The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has criticized Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State over a recent statement against Nigerians of Fulani origin.
Recall that Ortom, last Sunday, while playing host to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) G5 Governors in Benue State, said he would not be supporting the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
Ortom said he would not support Atiku, who is not concerned about the continuous killings of the Benue people.
The Benue State Governor, while lamenting the killing of people in his local government last week, said, “to hell with Atiku and anyone supporting him.”
He noted that anyone supporting the presidential ambition of Atiku in 2023 is an enemy of Benue State.
The governor also accused Fulani herders of killing some villagers in the state and vowing not to support a Fulani as president.
Ortom has, however, made a public apology after his viral statement.
Reacting through a statement, NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, warned politicians to refrain from politicizing insecurity, especially communal conflicts.
While demanding that killers of villagers in Benue State and other citizens in other villages in many parts of the North must be traced and prosecuted, Baba-Ahmed acknowledged that rogue Fulani elements have stood out as killers, bandits, and kidnappers in the north.
He said the forum, like other Nigerians, watched the video in which Governor Ortom spoke in a manner and language totally unbecoming of a leader.
The NEF spokesperson noted that “He (Ortom) was apparently addressing citizens on recent killing of villagers which he attributes to Fulani herders. Even while making allowances for the established patterns of rhetorics and practice of Governor Ortom on inter-communal relations, this latest outburst should be condemned in a most emphatic manner.
“It does neither justice to the condemnable killings in Benue State nor to the standing of the Governor of his people. The context of a politicised environment does not excuse this latest demeaning outing of Governor Ortom. On the contrary, it diverts attention from the latest tragedy that has befallen citizens and families in Benue State.”
The group said the forum would continue to demand that those who are asking for votes in 2023 from the north would show in clear and specific terms how they plan to secure Nigerians.
Baba-Ahmed said: “They must also demonstrate how they intend to address damaging profiling and deliberate exploitation of passions eminently demonstrated by Governor Ortom.
“The Forum demands that leaders and politicians de-politicise the scourge of insecurity under which we all live. Governor Ortom should live up to his oath and his commitment to his mandate to live as a responsible leader of his people.
“He should avoid the temptation to play to a gallery which, like all Nigerians, is desperate for relief and an end to the killings which pitch them against each other and leads them towards unending conflicts.”