Benue killings beyond grazing – Ortom
The Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, speaks on the herdsmen killings in the state and why he assented to the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, among other issues. PHILIP NYAM reports
There have been allegations that the implementation of the anti-open grazing law is responsible for the killings in your state. How would you respond to that?
I will tell you the truth because the Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. We have no business being where we are today. We would have been far ahead of where we are today and it is just because for a long time, we have suppressed the truth. But the truth is that I have decided to offer myself, if it would require me to pay the supreme price for saying the truth, I am ready to do it because time has come in this country that we must stop promoting sycophancy and mediocrity. We must promote the truth; respect the constitution and the rule of law.
The constitution and the laws of our land is the only thing that can guide us to greater heights; it is the only thing that can lead us to where we want to be; it is the only thing that can promote and project us to rank with other countries that are doing well. Was it not just yesterday that we said “Ghana must go?” Why is it that on African soil today or the whole world, Ghana has become a reference point against Nigeria?
And at my age and having been privileged to work at the local government and state levels as well as working as a cabinet minister and now back to my state as a governor; what have I contributed, what can I make to add value to Nigeria’s development? This is the challenge I have, this is the pain that I share and today for the persecution I am going through, for doing what is right, I have become a target for saying enough is enough. Stone Age laws should be repelled because they will not help us.
But, two key officials of the Federal Government made the allegation…
The truth is that I felt so sad when the Minister of Defence and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) were acting the script of the Miyetti Allah instead of doing their jobs for which they are being paid from collecting tax payers’ money. How can you say that it is because of the prohibition of the Open Grazing and Provision for Ranching Law of 2017 in Benue State that has brought those killings? The killings did not take place in 2011, but have there not been killings from 2012 to date. This law is a necessity arising from the killings. And for us, we sought to bring a permanent solution with the perennial problem of herdsmen and farmers clashes. We did our research and adopted global best practice, which is ranching for all types of animals.
So it is amazing for anyone to assert that it is because of the law that the killings were carried out. But in any case, is this law in Adamawa State, how many people did we hear were killed there? And almost everyday people are killed; do we have a law in Plateau State, do we have a law in Kaduna State, do we have it in Nasarawa State? We already have more than 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Nasarawa State camping in Benue State. Do they have this law in Edo, Ondo, Bayelsa or Rivers?
So it is not about the law, it is deliberate and we live in a country where people will come out in the name of Miyetti Allah and issue a threat that they are coming to attack, that they will mobilise people to invade and take over the land and even when you report to the authorities, no action is taken and they expect you to keep quiet when you are a leader elected by the people and they are looking unto you for protection. I should speak and of course when I speak the media is able to alert the whole world and today the whole world appreciates the magnitude of the problems that I am going through. How can you be in a state and you have seven IDP camps hosting more than 100,000 people and 60 per cent of these people are children who should be in their schools, they are being denied of their legitimate rights which we as leaders are supposed to give them because of non-performance of people who are saddled with sensitive responsibilities in this country to provide security for lives and property.
How would you react to the various claims by the security agencies on who is actually responsible for the killings?
So, it is painful and really unfortunate and I expect that those who are responsible for enforcing the laws of our land and ensuring security for lives and property are the ones demonstrating incompetence because of what is going on. Take for instance, the President directed the IGP to relocate to Benue State to ensure that these killings stop, but he came one day and left and he is sitting in Abuja and he has chosen to send his public relations officer to be insulting me for doing what is right. This is unfortunate and it is like there is a general disconnect amongst even the security agencies.
Today, one would say it is a terrorist organisation from West Africa that is coming to attack. Tomorrow, they will say it is because of the law, next tomorrow they will say that we have succeeded in blocking the water from flowing, so the herdsmen can do and undo. And we have repeatedly called on the security agencies to arrest Miyetti Allah who are sponsors of these militias. The Fulani militias are in their numbers with AK47 riffles all over. Even when they were coming to attack people in Benue they boarded two boats, they were more than 200 heading to Benue. They filmed it and released it on social media for people to see their mightiness yet the IG of police will say that it is Benue people that have arms to attack. It is unfortunate.
But you were accused of recruiting and arming militias…
If I have 6,000 militias for God sake with AK47, will my people be massacred in the manner as it happened on January 1? If I have them, will I still be crying to the police and to the President every day that my people are being killed? Since after the burial of these people, there is no single day that one or two persons are not killed and the security men are not even spared. Policemen have been victims, they have been killed in the course of trying to promote peace and arrest these persons. There was an attack by these herdsmen on mobile policemen in Logo Local Government Area. Three of them were wounded, they are in the hospital and four of them are missing, we hope that they will be rescued.
There are several reports and write-ups that this is not a normal thing. It is not about grazing and some who should be taking action are not doing it. They are talking about jihad, about ethnic cleansing, about taking over the land and about the struggle for Benue valley, which they claim is their own. I have submitted to security agencies names of those behind all these, they are known, they are in Abuja where they call press conferences. So, which hate speech can be more than killing fellow human beings? I hear of so many plans to frustrate me here and there, plots to tarnish my image, they sponsor people to write hate speeches against me, but as a man who trusts and who God brought on this seat, l leave my fate in Him.
What is your reaction to the belief that some powers that be are angry over the mass burial your government organised for victims of the January 1 killings, which they see as a deliberate attempt to paint them black?
I work with my people who elected me and I always do their bidding. And this law prohibiting open grazing and making provision for ranching is the product of the people themselves. We did work with them, they asked for something that can solve this problem, so we brought the law. The law is a win-win one for herdsmen and farmers. So, it is a very popular law. You can go out there and do some opinion poll and see whether that law is unpopular because we have suffered between 2011 2017. People were angry and they felt that government should do something. And so we did our research and it was the popular view of Benue people to enact this law. When we started the implementation on November 1, 2017, everything was peaceful, herdsmen were doing their own and we did not even require them to do standard ranching. Even where they were not able to gather sticks and confine their cattle, they were able to restrain them from straying to peoples’ farm and we were okay with that.
When Miyetti Allah gave their threat, we reported but no action was taken and on January 1, these people were killed because of the insensitivity of the security agencies. So, it was the collective decision of Benue stakeholders irrespective of party affiliation that we honour these people. Today, the grave yard is separate from any other grave yards in the state and it has become a monument for all those who are victims of enactment of this law, that was why we chose to honour them and it will serve as a monument.
We are going to put structures there, we are going to put pictures of other people killed there with time because we couldn’t bring them down for burial here so that our children will know that once upon a time, there was this challenge and we rose to tackle the matter headlong and we held the bull by the horn and said the only way we can live in peace is to ranch and that is global best practice because the land is not expanding. By the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon, the land mass is no longer 923,000 square kilometers, but the population is growing.
Some people have argued that in the 50s, there were cattle routes and grazing areas, all these things have been encroached upon as a result of population growth. What was the population in 1950? Less than 40 million, today we are told by projection that we are over 200 million people, so where is the land? We are talking about diversifying from oil economy to other sectors like agriculture, solid minerals and for us in Benue State, agriculture is one area where we have comparative advantage and everyone is encouraged to do it.
At a time that we cannot even pay salaries as and when due, we have encouraged all the civil servants, during cropping and harvesting period; we give Fridays off for those who are not on essential duties to go and do farming so that if salaries do not come as expected, at least you have food on your table. This is a strategy we introduced since we came in 2015 and it has worked for us.
The January 1, invasion of Benue communities resulted to over 100,000 IDPs. Now, there are Cameroonian refugees crossing into the state and that gives close to 200,000 refugees. How are you coping with that considering that you just mentioned the issue of salaries?
The challenge is there as you rightly said. Today we have seven camps in Benue State housing the IDPs and two camps in Kwande Local Government Area hosting the refugees from Cameroon. It is a difficult thing, when it comes to human life as you definitely have to suspend other things and give room no matter how tight it is.
But, honestly I am a human being, the condition where these people are living is not enough to say that we have been able to provide minimum provision for them to live in those camps, at least minimum comfort, it is still not there. But we have appointed managers in all these camps, the seven of them for the IDPs and the two for the Cameroonian refugees making nine camps, they are being managed. We have had a couple of support from good spirited individuals and groups and government to assist us to provide non-food items and food items to these people, with the support from Benue state government too, we have been doing our best to ensure that they have minimum support. We have also mobilised health workers from primary healthcare board that are supporting them in health facilities but that is still not enough, that is a very big burden on government; we are still calling on good spirited individuals, groups and organisations and the international community to come in and support us because this is about humanitarian crisis, we never envisaged that we will have this at this time. Even where these people are being hosted, it is not a good sight.
Some people believe that you have left the All Progressives Congress (APC) in spirit as a result of the development in Benue State. Do you have any plan to return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I think it is not a problem to me, at least, for now. When these killings took place and I looked at the magnitude and I saw how people were running all over the place, my local government was affected, my ancestral home was affected, my farm was affected, everybody and more than half of the local government have left, you see them living in Makurdi or they have found refuge somewhere or they are staying in IDP camps. Then the dead people were not even buried, I decided that this is something that would require the entire Benue people to come together and work to ensure that we have a way forward, for peace to return and let our people go back to their ancestral homes.
I also decided that I will withdraw from all political activities and that is where I am now. I am still a member of APC, but for now, I have withdrawn from all political activities, including campaigns. I am no longer talking about that for myself or any other person until I am able to resolve this because that would bring distractions and that would also send some people who are supposed to make inputs so that we resolve this matter away from me.
Zuma: Bleak future after power
He survived eight previous attempts to remove him as president, but he caved in at the ninth time. Will Jacob Zuma face the music after his inglorious exit or not? WALE ELEGBEDE writes on the uncertain future of the once-upon-a-time charismatic leader
He is simply known as Jacob Zuma but his middle Zulu name is Gedleyihlekisa, which translates “one who smiles while causing you harm.” But with his premature resignation last week, it appears that the smiles on his face have ceased.
Piling up scandals upon scandal in his nearly a decade tenure, last week’s resignation of Zuma as the fourth president of South Africa wasn’t exactly a surprise to many, but the big puzzle was how and why it took so long. In a 30-minute national television address, the scandal-tainted Zuma said he had “come to the decision to resign as President of the republic with immediate effect.”
His party, the African National Congress (ANC), had threatened to eject him from office via a parliamentary vote-of-no-confidence. But with these words, he dropped his mandate “I have come to the decision to resign as the president of the republic with immediate effect.
No leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people who they serve. No leader should seek an easy way out simply because they could not face life without the packs that come with the political office. I do not fear exiting political office.”
He noted further that, “I did not agree to exit with packs and benefits. It is my party that placed me before the representatives of the people to be elected. It is my party that availed me to serve on basis of the Constitution.
“I respect the prescripts of the constitution on how we enter and exit political office. I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.
I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment.“I thank citizens of South Africa for the privilege of serving as president since 2009. It has been an honour that I will cherish as long as I live. I wish to thank members of the cabinet, deputy ministers, and the whole government.”
Cyril Ramaphosa, an anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader and businessman, who was until last Thursday, Deputy President but ANC ‘sPresident, was subsequently inaugurated in Zuma’s stead as the fifth president of South Africa. Born on April 12, 1942, in Nkandla, a rural hamlet in KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma had an extraordinary political journey despite his humble beginning.
Popularly called ‘JZ’, the uneducated youngster was raised by his widowed mother. He joined the ANC at the age of 17 and became an active member of its military wing – uMkhonto we Sizwe, in 1962.
Convicted of conspiring to over-throw the apartheid government as a member of the ANC military, Zuma spent his 20s in jail alongside Nelson Mandela for the alleged crime. When he was eventually released in 1973, Zuma fled to Mozambique, which is a neighbouring country to South Africa, and there he recruited and trained young South Africans to fight in the ANC’s underground movement.
Perhaps, he got inclined to armed struggle following the time he spent in Russia as a guest of the Soviets. His return to South Africa in 1990 collided with when the political ban was lifted on the ANC and he drew support from trade unions and other parties with his gospel of wealth redistribution from rich white South Africans to poor blacks.
Expectedly, his populist policies gained ground and he became popular. He was subsequently elected the ANC’s deputy president and by 1999 he was the deputy president of the country. Zuma, who said his “education” was at the feet of the elders on Robben Island, became Thabo Mbeki’s deputy in 1999, when Nelson Mandela declined a second term.
He had looked fine and had appeared to be headed to succeed his boss, as the latter had successfully succeeded Mandela, but the cookie bust in 2005 when Mbeki sacked him.
His personal financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found to have bribed Zuma to win a $5 billion government weapons contract. Interestingly, Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but fraud charges against Zuma were dropped on a legal technicality. But like a cat with nine lives, Zuma bounced back.
With Mbeki falling out of with members of ANC, it was an auspicious time for Zuma to have his pound of flesh on him. He skillfully seized the moment and cut his way to the presidency with the assistance of ANC Youth League and Cosatu. He first ousted Mbeki as the president of the ANC in 2007 and 18 months later, president of South Africa. When questioned on his supposed influence in the removal of Mbeki, he said: “I was one of those who said we should not recall Mbeki, because we would create a bad precedent. Of course, I was defeated by the majority.”
But with time, Zuma’s presidency began to deteriorate as he was increasingly becoming both politically and morally corrupt. Notable among his unforced errors was the usage of government funds amounting to $20 million for renovations of his sprawling family estate. On the general stead, Zuma presided over an era of increasing economic inequality, with high unemployment and extreme poverty in the country.
His infamous rape trial is still fresh in the minds of South Africans. For many people all over the world, it was a painful trial to watch. Although he was acquitted of the charges, his infamous defence for having sex with an HIV positive woman still remains a classic for any day.
He admitted knowing the health status of the victim, but said he had a shower after the exercise, implying that he washed away whatever could have infected him. Already, analysts have sketched several scenarios for Zuma.
These include prosecution over series of corruption charges and then securing a presidential clemency from his successor, Ramaphosa. Zuma may also face charges over state corruption arising from his links to a controversial Indian business family, the Guptas.
There are reports that the National Prosecuting Authority is going to recommend that some of the charges against Zuma be reinstated, having lined up more than 200 witnesses to testify against him. He also is likely to face 18 main charges of racketeering, corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud related to the arms-deal corruption involving his former financial adviser – Schabir Shaik.
South African media has reported that Zuma’s sons have extensive business interests in Dubai and have received personal guarantees from the UAE’s leaders. What it means is that Zuma and his family would likely be beyond the reach of South African prosecutors in the sunny emirate.
Some also averred that he may also quietly disappear into retirement in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal – or even skip the country. Whilst there is a high probability that Zuma may soon have his day in court, one thing is however clear, he might have quit the presidency, but he is by no means gone from the South African political arena.
APC reconciliation: Kalu urges Tinubu to fast-track process
…canvases support for state police
Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has lauded the appointment of the National Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as chairman of the party’s National Reconciliation Committtee, but urged him to accelerate efforts at reconciling aggrieved members.
Kalu said there could be no better time for Tinubu to carry out the onerous task given the confidence President Muhamadu Buhari reposes him in bringing some feuding members of the party on the path of reconciliation.
Fielding questions from reporters on arrival from Abuja late Sunday night at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2), Ikeja, Lagos, Kalu said it does not augur well for a serving governor and a minster, who are members of the ruling party to have political difference at a time they should be galvanizing support for Buhari’s re- election bid. His words:” I have reported this to the highest authority of the party that it is not proper for a governor and a minister in Oyo State to go two parallel ways.
It is not to the benefit of the President and neither is it to the benefit of the party. It is not the benefit of Nigerians; the synergy needed to accelerate cohesion in the ruling party will not be there.
“We need to thank Mr. Presidentfor his wisdom in giving the mandate to the National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu , the opportunity to reconcile members of the party.
I am very excited that such a thing is happening and I am confident it will be a good beginning for my brother and friend, Tinubu to execute the reconciliation task very well. I am confident Tinubu will be blunt to settle feuding members of the APC.”
Kalu reaffirmed that Buhari is ready to run for 2019, unless he is convinced otherwise on the grounds of health. He said President, whom he described as an honest man will tell Nigerians at the right time whether he will seek re- election or not.
He said: “Buhari is an honest man, if he is interested in running, he will tell Nigerians that he will run. We pray that his health gets better and that his doctors give him a clean bill of health. You know Buhari is also a man of conscience, if he feels his health will not allow him to seek re- election; he will not go ahead.
But, if he feels he is capable of running, he will seek re-election. “Whatever Nigerians are taking about at this early stage, it is his decision, it his right, he is entitled to second term. Buhari is working. Have you seen the Second Niger Bridge, it is being constructed, so you see that though things are difficult, it could be better.” Kalu said though the people of the South-East have been cheated in many ways, the Buhari administration will provide a window for new beginning.
“Other parts of Nigeria have been cheating us since 1960, but today the issue is that we must build national cohesion. The problem with Nigeria is inability to build national cohesion by all stakeholders.
We are still talking about tribe, where people come from, what people think about their religion. “We need to impress it on all Nigerians that we need a country where all stakeholders feel a sense of belonging.
Not minding where they come from or where they live, they should feel at home wherever they are. The earlier we have that sense of belonging the better for all of us.” The former governor added that it would be the right thing to allow the South- East take a shot at the presidency in 2023. He said the call for Igbo presidency in 2023 by some political gladiators in the North, only resonates with the principle of fairness .
“It is the right thing to do; igeria is built on a tripod, when you allow the South- East to have the presidency by 2023, that will be the end of the civil war. The South- East has had the Chief of Army Staff, the Inspector General of Police. So it is only natural for the zone to have the presidency.
“No man has the capacity to divide this country; the country will fight such a man. It is not possible, so the fear in the minds of people that the Igbo are pushing for secession only amounts to imbalance in perception.
“Take a look at Lagos State, the Igbo have over 50 per cent of investment here, go to Abuja, it is almost 70 per cent. So, where are the Igbo going to? All these things are just blackmail. We should stop blackmailing ourselves.
An Igbo president will bring prosperity to Nigeria, because they have the capacity for business and investment in areas outside their homeland.” On the statement credited to Alhaji Junaid Mohammed that the elite in the North will not support Buhari’s bid for a second term, Kalu said there is nothing to worry about elite conspiracy, as Buhari will get the support of the masses. “If the elite refuse to support Buhari, the masses will support him. The elite are few in number.
Those who will support Buhari are the masses and who sincerely believe in Buhari. “By my assumption, If President Buhari had 12.5 million supporters in the last general elections, there is an additional 10 million supporters in the bank.
That is what we call reserve, it is still there, he said” Kalu said the time is ripe for the endorsement of state police affirming that he had canvassed the model since 1999 when he was elected governor of Abia State. Citing the model adopted when he was governor, Kalu said state police alongside other security agencies will deal with some criminal activities while the federal police handles very serious security infractions. His words: “State police should be able to handle local issues.
It will be very difficult for anyone to use state police to intimidate aggrieved political opponents. The state police commissioner should not be appointed by the federal government, but should be directly elected by the people.
“State police will not be anybody’s stooge. Sincerely, state police will be part of the ingredients that will complement Nigeria’s unity and democracy. “Let me sound a warning to governors that will use state police for their own selfish end, because the law is not so strong.
The laws of Nigeria should become strong; we should not be above the law. The beauty of any country is the independence of its judiciary, absence of such independence is arbitrariness, it is a dead end.
“Whenever there is recklessness on the part of the executive arm of government or rascality of the National Assembly, the judiciary serves as a check. Our judges should stand up to defend democracy and the peoples’ right.”
Kalu further said government needed to have a second look at issues bordering on open grazing and cattle colonies, which he according to him, is a disincentive to farming even as he called for a ban on palm oil importation into the country. On the ruling by the court, which restored his degree awarded by the Abia State University, Kalu said it is needless to discuss such issues, because he challenged the infraction by the Abia State government, which withheld his certificate.
“I went to court to challenge the maltreatment, I did not go to fight anybody with any weapon, I could have gone to fight, but I went to court to challenge the infringement on my right. This is what I want all Nigerians to be doing. The sanctity and strength of the judiciary is a strong pillar for Nigeria’s democracy.”
Agina-Ude: How to boost anti-graft war
A rights activist, Mrs. Ada Agina-Ude, is the Executive Director of Gender and Development Action (GADA). She speaks with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, on the anti-corruption war, women participation in politics and governance
Why did you pick interest in activism and how long have you being involved in defending the rights of the people?
By nature, I am somebody who is always on the side of the underdog. I don’t like seeing people suffer or face injustice. I cannot stand injustice. So, I have always had that urge to be on the side of people suffering any form injustice. That is one of the reasons why I decided to be an activist. Somehow, it is my area of interest. I decided to lend my voice generally for human rights in Nigeria and specifically for women, and I have been on it for over 20 years.
Considering what it takes to be a human rights activist in Nigeria and the consequence of fighting for the right of the people, are you not afraid of your life?
In every endeavour, there is always a risk. So, we pray to God and also believe that if you are doing what you know is right, you will have some fear, but the fear will not be too much. In my opinion, I think a majority of the people like what we are doing. I don’t really envisage too much danger because of the support we are getting. There is also support on the part of government like the support we are getting presently for working with the relevant agencies against corruption. So, what would be anybody’s reason to attack someone, who is helping him to achieve his agenda?
You are a member of Movement Against Corruption (MAC), what is your take on the anti-corruption war as being championed by the present administration?
My organisation has always been part of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. We belong to several groups that are committed to the fight against corruption, but we joined MAC because we believe there is a new dimension to the fight against corruption. The war against corruption has been going on for many years and apparently, there is still a gap somewhere. Even though I won’t say we have not achieved anything, we have not kill corruption and sound the death nail on the canker worm.
I believe the present government is fighting corruption. The only problem that I personally have and I have also had few people voice out, it is that we should apply a uniform standard, so that it will be clear to everybody concerned that there is no kind of discrimination or double standard in the fight. I know that there is a lot of commitment to the fight corruption, but we are expecting a greater achievement.
President Muhammadu Buhari is a symbol of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Even if there is not much he can do as a person like going into the battle field or trenches; his presence alone as the president of this country and as somebody that most people within and outside Nigeria see as incorruptible is a plus to the war against corruption. And because we cannot say he has a skeleton in his cupboard, we see his own commitment to fight against corruption as genuine. So, he is going to inspire a lot of people.
What major areas do you think the Buhari administration should focus on?
The President should focus on the economy, fight against corruption, education and health. These are areas we have been hammering on for long because they are the areas we feel that government should direct attention to. But we are also aware that the problem with resolving some of these issues is also corruption because if a budget that is set aside for a particular sector is misused , there is no way you can achieve as much as you expect in that sector.
What is your take on non-implementation of 35 per cent affirmative action and the demand for increase in the number of women in elective positions?
The affirmative action that women are fighting for is affirmative action on elective positions. In many countries that have actually attained very high level of women participation in governance, they have used affirmative action in elective positions. So, that is the one we are fighting for. Our problem has always been women in parliament. How can we look at party processes so as to open the space for women to be elected into states and National Assembly? These are the areas that worry us too much. We need increase in number of women in elective positions, we need affirmative action.
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