As Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom takes oath of office today to mark the commencement of his second term, our correspondent CHRIS GAGA, examines his first term in office and the expectations of Benue people from his last term as governor.
It was on the 29th May 2015 when governor Samuel Ortom ascended the throne of power as the 5th democratically elected governor of Benue State. Today makes exactly four years after, and governor Ortom having rewarded a renewed mandate by the sovereign people of Benue State will be taking the oath of allegiance for the second time as executive governor of the food basket state.
Of course his reelection by the people of Benue state may be a clear pat on the back and a repose of confidence that the governor has tentatively performed optimally during his first term, after all, reelection into such offices ought to be the collective resolve of the people to reward hard work in terms of performance. Thus, whether this was the basis for his reelection or not, it is probably not the crux of this analogue.
While the event of his inauguration for the second term is historic, many Benue people may rarely see his second term as a time for consolidation, but rather a time for the governor who is said to have performed poorly in his first term to cut his stint in the annals of development of the state. No doubt, the expectations from the Benue masses are high.
Considerably, a cursory throwback on governor Samuel Ortom’s first four years in office becomes key as he renews his oath to occupy the Benue Peoples House in the next four years. This perhaps may give the people insights into what the governor is set to achieve for the state in his last term.
Memorably, the governor in his first term had a developmental blueprint christened, “Our Collective Vision for a greater Benue.” This blueprint had five cardinal areas of focus which encompasses; Agriculture-driven Industrialization, Steamed Based Education, Security, youth empowerment and job creation, and Improved Infrastructure. But while the governor has obviously done well and is applauded in the area of Security, it has remained a tantalizing mirage as to whether any of the other cardinal areas of his blueprint have been implemented even averagely.
Largely, his efforts in tackling insecurity is the greatest achievement of his first term. This is cognitive of the peoples Anti-Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law as firmly implemented by his. administration. His amnesty program which yielded minimal impact is never to be left out, same as his dexterity in handling internal and inter-border disputes recently.
Although the governor has listed his achievements in the various sectors of Agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, youth empowerment and employment, his critics and many other Benue citizens say such achievements as highlighted in his scorecard are not feasible. His critics may be fair, they may not.
But while it will be highly unfair for anyone to say the governor has failed woefully in his first term, it is definitely not out of place to say the state deserve better developments than where it is staggering presently.
Positively, the Benue State governor is not unaware of the task ahead of him in his next four years in office. He has admitted repeatedly that costly “mistakes” were made in his first term, but “lessons” have been learnt, and he was ready to relaunch Benue into its pride of place amongst other states in his second coming.
Of course, one of the major problem governor Samuel Ortom promised and was expected to tackle in his first four years, which is the welfare of Benue workers has remained unsolved but rather degenerated. Benue workers are now owed salaries to the tune of 5 months(state), 10 months(Teachers), 11 months(LGs), and over 14 to 18 months(pensions) respectively as against 3 months(state), 4 months (local government) he inherited in 2015.
Investigations also have shown that the first term of governor Ortom administration is alienated from the rural areas. There seems to be little or no government presence at the grassroots, a situation that has caused gross decay in rural infrastructures such as feeder roads, bridges, lack of electrification and other basic amenities in spite of claims that his government has carried out over 800 water projects in the rural areas. Obviously, the 23 local governments of the state deserve better transformation in his second term.
The hopes and expectations are still high even as the governor takes oath of allegiance to mark the commencement of his second term in office. For many, it is time for Samuel Ortom to make the people reposed or redevelop confidence in his government through robust and physically viable developmental projects that tends to transform the state and improve the livelihood of every Benue citizenry.
Expectedly, our Correspondents spoke to some Benue citizens who spoke on their expectations from the second term of governor Samuel Ortom One of them, an elder statesman and former permanent Secretary in the state, Engr. Peter Torjum, expects the governor to take development to the rural areas of the 23 local governments of the state. He also wants the governor to address the issue of welfare of workers and pensioners in the State.
“The governor should take development to the rural areas because his first four years witnessed low presence in the rural areas of the state. So he should focus on the grass roots.
“Let him bring in technocrats who can perform very well so that his second term will not be abysmal. He needs competent hands run his second term. It is key.
“In the area of welfare, I know the salary is regular now, except for the arrears. So he should try to pay we pensioners our wages as at when due, that is most important. And he should then pay some gratuities and pensions arrears. All these things if he pays then we will be very happy and support him to run his second term very well,” Engr Peter Torjum said.
A youth, Mr. Terseer Bamber wants the governor to cash in on agriculture which is the main stead of the people so as to improve the economy of the state.
“The expectations of an average Benue person is development beyond what we have seen in time past. We expect job creation, infrastructural development and most importantly assuming our position in the comparative advantage we have, which is agriculture. In the past four years of Ortom administration, we have not seen these things as Benue youths, come to limelight.
“So my expectations in his next four years is to see him prioritize these areas I have mentioned. First of all, commercializing agriculture, moving to improve infrastructure both within the cosmopolitan centres of the state and the rural areas, and then most importantly paying particular attention to youth employment and empowerment, because if that is not addressed, we are definitely sitting on a time bomb,” Mr. Bamber noted.
Mr. Odaudu Owoicho opined that, “as a Nigerian and an indigene of Benue State, my expectations from Ortom’s first and present administrations have been high. But, like the saying goes: “Expectations Kills”, so, for this singular reason and experiences of poor leadership from the past political administrations, I expect nothing, but if this present leadership led by the Samuel Ortom’s (PDP) gives us a new direction and thought, I will expect nothing but the best. More particularly in the areas of salary payment and augmentation, job creation/youth empowerment amongst other things – industrialisation, infrastructural development and other basic amenities for the wellbeing of the people.”
Another Benue indigene who preferred to be addressed as Martins, said bluntly that governor Ortom has nothing to offer Benue judging by his antecedents in his first term and even others positions.
“GOING BY HIS ANTECEDENTS IN THE THE FIRST TERM, I DON’T EXPECT MUCH FROM HIM, BECAUSE HE HAS SHOWN THAT HE LACKS VISION. This is without sentiments, but as a keen observer, going by his past records, he has nothing to offer Benue.
“I have been a keen observer of Ortom’s leadership right from when he was chairman of Guma local government in the early 90s. He did nothing, I think he is just very good in media propaganda. I see, he has demonstrated incapacity so I can’t expect much from him,” he said.
Miss Annabel Zegeor said she expects alot from Ortom’s second term, but especially welfare of Benue workers and pensioners in the State.
“I expect him to be very focus and particular about salary of workers especially the arrears. People are suffering much. The pensioners are also suffering; he should look into their issue.
“And again I suggest the governor choose new advisers because he couldn’t do well in his first term to be honest. No one knows, the kind of advisers he had then been part of the reasons for his poor performance. So he should take care of that, if he wants to do something.
“For me, even though we are not expecting too much from him, he should at least make Makurdi clean and safe to stay by constructing drainages because when it rains, it is usually difficult for some residents to even cope with the level of water,” she said.
Miss Joy Johnson wants the governor to at least open up some streets in Makurdi to easy movement and make the town look neat.
” I don’t expect too much from the governor. But he should try his best and construct some major streets in Makurdi metropolis. That alone is something,” Joy Johnson noted.
Mr. Benedict Terhemen is of the expectations that the governor will do his best for the state during his second term, having parted ways with his godfather, Senator Akume was which the governor said was his detractor.
“We voted him the first time but he didn’t do the things he promised to do for us, and he said his Godfather was the reason for his poor performance, but thank God the God father is not there again. So we expect that his second term will be different and better unlike his first four years.
“He has not even chosen his cabinet yet, so we expect that he will select those who will truly help him in developing the state, but not selfish persons,” Terhemen noted.
Comrade Cletus Aruta, a youth, expects the governor to emulate his counterparts in the neighboring states of Ebonyi and Enugu states who are far doing well in the area of infrastructure and other things.
“I want His Excellency to continue with the payment of monthly salaries to Benue State, Local Government Workers and Pensioners and clear the backlog of salaries owed to them especially the Pensioners who had served the State meritoriously and now retired with a lot of family responsibilities such as payment of school fees, house rents and feedings.
“Secondly, I want him to use his 2nd Term in office to embark on massive urban and rural infrastructural developments in Benue State like we are seeing from his counterparts in our neigbouring States of Nasarrawa, Enugu and Ebonyi State which Benue State is far behind right now especially the
construction of Aliade-Mbakinde-Obarike Ito and Oju-Awajir roads which he promised Igede people during his first tenure. He should create an enabling environment for Private enterprises to come and invest in Benue State as almost all minerals and raw materials in Benue State are wasting and untapped into finished goods which will in turns create job opportunities for Benue youth and curbs youth unemployment and insecurity in the state.
“Finally, I want him to use his second term to build and equip our Public Primary and Secondary Schools with the State of Arts facilities such as good class room blocks and toilets, Libraries and provision of Chairs and desks and other office equipment as you know how important is Primary and
Secondary education which are the foundation of learnings and child development,” Aruta said.
For every Benue citizenry, there is a basket full of expectations and they are quite high, but interestingly, governor Samuel Ortom is not unaware of the dilemma before him.
Perhaps, his first four years were laced with excuses, mistakes and administrative blunders, but of course none of such feeble excuses may be entertained by the sovereign people of Benue State that refrained contemplating his replacement even against all odds during the 2019 elections.
The public outcry is alarming. Yes, not very many may have had it juicy during his first term, but the decision of the people to retain governor Ortom is a thunderous statement that, he the governor should not be taken for granted.
The people want good infrastructures such as good roads, schools, hospitals. The state desire industries, factories that can process their fruits, yam, etc, thus investment is what should be encouraged. The rural dwellers are cut off from the scheme of things, they yearn for feeder roads to help convey their farm produce to the markets.
The governor must understand that Agriculture remains our main stead and as such explore every opportunity available especially facilities provided by the federal government to encourage and transform the agricultural sector as well as generate revenue for the state. If possible, as the food basket state, the people expects the governor to romance with the federal government which is channeling huge resources into the agricultural sector with the aim of driving the policy and making the proceeds available for the development of the state.
The welfare of the people as it concerns their wages is an over trashed issue which the governor should deal with without any backslide. It is also instructive to urge the governor to consolidate on his gains in the area of Security through firm implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law already in use. This as many others believe may put a permanent end to the incessant clashes. This is not forgetting the many Benue citizens who are victims of the invasion and have been suffering in various IDPs camps. It is a necessity for the governor to liaise with the Federal government to make sure that these innocent people return to their homes in safety as soon as he settles for his second term.
It is indeed an epoch-making event as the fifth democratically elected governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom renews his vow. But as he commences his second term, may his conscience be pricked to live a legacy befitting the goodwill the people have shown him, may he aim for success, and may he not disappoint the confidence bestowed on him. May the governor summon unusual courageous and be focus in implementing his developmental blueprint, “Our Collective vision for a greater Benue”. He may have meager resources at his disposal, but prudent and careful management and appropriation of such resources will do the State a great deal indeed.