By Gabriel Ikese
Governor Samuel Ortom is a perfect description of an ‘accidental’ governor. Perhaps the diminutive El-rufai had the likes of Ortom in mind when he coined the phrase “Accidental Civil Servant” as title to one of his books. Benue State under Ortom is riddled with the burden of under development, intricately woven with poverty and worsening political rascality and impunity.
Governor Ortom holds the banner of bad governance and put the state in a pervasive general despair, institutional decay and demonic insecurity. These horrors are direct consequences of poor governance weighted under lack of articulated government policies and efficient management of public resources which obviously are scarce resources in Ortom’s administration.
Whether it is by fate, ill-luck or design, what is incontestable is that Benue has wobbled from one calamity to another in three years of Ortom’s leadership. The people are tormented, traumatized and oppressed in multiple ways by Ortom who is overtly insensitive to the feelings of the masses.
The Governor operates a system characterized by the culture of loot that depicts a blurred distinction between state finances and private money. Corruption and loot walk unashamedly naked in state institutions where money and loans that are meant for development end up in private pockets. It is the ugliest theatre of official corruption against the backdrop of calamitous misrule, political upheaval with development suppressed by the culture of cancerous loot and impunity.
In three years of Ortom’s misrule in the state, Benue has dominated the conventional news and online Medias for all the wrong reasons. Insecurity from incessant attacks by unknown gunmen or marauding herdsmen killing innocent citizens and displacing several communities across the state; cumulative months of salaries and pension arrears owed civil servants and senior citizens in the State; the embarrassing wheelbarrow youth empowerment projects; endless strikes by workers for non-payment of salaries and dearth of infrastructures in public institutions; and recently are the pedophiliac activities and domestic violence and killings, are all attractions that become the cynosure of all eyes on media tabloids.
Worse of it is that nonpayment of salaries and pensions for services already rendered still remain a burning issue in the state. Civil servants and retirees can’t feed themselves, they can’t pay school fees of their children, and most of them that are on monthly medication can’t afford drugs thereby causing many to collapse every day.
And yet, Ortom and his appointees, saturated in the pool of corruption, live in affluence building mansions all over the country and buying luxurious cars for themselves and cronies. Ortom dedicated his energy on his Oracle business and frolicking at overseas on holidays. The governor’s personal wealth and his family grew so astronomically and obscenely amidst mass impoverishment and socio economic disparity in the state. The wanton profligacy and self-enrichment by Ortom and his lieutenants has greatly threatened the communal harmony in the state especially where to eat twice in a day is a luxury in many homes.
Despite the consistent federal government allocations and internally generated revenue accruing to it monthly, Benue still lends credence to the appalling lack of federal presence and infrastructure decay which signifies the failure of Ortom’s government. The state was adjudged as one of the least developing state in terms of human capital development and infrastructure. Major roads in the cities are filled with deep gullies and potholes making it impassable to motorists.
Benue has reasonable youth population that wanders the streets with no sense of direction and purpose for reasons they are not completely liable. The ineptitude of Ortom’s government created a high level of fiscal indiscipline that hinders articulated policies that would create conducive environment to stimulate creative innovations for youths to prosper in the state.
Ortom’s government has nothing to show over three years of its administration in the area of job creation, except for a report of its own brand of youth empowerment wheelbarrow scheme. The government much touted legacy projects are only evident on bill boards scattered across the state for an avalanche of electronic media footages in televisions of projects works that are in the imagination of Ortom and his family.
Benue is known for, and prides itself as ‘food basket of the nation’. Sadly today under Governor Samuel Ortom’s maladministration, the state has lost that widely acclaimed status. The proverbial food basket is not only empty but brazenly disjointed. It no longer bears any food for domestic sustenance as hunger reigns unabated in the state. Farmers now lack basic seedlings and inputs such as fertilizers to increase their yields. We must thank the insensitivity of Ortom’s government on the agricultural sector.
Education in is in shambles with schools – primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state muffled in incessant strikes thereby disrupting educational calendar. These strikes are mostly instigated by nonpayment of salaries and inadequate infrastructure conducive for learning in public schools in the state. Particularly in the rural communities where schools only existed on paper as the physical structures mostly lies in ruins and desolate.
The health and other sectors were not different either. There are no health facilities to cater for the health needs of the people in the city center and rural communities. This situation leads to high rates of maternal and child mortality. Citizens are denied access to adequate clean water for drinking as tap has become mere decoration at homes that can afford that luxury.
The people were so disenchanted with Governor Ortom who came to power with a holier than thou attitude. Ortom came propagating the gospel and his commitment to purge government of all forms of ungodliness, witchcraft and idol worshiping that is grossly embedded in the fabric of governance in the state. But the reality on ground has shown that his mendacious leadership is far more worrisome than the demons he alluded to on assumption of office.
The Governor whose prime project was the dedication of the State to God has solemnly chosen to punish the same people he earlier committed to God with thorns of hunger and deprivation. The ‘born again’ Ortom surrounded himself with cultists and high level murderers. Since there is nothing to celebrate of Ortom’s government, citizens must continue to mourn his bad governance to commemorate his stewardship in the State.
His former party, All Progressive Party, saw the mischievous misadventure in governance and under performance and issued him a red card. It was a derivative of an extensive research and consultation with the rank and file of party members in the state which concluded that fielding Ortom in 2019 would be a disaster to the party.
The beauty of democracy is that it provides for the opportunity to re-evaluate performance at intervals and punish or reward, as the case may be, any leader that come short of expectations. The tragic dereliction and bad governance in Benue and its equally tragic or nefarious consequences on its citizens must be seen as the central focus of 2019 election. The people must take their destiny in their hands by choosing wisely to bring about the desired change the state is clamouring for. Benue must not reinforce failure in whatever guise.
Ikese is a Colmunist and Political Analyst.
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