Minority Tribes of the Middle Belt Have Found a Voice in Gov Ortom By Benjamin Ngutsav
Nigerian Concord Newspaper
Nigeria is arguably regarded as a federating state with thirty six states and six geopolitical zones of North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West. It is also made of many tribes with over two hundred of them. However, there are three tribes which have been considered as the major tribes. They are Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo. And it is among these three tribes that Nigeria is mostly discussed about.
The power play in Nigeria is mostly among Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo even though the igbos have suffered gross marginalization of being deniedof ruling this country. While these three major tribes continue to dominate the affairs of the country, the over 230 tribes suffer injustices and oppression.
Of the injustices and oppression meted out on minority tribes in Nigeria, the minority tribes in the middle belt are worst hit. They have suffered injustice and oppression for decades from the dominated Hausa – Fulani, specifically the Fulanis. And This is why many leaders have risen from the minority tribes in the middle belt to defend their course.
For example, Joseph Sarwuan Tarka spoke and fought for minority tribes must especially in the North Central which have been sandwiched by those three major tribes. He was an advocate of state creation to politically and economically empower minority groups within the country. He supported the creation of a Middle Belt state. Tarka was a nominated member to the Nigerian Constitutional Conference of 1957 and was also the representative of the Middle Belt zone to the Willinks Commission where it was reported he contributed for a fair treatment of minority tribes in Nigeria.
Solomon Lar, an ardent middle belter also fought for the minority tribes in the North. He help Plateau people to realize their freedom when he championed a policy based on the idea that the state should help indigenes realize the benefits of their emancipation from Hausa domination.
For a long time now after Tarka and Lar, there has not been a politician who speaks against the injustices done to the minority tribes in the North and country. The middle belt and other minority tribes have not had someone to fight for them, to protect them from the slavery and expansionist ideologies of the Fulanis. There was a void, there was silence against evil and injustice. The middle belt and minority tribes needed someone to speak for them. It took time coming, but today the void has been filled with Governor Samuel Ortom who has been consistent with his justice for all message.
Recently at Governor Samuel Ortom Colloquium, the President of the Middle Forum, Dr. Pogus Bitrus said in his speech titled “Another Joseph Tarka on duty” described Governor Ortom as the Tarka of this generation.
Governor Samuel Ortom has distinguished himself to become the new rallying point of the middle belt and most especially the minority tribes by speaking truth to power in defence for the oppressed. By exposing the conquest agenda of the Fulanis and defending his people against them.
The Governor abhors injustice of any kind and by anybody and has made it clear with one of Martins Luther King Jr quotes where he said “If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.”
Before Ortom became the Governor of Benue State there had been perennial Fulani attacks on Benue farmers resulting to scores of death and loss of property. The farmers would be sacked from their villages while the attackers take possession of their ancestral land. These attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen were also taking place in other parts of the middle belt region with the minority tribes as their target. Many people did not see the hidden agenda, but Governor Ortom did. He saw the conquest agenda as clear as day light.
When he became Governor in 2015 he quickly moved to ending the conquest agenda hidden in the name of cattle grazing. He found the solution in the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017, which has banned open grazing in the state. And that open grazing law became the beginning of war against Ortom and Benue State by Fulani herdsmen a’d their sponsors.
The expansionist saw how Ortom had ambushed them, clipped their wings and so they started pushing back by attacking Benue communities killing and destroying properties in a bid to make Governor Ortom repeal the law. Unfortunately to them, they got him enboldened and fire branded.
He has consistently and vehemently stated that nothing would make Benue State think of repealing the law. He has flawed all arguments against the law in print, broadcast and in the court. He championed the death of RUGA, cattle colony, cattle routes, which the Federal Government brought to undermine the Benue ranching law. He said the only solution to attacks on farmers is ranching. This was hard to chew by the Federal Government at first, but it has bowed to Ortom’s superior argument though reluctantly.
Minority tribes in the middle belt are happy of his stands to end herders attacks on farmers which has been a thorn in their flesh and through which they have lost their loved ones and property. They know and believe as he is succeeding, they are succeeding too. They support his fervent call for peace and justice, for end to impunity.
For the minority tribes in the middle belt, they have found someone who they can trust and stand with in their struggle for emancipation. They have found a voice of liberation in Governor Samuel Ortom.