Chris Gaga writes that Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State’s illustrious outing in the state is his strongest buffer against the oppostion All Progressives Congress, (APC) professed war against his re-election in the state.
Benue was agog last Monday, when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the State flagged off its 2019 campaigns in Makurdi.
The Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) Square was filled to the brim with PDP supporters who trooped in from and across the various 23 local government areas of the state to be part of the flag off ceremony. All the party’s bigwigs in Benue, including former Senate Presidents David Mark and Iyorchia Ayu, former governor Gabriel Suswam amongst others were present at the occasion.
Just like the Benue APC retreat that held between 18th and 19th December, 2018 in the state, the PDP campaign flag off became a fora for the party to showcase its plans for the state so as to influence the balloting decisions of the people comes February and March.
While former Senate Presidents David Mark and Iyorchia Ayu, former governor Gabriel Suswam, Abba Moro, first female Speaker, Margret Icheen sounded frankly unanimous in rallying governor Ortom and the PDP for victory.
The party leaders reminded Benue people of the love Ortom has shown for the state especially when it came under serious attacks by Fulani herdsmen militia.
They conscientized the electorates that, the 2019 elections were for the survival and safety of the state and not in any way about Ortom alone. The stakeholders advised Benue electorates to vote for Ortom and the PDP in all elections, emphasizing that a vote for Ortom was a vote for peace and security of the State.
The unflinching support of leaders of the party in the state to Ortom has obviously triggered the governor’s convictions that his victory and that of the party this 2019 was going to be sacrosanct.
Governor Samuel Ortom could not allow the opportunity the flag off presented to slip by, thus he rolled out his scorecard as governor in the
last four years. This, the governor did to prove wrong, the allegations from the main opposition party in the state, the APC that, ‘the Ortom government has failed in all facets of the economy.’
Although the APC had at its two days retreat recently, declared a political war to unseat the incumbent governor Samuel Ortom for alleged non- performance, the governor seems to have become more optimistic of victory, setting the records of his antecedents straight. He rather described such allegations as borne out of ignorance or perhaps substance induced evaluation of his impactful administration.
One other thing the governor told the cheering crowd was that he was poised at investing his life for the sake of Benue. He sincerely professed his love for the people of the state, making reference to the popular anti-open grazing and ranches establishment law.
He was also emphatic in cautioning the Benue People from relinquishing their mandate to those who treasure the destruction of lives and properties in the state as well as those who kept quiet when Benue came under unprovoked attacks.
Governor Ortom also used the opportunity to market his “authentic political party – the PDP” and all its candidates including its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. He admonished the people to team up with the PDP
in the various elections, describing the party as a repented platform which will better serve, promote, project and defend the wishes and aspirations of the sovereign people of the state.
“You may wish to be reminded that our government has focused on five cardinal pillars for good governance. We challenged ourselves with lofty targets enshrined in our working document “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue”. The project of building a new Benue, which is still ongoing is guided by five areas which we have targeted.
“These are: Good governance and Revenue Security; Agriculture Driven Industrialization; STEAM-Based Education, Health Services; Investment in critical Infrastructure; and Gender, Women, Youth, Sports and People with Disabilities.
“Today, as we stand on the threshold of history to seek the renewal of our mandate – on a different and better platform – it is important to account for the mandate earlier given, as a basis for its renewal that we seek in the forthcoming elections. While it is on record that we secured the endorsement of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 general elections, as sole governorship candidate, we had to abandon that platform in search of one that offers more accommodation and support for our policies, especially the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
“The Benue masses on whose behalf and on whose behest the Ranching Law was passed and signed into law by our administration, are witnesses to various attempts by highly placed officials in the APC-led Federal Government to frustrate an imperative legislation aimed at finding lasting peace between farmers and herders in our State. It became pertinent to make a bold political decision on the choice of platform that would not compromise our stance on a matter so key to the Benue people. That platform became very easily the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We assure the Benue people that, on this platform, our law will not be compromised and that in due course the benefits of ranching shall be felt by all. This is the platform on which we seek the renewal of our mandate. No one will bend us as far as the Ranching Law is concerned because we draw consent and sustained support from the Benue people.
“As we approach next year’s polls, we must commit to voting to keep Benue in the hands of the Benue people; we must pay keen attention to the scenario that depicts the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. We must be alert – for this election is about the soul of Benue people. Let us vote to keep our home for us and for our children; let us unite with one voice and reject all maneuvers aimed at putting Benue in the hands of individuals with questionable motives who would always pander to the whims of external interests. In this election, we must not empower men unwilling to give voice and recognition to our pains; we must not elevate those who will twist the true narratives of our misfortunes for favours. If we do, we would have lost the voice to tell the world our story. We would have lost a leadership that stands up for us. A Benue APC Senator is quoted to have said that Benue killings are done by Benue people. This was said to gain cheap favours from the constituency of the real killers. It was said by an individual who may have lost focus and hope.
“In this election, we must take our stance on all those who kept quiet while the herdsmen attacked our villages, raped our women, and killed our children and fathers. Our Benue is our home. We must guard it jealously. We must build it passionately. We must defend it fiercely. We must put it only in the hands of those who love Benue. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. I am totally investing my life in the task ahead because I love Benue. Benue State in my hands will witness stability and greatness.
Ours will be service, ours will be development and ours will be collective defense of our fatherland. That is what makes us true Benue people.
“Some elements in the opposition parties are fond of spreading false and hate speech saying “Ortom has done nothing”. Those are liars. They are ignorant. They are mischievous. May be, they are deaf and blind, or induced by intoxicating substances.
“Your Excellences, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, given the circumstances of our economy, unwarranted aggression and attacks on Benue, let me submit that, our government has performed excellently. I may not be a genius, but I perfectly know what I wanted as a governor. I cannot lie to the people that trust me. Take this truth from me; my government has done well, and statistics don’t lie.
“In terms of Security, we declared an Amnesty programme which ensured the retrieval of hundreds of weapons and ammunition from criminals and their destruction in accordance with specifications of the United Nations in that regard.
Peace returned. Our community Markets are reopened and are booming.
Vehicles, gadgets and other logistic support have been made available to security agencies.
– The Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 has been by far the most famous executive bill that has brought succor to farmers and herders who believe in the rule of law.
– The Law prohibiting kidnapping, Cultism and other related crimes has been signed, among several other necessary legislation.
“In terms of Education over 740 Primary School Projects in the 23 local government areas of the state are being executed with about 500 already competed.
– Over 16,000 primary and secondary school teachers have been trained.
– Secondary schools are being renovated including the Government Girls Secondary School, and Government College, in Makurdi.
– Scholarship has been given to Benue Students in tertiary institutions.
“We have put Benue State University, BSU and all institutions on good course. Quality Education has been restored and our graduates are winning national and international awards. We have graduated over 70,000 university and polytechnic graduates.
– In terms of HEALTH We have graduated 175 doctors in five sets from the Benue State University Medical School.
– Schools of Nursing and Midwifery Makurdi, as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha, have been renovated and accredited with resumption of academic activities after admission of Students. The School of Nursing has
also been affiliated to the Benue State University for award of degrees in Nursing.
-42 Primary Health Care Centres have been built across the state by this administration.
-Procurement and supply of ambulances and essential drugs to Agatu, Gboko, Ohimini, Oju, Ushongo and Tarka LGAs.
WATER & SANITATION
“Over 1000 water projects executed across the state.
– Water and Sanitation facilities provided in more than 50 communities of
“We mobilised contractors back to site to complete 11 abandoned road projects including those at Zaki Biam – Afia, Taraku – Naka – Agagbe
– Today, we have completed some of the roads while others are at various
stages of completion.
– We awarded contract for construction of new roads which include Mobile Police Barracks – Yaikyo – Apir road, and the Origbo – lmande – Akpu -Gbajimba road.
“We have improved agricultural productivity in the State
-Revived the Fertilizer Blending Plant
– Subsidized fertilizer in the past three years
– Built Agro Processing Factories in eight LGAs under SDGs.
– Made Agriculture as business to farmers increasing their income.
– Renovated critical facilities at Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev.
– Purchase of 50 tractors through the CBN facility for distribution to the 23 LGAs.
-Partnership with Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum and International agencies including IFAD. Benue hosted the first meeting of the forum.
URBAN RENEWAL AND HOUSING
“We have renovated the old complex and completed the new Benue State House
of Assembly complex and the Deputy Governor’s office.
– Facelift of many government institutions like Commissioners’ Quarters, Ministry of Justice, Government College Makurdi, Government Girls Secondary School, Makurdi and the Tor Tiv’s Temporary Residence.
-Additional units of Housing for workers at Owner Occupier Scheme in
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
“Plastic Industry has been revived and expanded.
– Partnership with Bank of Industry and CBN to give loans at only 5% to Benue farmers and other industrialists. Our administration provided the Two Billion Naira counterpart fund for the project.
“15 of the Executive bills which we initiated have been passed into law including the Ranching and Anti-Kidnapping and Cultism laws.
“We ensured that International Development Agencies that left the state have returned. UNDP is working with us. lFAD is helping greatly in our Agricultural Sector. World Bank is back. UNFPA, DFID, USAID, CRUDAN, Mercy
Corps and several other bilateral and Multi-lateral agencies are back and working with the Benue State Government to support social and economic development of the state.
“We have provided opportunities for Skills Acquisition and Income Generation activities facilitated by agencies of government like Sustainable Development Goals Initiatives and the Industrial Training Fund in addition to three Entrepreneurship Development Centres in Ado, Guma and Makurdi.
TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS/LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
“We initiated an executive bill that led to the amended Chieftaincy Law that has been used in the appointment of Traditional Rulers across Benue State including the Tor Tiv.
-Traditional rulers are now prohibited from involvement in partisan politics
-We conducted free and fair Local Government elections and restored democratic leadership at the Local Government level.
“Our relations with Labour and Unions have changed for good. We have not taken workers and their Union Leaders for granted.
TACKLING SALARY CHALLENGES
“We have kept our promise to pay regular salaries from January this year and we are committed to continuing with the salary payment as and when due. – I have directed that henceforth, all salary vouchers be prepared on or before the 21st of every month.
Funds are being sourced to pay outstanding arrears of salaries, gratuities, and pensions
COST SAVING MEASURES
Trimming of government size by reducing the number of Commissioners from 17 to 14 and Advisers from 28 to 20.
-Introduction of Point of Sale, POS machine for Revenue collection.
– Reduction of Local and International travels.
“All these are done in three and half years. How can anyone say Ortom has done nothing? Such a person must be courageous opposition member who is blind and possibly deaf. I am prepared to do more in the years ahead. But together with my team, we have done well. We need your votes to do the same and even more.
“Our Administration has remained committed to its core values which are anchored on the fear of God which explained our objective of dedicating the State to God. These include transparency, accountability, fairness,
justice, humility, selflessness, discipline, integrity, integration, forgiveness, reconciliation, restitution, peace and unity. We believe that these values make change possible and development inevitable.
“Some people say I am “stubborn”. I am not stubborn. All I want is the good of my people. I was elected by my people to serve them, to develop and defend them. If the system is not working in their favour, I will partner with them to change it. I cannot abandon the people who overwhelmingly voted for me to be killed by herdsmen while I pursue personal interest.
That will be callous and irresponsible. I will press on until the people are heard, their conditions are made better and their land restored. These are hard times, and there may be more hard times. But hard times make us stronger and in hard times you really know your true friends. We only live once, but if we live right on the righteous side, once is enough. We need
to stand up for something. I am standing for my people. I will do it boldly because the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. I am prepared to stop running to those who ignore us when we are in trouble and rather, run to those who love us and those who give us hope.
“Great people of Benue State, I love you not because I need you, but I need you because I love you. My confidence in the present task is renewed because I can feel the presence of God. I am emboldened because you, the Benue people are behind me. I am encouraged by the presence of the great Sons of Benue like Distinguished Senator David Bonaventure Mark, Distinguished Senator lyorchia Ayu and His Excellency Rt. Hon. Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam. I am greatly assured by the love and support of very distinguished sons of Benue who have graciously agreed to take this trip along with me all the way to the end. Thank you all. I was smelling victory but now I can see it.
“Let me assure you all that everything in Benue is going to be alright. Maybe not today, but eventually. Vote for me and all the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, from the Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as well as our entire National and State Assembly Candidates in the coming elections and you will not be disappointed.
“I appeal to you to re-elect me trusting that the financial and security challenges that hampered the realization of our lofty dreams for the state will change for the better. You will recall that our administration brought back contractors to site on several projects and initiated many new ones.
All these require the renewal of my mandate so that I can work towards their completion. Having acquired the requisite experience I pledge to pursue our five point agenda with renewed vigor and determination.
“Finally, let me assure you that we love Benue and it will remain ours to serve, ours to develop and ours to defend,” governor Ortom.
It promises to be a clash of the Titans in Benue this 2019, as the two major political parties (PDP and APC) in the state intensify strategies to reclaim or retain power, and with the involvement of other minor political parties, Benue is boiling and pregnant to be birthed in February and March respectively.
But again, if the mammoth crowd at Monday’s PDP Campaign Flag off in Makurdi is anything to be convinced by, then, the Benue APC may be in for a bleak battle to reclaim the governorship seat of the State.