“2023 is a different election flavor. Don’t bound in because you want powerfulness. Benue must be your passion. Whether you can’t say ‘no’ to the killings, withdraw NOW!” — Peters Ichull.
In Apr this yr, I published an view in a number of newspapers on the time to come of Benue, under the title: Ortom, Benue 2023 and the Open Grazing Prohibition Law.
It’s encouraging that nowadays, one of Nigeria”s best brains, our rattling have Peters Ichull, has endorsed that place. And I am excited. For some who may not know him good, Ichull is a reverend, evangelist, preacher, polymath, traveller, wordsmith, philosopher, thinker, nationalist and Tiv patriot.
So, when someone similar this aligns his thoughts with yours – fifty-fifty without peradventure reading you, you know you are on rails. Nowadays, I go dorsum to the piece principally because his alignment strengthens my conviction and farther validates the Ortom stand up: that ranching is it.
But there are other reasons too. Since Apr, there has been a rash of brand new laws across the southern half of Nigeria, prohibiting open grazing. Fifty-fifty upward N hither, Plateau is warming upward to the ban. I know you may want to faint, considering how Gov. Simon Lalong mocked Gov. Samuel Ortom and Benue people in the wake of the 2018 massacres of Benue province indigenes by foreign killer-herdsmen. But I implore you not to: just take it to ticker that vision is not the gift of all.
And Katsina too. Yes, fifty-fifty Katsina, and don’t gasp! The governor, Aminu Masari, is not only thinking of banning open grazing in the province, but he has also courageously named the killer-herdsmen as “Fulani people”, And, psyche you, he didn’t refer anything in relation to them beingness “foreigners” or “Libyans” as we are often told.
The foregoing tells us that ranching is not only the international best practise as far as fauna husbandry is concerned, it’s an thought whose time has inexorably come up.
Little people, with colonised minds, may not want it spoken in relation to as they gorge themselves ravenously on Esauesque delicacies, but ranching is unquestionably the biggest issue of the instant deserving of robust discourse. And it will remain so till 2023 and beyond.
And yes, the simple-minded, perhaps congenitally so, may remain hither, trapped or immobilised in their crumbling multiverse (universes) of petty obsessions, traditional detest, primitive jealousies and political arthritis, but Nigeria is moving. Anyone in dubiety can enquire Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom (in the south-south); enquire Enugu (in the south-east); enquire Ondo, Lagos and Ogun (in the south-west); enquire Taraba (in the north-east), and enquire the now-persuaded Katsina (in the north-west).
But there is some other reason for revisiting the Apr piece. The Abuja press conference of Benue-APC on August 30 and the APC rally in Makurdi, on September 1, in back up of President Muhammadu Buhari and George Akume have made a revisit of the topic, as we march towards 2023, a compelling necessity. I will, thence, be quoting copiously from that write-up.
I started by saying with discussions in relation to Benue 2023 getting louder, it was needful to bring together the conversation so as to enrich it with fresh perspectives, expand the conversational space and provoke critical input. (And that is what I am still doing nowadays).
First off quote: “Elsewhere, 2023 may be just some other election yr or some other chance at power-grab, but for Benue province, 2023 will be a revalidation of our right to life, our right to live on our ancestral earth and our right to human dignity. Of course of study, it is understood by whatever perceptive psyche that the first off validation was in 2019.”
I clarified: “In other words, Benue 2023 will be squarely and categorically in relation to checking the hydra-headed menace of herdsmen, and the regime of insecurity it has spawned by way of murderous bandits and criminal gangs across the province. And the principal musical instrument of achieving this will be the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law.”
Writing farther, I stated: “Aspirants/candidates with grammatical sophistications, eminent preparations, vaunting ambitions, academic pedigrees, cognate experiences, stakeholder endorsements, godfather anointings and zonal arithmetics – whether individually or collectively – will be mere jokers whether they detach themselves from this all-important law.
“Allow the truth be told, and it is hereby told, the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law is not simply in relation to agriculture or its value-chain economics – the law is farther in relation to the identity, the dignity and the survival of the Benue man beyond the decade.”
And that is where we are. I create bold to declare that a hundred press conferences by the politically castrated in Abuja or Abidjan, a thousand congregations of the walking-wounded, a million screams by the electorally-impotent and a billion alliances with foreign constituencies — no matter how seemingly powerful — cannot repeal the people’s law popularly enacted in 2017.
As the people’s governor, Inyam-Ikyume Samuel Ortom, has said, once more and once more, that law is cast in marble. This is not politics, and there is nil political in relation to it: the law seeks to supply security for all Benue indigenes or residents, be they in APC, SDP, APGA or PDP or fifty-fifty the apolitical farmers who just want to cultivate their ancestral lands in the peace that is guaranteed them under the structure.
Clearly, Benue-APC has not yet recovered from the wrenching hangover of its wholesale rejection by the Benue voters in 2019. Furthermore, the political party is badly haemorrhaging, partly due to the massive evacuation of its rank and file into the PDP, and partly due to its morbid insensitivity to the continual killings of Benue people by killer-herdsmen. As it is, 2023 is looking increasingly grim for the political party, and all hopes of a homecoming to powerfulness are vanishing by the daytime.
So, every discerning watcher of Benue politics knows that the APC has been in growing pains. And every discerning individual also knows that the political party could not, hitherto, openly wail in relation to its woes without attracting to itself the inglorious tag of a “cry-cry babe”.
So, what did the Benue APC do? It nursed its pains quietly, bidding its time for a instant of catharsis. And and then, that instant came. That was when Ortom, grief-stricken with the unending killings of his people, appeared on Channels Television and charged the Buhari presidency with failing to protect Benue people.
Predictably, the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, left the major issues that Ortom raised, and began habitation, strangely, on small issues such as Ortom changing parties 5 times or having no political principles. (Pray, does one demand principles or political fidelity to sense hurting or to speak the truth?).
Good, unconcerned with such questions, the Benue-APC saw the presidential opening as a good opportunity to openly vent its frustrations without drawing tearful attending to itself on account of its festering political wounds. Lay differently, Garba Shehu if Benue-APC — its juggernauts and minions all — a cathartic instant to vent its bottled upward anger since its 2019 debacle; a convenient reason to allow loose its impotent rage against those it holds guilty of architecting that debacle.
And this is why, similar the presidency, Benue-APC didn’t seek to take on Ortom on whatever of the issues he raised, rather, the APC also chose to, at best, major in minors or, to, at worse, obscure the issues Ortom raised.
First off, on the daytime of the Abuja press conference (August 30), Benue-APC shunned a scheduled Benue stakeholders coming together at the People’s House, Makurdi, to which it, similar all stakeholders, had been invited.
The Benue-APC, led by George Akume, shunned the coming together and gathered his henchmen for the press conference. And their venue was Abuja. Was the pick of Abuja, which is by the way the place of federal powerfulness, a strategic pick to raise their visibility to Aso Stone, thereby enlisting federal back up for their faltering Projection 2023? Or given their rough distortions, the scandalous evasions, the deliberate obfuscations, their shameful euphemisms, the half-truths, the outright lies against Benue people. In fact, given their terminological inexactitudes, was the pick of Abuja a cowardly displace to shield themselves from pop anger piece their festival of shame lasted?
Whatever the reason that was behind the pick of venue, it remains the stakeholders’ secret. What is evident, nevertheless nonetheless, is that the pick of faraway Abuja, advertently or inadvertently, boldly emphasised the disconnection of the Benue-APC leadership from the Benue people whom they desperately want to lord over.
This column doesn’t have the space to reply to every inanity of that Akume press conference or the one from “Ihyarev APC Elders” that followed – that is not fifty-fifty an objective. Likewise, the responses of the Benue-PDP, the Ihyarev Elders, Nongov PDP Elders, the MINDA PDP Youth Forum, the Alternative View of Mike Utsaha (an independent-minded, Ihyarev APC stakeholder), etc, have already demolished that inverted pyramid of lies erected by Benue-APC.
This column only seeks to expose the Benue-APC outing in Abuja for what it really was to every critical psyche: a festival of shame actuated by treachery, decked in the garish colours of opportunism and hosted by a desperate grouping of the walking wounded.
Imobo-Tswam, a communications specialist and public space commentator, writes from Abuja.
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