A former Governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, has said he regrets supporting the incumbent governor of the state, Dr. Samuel Ortom, in 2015.
He spoke in Abuja on Saturday when leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the state addressed a press conference on what they called “the dearth of democracy and constitutionalism in the state under Ortom.”
But Ortom said he had intelligence reports that the former governor and others he refused to name met in China recently where he alleged they planned to cause another round of mayhem in the state.
Akume and Ortom were in the same political camp in the state until the governor defected from the APC to join the Peoples Democratic Party a few weeks ago.
Ortom, who was eased out of the governorship race in the PDP in 2015, was made the APC candidate with the support of Akume and other leaders of the party in the state.
Having listed all the alleged atrocities he said the governor had committed since assuming office, including the non-payment of salaries of workers, Akume was asked whether he should not share in the blame because of the roles he played in the election of Ortom.
The former governor said the decision to make Ortom governor had turned out to be a grave error, adding that the mistake was, however, a collective one.
He said other world and Nigerians leaders had equally made mistake in the past.
Akume stated, “Well, world and past leaders in Nigeria had made mistakes in the past. The likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe had made mistakes.
“I’m a human being. Therefore, I can make mistakes. The decision to mistake Ortom the governor was an error. It is regrettable.
“But human being’s mind is not predictable. You can’t read it. That is just what happened in his case.”
He however promised that the APC would not commit similar error when picking its candidate for the 2019 governorship election, adding that the leaders of the APC in the state would do character assessment of those planning to be governor.
Reading a prepared speech signed by the elders, Akume said the state was now under siege since the defection of Ortom from the APC to the PDP.
He said, “On the 29th day of May 2015, Ortom took the Oath of Office as the Governor of Benue State and swore on the Bible to, among other things, not to allow his personal interest to influence his official conduct or his official decisions; that he would, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, he would do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
“It is however sad and unfortunate that Ortom has engaged himself in clandestine meetings and plans with other desperate people to trample on and to breach the very Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he swore to protect and uphold.
“Upon the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom to the PDP, he has been engaged in serious constitution breaches capable of igniting violence and total breakdown of law and order in Benue State.”
The governor was accused of instigating and orchestrating the alleged unlawful removal of the leadership of the Benue State House of Assembly led by Terkimbi Ikyange.
Akume said despite a court ruling, Ortom had continued to violate this directive by patronising the Titus Uba-led faction of the State Assembly.
He alleged that the faction carried out its legislative business in Government House, Makurdi.
“In addition, the governor has refused to pay the entitlements of the eight members of the Assembly who have refused to defect to the PDP,” the statement added.
The governor was also accused of recruiting and arming militia in order to cause mayhem during the 2019 general elections.
The statement said, “Governor Samuel Ortom, apart from recruiting and arming militia in order to cause mayhem in the 2019 general elections, has continued to use his Livestock Guards and Vigilante Group to harass and intimidate APC supporters across the state, particularly those who have refused to defect with him to the PDP.
“Nigerians may wish to recall that in January 2018, soldiers of the 93 Battalion in the Takum Area of Taraba State had arrested nine members of the Benue State Civilian Joint Task Force which was later renamed Livestock Guards with AK-47 riffles.
“The arrested members of the group are still in the custody of the security agencies. We therefore call on security agencies to check the activities of these groups as we gear up for the 2019 general elections.
“Also, the governor is pressuring the police authorities in Abuja to post a notorious police officer, who had worked in Benue State Command, was indicted and transferred to Imo State Command, as his Chief Security Officer.
“The whole idea is for the CSO to recruit and train “bad boys” against 2019. Many of the area boys, who had vanished when the governor was still in the APC, have resurfaced now that he has gone back to his own vomit, the PDP.”
Ortom was also accused of wasting over N28bn bailout funds without paying civil servants in the state.
This, according to the APC leaders, was in addition to other budget support initiatives of the Buhari administration, which they alleged was collected by the governor.
Apart from Akume, some of those who signed the statement, included Sen. Ameh Ebute, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), Maj. Gen. India Garba (retd.), Maj. Gen. H. O Adoga (retd.), Maj. Gen. Emmanuel S. Eihoda (retd.), Chief Steven Lawani, Senator Jack Tilley-Gyado, Sam Ode and Chief John Ochoga.
Akume met others in China to make Benue ungovernable –Ortom
Meanwhile, Ortom has dismissed all the allegations by Akume and his group.
He, however, said he had intelligence reports that the former governor and others he refused to name, met in China recently where he alleged they planned to instigate mayhem in the state.
Ortom spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Mr. Tahav Agerzua, in a statement.
He said, “Several paragraphs of the press statements were laced with veiled threats to peace and breakdown of law and order in Benue State by Senator Akume and his collaborators.
“We know from the antecedents of this group that it has no respect for due process and the rule of law.
“We also have intelligence reports that meetings were held recently in China where plans were perfected to make Benue State ungovernable.
“We wish to assure the people of the state and Nigerians that all these plans will fail as the others before them. Power belongs ultimately to God. As a government we are also prepared to tackle all threats to peace within the ambit of the law.
“The operation to free our state from agents of oppression and impunity out to kill, destroy, dislodge and occupy is firmly underway. We are determined to liberate our people no matter what it is going to cost us.”
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