It is not as if anybody can stop him from governing but this is aimed at people refusing to let go, sore losers who think the seat of government can change hands at the drop of a hat. The legal challenges are also over so Samuel Ortom has a clean sheet in front of him and he should be allowed to stamp his legacy on the Benue and broader Nigerian Landscape.
It will also be foolhardy to think that it will be smooth and easy sailing. A careful analysis would review that Samuel Ortom’s time is quite different from any other gubernatorial experience: a rejected stone has become the head of the corner. This should be a positive for him and the state having served both the APC and the PDP parties as Governor. His departure from APC was his attempt at molting his libido dominandi, shedding those with a desire to dominate and wrest the gubernatorial prerogatives from him.
It is also a fact that the continuum in governance does not apply only to projects. Other baggages are inherited and it is a fact that the issue of wages and pensions did not start with Samuel Ortom. His intervention over four years has made civil servants look forward to the end of the month now with hope. And Samuel Ortom cannot be held responsible for the recession that hit this country and has brought us to this quagmire. The ghost workers on the payroll were not put there by this administration and civil servants who padded the salary bill should hold their heads in shame for passing the blame to politicians who are taught how to bleed the state to death.
If one is sincere, there is need to appreciate the number of times this government has conducted payroll audit to find out ghost workers and government even heaved a sigh of relief that the wage bill has shrunk because of the reduction of ghost workers.
But there is no let up. Government agencies with many staff are the fertile ground of ghoulish ghosts, they refuse to disappear from the payroll even after dying. SUBEB, TSB and other agencies with a lot of rural staff are full of ghosts. At SUBEB there are teachers who have remained teachers forever. Go to the classroom and you see men and women who are in their eighties snoring at their desks and have taught for over 40 years. It can be recalled even the late great Aper Aku had a problem with teachers pay. The schools are not increasing but the number of teachers have increased astronomically. The establishment of SUBEB has increased the bureaucracy without service delivery.
There are other challenges that Samuel Ortom has inherited and has tackled with brilliance. The level of violence unleashed on the Benue landscape during the Ortom-era is historical in its scope. Nobody alive has experienced this level of anarchy. The earlier wars and strife are matters of history and nobody can say he witnessed the level of mass burial Samuel Ortom had the pain to bear at the beginning of the year. And these massacres spread across the whole of Benue State and beyond. The Sankera crisis that started during the George Akume regime was less in scope than this extant crisis. We remember that George Akume’s attempt at solving this crisis earned him the humiliating nomiker of “sheepish apology” from Wantaregh Paul Unongo. He inexplicably apologized to the federal government on behalf of the Tiv nation after the army invaded and massacred Tiv at Vaase, Gbeji and Zaki-Biam.
This goes to show how crises are handled. Samuel Ortom went for the jugular and established the Anti-Grazing Law which has stopped the massacre except that the Fulani, enjoying support from the top brass of this country continue to strain the barriers of peace. It is the strength of the Ortom law that has made the federal government to experiment with RUGA and NLTP. It is a fact that this matter is being challenged in court by Miyetti Allah and nothing proves the fact better by the national acceptance of this law. It is a bleeding shame that the federal government lacks the spine to adopt the Anti-Grazing law to apply it across the country. That is the tragedy of Nigeria. Good efforts are looked at from a dark prism of partisanship.
With all these and much more on the menu, there is a lot of sour grapes going on and Samuel Ortom is being distracted by sore loosers who never believed they could stumble and fall from their high horses. But life is rather eclectic and things change. And history will record Samuel Ortom as the fifth elected governor of the state and the years between 2015 to 2023 are his and he is the only one to have a legacy of achievements. His troubles are not self inflicted because the problem with herdsmen is not about his lack of leadership. It is conspiracy to undermine the Benue Valley and Samuel Ortom has remained resolute in his approach on finding a lasting solution. The sobriquet, “Defender of the Benue Valley” is quite appropriate and he may go into legend like the famous “Ikyarem”, the snake that gave the Tiv nation passage from the Congo River to the Benue Valley.
The manner you respond to challenges has the potential to make or mar you. Between 1999 and 2019, every player on the Benue and Nigeria landscape has had to grapple with crisis and phenomena. The GSM era is attributed to Olusegun Obasanjo but we know the satellite revolution was a global affair and it was the quirk of fate that put Obasanjo as President of Nigeria. Back here, crisis have become a way of life, with Jukun and Fulani a recurring metaphor of hate and acrimony. Indeed, these crises are older than us and if fate has given the solution to Samuel Ortom, we owe ourselves a duty to give him his due and space to trudge on. For those who have had opportunities and have failed to offer lasting solutions, they can do well by keeping quiet. Furthermore, they should leash their foot soldiers to give peace a chance because the enemy within is such a bore and distraction that has the tendency to open our flanks for the enemy to come in. They are snitches and they must know governance in democracy is tenured and they can come in to do their miracles. But they must allow the governor to perform his God-given duties. Leadership is ordained by God and it smacks of barefaced hypocrisy for them to throw barbs from their gilded palaces.
Edwards Inyah is a public affairs commentator
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