All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole launched a tirade against Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State yesterday, claiming that the governor is partly responsible for the security challenge in the state.
He also accused the governor of non-performance and aggravating the level of poverty among his people.
But Ortom, who dumped the APC on Wednesday, fired back immediately.
He said Oshiomhole appeared to know more about the killings in Benue and was hiding the truth from Nigerians.
He threatened to sue the APC chair for disparaging him.
In firing the first salvo yesterday, Oshiomole had said Ortom's exit is a blessing in disguise for the APC after all.
He told reporters in Abuja that contrary to claims by the governor about the killings and general security situation in the state, Ortom was partly responsible for the problem.
“Governor Ortom has complicated, by his own actions and poor judgement, the security situation in the state,” he said , citing reports by APC leaders in Benue State.
“They drew our attention to the fact that some of those that have been arrested as a result of the killings are people who have been associated with him, including people in his employment, especially a guy known to have been involved with Boko Haram, whom he recruited to manage what they called forest guards.
“These people have been arrested and are in police custody. If an appointee of a governor is involved in a heinous crime, including killing, that will be enough for a governor to worry about.
“Instead, he played up the ethnic dimension of criminality, even though some of those killed were killed not by Muslims but Christians of Benue State origin, including those he employed.
“These people have been in police custody; so, his attempt to explain away criminality by playing the ethnic card is unhelpful to what he should do as governor to manage the situation better.
“After all, those in Benue State have always been there and his predecessors, including Suswam, had found ways to manage these diversities. So, Ortom’s incapacity to manage it and even seeking to make political capital of the death of Benue people is unfortunate.
“It is important that Nigerians understand that the condemnable killing of two Reverend Fathers and some Christians in a church, those who have confessed to these crimes include people who have worked with Gov. Ortom and these killings were done few weeks after one of them was extremely critical during his sermon about the governance of the state and the style of governance of the Governor.
“His price obviously was to pay with his dear life and not a few thought that the governor would celebrate that. I am not about to suggest that Gov, Ortom might have asked anybody to go and kill anyone, but that some of those involved in these killings are Benue State originated are Christians.
“That is not to deny that some herdsmen have also been involved in the killings. But the responsibility of any government is not to seek to manipulate this, but to confront it.
“As a party, we condemn any life that has been wasted by criminals and we accept that government ’s responsibility is to protect life and property. But I condemn anyone of us who seeks to make political capital out of these killings because we have shared responsibility to protect their lives regardless of their religion or location. So, we are relived that Ortom has returned to PDP.
“When you look at it, he got our ticket on a platter of gold because he was never a participant in the building process of the party. He became a candidate by accident. The lesson to learn is that never again should people become candidates by accident.”
Oshiomhole also described Ortom ’s three and a half years as governor as a waste as he has no single project to show for the mandate given him.
His words: “In spite of the allocation accruing to Benue State, the bailout fund amounting to over N20 billion and the huge sums of money collected from the Paris Club refund, he was not paying salaries to Benue workers, including teachers, local government employees and civil servants. He is owing some of the as much as 12 months salaries.
“So, the entire economy of Benue State that survives on civil servants salaries is compromised. “Those who live on rents paid by civil servants cannot collect their rents with which to survive, thereby having effect on the commercial life of the people. This explains a vicious circle of poverty in Benue State that has deepened under Gov. Ortom.“There was also the fact that for three and half years that he has been in office, he cannot point to any concrete project that he has carried out. He cannot point to any major project that has been completed.
“When we asked him these questions and allegations that while the Vice President and the President had visited other states to commission projects, in Benue they have only paid condolence visit. It is okay to lament the absence of federal presence, but what is the excuse for the absence of state projects in the state?
“His argument is that he had diverted a lot of the resources to security issue. That raises the issue. Can you be spending N22 billion on security and the people are increasingly insecure? So if you accept that he spent money on security, it meant that he realized that he has a responsibility to secure life and not pass the buck.
“So, I felt scandalized watching him saying he had to leave the APC because he did not feel secure. To be honest, I am relieved as National Chairman and the leadership of our party in Benue State are relieved that he has returned to where he came from.
“So, we now have a clean platform to search for a credible Benue citizen that can provide the kind of leadership that Benue State deserves and not one who seeks to make political capital out of human graves and celebrating the death of his own people.
Ortom announced his defection from the APC on Wednesday,a few hours before he was due to attend another round of peace talks at the party’s national secretariat.
Oshiomhole has something to hide, I’ll sue him, says Ortom
In a swift reaction last night to Oshiomhole’s comment, Ortom threatened to sue the APC chair “because it is clear that there is something about the killers that he is hiding.”
“For him to come out with these allegations shows that he has something he is hiding,” the governor said through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase.
He said: “Miyetti Allah groups have severally claimed responsibility for the Benue killings, yet the Federal Government controlled by Oshiomhole’s party has not deemed it necessary to invite them for questioning.”
He also dismissed allegation on non-performance by the governor.
“That is double speak. It is laughable, coming from Oshiomhole.
“Just last week, he eulogized Ortom as one of the stars of APC, one of the best performing governors and this week he said the governor has not performed.
“He is saying one thing in the morning and another in the evening.
“We advise him to concentrate on his job as party chairman.
“He is speaking on everything and on anything.
“The other day he was counselling the president on how to run his government and chastening the ministers.
“He should desist from delving into issues not pertaining to his position.”