RECENT events in Benue State aptly rekindle the political chumminess that existed between Governor Samuel Ortom of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and his erstwhile political ally, Senator George Akume, the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

The two were closely knitted together by politics such that nobody imagined anything could sever them.

Such embeddedness, perhaps, was what the flag-off of the return of commercial flights to the state via Air Peace envisioned last Monday; where Governor Ortom and Senator Akume would stand shoulder to pursue a common agenda for the good of Benue people.

The senator who was governor of Benue state between 1999 and 2008, on that day spoke so well about Ortom and poured encomiums on him for facilitating the return of commercial flights to the state.

“It is a credit to the governor that it is happening under his watch. Not only that, he is the prime mover of this project.

“I remember when the chairman of Air Peace met me in Abuja, he was full of praises for the governor for what he was trying to do in collaboration with his organization to ensure regular flight in the state,” Akume said.

Some of those at the Makurdi Airport that day may not have expected such soft words from Akume considering the animosity that trailed the outcome of the 2019 general elections generated between them.

While Governor Ortom in that election realized his second term ambition by thrashing Barrister Emmanuel Jime of the APC in a landslide, Senator Akume suffered a fatal defeat in the hands of Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker Jev of the PDP.

But that was not the first time Senator Akume showered praises on Ortom in recent times.

During the recent #EndSARS protest across the country, the minister lauded Ortom for the peaceful manner he handled that of Benue and prevented it from getting out of hand.

Also, during the recent Benue Youth Summit held at Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi, Senator Akume, represented by Engr. Joseph Utse also commended the initiative of the governor for convening the summit which he observed would go a long way to strengthen the youths who have the capacity to make things work.

Such applause coming from Akume about Ortom has the potential of not reducing tension in the Benue polity but paving way for further discourse for the development of the state.

This is because the state which is economically backward is yet to recover from the trauma of Fulani herdsmen’s atrocities to need the collaboration of illustrious sons like Akume who is in the federal cabinet to move it forward.

To date, thousands of those displaced by herdsmen’s attacks are still languishing at IDPs camps with no hope of returning to their ancestral homes as their destroyed homes are yet to be rebuilt.

Farmers who dared to return to work at their farms had terrible stories trailing them as they either got killed or maimed while their wives got raped.

The above and more are some horrific scenarios in Benue which no doubt should be a cause of worry about Benue leaders whose primary role should be the safeguarding of the lives and properties of the led.

This is why Senator Akume should not end his commendation with the resumption of flight to the state but go further to commend Governor Ortom for rising in defense of the people against the onslaught by marauding Fulani herdsmen, who have taken over a lot of ancestral lands in the state, including his in Tarka LGA.

His stand at the period of those attacks had not been complimentary as he was alleged to be hobnobbing with those killing his people.

He is lucky as he has the opportunity to muster courage and tell his principal that his people, Benue farmers, who were trailed, hounded, maimed, and killed in cold blood, have not been treated fairly.

If one may ask, what has, for instance, stalled the release of funds, or release Benue’s share from the N10billion the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo announced for the rebuilding of destroyed homes more than two years ago?

What are the issues, the bottlenecks? Why has the federal government kept sealed lips in spite of repeated calls from Governor Ortom and other Nigerians that the pledge is redeemed to enable Benue IDPs to return to their homes? Had Senator Akume as minister from Benue state ever had sleepless nights over the plight of those IDPs, full-blooded Tivs?

Those questions offend any rational mind considering the attention accorded other displaced Nigerians in the far North. There, they are being rehabilitated.

Are those IDPs in the far North more Nigerian than Benue IDPs?

Do they contribute to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, more than those Benue farmers who toil day and night to produce food and safeguard food security in the country?

These are but a few posers for Senator Akume who incidentally is the younger brother of the doyen of Middle Belt politics and champion of minorities’ rights, Senator Joseph Sarwuan Tarka.

If one may again ask; would JS Tarka had sat back to watch pastoralists ride roughshod on Benue farmers and render them homeless and say nothing? Won’t JS Tarka raise a memo at the FEC calling for the rebuilding of destroyed homes in Tiv land if he was privileged to be alife to serve as a minister under President Muhammadu Buhari?

Time beckons on the distinguished minister and other political gladiators in the state to work for the development and progress of the people they represent rather than panning to the dictates of political parties which are but mere platforms for contesting elections.

By doing that, IDPs would return home without any damage to party names. By doing that, cottage industries will be built to employ our teeming unemployed graduates. Roads, Benue roads, would be in the budget and neither APC nor PDP would cringe!

But Benue state is not all about Governor Ortom and Senator Akume. It’s about everyone, the citizens, beginning from the home front to the plum seat of governor. Therefore, deliberate efforts should be made towards building a strong state where posterity would applaud.

If at the end of the day Benue is jinxed, it is not the political parties that would be held responsible but the political actors. This is why political actors must have the desire to impact positively on those they lead.

Today, Governor Ortom is being lauded by Senator Akume for facilitating the return of commercial flights. Maybe soon, the minister, a younger brother of JS Tarka, will tell Nigerians how his collective political engineering with Ortom resulted in the release of funds for the rehabilitation of Benue IDPs.

It is only then that his commendation will make meaning to the IDPs and Nigerians.

 

QUOTE

This is why Senator Akume should not end his commendation with the resumption of flight to the state but go further to commend Governor Ortom for rising in defense of the people against the onslaught by marauding Fulani herdsmen, who have taken over a lot of ancestral lands in the state, including his in Tarka LGA.

 


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