Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has revealed that his decision to stand on the part of truth and adopt the anti-open grazing Act has exposed his life to constant threats from powerful forces at the federal level.
He, however, vowed to speak the truth at the risk of his own life, insisting that the era where state executives sometimes promote sycophancy and mediocrity was gone for good.
He said this against the backdrop of reactions that trailed his face-off with the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, since the killing of more than 73 people by herdsmen in Benue State.
According to him, he has resolved to offer himself as a sacrificial lamb to ensure that the truth prevailed as he noted that the truth had been suppressed for too long.
Ortom, who spoke with a select State House correspondents in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, at the weekend, said, “The Bible says ‘you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ Nigeria today, we have no business being where we are. We would have been far ahead of where we are today. It’s just that for a long time, we have suppressed the truth.
“But the truth is that I have decided to offer myself. If it will require me to pay the supreme sacrifice for saying the truth, I’m ready to do it because the time has come that we must stop promoting sycophancy and mediocrity.
“We must promote the truth. We must respect the constitution and the rule of law. The constitution and the law of our land is the only thing that can guide us to greater height.
“It’s the only thing that can lead us to where we want to be. It’s the only thing that can promote and project us to rank with other countries that are doing well.
“Was it not just yesterday we said ‘Ghana must go?’ Why is it that on West African soil today the whole world is turning their attention whether in investment or whatever? Ghana has become a reference point against Nigeria.”
The governor noted that with his age and the positions that he had held in government, he was more concerned now with his contribution to humanity, regretting that he was being persecuted for doing the right thing for his people.
He added: “And today, for the persecution that I’m going through, for doing what is right then, I’ve become a target? For saying that look, enough is enough, Stone Age laws should be repealed even if they were laws or if they were policies, we should discard them because they will not help us.
“The truth is that I felt so sad when the minister of defence and followed by the IG of Police were acting the script of Miyetti Allah instead of doing their jobs that they are collecting taxpayers’ money for every month which I’m also involved in.
“How can you say that it’s the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Provision of Ranching Law 2017 in Benue State that has brought those killings?”
Wondering why there were killings attributed to Fulani herdsmen in other states without anti-open grazing law, Governor Ortom explained that “this law is a necessity arising from the killings that were taking place and for us, we sought to bring a permanent solution to the perennial problem of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes.”
He argued that the lack of action against the perpetrators of the killings was deliberate as the promoters of the violence were known to law enforcement agencies.
The governor, however, applauded the media for highlighting the plight of Benue people in the hands of the marauding herdsmen and called for a change of heart from security agencies to bring the problem to a complete stop.
Ortom further said, “So, it’s not about the law. It is deliberate. We live in a country where people will come out in the name of Miyetti Allah and issue threats that they are coming to attack, that they will mobilise people to invade the land 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, what do you expect me to do? 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 problem that I’m going through.
“How can you live in a state and you have seven IDP camps hosting more than 100,000 people and 60 percent of these people are children who should be in their schools.
“They are being denied their legitimate right, which we as leaders are supposed to give them, because of the non-performance of people who are saddled with sensitive responsibilities in this country to provide security for lives and property.
“So, it is painful and really unfortunate and I expect those people who are responsible for enforcing the laws of our lands and ensuring security for lives and property who have demonstrated incompetence because of what is going on…take for instance, the president directed the IG of Police to relocate to Benue State to ensure that these killings stop.
“The IG came here one day and left and he is sitting in Abuja and he has chosen to send his Force PRO to be insulting me on Channels Television for doing what is right and for him not doing his job.”