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Despite mounting killings, Buhari again tackles Ortom over ‘divisive comments’


The Presidency has again condemned the ‘promotion of ethno-religious politics and divisive utterances’ by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue.

The condemnation comes amidst sporadic and strident lamentations and criticisms of the president by Mr Ortom whose state over the years has become wracked with wanton killings mostly allegedly carried out by armed herders.

Hundreds of residents of the state now live in Internally Displaced Camps across the state due to their displacement from their ancestral lands by armed groups.

This is not the first time the president and the governor would be sparring over rising insecurity in the state.

But Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, chose to condemn Mr Ortom on Wednesday in Abuja over what he termed ‘divisive utterances’.

The statement read in part: “Governor Samuel Ortom has few political principles. We can see this from the fact that he has changed political party five times during his undistinguished career.

“Every time he feels the wind may be blowing in a certain direction, he follows it.

“Unfortunately, for the good citizens of Benue State, the most dangerous direction he blows in today is that of sectarianism and ethnicity.

“In an attempt to boost his sinking political fortunes, Ortom takes the cheapest and lowest route possible by playing on ethnic themes – and in doing so knowingly causes deaths of innocent Nigerians by inciting farmers against herders, and Christians against Muslims.

“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.

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“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.’’

According to the presidential aide, who did not address the heightened insecurity across Nigeria, “these are not the actions of a man who should be trusted with running public services or holding public office.”

He said for the governor of a major state in Nigeria to be politically driven by ethnic hatred is a stain on the 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,’’ he added.

Hundreds of Nigerians have been killed by armed groups across the nation while thousands more have been displaced in recent years.

Kidnapping for ransom has become the order of the day in recent months while these armed groups have also been known to attack security facilities.

Tackling insecurity was one of the promises Mr Buhari, a retired general, made to Nigerians before they voted him and his party, the APC into office in 2015 but the situation has worsened since then.

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