In this interview with Ben Agande in Abuja, former Minister of State, Trade and Investment and the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress in Benue state, Dr Samuel Ortom speaks on the forthcoming elections and his chances; why he left the Peoples Democratic Party where he served variously as state Secretary, National Auditor and the Minister of the federal republic.
By Ben Agande
You resigned from the Peoples Democratic Party and less than 48 hours after you got the ticket of the All Progressive Congress to stand for the governorship election. How did you do it?
I want to say that to me, it is a divine arrangement by God himself to have the opportunity to fly the flag of APC in Benue State as the gubernatorial candidate. The truth is that I left the PDP on the 9th and I had my plans too because I was short-changed by the powers that be.
Earlier, I had indicated that unless we have free, fair and transparent primaries, I was going to contest it. When the ward congresses were held, we were short-changed, it was not transparent, it was not fair, the materials were hijacked and delegates and members of the party were left in the cold and some few people took the materials, went and wrote names of their surrogates as delegates.
That was where the process was rigged.
I had written complaints to the national leadership of the party and I had thought they were going to respond to my complaint; they kept assuring me until nothing came out of it.
I left the party on the 9th when we had completed the processes of the nomination in PDP and decided to resign on that 9th and on the same 9th I had calls from my sympathizers who were in APC who felt that if I had won the primaries within the PDP they were going to vote for me and they told me that I still have an opportunity to become a candidate in APC. I asked how and they told me that their constitution was amended in October 2014 to allow room for late entrants into the party like me.
Once you are able to secure a waiver and you have your clearance and the leadership of the party sees that you can add value to what they are doing, you will be allowed to contest and since primaries were postponed from 4th to 5th or rather, primaries were truncated by a court injunction on the 4th and 5th for gubernatorial in APC, a new date was for 10th and 11th and so they advice that if I can start the process, I will be eligible to contest the primaries on the 10th and 11th.
I put a call to the leader of the party and he confirmed this to me that in APC that is the way to go. That was how after resigning from PDP on that same 9th March, I joined APC and secured my membership card on the same 9th, I bought the form, did the needful, applied for waiver, it was facilitated and as God will have it, I got the waiver the same night and I was allowed to contest after being cleared by the committee that was put in place.
You are aspiring to be governor of Benue State at a time that the people of Benue state are highly disappointed with the outgoing government. Salaries are being owed for so many months, there is high insecurity. What are you bringing to the table, how will you reassure Benue people that under you such things will not happen?
I have said that as a stakeholder in Benue state I appreciate the pains that our people are going through. For me my mission is to rescue the state from ignorance, poverty and disease. Repeatedly I have said that having had the experience and the privilege of working as a local government chairman, various leadership positions at the party level, at the state level and at the national level, I have been in governance so I can say that both in party I am experienced in so many years, in administration I have also acquired a lot of experience.
I also have the opportunity of being successful in the private sector, establishing enterprises that today are giving employment to over 400 people in Benue state. I believe that I am very conversant with the challenges and I am saying that for us to move forward in Benue state, the first thing that we must do to get our people to a new orientation that will give us the focus and direction to be able to tackle these challenges.
I will rule with the fear of God in Benue state and this will translate to entrenching some core values that are missing in our society today like truthfulness, equity, fairness, justice, transparency, accountability, selflessness, integrity, integration, reconciliation, unity and peace. I believe that once you have these in place, development will be inevitable because the people will be united as one and everybody will be working towards one goal to achieve the progress and development of the state.
For several years PDP has ruled in Benue state, you will agree with me that the structure is formidable, how do you intend to defeat the PDP?
Very simple, the people are yearning for change, I was in PDP and Chief Barnabas Gemade was in PDP. In fact, he was the national chairman of the party and BOT member until he resigned some weeks ago. Senator George Akume was in PDP and some other people. Since I left the PDP to APC, hundreds of thousands of Benue indigenes followed me to APC and so it becomes very easy.
The PDP in Benue State are aware that given an election that is free fair and transparent, they cannot score 20% because of the inept administration of Governor Gabriel Suswam. The government that is insensitive to the security and lives and property of the people that does not concern itself with ensuring that our people are ‘protected. I am a victim and several others and they are not concerned, they are celebrating in their houses, in wine bars.
The operators of government are specialists in wine bar operations and are concerned with how much they can make for themselves. The government that is insensitive that is not ready to fight corruption, the government that is not transparent, the government that does not believe in fairness, equity justice and people are fed up just like they did to me when I left.
PDP is full of injustice and you heard the national chairman, Alhaji Mu’azu, who came out openly to say that there is too much injustice in PDP that is why people are leaving and that is why I left. I did not just leave alone, I left with the people and the people are working for me.
We have gone round the 23 local governments and there were massive decamping from PDP to APC. You will agree with me that in 2011, the strength of the two political parties was 50-50 that was when I was still there and having served as secretary of the party for six years, deputy chairman and national auditor of the party, I had some grip on the people and it was clear when I left the party, the number of people that followed me to APC is a clear indication.
A very senior citizen, seasoned politician, former national chairman of CNC and former national chairman of PDP, Senator Barnabas Gemade leaving PDP because of injustice, because he was treated in the same manner that I was treated. I am here to join forces with him, George Akume and the rest of the other APC people. I can’t see where PDP will manufacture people to vote for them.