In the midst of the dastardly killings of citizens in recent times by suspected herdsmen, particularly as it concerns the episode in Benue, the media has been awash with what the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, said in an interview with State House correspondents, thereby unnecessarily and needlessly distracting men and women of goodwill of the opportunity to properly mourn the dead in Benue.
As it is in our clime, many have hastily jumped into conclusion on what Lalong said about the sad Benue episode without actually listening to the interview or taking time to read it
Apart from this, in these days of social media, a lot of people are also guilty of reading just newspaper headlines and running quickly away with them in order to be the first to break such headlines on their social media pages without reading through the contents of such headlines which, in some cases, are different from what is screamed atop the papers.
Simon Lalong is widely known to be a man of peace and good neighbourliness who has lived all his life based on the Christian virtues of love, tolerance, charity and empathy.
So, when one hears he said what was reported of him about the killings in Benue and what he said about his colleague, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, one would get so worried and agitated, and wonder if Lalong has joined the league of those who quickly forget the virtues that brought them to power once they get there.
But the consolation is that after reading the full transcript of the interview in question, one can only but shudder at how a section of the media has behaved so badly as to grossly misquote a man.
For the avoidance of doubt, I call on all Nigerians to kindly refer to the interview and see that there was nowhere Simon Lalong said he “warned” Ortom about the herdsmen crisis in the State.
In fact, what Lalong said shows that he was in support of anything that would bring lasting peace to Benue just like other states but only “advised” Ortom “to tread softly” and “take other steps before implementation” of the anti open grazing law.
What this means is that Lalong was, in all honesty, trying to encourage his brother governor from Benue State in the unfortunate crisis he has to deal with in recent times and only asked him to adopt a particular approach which might yield results for the good of Benue people.
The question posed by the interviewer to Lalong and his answer is hereby reproduced below.
“Q: So why did you not advise your colleagues about this?
“A: 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”
From the above, it can be seen that the question was based on “advice” and not “warning”. The first statement of the governor following the question (“To be honest with you, I did”) was drawn from where the interviewer left off. This means Lalong merely advised a colleague and never warned him.
This also shows that Lalong was not in any way against the wish of the government and people of Benue State to implement whatever law they see fit as good enough to promote their cause but only advised that other steps be taken before implementation of the law in question.
How these translate to a warning and dislike for Benue people can only be explained by those who deliberately chose to misquote and misrepresent Simon Lalong just to attract attention to themselves at the expense of another man’s goodwill and a blossoming relationship between two neighbours, Plateau and Benue States.
One thing is working for Lalong in Plateau and he was very much willing to share his experience with others. This goes a long way to show the love the Plateau State governor has for the government and people of Benue by suggesting ways things could be done differently to achieve the same result of lasting peace there.
This however does not in any way imply that the Plateau model is the only model that can be adopted. After all, the anti-grazing law has also brought lasting peace to Ekiti State where it was first implemented, so why not Benue?
This is why Lalong has not put on the cap of the all-knowing governor in his advice to Benue because he knows that what works for one State might not work for another. That is the reason he did not call for the scrapping of the anti-grazing law in Benue but only advised that certain steps be taken before its implementation.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that those who chose to misquote Simon Lalong in the said interview did that for the purposes of creating further confusion in the land and unnecessarily pitch brothers against brothers.
Lastly, one is gratified by the fact that the government and people of Benue are not in this alone. Plateau State, just like every other State with a conscience and conscious governor like Lalong, sympathises with them and is with them in these trying times.
Never should they for once think that they are alone in this; they should remain strong and unwavering in their commitment to a greater Benue even as we all continue to be our brother’s keeper in the face of extreme adversities.
By Pius Datiri: Datiri wrote from Jos