Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) leadership to publicly apologise to Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for denying him (Ortom) entry into the naval base during the vice president’s visit to the state.
Gov. Ortom on Saturday said he was denied entry into the Nigerian Air Force base, where he wanted to receive Osibanjo who was transiting the state despite a letter from the Presidency inviting him for the purpose.
Reacting to the development on Sunday, HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement titled, ‘Ortom: Being member of opposition should not warrant victimisation, says HURIWA’, described the NAF action as ‘opposition victimisation’.
He said barring an elected state governor and Chief Security Officer of a state from the NAF Base is an affront to the principle of democracy.
Onwubiko said, “Denying Ortom, who is a member of the National Economic Council led by the Vice President himself from such an invited event is hypocritical of the administration of President and his Vice-President whom claim to be for everyone and for nobody.
“It is a known fact that Ortom, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, has been very vocal in his criticism against the ruling All Progressives Congress. The embarrassment of Ortom on Saturday can be termed deliberate and an act of persecution for speaking out against the Buhari regime.
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“The Saturday event again queries the genuineness of Nigeria’s federalism and again calls for the need for the states and the regions to have control over security agents in their domains.
“The silence of the Nigerian Air Force and the Vice-President a day after the matter is suspiciously complicitous. Both NAF and Osinbajo must publicly apologise to Ortom and sanction the overzealous officers for the flagrant disrespect of the governor. Belonging to an opposition party and being a critic should not warrant victimisation.”
The Vice President was to visit Wukari in Taraba state, to attend the convocation ceremony of the Federal University through the Air Force base in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
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The governor following the visit was notified through a letter with reference number, VP/SP/DOP/26, dated 10th February, 2022, informing him of the visit of the Vice President.
The letter titled: “visit of His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria to Wukari, Taraba State transiting NAF Base, Makurdi, on Saturday, 12th February, 2022” which was signed by Ambassador Abdullahi Gwary said the vice president would return through the same route in the afternoon.
Unfortunately as he was at the gate of the Makurdi Airforce base, Saturday morning to receive the vice president, he was denied entry into the place by the security men, who claimed they were not informed about the governor’s visit to the base to receive the vice president.
Speaking, governor Ortom described the action as unacceptable, breach of protocol and politics taken too far.
“It is unfortunate that an ugly incident occurred today, which is a breach of protocol and I feel so sad for our country Nigeria, where everything has been reduced to politics. There are certain things you don’t politicise.
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“I was to attend the burial ceremony of one of our elders and leader, Prof Ignitius Ayua; I’d made all arrangements to travel to Konshisha Local Government Area (LGA), then this letter was brought to me, that the Vice-President is going to be in transit, through Makurdi to Wukari
“I decided to mandate the Deputy Governor to represent me at the burial of Prof. Ayua. So, this morning, I got prepared and went to the Airforce base, where the Vice President is supposed to land, enroute Wukari and unfortunately, I was bounced at the gate; in my own state.
“It doesn’t happen. This is a breach of protocol and this is not accepted. This is politics taken too far. This is not correct and somebody must account for this.
“If a personality like the Vice President is visiting my state and I cannot go there to welcome him, then it will be a breach of protocol on my part. How can I go to the Airforce base and I am bounced at the gate? I mean, it has never happened,anywhere in this country.
“Maybe, the same Presidency that wrote to me is not aware. But I think we should, if we must make progress, to differentiate between politics and government activities. “It is government activity that I welcome Mr President or Vice President; that I welcome any dignitary that comes here from the Federal Government,” the governor noted.
He further said, “this is the letter that was written to me, you can see the content. I don’t want to be a busy body; I have many things to do.
“As I talk to you, the entire Gwer-West is under siege. The Fulani have been burning down houses; and I was supposed to go there but I had to shift that to receive the Vice President.
“I feel so pained that politics has been taken beyond what is supposed to be.
“There is no permanent enemy or permanent friend in politics. “Tomorrow I can be the best friend of the President if they choose to do the right thing.
“I do not have any problem with the President or Vice President and all the things that I say they are meant to add value to our development and get things right.
“I have never insulted the President, the Vice President or the Federal Government but there are certain things that they are doing which are wrong that should be corrected.
“You will recall that even the Executive Order 10, where does the President in a democratic setting have the right to issue decrees? Maybe because he was once a military ruler, he still believes that he would be issuing decrees. He does not have the right.
How can the President usurp the powers of the National Assembly? These are the things that I criticize and it is constructive. And today, thank God I am vindicated because the Supreme Court has ruled that the President does not have powers to be issuing decrees.
“He is no longer a military President, he was democratically elected by the people.
“So if he wants anything he should pass it through the National Assembly, just like I do when I want anything I pass it through the state House of Assembly.
“It is very unfortunate that this presidency is barefooted, it is lame duck. And that is why we are having all these insecurity problems in our country today. That’s is why the economy of this country is going down.
“How can you bounce a governor in a state where you are? What is the meaning of that? I feel so pained and I’m going to report this to the Vice President. Well if they choose to do something, fine.
“If they don’t, it’s okay. But that is the kind of thing, they want us to remain as a banana republic.
“We don’t have a constitution. Can’t you differentiate politics from this thing? Have I insulted the President? Have I insulted the vice President? All that I’m saying is that let the right thing be done. Let there be justice, equity and fairness. It is unfortunate.
“I will report this breach to the Vice President because it was protocol for me to have gone to receive him and then see him off, and recieved him to come back. It’s really unfortunate. I feel very sorry.
“And those who are keeping quiet, I tell them, one day, they will not be where they are. We must come out together and condemn the evil that is happening in our country. This is not right.”
Also reacting, the Coalition of Southern and Middle Belt Youth Leaders Assembly, COSMBYLA, has described the action of security personnel who denied Governor Samuel Ortom access to receive Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Makurdi as a coup against democracy.
Reacting, a statement issued by its President General, Goodluck Egwu Ibem, COSMBYLA condemned how the governor was treated by security operatives in his own state, saying the “Presidency is toiling our hard earn democracy with the manner its about governance and politics”.
The statement reads in part, “The development is gross misbehaviour, misconduct, insult and coup against our hard earn democracy which our founding fathers fought so hard to achieve.
“The Presidency, through its surrogates (security agents), barred the governor from entering the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Base, Makurdi to receive the Vice President who was transiting through the NAF Airport to Wukari Taraba State by helicopter.
“Who knows if the VP was going to thank the Fulanis killing Benue indigenes hence the decision to bar the governor who is a man of truth and a good conscience from knowing his mission to Taraba State which is the base the terrorists operate from?
“The VP, a professor of law, who should know better choose to disgrace himself, his office and make Nigeria a laughing stock before the international community.
“We call on the United Nations, the international community and lovers of democracy to come to the aid of Nigerians because our so-called constitution has been reduced to a mere tissue paper under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari.”