Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and the presidency are trading words over recent moves by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to resuscitate grazing routes nationwide.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu announced last week that his principal has approved the reactivations of grazing routes in 25 states that were not listed.
Moments after the announcement, reactions poured in with many stakeholders kicking against the plan.
In an interview with Channels Television on Tuesday, Benue State governor accused the Nigerian leader of a hidden agenda to fulanise the country.
He alleged that the president was in support of the activities of Fulani herdsmen who are terrorizing and killing citizens in efforts to chase them from their ancestral lands.
“Because of the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari, Miyetti Allah has been killing our people. My citizens have sent me to tell the President that they don’t want open grazing,” the governor said. “The Presidency is aware of the atrocities of the Miyetti Allah because I alerted them of the threats being issued by the Fulani herders but nothing was done.
“President Buhari told me to tell my people to learn to live with their neighbours; neighbours with AK-47s who kill and pillage our people; I have alerted the Presidency several times, but Miyetti Allah is always in Abuja with the President, being protected with taxpayers’ money,” he added.
Pushing back the allegation in a statement on Wednesday, Mr Shehu said the governor, whom he adjudged as being unfit for public office, caused the death of many Nigerians, ignoring those raped and killed by violent herdsmen who are from the president’s tribe.
He said by kicking against the reviving of grazing routes the governor was inciting ethnic and religious hatred among Nigerians like it occurred in Rwanda.
“In an attempt to boost his sinking political fortunes, Ortom takes the cheapest and lowest route possible by playing on ethnic themes – and in doing so knowingly causes deaths of innocent Nigerians by inciting farmers against herders, and Christians against Muslims,” the president’s propagandist alleged. “Specifically, Ortom stirs up hatred by targeting one single ethnic group in Nigeria – using language reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide.
“As was the case in Rwanda where the then Hutu leaders of the country incited their countrymen against each other, claiming there was a “secret Tutsi agenda” over the Hutu, Ortom claims there is a “secret Fulanization agenda” over other ethnic groups in his state and in Nigeria. This is a copy of the language of Hutu Power – which falsely, and intentionally, accused the Rwandan Tutsi of plans to dominate the country.
“This wicked talk is aimed at giving cover to his so-called “policy” on the Ranches Establishment Law – which in reality is purely an act of denial of the law – intended to withhold rights and freedoms from one ethnic group alone, whilst inciting race hatred against them amongst all others.
“These are not the actions of a man who should be trusted with running public services or holding public office.
“For the governor of a major state in Nigeria to be politically driven by ethnic hatred is a stain on our country.
“The good, and fair-minded people of Benue State deserve more than this, and we look forward to the next elections when they have an opportunity to restore its greatness,” he added.