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Between Ortom and Atiku ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi


 On Monday, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State gave reasons why he would not support the presidential aspiration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

“My people are being killed and you want me to be quiet; you want me to be slave to a Fulani. It’s better I die. Anybody supporting Atiku in Benue is an enemy of the state.

“I will never support a Fulani man to become president. If there is another person, who is ready to work with me and ensure the security of my people, I will work with him,” said Ortom while hosting the visiting governors of Enugu, Abia, Oyo and Rivers.

The author, Olusegun Adeniyi
The author, Olusegun Adeniyi

Together with him, the four governors form the PDP G-5 now at loggerheads with their party leadership.

Although Ortom has not hidden his displeasure with the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries and the role played by the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu whose resignation is being demanded, linking his opposition to Atiku’s aspiration to Fulani heritage is reckless and opportunistic.

For those who may have forgotten, prior to the 2015 general election, Ortom was a Minister under President Goodluck Jonathan.

Denied the PDP gubernatorial ticket in Benue State, Ortom moved to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) whose presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari he knew to be a Fulani man.

After securing the APC gubernatorial ticket in Benue, Ortom was one of those who helped Buhari to defeat Jonathan at the 2015 presidential election.

However, by the 2019 general election, Ortom had moved back to the PDP. As it would also happen, his party’s presidential candidate whom he now berates is equally a Fulani man. Ortom saw nothing wrong with Atiku’s aspiration at the time.

Indeed, at his re-election campaign rally in Katsina/Ala on 10th January 2019, Ortom was effusive in praising Atiku. He said while President Buhari was canvassing for cattle routes, Atiku had been establishing ranches for his cattle and even proceeded to build feed-mills.

“Besides, Atiku has a long-standing relationship with the Benue people who conferred a chieftaincy title on him years back and he also believes in the corporate existence of Nigeria,” Ortom said.

Three weeks later on 30th January 2019, Ortom visited the Hausa and Ipusu communities in Makurdi, the state capital where he told them:

“The late former President Shehu Shagari and late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, (both Fulani) gave people of Benue lots of appointments. Atiku will do more, hence, the need to vote for him massively during the election. He is a friend of the people of the state, and he will sustain the relationship even as the president of the country.”

On 8th February, 2019, just two weeks to the election, at the PDP presidential campaign rally in Makurdi, this was what Ortom said about Atiku:

“The APC-led administration has neglected the Benue people, especially in the area of placements. I want Benue to vote Atiku for president because of his sound economic knowledge. I am confident that he will deploy this knowledge into initiating policies that will create jobs.

“Atiku has the capacity to deliver and will not subject his presidency to the whims and caprices of a cabal,” he added.

The question now is: if Ortom did not see anything wrong in Atiku being Fulani four years ago when he was also the PDP presidential flagbearer, and they were working together, why should that be a problem now?

As a member of the five governors who feel aggrieved about the outcome of the presidential primaries, Ortom has a right to be angry about the defeat of his friend and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike. I have no problem with that.

It is also within his right to vote for any presidential candidate he chooses at the general election in February next year. But it is not right for the governor to peddle ethnic bigotry just because of petty political differences. Read more.

You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com.


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