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Benue Insecurity: Ortom needs peace and reconciliation

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George Akume(L), Samuel Ortom(R) in warm embrace in the past
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By Gabriel B. Agbonika

Senator George Akume, who is the current Minister for Special Duties and Iner-Governmental Affairs, is someone I have known and been relating with for the past four decades. I have always admired his humble and peaceful life style right from when I became acquainted with him in 1977 as a civil servant in the Benue State Ministry of Information. Our cordial relationship continued throughout his steady rise in the State Civil Service and even beyond his retirement as a Permanent Secretary in 1978 to contest the Benue State Governorship election of 1999, which he won overwhelmingly.

Our relationship heightened when he became a Senator in 2007 and met me at the National Assembly where I have been earning my living quietly as private practicing journalist. I wasn’t surprised when he contested the Senate President position against David Mark, which he narrowly lost in that exciting election.

It was exciting due mainly to the fact that there was an existing Senate rule barring first time Senators from such contest. Many legislators were not happy with the rule and openly criticized it, urging any interested Senator to ignore the rule and participated in the Senate President election.That rule was later abrogated to pave way for all time comers.

His political career soared in the Senate in 2011 when he emerged as the Minority Leader having decamped earlier from PDP to recontest the Benue Senate seat of 2011 election under ACN Party. It was a surprise package for him because CPC that produced the highest number of minority members in the upper chamber should have been be the one to produce the leader.

With the formation of All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2013, George Akume found himself once more in the first ever successful merger party in Nigeria. After the confusion and turbulent situation that trailed the so-called election of Bukola Saraki as Senate President in 2015, disappointed and frustrated senior members of the APC formed an alliance to right the wrongs of that fraudulent election.

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Inside sources had indicated that Senator George Akume would have been the Senate leader if the inauguration exercise of eight NASS event had not been burgled by the experienced coup plotters visibly deployed to create the crisis.

It was clearly a conspiracy of internal enemies of the party within the NASS which took the celebrating APC members both within and outside NASS completely unaware. Most Senators could not recover from the impact of that crisis before the 2019 election that swept away many heavy weight politicians from their entrenched strongholds.

I am however not disappointed and surprised that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has over the past few months unleashed a very strident and ceaseless attacks on his fellow Tiv brother, Sen. George Akume, who literally installed him on the throne of governorship in 2015. There is no one in this world without his/her weakness and George Akume is certainly not an exception.

However, to continue blaming the socio-economic crisis in Benue State on Sen. Akume because he is in APC is not only unreasonably but also unjustifiable.
For example, few days ago Governor Ortom granted an interview to Daily Post in which he accused some political actors in the State of sabotaging the interest of Benue people. He was obviously referring to George Akume. Hear him, “they are just trying to remain as minister or gain the position of a party’s National Chairman. They do press conference, they insult the people and walk on their graves and cross their dead bodies. The day of reckoning is coming for them.”

Everybody knows that APC national convention is slated towards the end of this year and Sen. Akume has indicated his intentions to contest the Chairmanship position of the party. There are also other interested individuals indicating to compete for the position. But in the word of a sponsored writer Timothy Hembaor “it is out in the public glare and space that George Akume wanted a job bigger than his ministerial position”. He hasten to declare that Akume’s “ambition has fallen flat” even before the commencement of the election exercise.

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The writer based his conclusion on the reported endorsement of Senator Tanko Al- Makura by a group of so-called North Central stakeholders. Hear him, “it is the height of impetinence that the Fulani would come to the Middle Belt and still choose a Fulani man (Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State) against an indigene of a majority State In central Nigeria.

On the Jihadist agenda, he obviously did not know that Senator Al-makura is not a Fulani and certainly he is not the only one contesting with Akume. About ten party members have been reported to be interested.

If politics is defined as a struggle for achieving power, why is it that some people in Benue don’t want Senator George Akume to contest elections? The answer is pure envy, jealousy and hatred.
Granted that the position of Party Chairman is zoned to North Central and many candidates from various States in the zones are contestants, will Benue State not be in a better position to get the ticket through Senator George Akume, who is a serving Minister under President Buhari, than a Nasarawa candidate in terms of political/numerical votes? Who is saying that Senator Tanko Al-makura is favoured more than other contestant.

Arewa consultitative group through its PRO Mr. Shuaibu Mohammed said Sen. Akume has all the leadership qualities, political sagacity and wide range of experiences to move the party forward.
Our great political party which reflects our yesterday, today and tomorrow require a a true democrat with an indept knowledge of our socio- political history as a people with the foundermentals of a futuristic tendencies.

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We need an elder statement with sufficient and significant experiences in intra-party politics, absolute dedication, unalloyed commitment and loyalty that symbolize the gap between the Southern and Northern political divide in order to rejig and manage the overall affairs of APC beyound the 2023 general election.

It will be recalled that in the past few years, Governor Ortom has stood out among the State governors in the north blaming and insulting President Buhari personally for the insecurity crises everywhere in Nigeria. But Nigerians are aware that the bandits have been operating and causing severe destruction to lives and properties in the North West and North Central States, particularly in Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau and Niger, killing more people than what Benue has experienced over the past years . But no Governor from these States has ever criticized or vilified President Buhari personally like the way and manner Governor Ortom of Benue has aggressively carried out his own.

Meanwhile the same governor Ortom has now come up with an urgent appeal for help from Buhari in order for him to settle outstanding salaries of workers and allowance to pensioners.
How can you be insulting someone and still expects him to help you in time of your troubles? Why playing politics with security and socio-economical issues?

It is deceptive and fraudulent to continue using the same issue of jiihadis agenda of Fulani people to deny Benue indigenes the needed dividends of democracy. Governor Ortom should face the reality of his governance in Benue State by embracing peace and reconciliation instead of pursuing aggressive and unprofitable attacks on his perceived individual enemies.

Gabriel Agbonika is a journalist and writes from Abuja.

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