The recent allegation by Governor Samuel Ortom against his predecessor for proliferating arms in Benue State is the most ludicrous tale of the year. Ortom who accused Suswam of violence, claimed Suswam bought arms for youths to fulfill his political ambition.
“The last dispensation believed in violence. My predecessor and his cohorts believed they could take everything by force and they bought these arms and gave to young men”, Ortom said. However, a peep into the political trajectory that culminated in the election of Samuel Ortom last year portrayed Suswam as a political statesman who provided a level playing field for political actors to actualise their dreams in the state.
It was also this elastic faith in fairness and justice that caused Suswam to lose his ambition of going to the Senate to Senator Barnabas Gemade, former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Sen. Gemade who is currently a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Wherein then lie the veracity of the claim of Ortom that Suswam bought arms for youths to fulfill his political ambition when Suswam lost his election and displayed political maturity by not challenging Sen Gemade at the election tribunal even when there were several allegations of electoral impropriety against Gemade?
Perhaps, Ortom who is the bonafide chief security officer of Benue State is blowing hot as a result of his failure to effectively prosecute the amnesty programme he promulgated after assuming power last year. It would be recalled that the governor who had promulgated amnesty to all youths in possession of illegal arms and monetary reward for those who willingly submit their illegal arms in the state granted amnesty to a popular notorious criminal gang leader.
Ortom while addressing newsmen last year said Mr. Akwaza had responded to his call to surrender the weapons he possessed illegally and also desist from his activities which constituted a security threat to individuals and communities in Benue and Taraba States.
The governor said at the end of the extension, security agencies would go after possessors of illegal arms so as to put an end to crimes including armed robbery, kidnapping, and cultism. He said the government will go after those who have refused to surrender their weapons since an amnesty window has closed. “Now that the carrot approach of the amnesty programme is over, we will now adopt the stick approach. We are going to pursue them to their homes. Wherever they are, we are going to arrest them and prosecute them. We are going to go after them fully,” Ortom said.
He also said: “The amnesty programme succeeded because more than 800 young people came out and surrendered. We have in our possession over 600 assorted weapons and ammunition that we collected from these young men,” Ortom further stated. In spite of the success the governor said the amnesty programme has recorded, the killing of his Senior Special Assistant on Security, Denen Igbana last month by gunmen has triggered ripples.
Ironically, the prime suspect in the killing of Igbana is Ghana whom Ortom celebrated his amnesty. Igbana was alleged to have said: “So Ghana, in spite of all we have done together, you can look me in the face and kill me in this manner.” Ghana is said to be presently on the run while the governor was said to have stated that the law would take its course if Ghana was found culpable.
Apart from that, the spate of killing and kidnapping in the state have increased astronomically. This is a direct contrast to the regime of Suswam where youths were encouraged to go into micro business.
Meanwhile, Special Adviser to Governor Ortom on Special Duties, Arch. Joe Ikyagba has since been arrested and detained in prison custody in connection to the Igbana’s death. Ikyagba was arraigned in court before he was remanded.
Reacting to the development, former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav has described the amnesty programme in the state as a fluke and a device to grant Ghana who he claimed worked for Ortom during last year’s election soft landing.
“Right from day one, I knew that the amnesty programme was a fraud. It was intended to achieve just one purpose. It was intended to bring in Ghana and pardon him so that the Ortom government will use him as their hit man and that is what they have achieved.
“I expected people in Guma area who have a lot of thugs there, who have a lot of arms come to surrender these. This is because that was where the Fulani were confronting our home farmers and many young men there were armed. But I did not see a single person from that area that has come to surrender his arms.
“You see, the problem here is that even Ortom had confessed in the past that he was a thug; a motor park thug and that he was also a head of militia and so maybe, he only identified members of his own militia group and gave them amnesty or soft landing. He never did this for the interest of the state but for the sole purpose of giving soft landing to Ghana,” Ortom further stated.
Agwaza, a public affairs analyst, writes from Wuye, Abuja