By Peter Duru
Governor Samuel Ortom emerged in 2015 as the first person from outside the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to govern Benue State. The change was, however, superficial in historic perspectives, given Mr. Ortom’s long membership of the PDP until weeks before his election as governor.
The governor’s ascension to office in what was generally discovered as a hostile takeover has been laced with much brickbat. While the governor is accused by his PDP traducers of poor performance, his supporters in the All Progressives Congress, APC, pin the present challenges of the state on the preceding PDP-inspired Gabriel Suswam regime. Two leading aficionados of the ruling and opposing parties ventilate on Ortom in Benue.
It’s outright failure — Iortyom, PDP scribe
Bemgba Iortyom is the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State.
HOW do you assess the APC government after nearly two years in office?
It’s a clear cut outright failure, incompetence, lack of vision and show of unpreparedness to lead. This is clearly manifested in the extent of hunger and poverty that is in the land. The quality of life of the people in the state has dropped drastically. Prices of food stuff have gone up, and essential commodities are no longer available. To even compound it, is the lack of tangible infrastructural development.
This is a government that owes salaries for up to a year. This is a government that has the highest debt profile ever known in the history of the state. This is a government that is insincere in what it says. This is a government that does not match its actions with what it says. This is a government that is clearly not trustworthy.
But the APC says you are to blame for plundering the state for the 16 years you were in power?
When you say you have come into government, the first thing you must ensure is to maintain the minimum basic quality of life for the people then the next thing is to begin to work to improve on that. So I ask, what was the basic quality of life of the Benue people when this government took over? Prices of food stuff were not as high as they are today.
The government keeps saying that the immediate past administration of Suswam looted the state. They keep dishing out conflicting figures, the Governor on the day of his inauguration said, N12 billion was looted, a short while after that he raised it to N60 billion, later N90 billion and later N107 billion.
One cannot tell the figure they would later arrive at. The funny aspect of it all is that they keep saying that until the looted monies are returned the government cannot do anything, pay salaries or embark on development projects. Who will entertain such illogical reasoning? This is a government that had promised so many things and rolled out a vision upon which it had aspired to rule the state.
The question is, was it anticipating to execute its programmes upon the finances that had accrued to the previous administration? Nowhere in the world is that ever done. What is happening to the funds that are coming to the coffers of this government in its own time? This is a government that has borrowed so much in less than two years.
The Governor himself admitted that his government within this period had borrowed N53 billion. Everyone in this state knows that very serious looting is taking place under this government. How can that same government turn around to accuse the PDP of looting and as such getting us into the situation that we are in? It doesn’t hold water anywhere.
This government should give an account of what has come to its coffers now that it is in charge for close to two years. By May they would be in the saddle for two years, the question is, is Benue better now than when the government took over? That is the cardinal question. The ordinary person in the street will certainly tell you that they are worse off now than when this government came on board. It is obviously not the fault of the PDP but because of the incompetence and fraudulent activities of this administration.
Will the factionalisation of the party affect you in the forthcoming local government elections?
There are no factions of the PDP in Benue. The ruling APC by very clear indications has failed the people. Now they are confronted with local government elections, ordinarily, they were not prepared to conduct the elections. They were forced by court actions of PDP and APC members that were aspiring to local government positions before the election process was truncated, last year. So they are not prepared for the election.
PDP baggage is holding us back — Yaro, APC chairman
Comrade Abba Yaro is the Benue State APC chairman, in this interview he spoke on how Benue was looted by the immediate past administration, the possibility of Senator Ahmed Tinubu running in the 2019 presidential election, the travails of former Governor Suswam and many more.
ALMOST two years in office, do you think your party has delivered on its promises?
Yes, we have been able to do that, we are all in Benue here, if you go round you’ll see for yourself the physical actualization of the promises made and the dreams this administration came with upon assumption of office.
But the opposition PDP insists to the contrary?
What do you expect from an opposition party, I was once an opposition chairman during which period we also made comments that the PDP was doing nothing. What do you expect? If you look around, all the challenges we are facing today are because the PDP bastardised the economy of this country. Look at what is happening within the ranks of the PDP. People are being caught with billions of naira and millions of foreign currencies in their houses and all that. That was the kind of government they ran for 16 years. What we met was like a house with a faulty foundation. So I don’t expect less criticism from the PDP. Look at what is happening to our former governor.
Are you not aware that he was arrested by security agencies as head of a militia? He was found with guns and lots of other things. What was he doing with guns? People on the social media keep saying that he is a non violent person, but being in possession of guns is incriminating. If you are not a police man or security personnel you certainly don’t need guns especially when you have security personnel guarding you. It’s unfortunate!
Many say your party is derailing at both the state and national levels?
We are not derailing and I can assure you that we can never derail. The opposition party might say we are derailing. We are not derailing, we are focused and we know where we are going. We will not disappoint the people that voted for us. The people should be patient.
Are you scared that defectors from the PDP into the APC might cause a problem for you?
Our eyes are open, if they come and want to infiltrate our party in order to create problems we will not allow that. I used to tell my executives to shine their eyes, anyone coming from the PDP must queue behind us. That is why we are very careful with the way we handle political matters.
Hallmark of agood politician
Let me tell you, the immediate past governor of the state was my classmate at SBS Makurdi but I did not join that party because he was the governor. I remained in the opposition because I believed in the ideals of my party until God gave my party victory at the polls. That is the hallmark of a good politician. I can assure you that all those running from the PDP into the APC to create problems will certainly not succeed.
You talk of patience but there are no jobs and salaries are delayed?
It a very pathetic situation and it is actually not the fault of the ruling APC. The PDP bastardised the economy in such a way that they did not want anyone to survive it. Benue is not the only state owing salaries. PDP states also owe salaries. Bayelsa which is an oil rich state is also owing so are several PDP states.
But Ortom campaigned with the promise of paying salaries as at when due?
Do you know that you can spring surprises if you have resources to tackle challenges that require financial intervention? If we have enough financial backing the government can clear the backlog of salaries owed workers in a day. But the funds are not there. That is why we are insisting that the funds found to have been looted by the previous administration should be returned. If the government is able to get back that money we will clear all outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities. Aside that, a lot of infrastructural development would also take place in the state.