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Divided by anti open grazing law

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Divided by anti open grazing law

*Akume angry with Ortom’s insistence on enforcing law
*Tries to demonise Gov
*APC may deny Ortom ticket
*Gov looks outside party
*Says grazing law to prevent killings by herders

There is a war of attrition between two kinsmen. Regretfully, the conflict is between the governor, Samuel Ortom, and his political associate and former governor of the state, Senator George Akume. Their quarrel is over the anti grazing law, which the senator is allegedly against and is plotting not to support Ortom’s second coming. Our Benue state correspondent gives a comprehensive narrative of the real issues.

THE tinderbox has been lit in Benue, the ‘food basket’ state, and soon the political conflagration that would ensue from it will engulf the entire state. Intriguingly, the battle is between the sitting governor, Dr Samuel Ortom, and his political godfather, Senator George Akume.
This is not the first time a sitting governor is parting ways with his godfather. Looking back, you would see Senator Akume slugging it out with Senator Barnabas Gemade and former Senate president, Senator David Mark, then Senator Iyorchia Ayu who made him governor in 1999.

Going further, you would also see Senator Akume fuming with his adorable wife, Regina, threatening to deal with that ‘boy,’ Gabriel Suswam who picked the baton of leadership from him from2007 to 2015.
Even though Suswam won his second term as governor, he spent the better part of that tenure moving from one court of law to another, either to safeguard his seat from those who felt he did not win the election or for the case of certificate forgery preferred against him.

Even out of power, Suswam is still moving from court to court as his estranged godfather, according to those who know what some of us do not know, swore to ensure that he (Suswam) must be jailed and be left there to rot. Suswam is presently standing trial for allegedly being in possession of firearms and allegations ofcorruption.

On the unfolding scenario in the state, Akume is said to be piqued with Governor Ortom over the promulgation and enforcement of the Prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranches Law 2017. Some of the prime objectives of the law are the prevention of killing of farmers as well as cattle rustling in the state.
According to a highly placed politician in the state who confided in this reporter, the fundamental issue is that Senator Akume wants to ingratiate himself with the presidency in Abuja while Governor Ortom wants to maintain the support of Benue people.

According to the source, Akume told Ortom on the day of the signing of the anti open grazing bill that he should not sign it because there would be backlash from Abuja because the Fulani, according to Akume, were powerful and could come after him.

Even though it may be true that the Fulani are powerful, Ortom, according to the source, said there was no turning back on the law, saying if he failed to sign it the people of Benue would stone him.
Since then, the source said, Akume has been bending backwards reaching out to people in Abuja and telling them that Ortom is stubborn, that he was advised against signing the bill into law but he refused to listen, alluding that that was why there was crisis in the state.
To justify his position to be in the good books of the presidency, Akume, the source further said, told the Abuja that Ortom had a militia which he sponsors, and that Alhaji Aliu Teshaku (who is now in detention) is the head of the militia.

Akume also allegedly told the presidency that those 73 caskets bearing the remains of the victims of the New Yearday massacre in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas of the state were only 20 dead bodies inside them while in actual fact over 100 were killed.
“But we all know that the names of all the people who were killed were all displayed;and nobody has gone out to debunk that because human beings who were killed were in those caskets.

“These are some of the things.And then in his efforts to demonise Ortom, he reported him to so many people, especially at quarters where the governor could not defend himself,” the source stated.
Another factor that has led to the parting of ways between Ortom and Akume was their disagreement over the selection and appointment of the Tor Tiv, the paramount ruler of the Tiv tribe.
Senator Akume had a candidate, a retired high court judge, but the governor was said to have insisted on a traditional ruler who would swear by the Bible and not Swem, a Tiv deity, preferably Professor James Ayatse who eventually emerged as the Tor Tiv.

“So, Senator Akume has not forgiven Ortom over the emergence of HRM, Professor James Ayatse as the current Tor Tiv, feeling uncomfortable that Governor Ortom could beat him to the game.
“So anytime Ortom demands that they should come together so that the people he (Akume) reported him to and the two of them to seat and discuss, the senator will refuse.

“There was an instance that he went and reported to the Bishop of Gboko Dioceses, Bishop Avenya; so when Ortom went and addressed the synod recently, and then he went to greet the Tor Tiv also in Gboko, the Bishop sent that he should come back.
“When he went there, the Bishop told him that Senator Akume came and reported him that he (Ortom) was corrupt and that he was doing many things that were ungodly.

“So Ortom appealed that a date should be fixed for them to meet with the Bishop.When they fixed a date and called them together, Akume became very violent at the meeting. He took down the Bishop of Katsina/Ala Diocese, Bishop Adobo, who Bishop Avenya invited to be part of the peace process and accused Bishop Adobo of taking sides with former Governor Gabriel Suswam and the wanted militia leader, Terwase Agwaza; and he asked Bishop Adobo to go and tell Agwaza to release the kidnapped wife of a serving high court judge (name withheld),”the source hinted.
He further revealed:”It got so embarrassing that the Bishop who called the peace meeting said the meeting had broken down, so he would pray for God to take control of the matter.

“At the meeting, Akume said repeatedly that Ortom was stupid and a fool.
“If you recall, when Governor Ortom was to present staff of office to the recently appointed first class chiefs here in Makurdi, the time Governor Ortom was to go and deliver his speech and present the staff of office was the time Senator Akume came to the arena.

“When he came in he started pointing at Ortom,saying ‘you should be careful with me; you were nothing; I picked you from nowhere’ and all that.In fact, Ortom had to bring down his hand right there in the public.
“So things got to a point when Governor Ortom said since he was born, he had not seen the kind of pressure Senator Akume brought to bear on him.
“The governor also likened the pressure to a he-goat pestering a she-goat to the extent that she will abort;and then an implacable child crying all the time; if you give her food he will not keep quiet; if you put her at your back the same.
“Ortom noted that things had gotten to an extent that he could no longer bear, that even if you have a son and that son had grown up, at least you give the son some level of independence and some level of respect,” he said.

The governor, tired of the whole pressure, pointed that even if Akume used to cook cow eggs for him, he should cook his egg and eat, that he was no longer interested in the cow egg.
He also stressed that since he (Akume) has him(governor) in his pocket like a handkerchief, he should give it to whoever he wants, that he was not interested, that it was impossible for them to work together again.
The governor admitted that Akume reported him to so many people and to state his own side of the issue, he called their political allies and narrated the matter to them, on which they agreed to meet and speak with Akume and get back to the governor.

“Regrettably,” the source further disclosed,“when they went and spoke with him, he was insulting everybody.So the governor thinks that the time God allotted to both of them to work together has elapsed and there is nothing anyone can do to bring them together again.”
He disclosed that notwithstanding all the quarrels, the senator is still angry with the current governor for mending fences with his predecessor,Gabriel Suswam.

Suswam,as it were, also road on Akume’s back to become governor, but the political love between the two did not last long, as Suswam told those that cared to listen at different public forathat he would not share government funds with anybody, supposedly implying that the senator wanted him to do so.
What later unfolded was a chain of crisis which dovetailed into electoral and certificate litigations against Suswam, a development which triggered huge distraction from governance.

Ironically, while the political intransigence between Akume and Suswam lingered, Ortom, who upon coming to power cut off ties with Suswam, had through the intervention of the Tor Tiv, Professor Ayatse, again mended fences with Suswam, a development many believed did not go down well with Senator Akume whose political estrangement with Suswam continues to linger.
Perhaps, it was due to the hostility that the governor recently sacked some members of his cabinet, major among them beingloyalists of Senator Akume.

As a result of the development, the national body of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is said not to be inclined to giving him their platform to pursue his second term ambition.
The governor is therefore said to be looking out of the box to join a popular political party where he can actualise his ambition.
“This is the truth of the matter; the forces see Ortom as a hard nut to crack based on his stand on the anti-open grazing law,” another source stated.

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