The Presidency has jumped to the defence of the Fulani ethic group after what it called a “wicked” plot by Governor Samuel Ortom to incite attacks against them.
Ortom, according to the presidency, is making relentless attempts to incite the people of Benue against the Fulani through his utterances.
In a statement on Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior media assistant, Garba Shehu, accused the governor of promoting sectarianism and ethnicity in Benue in a bid to boost his “sinking political fortunes”
The presidency was reacting to Ortom’s criticism of Buhari over the president’s recent approval of the review of 368 grazing reserves across 25 states in the country.
A committee set up by the president and headed by his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, had recommended the collection of field data on the grazing routes to assess levels of encroachment, stakeholder engagements, and sensitisation.
Part of Buhari’s mandate to the committee was to “…create a database of National Cattle Herders and ensure that Grazing Reserves are well communicated to all stakeholders” as part of efforts to address the farmers-herders crisis in the country.
But reacting, Governor Ortom described Buhari’s directive as an invitation to avoidable anarchy and wondered how the Buhari administration’s approach to insecurity was different from “the Taliban agenda in Afghanistan”.
Ortom in a statement by his chief press secretary said “millions of Nigerians have been displaced following attacks by armed herders and are currently suffering in IDP camps. Benue State for instance has over 1.5 million displaced people with thousands living in camps and many more forced to flee their ancestral lands to stay under dehumanizing conditions in open fields.
“The Buhari administration does not seem to be worried about the food crisis already ravaging the country. Farmers have been chased into IDP camps by herders and children are dying of starvation in addition to being denied education, yet what is more important to the President is the well-being of cows.”
Responding, however, Shehu accused Ortom of deliberately uttering statements capable of “inciting farmers against herders, and Christians against Muslims.”
He said, “Specifically, Ortom stirs up hatred by targeting one single ethnic group in Nigeria – using language reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide.
“As was the case in Rwanda where the then Hutu leaders of the country incited their countrymen against each other, claiming there was a “secret Tutsi agenda” over the Hutu, Ortom claims there is a “secret Fulanization agenda” over other ethnic groups in his state and in Nigeria. This is a copy of the language of Hutu Power – which falsely, and intentionally, accused the Rwandan Tutsi of plans to dominate the country.
“This wicked talk is aimed at giving cover to his so-called “policy” on the Ranches Establishment Law – which in reality is purely an act of denial of the law – intended to withhold rights and freedoms from one ethnic group alone, whilst inciting race hatred against them amongst all others.
“These are not the actions of a man who should be trusted with running public services or holding public office.
“For the governor of a major state in Nigeria to be politically driven by ethnic hatred is a stain on our country.
“The good, and fair-minded people of Benue State deserve more than this, and we look forward to the next elections when they have an opportunity to restore its greatness,” said Shehu.