Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has narrated how he ran for close to two (2) kilometres after suspected armed herdsmen, numbering about 15, attacked him in his farm at Tyo-Mu community, near Makurdi, the state capital, yesterday morning.
The visibly shaken governor, 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.
“Thank God for Mr. President, who responded to my letter directing that anymore illegally in possession of AK 47 should be shot at sight.
“However, I am yet to see that. Let me see it happen in Benue State. I have reported this to security agencies and I hope that this will be done so that the land will be safe for our people to go to farm and do their work and survive and live good life.
“Here in Benue State, we are not against the Fulani or Hausa or Igbo or any tribe, even white people; we are ready to provide land for ranching; that is what the law says.
“I don’t know why, these Fulani men are coming from Niger, Mali, Chad and Senegal and other parts of the world to Nigeria.
“They have destroyed Mali completely, nothing is happening there, they have destroyed Libya, they have destroyed several other countries with their aggression and they think they can come here and destroy Nigeria. I don’t know what they mean.
“I want to call on Mr. President, I want to call on the security agencies to fish these people out. They are in the forest between Makurdi and Abinsi. They are living there and coming out to commit atrocities and evil, killing our people, maiming them, raping women and destroying our farmlands.
“And anytime our Livestock Guards and security agencies go after them, the run back into the forest across the river.
This is not fair, I am going to make a petition against the leadership of Miyetti Allah because I hold them responsible.
“I have been calling for the arrest of these people since 2017 and they are going about their normal businesses in Abuja, in Yola, Kano and everywhere without security personnel inviting them for questioning.
“And my pain is that these people are protected by our security personnel who are paid with our tax payers’ money. These are security men that are inadequate because of the crisis created by Miyetti Allah and the police are still protecting them.
“Why, are we second class citizens? I am not a second class citizen to anyone in this country.
“I pay my tax just like any other person and I am law abiding and I hope that the security agencies will question these people on why they should single me out in their Yola meeting and behind the scenes giving orders for me to be eliminated. I have seen the result today. If not for the security personnel that were with me I would have been a story.
“Recall that Governor Fayemi came out clearly and said this government has failed. “Providing security is nil. Everybody is running all over place; traditional rulers, governors, politicians and all. If I am not safe in my own state, who else is safe?
“We are begging the Federal Government that if they brought them (Fulani militia) into the country as they are claiming, they should settle them to go back to where they came from so that we can have our peace. “Even if it means taxing all of us to settle them to go away so that we can go to farm we will do that. If I cannot go to farm, who else can go to farm in Benue?”
Continuing he said, “As I talk to you, troops of Operation Whirl Stroke are on them, the police, DSS and other security personnel because we had to call for reinforcement. Thank God we were able to escape unhurt”.
Alarmed by the gun attack on Ortom, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, warned that an attack on a sitting governor of a Middle Belt state was a call for war.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard in Makurdi, the 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 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”.
On his part, 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”.