The apex northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has commended Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for apologising over his ethnic comment on the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
It would be recalled that Ortom while playing host to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) G5 Governors in Benue State, had said he would not support Atiku who is not concerned about the continuous killings of the Benue people.
The Benue State Governor while lamenting the killing of people in his local government recently said that anyone supporting the presidential ambition of Atiku in 2023 is an enemy of Benue State.
But speaking last Wednesday in Bauchi State, Ortom apologised over his viral statement that he won’t support a Fulani man to become the President of Nigeria.
The Benue governor, however, said his statement might have been taken out of context.
Reacting to the development in a statement titled, ‘Hate Speech and Violence will be our Death’, on Sunday, ACF Secretary General, Alhaji Murtala Aliyu, said Ortom and other politicians should refrain from inciteful comments ahead of the 2023 elections.
The ACF scribe also expressed worry over the alarming rate of hate speeches in the country and the use of thugs by politicians to disrupt campaign rallies.
The statement reads: “Hate speech, for whatever reason, covers many forms of expression but all incite, promote or justify hatred, violence, and discrimination against an individual or group of people. It poses grave danger to the unity and stability of a democratic society, the protection of human rights, and the rule of law. Unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.
“We have to say that we were relieved to hear of Governor Samuel Ortom’s apology following his outburst in this regard. The governor’s hostile comments on Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, dominated discussion in the country for much of last week. The Electoral Act as amended and for good reasons, prescribed heavy punishment for infractions such as this.
“Arewa Consultative Forum, therefore, calls on leaders at whatever level to exercise restrain in their utterances to enable us have a peaceful election and transition to the next governments.”
Aliyu expressed greater concern at the hate speech, insults, and threats of violence being issued by the political leaders including State Governors.
The secretary-general further said the fact that hate speeches and acts of violence and aggression are rife in the campaign season can only mean that the laws are not being enforced.
He said although Nigeria is already facing severe life-threatening challenges arising from a lack of security and the growing economic crises, desperate political leaders and other self-appointed community champions that will not hesitate to add more fuel to the fire.
He said, “Shamefully, most of the politicians are driven by blind ambition or plain hatred and no one can fail to notice the alarming rise of tension and lawlessness as the election campaigns and contests gather pace.
“They seem to be pathetically unaware that the distance between hate speeches and violence, even genocide, is a very short one.”
He stressed that it didn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that the National Assembly has so far chosen not to enact the law that will see to the birth of the Electoral Offences Tribunal.
Aliyu called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enforce relevant sections of the Electoral Act as amended to punish erring politicians.