Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom on Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja over recent assassination attempt on his life by assailants suspected to be herders.
The Benue governor told state house reporters after the closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa that they shared ideas on how to manage the security situation in the country.
He appealed for the moderation of comments on the attack since, according to him, Nigeria is already sitting on a gunpowder keg.
Buhari had on Sunday ordered security agencies to carry out what he called an “open and transparent” investigation into the attack. He also advised that the incident should not be politicised.
Ortom was attacked Saturday by about 15 armed herdsmen on his farm at Tya-mu, along the Makurdi-Gboko Highway. He disclosed shortly after the incident that he ran about one kilometre to save his life.
A group, the Fulani Nationalistic Movement (FUNAM) claimed responsibility for the attack, vowing to persist until they succeed in killing the governor whom they described as enemy of the Fulani.
Narrating his ordeal again after the meeting with Buhari, Ortom added that the President agreed with him that no person or group should be treated as a sacred cow.
The governor said the suspected herdsmen trailed his convoy to a riverbank where he was on foot with his security details and opened fire on them.
He called on Nigerians, especially politicians, to leave anxiety about the 2023 elections for now and pay attention to the insecurity in the country.
The governor said: ”I want to let Nigerians know, especially those who are responsible for making inflammatory statements; we’re sitting on a keg of gunpowder, everybody’s not in doubt in Nigeria today about the security situation and without security, there can be no meaningful progress going on.
“It is therefore important for us all to put heads together and do the things that are lawful. Let us protect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so that everybody will be secure.
“Let there be equity, fairness, and justice. These are what I stand for. I believe that as my President, I do not want to talk about the recommendations. I have been able to recommend in some measures, and most of them agreed that nobody should be a sacred cow.
“If people are found wanting, they should be prosecuted. And I think this is what is good.”
Ortom also dismissed insinuations that the attack on him was stage-managed. He expressed sadness over such thoughts.
His words; ”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 in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the Northern Governors’ Forum, the Southsouth Governors Forum, the PDP(Peoples Democratic Party) Governors’ Forum and the APC (All Progressives Congress) Governors Forum as well as state governments.
“We should know when to play politics and we should know when to team up to work as a team to salvage this country. Those who are saying that the attack was stage-managed, of what benefit will that be to me? Do I have to come up and say that I was attacked?”
On his state’s controversial anti-grazing law, he said it was not “targeted at any ethnic group or any individual” as being insinuated.
”That law 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,” Ortom explained.
The governor also spoke on the 2023 general elections, noting that though to politicians, the polls are by the corner, the security situation in the country should take precedence over election thoughts.