Sanusi, it’s time to apologise to Ortom

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By Sunday Ogli

FOR the dethroned Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, an economist of repute and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the honourable thing to do is to apologise to the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Chief Samuel Ortom for falsely accusing him of masterminding the military air strike that killed about 40 pastoralists at Akwanaja, Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa State in January,2023.

Recall that in January last year, Sanusi and 51 others, petitioned former President Muhamnadu Buhari, where they accused Chief Ortom of carrying out genocide against some pastoralists. 

Sanusi and his co-travelers had tried to link the Benue State Livestock Guards with the Akwanaja killings, claiming that the pastoralists were bombed on their way from Benue to Nasarawa after they had retrieved their cattle.

However, recent developments have proved that the dethroned Emir acted in error.  This is because the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, during a recent visit to Governor Abdullahi Sule in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital, admitted that the airstrike attack on Rukubi community in Doma Local Government Area, which killed over 40 innocent civilians in early 2023 was in error.

Speaking during the visit,  the Air Marshal said the airstrike was accidental and appealed to the Nasarawa State Government to forgive the Force for the development.

The Chief of Air Staff said NAF acted on intelligence report to the effect that some terrorists were sighted on motorcycles in a location around the Rukubi community but the operation turned out to be a disaster.

“It is not news that the general area (Rukubi) at that time had been well known for its insecurity occasioned by kidnapping and terrorism. Within the period you would recall that six primary school pupils were also kidnapped in the Doma LGA.

“This, necessitated the surveillance by the Nigerian Air Force within the period of time. Unfortunately, the airstrike killed some civilians at the location.

“The unfortunate incident of January 2023 was in no way deliberate as no military the world over, will intentionally kill those it is mandated to protect.

“Therefore our visit to you (Governor Sule) is to solicit your kind intervention in interfacing with the representatives of the victims of the accidental air strike at Rukubi,” he explained.

Before then, the Defence Headquarters had reacted on the incident through the Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Musa Danmadami. 

Gen Danmadami has stated: “What I can tell you is that we are very professional in the conduct of our operations. They are also intelligence-driven. Also, our code of conduct and standard of operation are in tandem with international best practices.”

In spite of the reaction by Defence Headquarters, taking responsibility for the air strike, the dethroned Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, in an interview with BBC Hausa, bluntly accused Chief Ortom of masterminding the bomb attack.

He stated: “The air strike that took place in Nasarawa was masterminded from Makurdi. We must hold him (Ortom) responsible since we know his position against Fulani. 

“It’s only an investigation that will avail him of the allegations. Why won’t there be an investigation to reveal who masterminded the bombardment? And who gives orders to the Air force to always launch these airstrikes?” 

He went further by calling on Benue people especially his Fulani kinsmen to work against the Senate bid of  ex Governor Ortom. He made a video which went viral campaigning vigorously against Ortom.

Unconfirmed reports said Sanusi and his cohorts pooled resources together and sponsored the 2023 election against Ortom to ensure that he was defeated during the National Assembly election.

Expectedly, Chief Ortom, not one to go down without a fight fought back at Sanusi and his co-travelers.

At a press conference in Makurdi, the former governor who said he was aware that resources were being pooled together to be used to campaign against him said that some personalities led by Sanusi had made some allegations against him in an attempt to profile him.for elimination. 

He wondered why an.educated and exposed personality like the dethroned Emir would resort to telling lies about an elected personality like him just to suit his purpose. 

He added that neither him nor the Benue State Government had the capacity to deploy a drone or any military equipment in any part of the country.

Infact, the Tiv Traditional Council, Idoma Traditional Council, Mdzough U Tiv and other Social cultural rights groups in the state condemned the killings while commending former governor Samuel Ortom, for his patriotism towards a United Nigeria. 

Worried by the development, the three sociocultural organisations in Benue State in a statement signed by the leaders, Chief CP, Iorbee Ihagh rtd, President General, Mdzough U Tiv (MUT) and Chairman of the three Sociocultural groups; AVM Tony Adokwu rtd, President General, Ochetoha K’Idoma and Dr Comrade Ben Okpa, President, Omi Ny’Igede, on 4th February, 2923, had stated thus: “Sanusi, the deposed Emir of Kano twisted the facts in the matter when he alleged that the attack on the terrorists was carried out by the Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Governor Samuel Ortom and/or by extension, the Benue State Livestock Guards and the State Volunteer Guards.

“Even though, the military has claimed responsibility for the air strike that killed the terrorists, Sanusi and his cohorts are hell-bent on making the allegations on the Governor stick, this amounts to giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it.

“More disturbing is that Sanusi and his comrades in crime are doing everything possible to make the whole world believe that the persons that were killed during the military operation were harmless nomads, whereas they were terrorists who were targeted and killed during one of their meetings, when they met with the aim of launching further attacks on innocent people in Benue communities, bordering Nasarawa State.

“We have also identified the desperate attempt by Sanusi and his band of supporters to give the attack on the terrorists an ethnic coloration, thereby setting Benue State up against the armed herdsmen for invasion.

“Otherwise, how would someone like Sanusi place the cost of one cow at N1 million, if it is not in a desperate attempt to cause disaffection, pick a fight and get a reason to attack Benue communities.”

In same vein, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union SOKAPU, in a statement on 3rd February 2023, slammed the dethroned Emir of Kano, following his comment on Ortom over the bombing in Nasarawa State

According to SOKAPU, it was preposterous and unfortunate for the former Emir of Kano and top Fulani elites to try to rope Ortom into the incident. The group described as curious and very surprising that Sanusi who had portrayed himself as a nationalist of some kind, “has reduced himself to a narrow champion of his tribesmen” in his desperate move to profile Ortom as evil before his Fulani kinsmen.

The group warned that nothing must happen to Ortom whom it described as “a great son of the Middle Belt”.

Although the Akpanaja incident seems to have been forgotten, because families of the victims whom Sanusi and others succeeded in convincing that Ortom was the mastermind of the airstrike might still be nursing the wounds of the tragic manner their relatives were killed.

Which is why Sanusi should apologise to Ortom and tell the world that he goofed last year when he accused him (Ortom) of masterminding military airstrike at pastoralists.