By Bula Wilfred
“If you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary considerations, your education is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are liability to mankind”-Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman
Kenny Rogers sang about a certain Tommy who was called Yellow because he was acclaimed by all to be a coward of which he never proved anybody wrong about. But Yellow wasn’t born a coward. He was only living true to the words his father gave him as advice before he died in prison. He said;
“Promise me son, not to do the things I’ve done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
Now it won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you are old enough to understand:
Son you don’t have to fight to be a man”
But to every act of weakling, there is always a breaking point for a reaction. And so a group of hoodlums dared Yellow’s breaking point by taking turns at Becky; his love and the only person he didn’t need to prove his manliness to. He walked into the room after the boys had left and met his Becky crying. The torn dress and shattered look was more than he could bear. Immediately he looked up and brought down his daddy’s picture that was hanging on the wall while remembering those last words his father told him when he was just ten.
He was now thirty and twenty years of cowardice had bottled up inside of him laced with his father’s last words. He unleashed all of the anger on the boys such that when he left, there was no one standing. All for Becky, he told his father thus;
“I promised you dad not to do the things you’ve done.
I’ve walked away from trouble when I can.
Now please don’t think am weak I didn’t turn the other cheek,
And Papa, I sure hope you understand:
Sometimes you gotta fight when you are a men”
For twenty years, everyone in the county accepted Tommy the way he was. Nobody ever thought any good or act of bravery could come out from him. He must have been taken advantage of severally until that day when his tolerance limit was breached. Society most certainly would have forgotten about Tommy’s calmness and tolerance of twenty years after he took on the Gatling boys that day. Everyone in the county would turn to the present predicament and judge Tommy harshly for taking laws into his hands especially those who must have been part of the torments of his twenty years’ calmness but were now at the receiving end of ‘jungle justice’. And so it is with our society, polity and politics even today.
Ordinarily, objectivity should rule sentiments in our engagements especially in the political space we live in today because, every living being is sentimentally influenced by his environment and the people he daily interacts with. However, when in expressing these sentiment traits without objective reasoning, we are bound to face results that are inclined towards retrogression because they cannot be substantiated. At best, they cast a questionable credibility stare on your person.
Ortom, like any other politician has his pluses and shortcomings. In fact, every living being is so created. But at every given time in the course of his rising, he has had friends and foes alike. The most intriguing of these relationships is that most of these friends and foes are so determined based on a space in time as the demands of personal interest are either projected for protection or not. So we end up with situations whereby a political ally today is an astute enemy tomorrow and vice versa while living the principal as the constant.
No man created on the face of the earth is without potentials, but for such potentials to make positive impact on a people, he needs the compliments of other people’s potentials. Which brings us to the common saying that, ‘no man is an island’? While agreeing to this therefore, it is important to note that, no man can solely lay claim to a corporate success. Like in a football match, while the goal scorer is celebrated and taken up high, he nevertheless needs the support of the defenders and goalkeeper to make his goal good enough to secure the victory for his team. So, while the team celebrates a victory, it is even not always that goal scorer that lifts the trophy but the captain which also translates to the fact that in a loss, the whole team bears the brunt with again the captain carrying the weight of an explanation to the fans. So it is with political leadership.
Ortom has had the privilege of gaining political leadership positions at different levels through his rise from a Local Government Chairman through State and National party executive positions to a Federal Minister and then now Governor of a state which rise cannot in all sincerity be seen as a fluke but rather a mixture of destiny realisation, luck and most importantly, a dogged determination to pursuing this goal to a finite point irrespective of what it takes to getting it realised. And by doing so, it is true that some toes must be stepped on while so many others may gain from the toes that had been stepped on. But again the leader remains a constant. We are the toes that are stepped on today only for tomorrow seeing us as enjoying the rise while others are stepped upon.
If we therefore understand that, the challenge of leadership; its failings and successes lies squarely within our reach, we will be much more Cautious in criticising the cowardly nature of a principal in the face of his newly acquired status of an awakened personality especially if the core of such criticism is spurned up by those who were part of the system that made such a principal to be supposedly disliked.
Sitting in cabinet with over 90% of his appointees who looked at him like a coward or weakling and not strong enough to bite back even when they unceremoniously raped the state dry while reporting in loyalty to their own principal, Ortom may just had been a political Tommy. These they did since 2015 transforming their lives from paupers to overnight lords with our commonwealth drawn from an accumulation of salary short-change, pension scams, bailout funds, Paris club refunds and a list of other inflows. While not exonerating Ortom, who like the football captain, must take responsibility for the loss and praises for a victory, we must however not sit in an armchair spectatorship position, joining those who after over three years of cohabitation and tacit support for Ortom are now coming out to challenge, castigate and accuse him for solely being responsible for the supposed failings of yesteryears.
These phony character actors were not just members of the cabinet but actual principalities and powers in Ortom’s government for the last three and half years. If anything at all, we should look at them with scornful disdain akin to plagued personalities that are no ‘gooders’ who should not even be given a hearing ear talk less of an operating political space. Their actions should rather give us an open mind to actually appropriate the happenings within government circles that brought about a total disconnect with the ordinary people while these actors were with Ortom. We should be objective enough to ask why the ‘coward of the county’ is acting strong now. Why now? If it took Tommy 20 years of bottling up crawling acts to burst out, three and a half years for a break out for an Ortom is quite commendable even though it took Suswam only two years to let out a cry and bail himself out. A decision he had to bear with its consequences for the rest of the six years of his eight year reign as Governor of Benue State.
It must be sentiments that has beclouded our reasoning to pour out our anger to just Ortom while celebrating his erstwhile appointee who was sacked as a result of irreconcilable financial differences in the range of over Three Billion Naira from exaggerated figures of schools and cooks for the school feeding programme in Benue State. Need I talk about the happenings at the Local Government Bureau and the shoddy handlings of its
finances? Appalling much more is the fact that the sacked chief executive had the pride of place to indirectly speak out publicly that his was to ‘come, chop and clean mouth’. What about the sacked chairperson of the Benue revenue house? Translated in three years from an ordinary civil servant to an accomplished personality with a heavy financial war chest enough to challenge the likes of Gemade and Suswam for the senatorial election of Benue Zone A. And these examples to a gang up akin to the gang up of the Gatling boys in Kenny Rogers’ song against Tommy abound in every facet of the State.
Like Tommy watching Becky in tethered cloths crying, Ortom rather needs our sympathy. We need to carefully look at his shortcomings and weigh them against every and any action that he takes henceforth with a view of appropriating in reality if such actions could had been taken when the ‘Gatling boys’ where in his cabinet.
For instance we shouldn’t be celebrating the freezing of the Benue accounts or the reversal of the Paris Club refund releases simply because the previous ones where not to our satisfaction administered. How do we celebrate with one who is bent on increasing the sufferings of our people through the holding back of funds that are legally ours simply because we have an automated doubt mechanism in place against our Governor.
Now that Yellow has become Tommy, we must give him the benefit of the doubt and see if he still has only Becky to prove to that he is truly now a man. February is a long time from now to satisfy our consciences.