By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state in this State owned Radio interview monitored in Makurdi spoke about the intrigues and apprehension that trailed his second term victory, the gang up, his earlier resolve to jettison a second term bid, the role of political godfathers and mistakes made in his about to end first tenure and more. Excerpt:
How does it feel to have emerged victorious in a hard fought contest at the last gubernatorial election?
Firstly, I want to appreciate the Almighty God for making it possible. You know, some people boast of chariots and others boast of horses to support them to win battles. But I boast in the name of the Lord and I have always said right from when I came in 2015, I did say in God we trust, and I have always trusted God. And that is why I may not be so aggressive in attacking my opponents in politics because I have always trusted that power belongs to God and He gives it to whosoever He wills as recorded in John 3 verse 27, ‘a man can receive nothing except it is given to him from above’.
And when you go to the Book of Daniel 4 verse 17, he made it clear that God reigneth in the affairs of men and He giveth power to whosoever He wills. Whether you are qualified or not, if God qualifies you no person can question it. And so this what God demonstrated in 2015 and God again demonstrated it in 2019. I am grateful to the Almighty God and I will continue to look unto Him because I have not been disappointed. I have always said that the Bible says ‘better is the end of a thing than the beginning’. So it’s at the end that you will check whether there is success or not. And I want to implore our people that we should all get closer to God.
I have always said that since I came in the book of Job 36 verses 11 and 12 which made it clear and the options are before us, if we want to live a prosperous and pleasurable life the options are before us. If we want to live a life that will see only destruction and killings and we die like people without a vision, the options are before us. So God has made this available all of us. Verse 11 says ‘if they obey and serve God they will spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures.’ Verse 12 says if they obey not, they shall die by the sword and perish like people without a vision’. So it’s very clear to us and I want to invite the people of Benue state, yes Benue is a predominantly Christian state, we have dedicated it to God but it now behoves on us to get closer to God find out the essence of life and let God help us in the conduct of the affairs of the state. And I want to assure the people of the state that God will never disappoint us.
For me I see God directing us, teaching us, directing us and guiding us to safer haven because where we are today in Benue and in Nigeria will require the wisdom of God to help us. The Bible says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And so if we get ourselves involve in this He will teach us. It may not be as men do or what we see happening around but once we win the heart of God by obeying and serving Him I can assure you that Benue state will be better. So first of all let me give glory to the Almighty God, He is the owner of the earth, the earth belongs to Him and the fullness thereof and He reigneth in the affairs of men and He decides who becomes a king whether you are qualified by men’s standard or not God does it. And of course as it is captured in the book of Ecclesiastics 9 verse 11 ‘the battle is not for the swift nor for the strong nor the race to the fastest runner nor success for men of wisdom but everything come by time and chance as God gives.’ So it is very clear, it is not because I am the incumbent Governor that I was reelected but because God has designed it to be so. I am really indebted to the Almighty God because it has not been easy. In fact at a point in 2017 I decided that I was not going contest again because of what was happening around, the security issues, the funding issues, the non payment of salaries and the arrears of pension and gratuity and others. And I seemed to have been helpless then and nobody wanted to hear any kind of explanation largely because of the blackmail from social media and other forms of falsehood that were being spread against me. I was really overwhelmed and I decided that I wasn’t going to contest again, let me be a one term Governor but have my peace because I could not stand the pains that people felt that I brought to them. But I quickly remembered that there was need to consult God. I took time to pray and at the end of my prayers he said ‘that is the pain of leadership, you should be willing to accommodate all that. ‘It is part of training and as long as l am doing the right thing and I am convinced in my heart that I am not deceiving the people and God and of course I am not deceiving God and so I should be focused.’ Just like in the Bible where Moses was leading the children of Isreal from Egypt to the promised land it wasn’t an easy task leading them. He had his pains and even though he was talking to God directly but the kind of castigation and insults that he received were massive. But at the end God demonstrated that He is God because all the challenges that he encountered on the way to the promised land, God helped him to overcome them.’ So God encouraged me to be focused that He is the beginning and the end, that anything He starts He ends. The tenure of a governor by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is two terms of four years each. So God assured me that He was going to complete that process Himself. And by 2018 I saw the demonstration and the testimony that God gave. The same people who were against me rose up in my defense. They were able to identify my failures and also identified my success and said look, we must stand behind you, we cannot abandon you. So God created that environment and today I have been reelected.
So first of all I am indebted to the Almighty God for the wisdom, for the knowledge, for the understanding and for guiding the people of the state to give me this massive support that I got because it was not an easy thing. In the course of the journey I had to swing from the platform that was, the APC to the PDP and when I came to the PDP the support was overwhelming and the results I got during the primaries I never believed. Having delegates of 2,700 and scoring more than 2,200 of the votes of the total of the delegates. That was overwhelming and all the other contestants in the same contest embraced me and we worked together up to the time of this victory and the PDP is still united with my coming in. You can see that all the other leaders teamed up with me and gave me their support to ensure that we achieved it.
The second dedication after God is that I want to say that I must appreciate the people of Benue state for the show of confidence in me and the votes they gave me. We were able to conduct ourselves very well and we allowed the process as INEC rolled out their guidelines, to work. For once we never indulged in anything that could undermine the guideline that were provided. We insisted that we didn’t need to rig any election. We didn’t need to create violence. Because if we know that power belongs to God and He giveth it to whoever He wills, why should we go to create violence. And I think that our people respected this. The opposition brought in a lot of violence, especially during the March 9 elections, ballots were destroyed in Mbalom, in Ado, in Okpokwu and several other places. But we thank God that we were also patient, right from the first ballot the people of Benue state spoke because I won the election by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which stated clearly that for anyone to win the gubernatorial race in a state, you are required to have one fourth of two third of the local governments in your state. And then you are required to have the highest number of votes. So right from the first ballot I had it. And the lead margin from the first ballot was over 81,000 in my favour. And so ordinarily I would have been declared the winner. But INEC brought their guidelines and they insisted that if the total number of votes declared invalid was more than the margin of lead we must go back for a supplementary. In all this I never objected, I followed it, otherwise, though I’m not a lawyer but by the provisions of the Constitution and any other guideline or law that contravenes the constitution, the provisions of the constitution takes precedence. That was not done, but we thank God, we went for the supplementary election and as God will have it I had more votes and today we are talking about over 89,000 lead margin and not the over 81,000. So I appreciate the people of Benue state for keeping faith with me and I want to say that one good turn deserves another, I will reciprocate by ensuring good governance, dividends of democracy and everything that is good for my state Benue is provided.
So the people’s expectations should be high in this renewed mandate?
Like I always say, the Bible says better is the end of a thing than the biginning. The first term came and is almost gone. The second term us the end and I most confess that during first term lessons were learnt from lapses and from mistakes that were made within the period. We have learnt our lessons from all those because of the experience we got and so we are coming in with a new spirit to ensure that we have good governance that is anchored on the will of the people and no longer by the wills of individuals.
And you can see the way God has structured this my second term today I have no godfather. That was a major challenge in my first tenure. So for the people of Benue state to elect me without a godfather is obviously clear that my allegiance will be to the people of the state and I will do only what the people of Benue state want
But there were big stakeholders that supported you?
Of course everybody is a stakeholder in course of governance, consultations will be made and that is what I’m set to do. I have always said that my own definition of democracy is doing what the people want irrespective of what you the leader thinks. You should do consultations with the people. One thing I must assure Benue people is that adequate consultations must be made and we must ensure in whatever we doing that we must be truthful to the people we will ensure equity, fairness and justice in all that we do. We will ensure transparency, we will be selfless in the course of our service. We must ensure forgiveness for one another. We will ensure that we reconcile with one another, we will ensure there is restitution where there is need to do so all geared towards bringing the people together and unite them. Once we are united as a people development will be inevitable.
I have always said that this life is complementary. I know that many Benue people are talented in various sectors, if we are able to harness this, working as a team I can assure you that we will record unprecedented developments in Benue state in a magnitude that no one will believe is happening, that is the vision I’m seeing. And in all this we must work together and be very open to one another.
That is why I did said in my acceptance speech that we must as a matter of priority as soon as I’m sworn in for second term set up a Peace, Truth and Reconciliation Committee that will coordinate Benue people to come together irrespective of their interest because nobody can do it alone, even me as the governor I cannot do it alone. We need the support of everyone and other people also need my support to ensure that we succeed. So nobody is irrelevant as far as I am concerned irrespective of the political party you belong to. And I did made a statement where I said, look politicking has gone, now is about governance and I am willing to accommodate all ideas from my opponents and from other people who all contested in the race. Let us work together to ensure that we add value to the development of Benue state. 2023 will still come, four years is not far from now and people can aspire and those God will select will definitely go in. Let us not fight dirty, that is why I even said that hate speeches and and hate songs should be played down at this point and level.
Let us focus on things that can unite us and work together, reach out to one another. I commend the PRP candidate, he sent me a text message and congratulated me for my victory and offered a hand of fellowship. That is the spirit of sportsmen, it’s about Benue, it is not about Samuel Ortom. And so I look forward to seeing my other brothers come together to work to ensure that we add value to the development of Benue state.
When you say that Benue people should hold you responsible for any lapses or mistakes in your second term, I hope you know the enormity of that statement?
Of course, I’m aware of that and that is why I said it. I’m saying that I’m in charge and I’m responsible. So let nobody say it is this man or that one. One thing I’m saying is that there will no more be godfatherism in the politics of Benue state. Even when I finish my tenure I am not going to be a godfather to anyone. We will allow God to decide. God All Mighty will decide who presides over whatever leadership role anyone is given. Now it is my turn, tomorrow it will be another person’s turn to get leadership. So all that is required is for everybody to support. Everybody in the state is required to give me adequate support to ensure that I succeed because the roads that I will construct, the water facilities that I will build, the schools that I will provide will not just be for my PDP members it is going to be for Benue people. So it is in the interest of everyone that they support me to succeed.
Just like the Bible says, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. The shepherd is the leader, if something happens to me and I get it wrong it is the people that will suffer. So it is the responsibility of all, like the Bible enjoined us to pray for our leaders instead of insulting them even if where they make mistakes it is better to pray for them so that God will help them because the heart of a king is in God’s hands. So even the things we are getting wrong, God can correct them in his own ways. It is important to have this because I have a role to play as a leader and you have your role to play as my subject and every other person in the state. So let’s work together. One thing I can assure the oeople of the state is that I would provide an open door in such a way that down to the grassroots our people will have a say in my government and where they feel something should be done differently in order to make life more meaningful for them, Samuel Ortom is ready to do that. And I will do it right to the grassroots to let us have it, right from the kindred to the wards, local government and then to our zones and the state. And I want to say that I will ensure that the entire state will be involved in what we are doing. All those working with me must know that we are accountable to the people of Benue state and that the kind of trust and confidence they gave us no attempt will be made to betrayed it.
Once, as a leader you are able to open up to the people it flows and that is what I have in mind. The mechanism is being put together, like I said my government will be a government of all. So there must be adequate consultations. What I have in mind may be inferior to what other people may have but the idea on the table is that we must have a feedback mechanism getting to the least person in the society and then returning back to us so that we can structure ourselves well. By that, it may apply that we may not be rigid in whatever that we do in the course of governance even where policies are designed and formulated we will still leave it open for superior advice or ideas that may come because we want the best for our people. And I think that in getting to that level you will not sit alone and do it, you will require others too to bring those ideas, you’ll harness them, filter them and come out with the best so that once they come out everybody will own up and take responsibility for it.