By Iorliam’Amo Shija
As Samuel Ortom, the 5th democratically elected governor of Benue State wraps up his first term and gets ready to commence his second term, many feel his first term has not been as impactful as the zeal and hope which greeted his victory in 2015.
On the 28th April, 2018, shortly after his gubernatorial victory and just before he took off in his first term , I penned an article, “Ortom, you owe us” . In that piece, I had compared Ortom’s coming just as that of the Taliban in Aghanistan who were welcomed as a buffer against the in fightings that characterized the days of the Mujahideens. Inspite of the hope that greeted the Talibans, they wasted their goodwill. I advised him in that article not to be like the Talibans .
I said, “So, I plead that you should not become like the Talibans who betrayed the trust of the people- in your first four constitutional years as governor, you owe us good governance. This is a debt which you must pay to ease the pains of Benue people and make us your ferocious supporters proud .”
I further noted that , ” As governor of Benue state, there are four imperfect templates for you: Aper Aku’s, Moses Adasu’s, George Akume’s and Suswam’s; all former democratically elected governors before you.
Through hindsight, although all of the above are imperfect, the generality of the people are sympathetic with Aku and Adasu’s.”
Since the Benue people tasted Aper Aku as governor from 1st October, 1979- 31st December, 1983 , they turn to use him as their yard stick to measure the success or failure of subsequent governors. What many have not studied enough is the fact that Aku was less burdened than all his successors.
First, Aku’s political godfather , Joseph Sarwuan Tarkaa took ill just after his inauguration. He died on 30th March, 1980, leaving Aku with much breathing space. Unfortunately for Ortom, he had a godfather in Senator George Akume. This was one of Ortom’s burden in his first term. I had noted this fact earlier in an article.
On 14th February, 2016 , I observed in my article, “Suswam is becoming popular again”, that “Another common fallacy is that of Akume being in charge and Ortom just his puppet………Although not correct, the presence of well known Akume men in his cabinet and around him might have watered this fallacy.”
Aper Aku was also less burdened in the area of team selection. Aku chose his team that comprised of very experienced young people who had the capacity to drive his vision for the state. Notable names in the team were those of Dr J O Nyiakura, his commissioner for Local Government youth and sport, Mr A.I, Angereke, Finance, Mr GI, Okpe, Economic Planning, Mvendaga Jibo(who was 22 years then), Education, Elizabeth Ivase, Special Duties, Kpamor Orkar, Works and Transport, Sule Yaji, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Aku also had Special Advisers like Toryima Orga, Economic Affairs, Peter Vande Acka, political and chieftaincy affairs and so many others like his Head of Service, who was also Aku’s friend and course mate, Ezekiel Akiga.
With the strength of character and dedication of some of the people mentioned above and without a godfather, Aku did much of what he was able to do from 1979-1983. But in the first term of Ortom, I think he was not only burdened with a godfather, but most of his team members which he selected lacked the capacity and the vigour of Aku’s team.
In a 21st century which is driven by technology, information, innovation and creative leadership, much is expected from leaders. So, although burdened and sandwiched by a tasking godfather and a flaudering team, most of the time in his first term, Ortom was able to show that he meant well. He endeared himself to the people by his courage and strength of character. This was what earned him his second term.
But going forward, and now without a godfather, Ortom must also weed himself of ineffective team members. In his second term, Ortom must borrow a leaf from Aku to recruit efficient team members who love the people and have the capacity to implement his vision for Benue State.
Once again as I had done in my article “Ortom, you owe us”, four years ago, I end this article with the words of Pope Francis, that “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”
I wish you more success in your second term, Defender of the Benue Valley, my oga.