The words of Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue state, who condemned the massacre of 18 persons in his council area last Friday declared he would never back a Fulani candidate for president of Nigeria again, have been characterized as “diversionary” by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
Ortom had, while hosting his colleagues from Rivers, Oyo, Abia and Enugu States to a dinner party in Makurdi, said: “You want me to be a slave for a Fulani. It’s better I die. My people are being killed and you want me to be quiet. I will never support a Fulani man to become president. If there is another person who is ready to work with me and ensure the security of my people, I will work with him.”
But Northern Elders Forum, in a statement on Wednesday signed by its Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the Governor’s comments was totally unbecoming of a leader, especially at a time when the scourge of insecurity in the country is politicised.
The Forum said, “We, like other Nigerians, watched the video in which Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom speaks in a manner and language totally unbecoming of a leader, at a time when standards of responsibility and decorum should be at their highest levels.
“He was apparently addressing citizens on recent killing of villagers which he attributes to Fulani herders.
“Even while making allowances for the established patterns of rhetorics and practice of Governor Ortom on inter-communal relations, this latest outburst should be condemned in a most emphatic manner.
“It does neither justice to the condemnable killings in Benue State, nor to the standing of the Governor before his people.
“The context of a politicized environment does not excuse this latest demeaning outing of Governor Ortom. On the contrary, it diverts attention from the latest tragedy that has befallen citizens and families in Benue State.
“Northern Elders Forum has consistently condemned the state of siege and insecurity under which Nigerians have lived in the last few years. In the North in particular, rogue Fulani elements have stood out as killers, bandits and kidnappers.
“The Forum will continue to demand that those who are asking for our votes in 2023 will show in clear and specific terms how they plan to re-secure all Nigerians. They must also demonstrate how they intend to address damaging profiling and deliberate exploitation of passions eminently demonstrated by Governor Ortom.
“The Forum demands that leaders and politicians de-politicize the scourge of insecurity under which we all live. It further demands that killers of villagers in Benue State, and other citizens in other villages in many parts of the North must be traced and prosecuted.
“Governor Ortom should live up to his oath and his commitment to his mandate to live as a responsible leader of his people.
“He should avoid the temptation to play to a gallery which, like all Nigerians, is desperate for relief and an end to the killings which pitch them against each other and leads them towards unending conflicts.”