On November 6, 2022, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, saw his dinner party as a great opportunity to send Atiku Abubakar ‘to hell’. It came as no surprise when Ortom withdrew his support for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over his allegiance with the Miyetti Allah, a Fulani cattle-rearing group in the North.
Ortom said: “To hell with Atiku and anyone supporting him. They should go and tell him. You want me to be a slave for a Fulani. It’s better I die. Anybody supporting Atiku is an enemy of Benue.”
Some people have called Ortom out, saying that his outburst of rage was the ‘most embarrassing speech one has heard from a governor’ and ‘a hate speech.
In case you were wondering, this is actually hate speech, a commonplace during elections.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines hate speech as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.”
Ortom’s hate speech echoed years of tribal sentiments fuelled by several events you might’ve missed. A single thread can be drawn from the age-long crisis between the Fulani people and the Tiv of Benue State.
Let’s catch you up.
The Fulani-Tiv Crisis
To understand the Tiv (Benue) – Fulani crisis, we need to go back to the basics. Here are a few things you need to know:
The Tiv and Fulani were once friends during the 19th century, while the Tiv were migrating from the Central African Republic to Cameroon. But, the Tiv decided that they were not ‘feeling the friendship’ anymore due to the Fulani’s “domineering” attitude, and they parted ways.
There are conflicting stories about how the two groups began to attack and counterattack each other. However, in the 1950s, the Tiv joined the Middle Belt Congress founded by J.S Tarka, simply because they felt the Northern People’s Congress (headed by the Hausas and Fulanis) was “cruel and wanted power all to themselves.”
Let’s fast forward to 2022 where there is increased violence in Benue State, most of which has been attributed to herdsmen (some of Fulani origin).
Just this month, 18 persons were killed, including children, and the state has thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) seeking help to feed, clothe and house themselves.
There have also been tussles between the state and the Miyetti Allah over anti-grazing laws. People in the state are mostly farmers and cattle grazing has left their crops destroyed countless times, further impoverishing them. Attempts to reach compromises on both ends have failed and even led to more violence.
Tensions heightened in January 2022 when Ortom insisted that the Federal Government should consider Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), and Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) terrorist organizations.
[Image Source: Peoples Gazette]
Now that you know more about the Fulani-Tiv crisis, let’s go back to the fight between Atiku and Ortom.
It was on October 15, 2022 that the fight really started when Atiku told the Arewa Committee during his presidential campaign that he was angry with Ortom for “profiling Fulani as bandits and terrorists because I am a Fulani.”
This was after the Benue Youth Forum (BYF), had awarded him the highest chieftaincy title in Benue, the ‘Zege Mule U’. After his speech, calls were made that the title should be reviewed.
Now that Ortom has consigned Atiku to hell, what is the next gbas gbos that will happen next? We’ll be here to update you.