Outrage has continued to trail an assassination attempt made against Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom by suspected herdsmen on Saturday, with the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) describing at a call for war.
Speaking Vanguard in Makurdi, National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said, “This attack on Governor Ortom, as far as we are concerned, is tantamount to calling for war.
“We are not going to allow anyone attack our governors in the Middle Belt. This is an attack that has gone too far. To attack a sitting governor has gone beyond insurgency. It is a call for war and we are going to look at this issue critically”.
Similarly, Rivers State governor, warned that if Ortom is killed, Nigeria would be buried.
“If you kill Ortom, then be prepared to bury Nigeria,” Mr. Wike said, according to a statement signed by his spokesman, Kelvin Ebiri.
“If anything happens to Governor Ortom, the Federal Government will be held responsible and they should be prepared that there will be no more Nigeria.”
According to the statement, Wike also recalled how the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Major General Jamil Sarham, and All Progressives Congress chieftains had concluded plans to assassinate him during the 2019 general election.
He added that the growing trend where the lives of incumbent governors are brazenly threatened was disturbing.
Reacting in similar way, the President, Benue Youth Forum (BYF) Comrade Terrence Kuanum, and President General of Tiv Youth Organization, TYO, Comrade Timothy Hembaor, in a joint statement, described the attack on Ortom as an affront on Benue people across the globe.
They stated that they received the report of the attack on the governor with shock and disbelief.
Part of the statement read, “This is the third time this group will attempt to assassinate Governor Samuel Ortom. First it was at Naka Road, second at his own farm and now at Tyo Mu along Makurdi – Gboko Road.
“At the two previous instances, security agencies were adequately and appropriately informed but unfortunately they have refused, neglected or considered Fulani headsmen as sacred cows, giving them a fillip to carry out the third one.
“Let it be on record that Benue people and indeed Nigeria is not prepared to lose Governor Samuel Ortom in the hands of Fulani herdsmen and we are ready to take up the responsibility of his defence if the conventional security is not prepared.
“And Nigeria should prepare to face the state of lawlessness and anarchy should anything happen to Governor Samuel Ortom”.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also vehemently condemned the ‘reckless attack and the assassination attempt on Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State by suspected bandits reported to be killer herdsmen.’
The party through its spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan on Saturday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to put machinery in motion by ordering an immediate manhunt, arrest, and prosecution of the assailants.
Mr Ologbondiyan also asked the President to beef up security around the governor.
The PDP expressed shock that the assailants trailed Governor Ortom and opened fire on him and his aides along Makurdi/Gboko road, in an attack that by every indication is aimed to assassinate the governor.
“Our party is worried that this brazen attempt at Governor Ortom’s life is coming on the heels of his outspokenness in exposing those allegedly behind the incessant attacks of communities in the state and demanding that the Federal Government live up to its responsibility on the protection of life and property in the state,” the PDP spokesperson said.
“The PDP fears for the life of Governor Ortom and we urge Nigerians to hold the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration responsible for its failure to take a decisive step to check the escalated insecurity and brazen attacks on innocent Nigerians.”
The PDP however called on Governor Ortom not to be deterred by the attack but to remain courageous and alert, at all times while providing leadership to the people of his state.
The party also called on the people of Benue State to be calm and vigilant while providing useful information to security agencies to flush bandits and criminal elements out of the state and other parts of the country
In his own reaction, the President General of Mzough U Tiv (MUT), Chief Iorbee Ihagh, called on the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to immediately arrest the leadership of Miyetti Allah who, he said, at their last meeting in Yola allegedly asserted that Governor Ortom was their problem in the country.
Ihagh, who is also the Chairman of Benue Tribal Leaders, added: “We are calling on the IGP to immediately arrest them for questioning.
“And we also call on President Muhammadu Buhari to speak up on this matter because our people have become agitated and the tension generated by the attack on our governor is getting to a feverish level”
Meanwhile, Governor Ortom who addressed reporters on Saturday after surviving an attack, narrated how he ran for close to two (2) kilometres after the armed herdsmen, numbering about 15, attacked him in his farm at Tyo-Mu community, near Makurdi, the state capital.
Ortom who explained that the incident happened at about 11a.m, said it took the grace of God and the bravery of his security personnel to repel the attackers.
Ortom has been in the forefront of the fight against criminal herdsmen, claiming they had been killing his Benue people in their plot to take over their ancestral lands.
He ensured a law was enacted by the state House of Assembly against open grazing of cattle in the state as cattle destruction of farmlands has been a source of conflict between native farmers and herdsmen.
“You know today is Saturday and it is normal as a farmer, I usually go to my farm on Saturdays”, the governor told journalists after the gun attack yesterday. “So I went to my farm along Gboko Road and, while trekking out of the farm; on our way back, we started hearing gunshots and we saw people a little afar who were dressed in black and from experience, we realized that these were the criminal militia.
“I did not want to take things for granted because, few days ago, the media were awash with a statement from Miyetti Allah, which had met in Yola, the same place they met in 2016, where they declared that they will take over Nigeria and that every other person is a slave and that was when they started infiltrating the entire country.
“They came out with a statement singling me out as the only person who is creating problem for the entire Fulani race.
“And behind the scenes, I also heard that in the meeting, I was targeted for elimination, this was the information I got. That they will go after me either in my home, farm or wherever they could get me.
“This is not the first time, I got intelligence report that these people said that they were going to kill my security aides and capture me alive and gradually kill me.
“But like I always say, my life is in the hands of God, not in the hands of any Fulani man or anybody whatsoever.
“And I still remain firm, I will fight for the truth, equity and fairness till when God permits that I will not be here again, then I will go.
“I appreciate the security personnel attached to me, they were able to repel them and they could not have access to me.
“I thank God for my fitness too. To be able to run for close to two kilometres without stopping, means that God has given me strength, and I am grateful to God”.
Quoting from Martin Luther King Jnr. who said “if peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want peace; if peace means willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace.’ Ortom said, “I stand with him.”
The governor continued: “I am not going to subject myself to intimidation by anyone whatsoever.
“I don’t have problems with any Fulani man or the Fulani race, but I have problem with Fulani bandits, who have vowed to take over Nigeria as their ancestral home and I say no, not when I am here as governor leading my state.
“I am not concerned about other states, any state that wants to give their land and themselves to be slaves to Fulani men, I have no problem with them but, in my state, I have consulted with my people and what I am doing is in line with the wishes of my people, and on that I stand. I have not infringed on anybody’s right.
“My lawyer is here, he is going to make a petition against the leadership of Miyetti Allah because they came out to target me and, behind the scenes, they are planning to eliminate me in my own land.
“If I can’t go to the farm as governor with the entire security around me, then who else can go to the farm? You can imagine the pains that we have here in Benue State.