The Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, has explained why his convoy was attacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen on Saturday.
The governor also said he ran for close to two kilometres to escape after about 15 herdsmen attacked him on his farm at Tyo-Mu community, near Makurdi, the state capital.
The governor said the incident occurred around 11 am, explaining that it took the grace of God, his fitness and the bravery of his security personnel to repel the attackers.
Ortom was one of the governors to push for the anti-open grazing law in his state over deadly clashes between the nomads and farmers, a move that was heavily criticised by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which are the umbrella bodies for nomadic herders in the country.
Basehitz recalls that Ortom recently engaged in a war of words with Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed over the issue killings by suspected Fulani herders.
He once told Fulani killer herders to go to Bauchi Statex saying there was no room for them in his state.
He said: “You know today is Saturday and it is normal as a farmer, I usually go to my farm on Saturdays.
“So I went to my farm along Gboko Road and while trekking out of the farm; on our way back, we started hearing gunshots and we saw people a little afar who were dressed in black and from experience, we realized that these were the criminal militia.
“I did not want to take things for granted because, a few days ago, the media were awash with a statement from Miyetti Allah, which had met in Yola, the same place they met in 2016, where they declared that they will take over Nigeria and that every other person is a slave and that was when they started infiltrating the entire country.
“They came out with a statement singling me out as the only person who is creating a problem for the entire Fulani race.
“And behind the scenes, I also heard that in the meeting, I was targeted for elimination, this was the information I got. That they will go after me either in my home, farm or wherever they could get me.
“This is not the first time, I got an intelligence report that these people said that they were going to kill my security aides and capture me alive and gradually killing me.
“But like I always say, my life is in the hands of God, not in the hands of any Fulani man or anybody whatsoever.
“And I remain firm, I will fight for the truth, equity and fairness till when God permits that I will not be here again, then I will go.
“I appreciate the security personnel attached to me, they were able to repel them and they could not have access to me.
“I thank God for my fitness too. To be able to run for close to two kilometres without stopping, means that God has given me strength, and I am grateful to God.”
Ortom said his grudge is with killer Fulani herders and not people of Fulani extraction.
He said, “I am not going to subject myself to intimidation by anyone whatsoever.
“I don’t have problems with any Fulani man or the Fulani race, but I have a problem with Fulani bandits, who have vowed to take over Nigeria as their ancestral home and I say no, not when I am here as governor leading my state.
“I am not concerned about other states, any state that wants to give their land and themselves to be slaves to Fulani men, I have no problem with them but, in my state, I have consulted with my people and what I am doing is in line with the wishes of my people, and on that, I stand. I have not infringed on anybody’s right.
“My lawyer is here, he is going to make a petition against the leadership of Miyetti Allah because they came out to target me and, behind the scenes, they are planning to eliminate me in my land.
“If I can’t go to the farm as governor with the entire security around me, then who else can go to the farm? You can imagine the pains that we have here in Benue State.
“Thank God for Mr President, who responded to my letter directing that anymore illegally in possession of AK 47 should be shot at sight.
“However, I am yet to see that. Let me see it happen in Benue State. I have reported this to security agencies and I hope that this will be done so that the land will be safe for our people to go to the farm and do their work and survive and live a good life.
“Here in Benue State, we are not against the Fulani or Hausa or Igbo or any tribe, even white people; we are ready to provide land for ranching; that is what the law says.
“I don’t know why these Fulani men are coming from Niger, Mali, Chad and Senegal and other parts of the world to Nigeria.
“They have destroyed Mali completely, nothing is happening there, they have destroyed Libya, they have destroyed several other countries with their aggression and they think they can come here and destroy Nigeria. I don’t know what they mean.
“I want to call on Mr President, I want to call on the security agencies to fish these people out. They are in the forest between Makurdi and Abinsi. They are living there and coming out to commit atrocities and evil, killing our people, maiming them, raping women and destroying our farmlands.
“And anytime our Livestock Guards and security agencies go after them, then run back into the forest across the river.
“This is not fair, I am going to make a petition against the leadership of Miyetti Allah because I hold them responsible.
“I have been calling for the arrest of these people since 2017 and they are going about their normal businesses in Abuja, in Yola, Kano and everywhere without security personnel inviting them for questioning.
“And my pain is that these people are protected by our security personnel who are paid with our tax payers’ money. These are security men that are inadequate because of the crisis created by Miyetti Allah and the police are still protecting them.
“Why, are we second-class citizens? I am not a second-class citizen to anyone in this country.
“I pay my tax just like any other person and I am law-abiding and I hope that the security agencies will question these people on why they should single me out in their Yola meeting and behind the scenes giving orders for me to be eliminated. I have seen the result today. If not for the security personnel that were with me it would have been a story.
“Recall that Governor Fayemi came out clearly and said this government has failed. Providing security is nil. Everybody is running all over the place; traditional rulers, governors, politicians and all. If I am not safe in my state, who else is safe?
“We are begging the Federal Government that if they brought them (Fulani militia) into the country as they are claiming, they should settle them to go back to where they came from so that we can have our peace. Even if it means taxing all of us to settle them to go away so that we can go to the farm, we will do that. If I cannot go to the farm, who else can go to the farm in Benue?
“As I talk to you, troops of Operation Whirl Stroke are on them, the police, Department of State Services and other security personnel because we had to call for reinforcement. Thank God we were able to escape unhurt.”