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Samuel Ortom: Between Nebuchadnezzar and the new Benue vision


Samuel Ortom

Image: Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom

Apparently Benue people are in a bind. In as little as under seven months since the general elections, they have since discovered that they abandoned a leader and went for a ruler. In a little over five months since the May 29 swearing-in of a new government they have discovered they were sold a pipe dream – only the beneficiaries of the change they sought are still in denial about the false promises sold to the people. 

The tyres finally met the road and the only response available upon the rude awakening to the harsh reality that is governance is for the new government to engage in an endless blame game; still God is involved.

Akin to the children of Israel for whom the journey of a few days became a forty year sojourn on account of murmuring, for Benue people the movement from Egypt to Israel as promised by the governor Samuel Ortom led APC government now has no end in sight. As opposed the story of the Israelis however, the murmuring is not coming from the people being led to the promise land but rather it is those who promised them paradise on earth that are now singing another song upon the realisation that they made their projections while in a dreamland as opposed to being prompted by a vision. 

The difference being that one has to be asleep and in fantasy land for a dream while vision would entail being fully aware and strategic.  The journey promised Benue people thus looks set to be prolonged from four years to four centuries now that has become clear that there was no clear cut vision on how to progress on the path set out by the previous administrations hence the resort to murmuring and name calling.

Instead of facing the reality on ground, Ortom, like Nebuchadnezzar as narrated in the Book of Daniel 2:2 (KJV) rather decided to “call magicians, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams”. These jobbers, of whom there is no shortage of modern day equivalents, have further compounded the problems that the incumbent Benue state governor is grappling with by encouraging him to fight his predecessor when there is scarcely any indication to justify such action.

Perhaps, what Ortom needs is a modern day Daniel as was in the Biblical times. The modern Daniel should be someone who can wake the governor up from his slumber and dream to smell the global economic challenge and the limitations it is imposing on governments across the world. Even President Muhammadu Buhari admitted that the federal government has to strain to pay salaries while as many as 27 seven states were unable to pay salaries hence the need for a bailout.

Instead of waking up to this reality of national and global economic upheaval, Ortom, egged on by his band of minions and charlatans has resorted to a campaign of witch hunt against his predecessor, Mr Gabriel Suswam. Of course the campaign is aimed at whipping up a murmuring frenzy among the state indigenes with Suswam being labelled as the architect of the state’s precarious situation. 

The probe panels set up to hound the former governor thus look like an attempt to make his scapegoating official. The desperation goes a step further as the incumbent government was fingered in using a proxy to petition Suswam at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Suswam was thus compelled to respond to the spurious allegation in a statement in which he unequivocally defended his tenure in office. His defence definitely left the Samuel Ortom’s administration looking unserious, out of touch and misguided at best and fraudulent and mischievous to all intent. The gist of the defence put up by Suswam was that the Ortom government and is deliberately manipulating figures to present a different narrative particularly as they pertain to the state debt profile. It also gave an insight into how the present government resorted to abusing the rights Benue indigenes to employment on account that they were recruited by the former administration. 

A further revelation from the statement indicated that Ortom and his band are desperate to explain away the non-execution of capital projects as the result of the debt left by his predecessor even when it is glaring that he has the least clue on how to move the state to the next level. The extent of cluelessness can be easily gauged from the fact that in four months, Ortom has borrowed more than Suswam borrowed in four years, yet these characters still managed to have the bravery to make baseless accusations; still God is involved.

The rejoinder by Ortom’s Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Tahav Agerzua was a weak attempt at propaganda as it completely lacked substance to address the concern of the common masses at whose mercy the governor cried in Otukpo during the electioneering campaigns. The response is a confirmation that the new government is stuck in the past without a vision as to how to proceed. More efforts went into name calling and attempts to tarnish and rubbish the person of Suswam than addressing the glaring lack of depth on the part of Ortom government as identified in Suswam’s government.

In Tahav Aagerzua’s words “(Suswam) subscribed to condescending terms, ascribing to himself attributes of deity and those who challenge his actions as irreverent supplicants”, but discerning minds know that it is Ortom, who like Nebuchadnezzar, has mentally erected a towering image of his overblown ego to which he is forcing the people of Benue state to worship. The worship in this sense included the on-going manipulation of the populace into a Suswam bashing frenzy with the sole aim of diverting attention from a government that has resigned itself to the reality that it can never properly understand the intricacy of governance not to talk of excelling at running the state optimally.

This understanding would have been useful towards the realisation of the new Benue vision on which the people of the state were sold before Ortom’s emergence. But now the Nebuchadnezzar that Ortom has become cannot deliver on this promise he is looking for the scapegoat and he erroneously thought he found one in his predecessor, Mr Gabriel Suswam. In executing his campaign of calumny, Ortom, even in the early months of his administration has descended to the level of wallowing on the ground and in the wild as Nebuchadnezzar did in his later years.

Benue people did not expect this kind of leadership or a governor that thrives on mudslinging and wallowing in the mud all in the name of getting back at his predecessor. The challenge on ground is for Ortom to beat the record of his predecessor in the real sense and not wasting scarce state resources and limited time in a bid to even whatever scores he thinks he has to settle. 

The deal he promised the people was to get them to the promise land and now it is glaring that he utterly lacks the capacity to stick to his own side of the deal. Perhaps, as in the Orwellian Animal Farm, it is time Ortom admits to Benue people that there is no Sugar candy Mountain.

Tarka is a retired educationist and writes from Wanune, Tarka Local Government Area of Benue State.

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