"It is sad and unfortunate that the likes of Garba Shehu have zero sympathy for the families of those being killed daily by Fulani terrorists."
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has replied to the Nigerian Presidency over recent comments accusing the governor of spreading falsehood.
Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, on Wednesday accused Ortom of spreading falsehood.
The presidential spokesman had challenged Governor Ortom to identify the army personnel who told him the President ordered Nigerian troops not to attack Fulani herdsmen responsible for causing violence in his state.
Shehu, in a statement released via his social media platform, described Ortom's claim as untrue and a statement made to gain political scores.
He further berated the governor for allegedly sowing the seeds of hatred amongst Nigerians ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Reacting swiftly to the attack, Governor Ortom in a press release issued on Thursday by his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur challenged President Buhari and his government to redeem its battered image by rescuing Nigerians from the apron strings of bandits, kidnappers and terrorists who are having a field day in the country. This is the painful reality that handlers of the President don’t want us to talk about.
He said, "Each time I speak about the dreadful manner the Muhammadu Buhari administration has handled the security situation in the country, his media aides and hangers-on come out attacking my personality instead of addressing the issues I raised.
“The latest of such attacks by the Presidency came from the garrulous Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, who, rather than tell Nigerians the steps taken by his principal to end the unprecedented bloodshed perpetrated by armed Fulani terrorists, chose to hurl insults on the Governor.
"If the Presidency assumes that I am wrong about my statements regarding the failure of the present government to tackle insecurity, I urge them to hold a referendum to get the feelings of Nigerians towards their ineptitude, complicity and clear lack of commitment and sincerity in protecting the people.
"It is sad and unfortunate that the likes of Garba Shehu have zero sympathy for the families of those being killed daily by Fulani terrorists. As long as their meal ticket is secured, they tell Mr President to go to bed, that all is well with the country.
"Garba is a man whose loyalty is for sale to the highest bidder. He sings in high praise of the President today because that is his current source of livelihood. He will be the first to go against the President once the tables turn. He has done that before with other prominent Nigerians whom he served. A man who betrays his former benefactor for a new pot of porridge does not possess the moral right to question a patriotic leader like Governor Ortom.”
He went on, "Shehu blew the opportunity to prove me wrong that I had raised a false alarm about the worsening security situation in the country. Hundreds of our citizens are held captive by terrorists in the forests. I expected Shehu to tell Nigerians what efforts the Federal Government has made to release the hostages.
"Was it a false alarm from me that led to the terrorists’ attack on the convoy of President Buhari in his home state Katsina? Or was it a movie acting when terrorists broke into Kuje Correctional Centre right in the heart of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and released their colleagues? It is unfortunate that till date, no officer has been arrested or questioned for the lapses and clear cases of complicity by the security operatives attached to the Kuje facility. There are reports of over six jailbreaks in the last seven years under the Buhari administration. If that is not a crying shame of failure on the part of the Presidency, we wonder what else qualifies as failure.
"Everyone is aware how the Buhari administration descends heavily and brutally on other groups like Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or Sunday Igboho who have been declared as terrorists with their members arrested and incarcerated but the same government treats Fulani terrorists with kid gloves.
“Garba Shehu must be reminded that I speak the minds of most Nigerians on specific areas of incompetence or deliberate complicity by the Federal Government in the heinous crimes committed against citizens by armed Fulani herdsmen and other terrorists. Instead of taking me on those points, Shehu went chasing vain and mundane matters in a desperate attempt to malign me which he failed woefully.
"If I raised a false alarm, why have the Fulani terrorists who are veiled as herdsmen continued to kidnap and kill Nigerians unchallenged? How many of the terrorists and bandits have been apprehended and prosecuted? The Buhari administration cannot extricate itself from complicity regarding the evil visited on citizens of this country. The Presidency has failed the integrity test and should rather accept its failure, apologize to Nigerians and seek help to salvage the situation.
"It is clear that the loud-mouthed presidential media aide is unaware that other states such as Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and even Katsina where the President comes from are under siege. Is that also my false alarm that has given rise to the killings in other parts of this country?
"In case the likes of Garba Shehu and his likes are not aware, majority of Nigerians wake up to face daily frustrations and live in constant fear of who will be the next victim of terrorists. Yet, self-serving individuals like the presidential media aide who live under the shield and paraphernalia of the Presidency and have apparently sold their conscience to the devil, want us to pretend that nothing sinister is happening.
Governor Ortom also took a swipe at Shehu who had branded him as an “opportunistic politician.”
"Shehu should be told that I rose to become a Local Government Chairman, State Publicity Secretary of National Centre Party of Nigeria; State Treasurer of All People’s Party, State Secretary as well as State Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, National Auditor of PDP, Minister of the Federal Republic and now a two-term Governor. If Shehu thinks it is easy to win elections, he should test his popularity by contesting a Councillorship position in his local government area," he said.