When former President Lyndon B. Johnson of the United States said the kernel of governance lies “with unceasing concern for the welfare and dignity and decency and innate integrity of life for every individual,” he did not only briefly sum up the essence of democracy, but also brought out what the governed expect from the government.
For any form of government to be worthy of its name and calling; it must show capacity to provide for the general welfare of citizens and security of lives and property. The indispensable worthiness of a government lies in its capacity to tackle challenges that prevent it from carrying out its basic duties of guaranteeing the safety of lives and property of citizens.
Under a democratic dispensation, it is an act of betrayal to remain silent when the rights of people are trampled. When Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) was inaugurated as president on May 29, 2015, not a few of his fellow citizens expressed the hope that the country was about to exit the dungeon of annihilation, following activities of insurgents and other criminals that were then terrorizing the country.
So far, Nigeria under President Buhari in the last six years plus is making many citizens to wonder if the country is truly under a democratic rule. Genocidal attacks and mass slaughter, including decimation of communities, have become daily occurrences. In the face of sprinting insecurity that is gradually obliterating a forlorn hope for a better future, our country has remained weakened, with the prospects of peace and development dimming by the passing of each day. It is clear as daylight that our nation is at war with criminals that are irrevocably sworn to the complete destruction of our nation.
Events of the recent past have made many, including this writer, to wonder how long we can go on enduring the pains of groping in the dungeon of despondency and frightening fears. Less than two weeks after the killing of travellers in Gada Biyu area of Jos, the Plateau State capital, no fewer than 45 persons were gruesomely massacred in two communities located in Plateau and Benue State by unknown gunmen on Tuesday.
While the police had been quick to identify the killers of travellers on August 14, 2021, the black-uniformed outfit is still mum over the identities of those who slaughtered innocent citizens on the Plateau and Benue State.
Amidst the gloom and despair that have trailed efforts at combating national bloodbath under the watch of President Buhari, silence and most times shameless deceit have defined national discourse by those who should know. Those in the corridor of power have often seen any act of criticising government’s strategies in the fight against terror as akin to displaying less patriotism.
This week has thrown up so much on the public space for a contentious verbal dispute ripping across the country. Apart from the planned attempt at reviewing the 368 grazing reserves in 25 states as directed by President Buhari, the brutal killings in Yelwa Zangan and Yeletwa community in Benue that incinerated 45 lives, the tragedy pushed up the button of national outrage, with many wondering how long it would take for government to rise up and live to its responsibility.
One man who has consistently reminded President Buhari to rise and ensure his government protects lives and property is Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State. Fearless and uncompromising, the man who rode to the Makurdi Government House on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 has remained relentless in advocating for appropriate policy against open grazing so as to reduce the mortality rate associated with the activities of killer herdsmen.
More than any Nigerian governor, Ortom has seen through the Machiavellian strategies deployed by the enemies of the Nigerian state who hide under the herders/farmers’ clashes to unleash mayhem on vulnerable communities and defenceless citizens.
Long before the adoption of ranching as global best practice by many state governments as means of staving off further murderous expeditions against innocent citizens, it was the Benue governor who insisted, among others, that the only option in resolving the intractable problem was a complete ban on open grazing.
Unlike some of his colleagues who avoided speaking on the matter in order to avoid political backlash from Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Ortom would later lead the way when he passed into law a bill that prohibits open grazing of cattle in the state . Those opposed to the anti-open grazing would later label the governor as chief hater of Fulani herders. Like the Rock of Gibraltar, Ortom remained consistent in advocating for policies aimed at resolving some of the security challenges that have led to unprovoked murders of thousands of citizens.
On Tuesday, Ortom appeared on Channels Television where he raised fears over the planned review of grazing reserves as directed by President Buhari. He did not only accuse the president of insisting on open grazing, he said that considering the body language of Buhari, the president may be pursuing Fulanisation agenda for the country.
In a nation that is on edge over grisly assaults by terrorists suspected to be herders, the Ortom interview that is being shared on social media and other information platforms is gaining unprecedented traction.
It is evidently clear that the planned review of grazing reserves and routes as directed by Buhari amounts to frustrating the decision of the National Economic Council (NEC) that resolved that the establishment of ranches remains the best option. For most state governors, if NEC had agreed to embrace the option of establishing ranches, why insist on reviewing grazing reserves and routes of the 1960s in 2021? Though the Federal Government insists that it has no ulterior motives behind the setting up of the committee to review grazing reserves and routes, many believe that the devil remains in the details.
It is categorically clear that despite the undivided decision of governors against open grazing, the Buhari-led administration has continued to frustrate the implementation of anti-open grazing policy by reviewing grazing reserves and routes; an exercise that is outside the purview of the Federal Government. Considering the bloodbaths trailing terror attacks on account of so-called herders/farmers’ clashes, Ortom rightly knows where the problem is coming from.
In a democracy that seems to have been weakened by the silence of lawmakers in the National Assembly, it is the voices of committed and fearless democrats like Ortom that holds a candlelight for our negotiated democracy that is operating on pretended justice. How can one explain a situation where the government has remained incapable of combating the bloodbaths and other related security challenges plaguing our country? How can one explain a situation where government is quick to react to killings of Fulani but remain unconcerned when other Nigerians are murdered in their sleep? What we need is for the government to declare war against criminals who kill citizens, irrespective of ethnic and religious divide.
Those opposed to Ortom in his exposition of the ailments bedeviling our nation are not being sincere in tackling problems confronting our nation. While they try to demonize and paint Ortom as a potential instigator of genocidal attacks, their discriminatory silence and awful betrayal of our citizenship expose them as true enemies of our nation.
We have witnessed some deceitful men and women in power attempting to enthrone ethnic supremacy to the detriment of national unity. In rising up to the Gracian quote that says “one deceit needs many others, and so the whole house is built in the air and must soon come to the ground”, our country has continued to remain a nation built on shifting sands of personal aggrandisement.
For Ortom who sees leadership as a true call for service to his people, he is not afraid to speak the truth. If some governors are at peace with killings and massive destruction of their own people, the Benue governor has come out clearly in the past and present to identify with his state citizens. I am convinced beyond any iota of doubt that the disposition of Ortom in calibrating national discourse towards resolving issues that threaten our existential survival is a worthy venture that must not be dismissed by presidential spokesmen living in self-denial.
Nigerians should not allow themselves to be misled by the reaction of presidential spokesman Garba Shehu on the Ortom interview. What the governor said on national television is not capable of inciting any form of genocidal attacks against Fulani. The failure and seeming incapacity of the presidency to tackle the monsters of insecurity wreaking havoc on our communities are the potential promoters of genocide.