By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
But for the alarm raised by media practitioners of Igede extraction, the communal war between Ukpute and Bonta in Oju and Konshisha Local Government Areas, respectively, would have continued unabated.
This was the assertion of a pressure group under the aegis of Association of Igede Media Professionals (AIMPs).
The media practitioners said their press statement of Tuesday, June 30 which went viral was what forced Governor Samuel Ortom to hurriedly convene a peace meeting the next day where a truce was reached by the warring communities.
In the Tuesday statement, the group alleged that the governor and the security agencies in the state had failed to make concerted effort to quell the communal clash that had been raging for days.
“Prior to our intervention, the attitude of the Benue state government and security agencies in the state to the conflict which had claimed scores of lives and property was lukewarm, if not outrightly indifferent,” the association said in a statement signed by its President, Egena Sunday Ode, and released on Thursday.
It would be recalled that the Benue State Police Command had denied any knowledge of the communal clash last week, more than three days into the senseless attacks with glaring attendant deaths and wanton destruction of property.
Spokesperson of the Command, Catherine Anene, had told a Makurdi-based correspondent of a national daily last week that the clash was a mere threat which, according to her, the police had settled.
“There was no crisis, no fight, there was only a threat but the police came to dialogue with them, so no one died because there was no fight,” she was quoted by the correspondent to have said.
The media group, however, insisted that without it’s intervention, the authorities in Makurdi would have continued to pretend that all was well while more lives and property would have been destroyed.
AIMPs said though their noble and good-spirited intervention had been misconstrued in government quarters, leading to the haulage of unprintable invectives at the group. “It is the price we have to pay for the dignity of our people. No sacrifice, therefore, will be considered too much on our part”, the group said.
The statement read in part: ” Whatever be the case, we are happy and fulfilled that the chickens have come home to roost at the end of the day. The booming guns are silent for now following Wednesday’s peace meeting called by government, a direct fallout of the concerns we had expressed.
“Restoring peace to the state so that our people can live in peace and undertake their normal economic activities is our over-riding aim, and regardless of whatever anybody would say, we have achieved that”, the group said.
It added: “While resisting the temptation to join issues with officials of government, especially Governor Ortom’s media aide, one Terve Akase, who had called us unprintable names, we know that the Benue people can discern between the truth and falsehood, between a caring government and one that watches with indifference as its citizens turn their swords on one another in scorched earth tactics.
“It is a sad dcommentary on the quality of press-secretaryship that Tever Akase described us as ‘busy body,’…’irresponsible,’…’beer parlour gossips’..and ‘lost touch with home (reality)’ ” instead of appreciating our civic role of drawing the attention of government to what was happening.
“He also called us ‘faceless’, but the good thing is that this ‘faceless’ group which they know is not faceless, has been able to command the attention of government and the world.
“We have decided to remain calm and focused in the face of this unprovoked attack from Tever Akase as a mark of respect to the victims of this violence.
“However, one more word out of turn by any government functionary will earn our ire as no one has monopoly of foul language. Akase will know soon enough his superiors are members of this association.
“We do believe the government still has a lot to do to bring peace to other flash points in the state. People need peace to attain their potential. We in Benue should turn our disadvantages to advantages instead of burning up the little that we have.
“In light of this, government is advised to channel its energies towards this and other developmental initiatives instead of insulting its citizens at the drop of a hat.
“On a last note, nobody has monopoly of acerbic language or caustic tongue.”