By Yakubu Dati
The attack on some Benue Communities last week, which left 73 people dead is most unfortunate and calls for the highest level of sympathy across board irrespective of geographical, economic, social or religious divide.
That the action is as result of a premidated attack meted out with the most callous visciounress and inhuman ruthlessness is also highly condemnable and we pray that God should grant the affected families the strength to bear the loss.
In this trying moments, emotions would naturally be high and that is where the reaction that greeted the intervention by the Plateau State governor. Simon Lalong, on the issue deserves some understanding.
The Plateau State governor had returned from vacation and when he heard about what happened in Benue, a state near Plateau, quickly decided to visit the president and felicitate with him as well as brief him on the measures he has so far taken to ensure that what happened in Benue finds no space in his state.
This, most would agree is an intelligent move and one that shows acuity in the prevention of conflict.
In the course of doing that however, the governor was met by some reporters at the State House who asked him various questions and in the course of responding, he made references to his communication with his colleague, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.
But his statement that he advised the governor of Benue State on the process for surmounting the similar security challenges they experience as neighbors, has been taken out of context and blown out of proportion by those who have chosen to see nothing good in the amiable governor and always tend to seek political advantage in all situations.
What the governor had simply tried to explain was the different peculiarities in the complexities that define the security situation in Plateau and those of other states.
He also was very clear that he was mindful of what was going on in states close to Plateau and is ready to use them as lessons to consolidate on the peace in the state.
He says, ” …when you see insecurity in neighbouring states, so that if there are areas of improvement, we will also do the improvement so that we don’t have cases like we are seeing.”
Nobody can deny that the governor has a point there.
For the fact that the situations in Plateau is similar but not entirely the same with that of Benue and others, the governor of Plateau State took a different approach and even when he was being pressured to go the way of Benue and Ekiti in passing an anti grazing law, he counseled that much as the challenges are real that it would better to put in place the structure that would support such legislation before taking such measures.
The threat and attacks suffered by Benue were some of the consequences the governor had envisaged and had reasoned that since this could be avoided, it would be better to take the painstaking but less acrimonious route towards achieving the goal as it is human lives that are involved.
He insisted that that was better thank taking on a path that could result in further waste of human lives.
What however seemed to have aggravated the situation was the misinterpretation of the import of what the governor meant when he said he advised the Benue State governor.
These were his words while responding to a question on why he did not advise his colleague in Benue.
He said, “To be honest with you, I did. I told the Governor of Benue when he was doing the law; I said look, why don’t you tread softly, just be careful, take other steps before you start implementation. But you see, states are different, his own concepts are different and for us on the Plateau is different. I said I will not do the law before implementation. I have not developed the ranching areas, so I cannot go and say I will put a law, to stop who? If I stop the people, what is the alternative?”
The first clear issue here is that the governor did not set out to malign his colleague as is being insinuated in some quarters but only responded to a question that specifically asked him why he did not not advice his colleague.
The reporters, if the sequence of that encounter is to be followed, asked him the question after satisfying themselves that the explanation he gave on how he had been able to achieve peace in the state were okay and because they felt that his was a workable template for other state in similar situation to follow.
Thirdly, is that nowhere in the interview did the governor condemn the governor of Benue State. After relaying the communication between them, he stated that states are different as are free to choose the method that suits them which presupposes that he believes that each state reserves the right make its own choice.
But the point must be made that Governor Lalong is sad over the attack on Benue communities and has expressed his sympathy in various fora to the people and government of that state.
Those who know Lalong would admit he is not the kind of person that would rejoice over a calamity as his humane side is not only well known but celebrated in the state and beyond.
True to his character, he has even extended sympathy to the people and government of Benue State apologizing for the twist given his comment.
When Lalong became governor, he saw the plight of civil servants and how they were suffering due to unpaid salaries, he made it a point of duty to always ensure the payment of salaries every month thereby setting a record of good governance in the state.
He came into governance with a high sense of responsibility and has accommodated all interests giving everybody a sense of belonging.
He inherited a protracted crisis in the state and within three months of his administration was able to achieve peace in Plateau
The result is that today in most parts of the state, you will see beautiful relationship between people of different shades and persuasion including herdsmen and farmers.
These are the indices by which a good leader should be judged and not on the altar of the mischievous interpretation given to a statement emanating from him.
By Yakubu Dati