?”
He posited that even though the Benue people elected Akume twice as Governor and three times as senator, he had not identified with them during their moment of displacement occasioned by the herdsmen attacks on them.
“This is a person who was elected twice as governor and thrice as senator where all his constituents who were affected by the herdsmen attacks are in IDP camps,” Ortom said.
However, immediate past governor of the state, Senator Gabriel Suswam, has appealed to all political actors to sheath their swords and work towards ending insecurity in state.
Senator Suswam, who represents Benue North-East at the National Assembly, in a statement by his legislative aide, Moses Ukeyima, said differences in opinion and approach to issues of governance among leaders should be resolved amicably rather than engaging in destructive brawls.
He affirmed that Ortom as governor is conscious of the fact that he has the constitutional responsibility to protect and speak for the people of Benue state.