The battle of words between Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue, and his Bauchi counterpart, Bala Muhammed, appears to be far from over.
Following the latter’s comment on Thursday, 11th February that herders have no option but to carry AK-47 for self-defence because they are being attacked and killed by cattle rustlers, he has come under heavy criticism from Nigerians including Governor Ortom who lashed out at him on Monday for the insensitive comment.
Although Governor Muhammed had defended his comment about armed herders, explaining that he used AK-47 as a ‘figure of speech’ for protection, he had condemned the Southern Governors, as well as Governor Samuel Ortom over the manner in which they are handling farmer-herder clashes. He singled out the Benue chief executive as “most wrong;” stressing that he started the entire saga even when indigenes of his state as well as other tribes were being accommodated in Bauchi and other places. .
Governor Ortom’s reply on Monday, to his North-eastern colleague was weighty, as he accused Governor Muhammed of being a terrorist based on his utterances supporting herdsmen from carrying AK-47 to defend themselves.
Stressing an alleged threat to his life by some herders who wrote him about plans to assassinate him, he accused his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed of being a part of those threatening his life. Ortom didn’t also waste time in adding that the Bauchi Governor should be held responsible if anything happens to him.
The public spat between both Governors may continue for a long time, especially if the farmers and herders crises in the country continue unabated. What is undeniably important however, is that all leaders at various levels put hands to the plough in ensuring that the conflicts become a thing of the past.
This, they must start by refraining from unguarded and divisive utterances that overheat the polity, as well as draw up urgent framework for regional police institutions rather than the ad-hoc and self-help initiatives that litter the country.
Governors Ortom and Muhammed, time’s up, this herds-o-men-ia must stop!
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.