• Why are we surrounded by terrorists from Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Senegal, Libya?
• Says ‘I spent 680m treating snake bites, creating jobs before I became governor’
•Why he has not met Buhari in 4 yrs, speaks on 2023 elections
In this interview with John Alechenu, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, speaks about his face off with the Buhari-led Federal Government, the G-5 governors agitation, State Police and sundry other issues of national importance. Excerpts:
Your position is very clear as far as the presidential candidates are concerned. But there are some people that will say, the G-5 governors risking too much if you are asking people to vote for your party for all positions but you are not mentioning the presidential election.
So, don’t you find yourself in a kind of dilemma when you have to campaign for yourself and you are not campaigning for the presidential candidate?
Which dilemma are you talking about? Do I need Abuja to come and vote for me? Did Abuja vote for me to become governor? Did anybody or presidential candidate vote for me?
Look, go back to history, I talk about myself, I was denied nomination in PDP in 2015, that everybody knew in Benue state that I was the candidate to beat, the leadership of the party decided to deny me the nomination. If they had allowed a free and fair process, I would have won the nomination.
But they had to coerce people and so on because in today’s Benue, talk of anybody who has added value, who has created jobs, who has created wealth, it is me.
Before I became governor I had enterprises that provided jobs, created wealth and several people were under scholarship. I treated people who were bitten by snake, low income people. By the time I was handing over the project to government from 2000, I had spent N680million from my personal fund, not government business.
I treat people; I have retained Rarmor Hospital that treat people. I had retained Bishop Morel Hospital that treat those people with snake bites free of charge, I have sponsored several people to higher education, taking indigent people, student, to pay their school fees, so I was the candidate to beat. I was neglected.
So, I was going to one mushroom party when APC came that please, I should join them. I did and I won my election overwhelmingly against the PDP candidate.
But when I saw injustice in APC, I left and came back to PDP and won election again, against several people’s wish and nobody from Abuja voted for me.
I don’t need the presidential candidate and people at the national level to come and vote for me here. All politics is local, so it depends on your locality. I am working with my people, you have been around.
I consult with my people, what I am telling you is the voice of Benue people, whether traditional leaders, religious leaders, whether Christians or Muslims, you can see them, they are working together because I stand for equity, fairness and justice.
And so there is nothing like having fear about winning election or not winning election, it does not really come in, I am doing the wish of my people, whatever you hear me speak and I have challenged them, I have consulted with them and I told them, if I am not doing your wish, draw my attention, I will go back.
This matter (Security) that I have been branded a bad man by the presidency, if my people tell me that Ortom this is too much please withdraw, I will go back and apologize to the president.
I have not seen the president for four years, they have blocked me and I said fine, let me stay and do my work because I was not elected by presidency. I have been denied a lot of things that would have come to Benue state, nothing comes here.
Those people who are against me and are working for APC, it is their shame because I expected that they didn’t want me to have any access to the president, now that they have him alone, what have they attracted to Benue state? Nothing.
When they are making appointments, Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi, Plateau state and others, nothing comes to Benue, but these are people from Benue here, who are living on crumbs and who have not performed and who have nothing to show when they were given power by the same Benue people, they have not been able to impact on their lives.
I challenge anyone to come out in all sectors of the economy in the state. I have projects that I have executed despite all the problems that I have.
I sit among my colleagues who ask me, “My brother, are you not afraid of your life?” I said look, life belongs to God, the day God wants me to die, nobody will stop it, I cannot stop myself and it is only a fool that dies 20 times before his actual death, otherwise a wise man should die once, when that time comes you cannot stop it and it happens.
So as far as I am concerned, I am not worried about the election. Look, being a senator for instance is not the issue but service. First things first. The day I will stand before the judgment seat of God, God will ask me, “What did you do when you were local government chairman? What did you do when you were secretary of PDP? What did you do when you were deputy chairman? What did you when you were national auditor? What did you do when you were minister? What did you do when you were governor?”
And for me as a student of the Bible, the Bible teaches me to make use of the little I have because it depends on what you do with the little that have been committed into your hands, if you do well, you can be given more.
So, it is what you are able to do with what you have, promotion comes from God, it does come from any other person and so I am not worried and the same with my colleagues.
You and some of your colleagues in the G-5 have been accused of not only fighting within the PDP but also taking on the federal government. What is the true position? We are fighting for equity, fairness and justice and that is what Nigeria wants and that is the problem that the current leadership has refused to solve; you pushed all appointments to one section of the country and one religious group and you think that people should keep quiet, people should not say anything because you have become king, you have become emir, even as an elected president, you stay there and preside and do whatever you want. Some of us, we will fight this and we will continue to fight anywhere.
And mind you, some people thought some of us were fighting Buhari, I wasn’t fighting Buhari. Buhari is a nice man, and honest man but he is surrounded by hawks who are not nice people. Some of the people are criminals of the first grade, who are not interested in Buhari himself, who are not interested in this country, they are interested in how much they can get.
I don’t know how much at their various ages, what they still want to grab for themselves and their families that they will destroy the country, this is the point. I wasn’t fighting Buhari but I was fighting against injustice, I was fighting because the government was not fair to people and to me and my own people.
I was fighting because no country will allow her citizens to be going under this kind of terror that is happening in our country, surrounded by terrorists from Niger, from Chad, from Mauritania, from Libya, from Senegal, from other parts, from DR Congo and all that, to come and take over, just to gather and come and take over and make Nigeria their land and make people their slaves, I will not be party to that.
So this thing is a matter of principle that we are fighting, it is not about personal gains, I want to make money, I want to do this, it is not so, so it doesn’t matter.
So with this kind of struggle it doesn’t matter whether you lose your life or you lose your position or you lose whatever and the reason is that, here we are talking about democracy, those people we are going to elect, for me, I am indifferent. Whatever happens, tomorrow, the people themselves will pay the price.
But so far, I will tell you that my people are with me, they have given me assurance, day and night, they stand with me and you wait and see the results of the elections.
What is your position on the issue of restructuring and state police?
My position is very clear and I have made it known to Nigerians if we want to survive as a country and ensure equity, fairness and justice, we must not depend on what the colonial masters gave us, we are of age, we are educated, we are mature, we should design our future by ourselves, not somebody else, looking at our peculiarities, ethnicity, multiple religion and other issues that we have. We need to sit down and look at these and address them, what is the best way out.
I am fully committed to restructuring of this country. Do we really need a presidential system of government? These are issues that we will be asking. How can you say that the governors are chief security officers of their states and they have no foot soldiers? The police are controlled by the federal government, civil defence, the DSS, the army, everything and they take instructions from there.
And then we, who are the so called chief security officers, boys, under security personnel because they have the gun, we don’t have. If they command you, what will you do?
These are the issues and I am fully in support of restructuring and state police.
One thing that amazes me in this country is the way we borrow certain foreign policies of other countries and try to implement them here.
For instance, our democratic experience of today, the presidential system is borrowed from America where all things are working; it is not the same thing with Nigeria.
That in America, the various states, I think over 50 states in America, each of the states they have their own state police and you have federal police too but they know how to organise themselves, there is a link.
If you borrow the presidential system of government from America, why didn’t you borrow security system that the America government operates to support the presidential system of government? These are the issues.
What I have done and my people have accepted it that we will continue is to fight for the state police and that is why we initiated this community volunteer guard, they are well trained and we have involved the army, the police, the civil defence, the DSS to train them.
If the federal government allowed state police nobody will be talking about fulani herdsmen killings and other killings in the manner that we are experiencing now. I am a law abiding citizen, that is why I sought license for them to acquire AK47. I would have stopped it long ago.
So the training we are giving them is preparatory. The day that we hear from the authorities to allow state police, these people can just be transformed, without any form of impediment and we will recruit more.
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