Ortom warns government on ‘double standards’ over security, urges justice, fairness
Says will never keep quiet, as long as injustice, marginalisation prevail
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to rejig its policies to ensure equity, justice and fairness to all segments of the country for continued peace, unity and development.
He warned the government against handling security matters with “double standards”, lamenting that lopsidedness in federal appointments, sectionalism, nepotism, intimidation and the harassment of those who hold contrary views have divided the country more than at any other time in its history.
Ortom, who noted that the country is currently “on life support and running out of energy”, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government must be open to criticism and embrace the people as one for progress in the country.
Ortom made this known while delivering the third yearly lecture of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Enugu chapel. He spoke on the theme, ‘Emerging security challenges in the Southeast region’.
He said the current administration does not lack the capacity to tackle insecurity but has “chosen to play double standards in its handling of the security situation as it affects some regions, especially the South East, North Central, South South and South West, while at the same time treating with kid gloves the menace of killer Fulani herdsmen, bandits and other terrorists in the North East and North West.”
He said: “The speed with which the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and the Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Igboho, were arrested confirms the fact that the Federal Government has the capacity to tackle insecurity with determination and commitment.
“We live in a country where those who demand for equal rights and freedom to end the wave of injustice and marginalisation are hurriedly declared terrorists, while real terrorists who invade communities and kill hundreds of innocent people are pampered and given government protection.”
He said: “The South East has been at the receiving end of such levels of injustice, impunity and marginalisation. Let me make myself very clear. I am not a supporter of violence in any form, neither am I here to justify the violence being witnessed in parts of the East.
“This is why I condemn, in strong terms, the destruction of Federal Government properties such as Independent National Electoral Commission’s offices, attacks on police stations, law enforcement operatives and even traditional rulers. Such attacks and destruction do not make a positive case for freedom fighters and campaigners for justice.
“Dialogue remains the best option in any dispute. We must, however, admit that the ongoing agitations by youths of the South East are as a result of years of neglect, injustice, unfairness and lack of equity by those who have held this country to ransom.”
The governor noted: “The Federal Character principle, as enshrined in the Constitution, has been abused and abandoned by the current administration. This is where leadership has failed Nigerians and good governance has also been relegated to the back seat.
Ortom said Eastern Nigeria, like other parts of the country, deserve equal attention with the provision of critical infrastructure and development projects, as well as allocation of resources and key appointments at the federal level.
“No section of this nation is more Nigerian than another. My definition of democracy is doing what the people want, the way they want things done. As leaders, we owe the people who voted us a duty to serve them without prejudice and sentiments on account of region, religion, ethnicity, language and political affiliation.
“The founding fathers of this nation saw a vision for a united Nigeria where the place of someone’s origin should not supersede the quality of what he or she has to offer the country. The current administration at the centre has adopted the approach of intimidation of those who dare to voice out their frustrations and concerns over growing insecurity and marginalisation.”
“But I, Samuel Ortom, will never keep quiet, as long as injustice and marginalisation prevail in the affairs of our country.”
He said the current administration has introduced “selective persecution and prosecution” of perceived political opponents, stressing that its fight against corruption is only targeted at those who hold alternative views.
“No matter how corrupt someone is said to be, the moment such a person defects to APC, he becomes a saint. That is why some of my colleagues have already joined them. They have been intimidating members of other political parties with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies.
“For instance, in Benue State, no day passes without one or more appointees of government being invited and intimidated by EFCC, simply because I have refused to bow to the strings of threats and harassment from Abuja to betray my people.
“Until the Presidency is willing to listen to the voices of patriotic Nigerians and take steps to address the worsening insecurity, excruciating poverty, hunger, unemployment and increasing prices of commodities, the agitations may not go away so soon. Our universities and other tertiary institutions keep producing graduates on a yearly basis without commensurate efforts by the Federal Government to create an enabling environment for youths engagement and empowerment.”