Governor Samuel Ortom ahead of his inauguration spoke on his plans for the state, the perceived challenges that may confront his administration, the issues surrounding his emergence as the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate among other issues. Excerpts:
By Peter Duru
How would your first day in office be like?
The first day will be dedicated to looking at and assessing the challenges confronting us. But as a Christian, I believe in the potency of the power of God and I will commit the office into the hands of God and ask for his divine direction to help me surmount the challenges of the office.
What are the perceived problems you see ahead of you as the new Governor of the state?
The problems are well known to most of us; the first one is security. Government’s foremost responsibility is to protect lives and property. Today in Benue State, everyone is running. My priority is to ensure security of lives and property of our citizens.
And the second thing is the issue of welfare. Salaries are not paid and Benue is a civil service state. The implication of not paying salaries for months is devastating. I will give it a priority and wherever I can put resources together to solve the matter, I will not hesitate to do. As Governor-elect of the All Progressives Congress, APC, we have already made an appeal to the President-elect, and I believe that he will also support any move we make to raise funds to clear the backlog of salary arrears and also continue paying as at when due. He will do that, so that we can stabilize and take off from there.
What would be the centrepiece of your administration?
Of course, as a way forward, I have said that we must begin to look outside the box of government to create wealth, to generate employment and to create job opportunities. We must encourage industrialization in order to create opportunities for our teeming farmers to process our agricultural products and also exploit our solid minerals and in several other areas where we enjoy comparative advantages especially in agriculture.
Moreso, I must state clearly that we are going to give priority attention to the fight against corruption in this state. Corruption has been a
cankerworm and a major cause of retrogression within the system. It has been the bane of our growth and development. We must all join hands to fight it and bring it to its knees. And like I’ve always said, for me I’m going to promote excellence against mediocrity and sycophancy. And in doing this we must ensure rule of law and due process, and if these things are done I believe we are going to have a better Benue. Mark you I’m going to take the lead, I’m going to lead by example.
There were insinuations that you were not properly nominated as governorship candidate of the APC?
Well, these things are coming from people who are ignorant about the provisions of the APC constitution. The truth is that I left the PDP on the 9th of December after I was manipulated out of the primaries of the party. I wasn’t defeated, I was manipulated out at the primaries everyone knows it because a free and fair primaries would have seen my emergence as the candidate of the PDP.
And on the 9th I joined APC and followed due process, secured the form, got clearance got waver and my name was included in those that were contesting the election on the 10th and 11th. That was what happened; so how would somebody say I didn’t join properly? People making that claim are just ignorant. And maybe if this is coming from any APC member, it is likely that they are not conversant with the provisions of the party constitution. The constitution is there and it’s very clear.
What is your reaction to insinuations that former Governor George Akume helped to influence your election and would be overbearing in your administration?
People are very ignorant about some of these things. I am a very independent minded person and everybody knows and the Senate Minority Leader is a man I served as Secretary of our former party, the PDP and later Deputy Chairman. He appreciates me and I appreciate him a lot too. I also appreciate the fact that he contributed immensely to ensuring that I emerged. For instance, he initiated and supported the granting of my waiver at the National Secretariat of our party. I appreciate all that and we have been together all this while; and I appreciate him as my former Governor and as an elder statesman who is a strong stakeholder in Benue State.