THOSE who claim to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s friends may have
succeeded in tainting his image in their obsequiously desperate
scramble to defend him.

Recently, a horde of these friends which go by the name of Friends of
President Muhammadu Buhari patently displayed their support for their
friend when they attempted to respond to Governor Samuel Ortom’s
the assertion that Mr President’s inexact approach to the atrocities of
Fulani herdsmen in the country suggest that the president has
sympathy for the herdsmen.

Ortom who is the governor of Venue State, had also stated that the
current posture of the president who told Nigerians when he took the
oath of office during his first term in office in 2015 that he is for
everybody and for nobody indicates that he is the president of Fulani
and not the president of Nigeria.

The governor who bared his mind at a recent media briefing in Makurdi
said: “Mr President, if you are listening to me, I want you to know
that your people, Nigerians you promised that you will be fair to; you
said you will be for everybody and for nobody, but now it appears you
are just for Fulani people because nothing is coming from you to give
the people confidence that you are their president.

“You’re the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you’re not
the president of Fulani. You’re the President of everybody and I owe
it a duty as a stakeholder in this country to let you know that what
is going on is wrong and this has the potential of dividing the
a country which will not be in the interest of anybody.”

But the friends of the president would not have any of that. They made
frantic efforts to defend the president by veering into
employer-employee matter in Benue State and also accused the governor
of failing to deliver the dividends of democracy for his people, but
all that has no correlation with the Fulani herdsmen attack.

Those explanations were clearly off the mark as they failed to address
the fundamental issue which is the predicament Nigerians have found
themselves where Fulani herdsmen go about with AK-47 on a daily basis
killing, maiming and raping with impunity.

If anything, the friends of the president, by attacking Gov Ortom, may
have unwittingly confirmed the latter’s assertion that the President
is truly shielding the killer herdsmen.

According to a statement by Mohammed Salihu, Akinloye James and Chief
Bernard Okri, chairmen of Nigeria Project Initiative, Initiative to
Save Democracy and Global Economic Policy Initiative, respectively,
the trio that comes under the umbrella of Friends of President
Muhammadu Buhari, the president is a patriotic and fair-minded leader
who respects the rights of all citizens.

They, however, failed to respond to the herdsmen’s atrocities
reflected by Gov Ortom and dabbled into fatuous allegations, accusing
the governor of failing to pay salaries and pensions after collecting
monthly allocation and bailout from Abuja.

Hear them: “We react to the widely circulated attack on the President
by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, the summary of which is
the allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari is ‘lenient’ towards
criminal herdsmen.

“As friends of the President, we will like to defend the President by
saying that contrary to the wrong assertion of the Governor, President
Buhari is a patriotic, nationalistic and fair-minded leader who, at
all times are ready to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria.

“He is a leader committed to the defence of the rights of all
citizens, majority and minority including ethnic and religious
minorities, meting out justice without fear or favour when crimes are

“Under the Buhari government, the climate of impunity has been
banished. As a Governor who collects monthly subventions from the
centre collects bailout funds from Buhari as do many other Governors
but fails to pay workers and pensioners should look at himself in the
mirror to determine where his problems lie.”

However, the Convener of the Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace,
MBMJP, Comrade Joe Bukka, wondered why Ortom should be vilified after
his honest and timely advice.

“We read the media statement by the three groups who came under the
Friends of Buhari to vilify the Benue state Governor for recently
advising President Buhari to act fast to save the country from the
activities of armed herders who are gradually plunging this country
into a major civil crisis.

“And our question is, what offence did the Governor commit by that
honest and timely advise? In the Middle Belt, we know Governor Ortom as
one of the very few in this country who speak the truth always.

“A man who in the last few years has given his all even to the
the detriment of his safety and well-being to champion the call for
ranching in Nigeria which is gradually becoming a sing-song all over
the country deserves commendation and not vilification from any

“Moreover he spoke the minds of the majority of Nigerians on the state of
our country, so attacking him is obviously confirming to Nigerians
that the presidency is shielding armed herders who are daily killing,
maiming and tormenting Nigerians.

“For the avoidance of doubt, any media attack on Governor Ortom who is
regarded in the Middle Belt as the only mouthpiece of the ordinary man
will be counter-productive as it will further demean and discredit the
presidency in this part of the country.

“And for the purpose of clarity, we must point out that testimonies
abound that the Governor, aside from championing the cause of the people
had delivered dividends of democracy to the people of Benue state.

“Contrary to the claims of Buhari’s Friend, Governor Ortom has done so
much in the areas of infrastructural development, construction of
schools, roads, hospitals, electricity, water projects, payment of
salaries and pensions and the provision of security for the people
many of who were displaced from their ancestral homes by armed herders
and have been abandoned in IDPs camps by the federal government,”
Comrade Bukka said.
Similarly, youths under the aegis of Benue Youth Forum, BYF, in
reaction to the diatribe by the Friends of President Muhammadu Buhari,
slammed the President for allegedly sponsoring groups to vilify Gov
Ortom who they said only appealed to him to sincerely address security
issues in the country.
The youths in a statement signed by their president, Terrence Kuanum,
faulted the president’s friends for failing to address the raised by
Gov Ortom only to accuse him of chasing Fulani herdsmen away from the
state and failing to deliver dividends of democracy to his people.

Kuanum said that unknown to the Friends of Buhari, Governor Ortom has
done so well for his people, which was why Benue people re-elected him
in 2019 and today Benue has become peaceful while several
developmental projects are ongoing in all corners of the state.

“At the moment, Benue is one of the most peaceful states, courtesy of
the Governor’s efforts.

“The attempt by President Buhari to use groups to divert attention
from the weighty issue at stake is a slap on our collective resolve to
live in a united Nigeria. This country belongs to all of us and it is
our responsibility to point out where the government has got it right
or wrong.

“For the Presidency to hide behind groups to launch attacks on
Governor Ortom instead of addressing the issues he raised is not only
unfortunate but also goes to show how things are fast degenerating in
the country. The Presidency’s option to leave the message and descend
on the messenger also smacks of desperation and paucity of a
convincing response to the Benue Governor’s statesmanly call.

“We expected the Buhari Presidency to publicly acknowledge Governor
Ortom’s input and assure Nigerians that the President is making
genuine efforts to address the security concerns being raised.

“It should be recalled that Governor Ortom exposed the perpetrators of
insecurity in the country and called for their arrest and prosecution.
He also reminded the President that his body language appears to be an
endorsement of the Fulani armed killers, a disturbing scenario that
has made Nigerians suspect that the Buhari Presidency is protecting
a section of the country.

“Only a few days ago, the Northern Governors Forum rose from their
meeting and declared that ranching is the only way out of the current
insecurity which is largely caused by attacks on farming communities
by herdsmen across the country. BMO and the other sponsored attack
groups seem not to have taken cognizance of this reality which is fast
becoming a revolution in Nigeria,” Kuanum said.

On the allegation that Governor Ortom has failed to deliver dividends
of democracy to his people in the past six years, BYF said, “towards
At the end of last year, Governor Ortom embarked on the commissioning of
numerous projects which included hundreds of kilometres of roads in
Zones A, B and C parts of the state. Others were school projects,
electricity and primary health centres.

“As Benue youths whose parents and other relations are still in the
service of the state, we can authoritatively state that since January
2018, Governor Ortom has consistently paid civil servants their
salaries and pensioners to have been receiving their entitlements.
The Buhari groups failed to verify sources of their information
regarding payment of wages under the Ortom administration.

“We are not holding brief for the Benue State Government, but the
truth is that despite the huge wage bill Benue has which makes it the
3rd highest salary paying state in the country after Lagos and Rivers,
the Ortom administration deserves commendation in that regard.

“We are well aware that the Federal Government is also borrowing to
pay salaries and pensions. This is a verifiable fact.

“The press outings of the Buhari group are intended to distract
attention from the issue at stake which is that the Commander-in-Chief
of the country’s armed forces and his team have not for once called to
order armed Fulani herders who kill at will, but are quick to move
against other Nigerians for merely expressing their displeasure with
the manner security matters are being handled.

“We urge all stakeholders to rise and insist on Ranching as a lasting
solution to this crisis as highlighted by Governor Samuel Ortom. We
must put sentiments aside so that we can all live in peace and seek
the development of our various communities. No country in the world
which desires development is practising open grazing of animals in
this century.

“Nigerians should note that no form of blackmail can stop Governor
Ortom and the people of Benue State from speaking the truth and making
selfless contributions as long as the poor security situation

“We equally call on Nigerians to ponder on the constitutional rights
of Governor Samuel Ortom and many other patriotic Nigerians to make
their options heard on issues affecting the country. Such patriots
must not be intimidated into silence!” Kuanum maintained.

He also reminded the President that his body language appears to be an
endorsement of the Fulani armed killers, a disturbing scenario that
has made Nigerians suspect that the Buhari Presidency is protecting
a section of the country.

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