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Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

There are clear thinkers, muddled thinkers and people that fall in between. Clear thinkers -are the ones that can cull everything down into the right points-are very hard to find. But if you get yourself a team of clear thinkers, the possibilities are endless. These are men who see tomorrow, trailblazers and high level executives, but most often misunderstood by some fellow countrymen still stuck in the old normal of yesterday.

Without any shadow of the doubt, Samuel Ioraer Ortom, the incumbent Executive Governor of Benue state, and the only PDP Governor in the North Central Geopolitical Zone of the country fittingly falls into the bracket of a clear thinker as outlined above.

Apart from being reputed for possessing nation building prowess and burning desire to see Nigeria transform to a nation where equity, justice and peace shall reign supreme, there are some indices which reflect the fact that with  Ortom, things are as good as the People Democratic Party (PDP) as a party might wish them. The assertion is predicated on some critical creative leadership feats. Ingenuity that vividly signposts/qualifies him as not just outstanding but a rallying political figure within the North central geopolitical zone and the nation as a whole.

First of such is ortom’s ability to against all odds rally support for, and have Sen. Iyorcha Ayu elected, as the consensus National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Making the development unprecedented is that he (Ayu) got 3,426 affirmative votes out of 3,511 accredited voters.

Still on the emergence of the Chairman, there exists yet one more thing that made Governor Ortom’s achievement in this direction not just commendable but an accomplishment that must not be allowed to go with the political winds.

Evidence abound, if only sought for that prior to the election, the People Democratic Party(PDP) as a party has resolved not to have the new Party Chairman from any of the PDP controlled  states. Despite this standing rule, Governor Ortom was able to convince his colleagues on why his state (Benue) should produce the Party’s National Chairman, despite being controlled by him, a PDP governor.

Making the development newsy is the awareness that he (Ortom) is the only PDP Governor from the North Central part of the country. Yet, he was able to rally support, persuade, convince and win the confidence of Governors from other zones like the South South geopolitical zone who ordinarily could have used their numerical advantage to have their way.

Comparatively, why Ortom’s effort needs to be appreciated and celebrated is the news report that while he (the Governor) seamlessly had his candidate carry the day; efforts by some interest groups within the party to achieve the same for their candidates suffered a setback as agreement could not be reached for three offices.

Another area of interest that is worth commenting about Governor Ortom’s foresighted leadership is in the area of the anti-open grazing campaign which he spearheaded.  Those Nigerians who in the wake of the farmers/ Herders crisis across the country, were against Governor Otrtom’s position on the matter has finally come to the realization of the wisdom behind his argument and have finally aligned with his approach to the job of leadership.

Two instances are noteworthy to buttress the validity of this claim.

Like a prophet and a lone voice in the wilderness, he cried persistently that the need for solutions to insecurity has become more urgent at the present, because the problem is far more serious now than it was a few years ago. He called on the Federal Government to address the deteriorating insecurity in the country which manifests in killings, kidnappings, arson and other acts of banditry and terrorism.

Worsening the situation was the fact that his calls came at a time when someone outspoken, with a different set of ideas, values, or organizing techniques, was viewed as ‘the enemy within’.  And constructive debate perceived as unnecessary, messy and divisive, and differing political ideas and strategies is perceived as destructive to the nation’s interest.

Today, there is progress across the board. At the National Assembly, both the Upper and Lower Houses have finally seen reason and presently align with his position on insecurity in the country.

In the southern part of the country also, the story is not different. There is indeed a change in narrative.  Such an account of change is signposted in progress expressed by the Southern Governors Forum who on May 11, 2021, converged in Asaba, the Delta State capital, to review happenings in the country. The meeting which was attended by 15 of the 17 states ended with far reaching resolutions and demands on the Federal Government.

Like Ortom, the Southern Governors in a Communiqué read by the Forum’s Chairman and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, decried the activities of Fulani Herdsmen and their roles in fueling insecurity in most of the States and resolved to ban open grazing by the Herders across the states with immediate effect. The Governors equally decried what they described as unfair distribution of federal appointments and other inequalities in the polity and urged the Buhari administration to “urgently convoke a National dialogue” to find solutions to most of the woes assailing unity and peace of the country. It also asked President Buhari to take “bold steps” to restructure the country and urged the President to address the nation. Ortom, in my view, has gotten younger brothers in the southern Governors who now share his understanding of a true Federal system and nation building.

As argued elsewhere, Governor Ortom’s ban of open grazing in his state is important because open grazing is the first line of conflict between herders and farmers. The friction has already caused untold hardship as farms worth millions have been destroyed, farmers have been killed for resisting herders’ influx into their farmlands; consequently, many farmers have been forced to flee from their farms, farms’ yields have dimmed and food inflation is gaining ground across the country.

As the commentary continues, there are two striking attributes that stand Ortom out; first and very fundamental, well meaning Nigerians are in agreement that he is a national leader that is well respected by all. Secondly, Ortom is among the few public office holders in the country that have played politics using global rules and dictates. He is in the opinion of this piece exposed to the present attack not because there is an established link with non performance, but primarily because, the accusers feel that he occupies a public office and therefore, lacks the right to private living.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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