<<< By Terver Akase >>>
Osedebamen Isibor, the editor of Nigerian Pilot newspaper is no doubt a prolific writer, one of the most fascinating columnists of his generation. Isibor however missed the mark in his piece of Wednesday November 4, 2015 (back page of Nigerian Pilot) which he incidentally headlined ‘Before Ortom misses the mark’.
But Isibor’s interest in affairs of Benue State must be commended. That the editor cared to write about the new administration in the state which inherited a deficit treasury and is already turning the hitherto gloomy situation into a hopeful one is a base of kudos to the editor. A number of lines in his piece attest to the fact that Governor Ortom and his team met a difficult situation on their arrival at the Benue People’s House on May 29.
Our dear editor had apparently set out to appraise the Ortom administration and perhaps (as his topic indicated), point out the aspects of governance in Benue which he considers as early signals of a ship not well directed and proceed to offer useful suggestions. But Isibor soon left his reader not sure of whether to accompany him on the voyage or wait for his return from the apparent trip into analysis of variance.
His confession “…as for me, I may not know this much” confirms that either Isibor has no clear understanding of the issues in Benue’s governance at the moment or he sourced his facts entirely from some interest party who obviously belongs to the opposition. Thus, the message under the otherwise beautiful and catchy title of the column was submitted via the plane of incongruity. But here again, Isibor’s love of Benue which has run visibly throughout his piece has almost dwarfed the paradox in his submissions.
Now let’s look at the editor’s points of concern.
Isibor got it wrong in concluding that Governor Samuel Ortom “appears to be taking on every real and/or perceived enemy on all fronts.” No sir! Contrary to the editor’s submission, Governor Ortom is at the receiving end of unwarranted attacks since he assumed office. The attacks intensified since the state government announced the setting up of two panels to probe the administration of the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam. This is one fact our dear friend Isibor needs to know. Those who looted the state dry have joined forces and are sponsoring daily attacks on Governor Ortom both on conventional and social media platforms. They do not want the probes to continue. To achieve their aim, they fathom that a ceaseless campaign of vilification against the Governor would distract him from continuing with the probe.
Our good friend Isibor will soon discover that majority of Benue people are solidly behind their Governor Samuel Ortom to go all the way with the probe of the past administration. The people want to know who diverted funds meant for workers’ salaries. The people want to be told who sold the state’s shares in Dangote Cement worth over N8 billion yet denied that the shares were sold. They want to know what happened to proceeds from the sale of the said shares and many other holdings of the state in various companies. The people also want to know what became of the SURE-P funds sent to Benue under the immediate past administration; they want to know what happened to VAT, Ecological funds and a host of other funds that accrued to Benue in the last 8 years. Our editor Isibor would agree that these are noble and justifiable demands.
Governor Ortom is only a messenger of the people of Benue with whom legitimacy and authority reside. The Governor is only carrying out his legitimate duty as the servant of the people.
I was tempted to question the neutrality of our editor Isibor in his line “…Dr. Gabriel Suswam whom the current chief executive would not just let be” but I restrained myself. Editors, like the rest of us, are at liberty to hold opinions no matter how skewed such opinions may sound. So I won’t say if the quoted line appears like some veiled PR for the former Benue State Governor Dr. Gabriel Suswam. I can only wonder why Isibor wishes that Suswam be left alone. When did probes become witch-hunt? My idea of a probe is that of a platform where somebody can appear to clear himself of an allegation. So yes, only Dr Suswam has the sole decision to let himself be or continue to face burning questions as no one has taken him hostage at the moment.
Again, our editor is wrong to say that the Ortom administration has “incurred debts amounting to over N50 billion in barely six months”. The present administration in Benue State has not taken over N50 billion loan. What the Ortom administration has received as loans to pay for the backlog of workers’ salaries is N28 billion. Earlier, the government had received a N10 billion loan to pay salaries of May and June. These are the only loans so far taken by this administration.
If Isibor also admits that “…there is just no money anywhere”, I wonder how he expected the Ortom administration to raise money in a matter of days to meet the numerous financial obligations it met on assumption of office without borrowing.
I won’t comment much on the views expressed by Isibor’s informant, Tersoo Tarka whom our editor quoted lavishly to support his piece. I suspect that those quotes contributed in landing our editor in the paradox of narration which has taken away the usual brilliance in his presentations.
Our dear editor Isibor appears also to be worried by what he calls Governor Ortom’s ‘affinity for Senator Akume’. I am wondering what precisely Isibor wants Governor Ortom to do whenever he sights Senator Akume. Start a fight with the former Governor or bawl out at him? Whichever way Isibor expects Governor Ortom to treat Senator Akume, I wish he permits me to hint him that the present Governor of Benue State is a man who respects his elders, peers and even the younger generation. Governor Ortom believes that every Benue man and woman has something to offer the state. Ortom does not believe in harassing party leaders after winning an election. This Governor subscribes to the principle that the respect accorded a party leader before elections should not wane after the polls have been won. Ortom is not a fair weather friend. He remains loyal to his friends in good and bad times.
Lastly, let me state that Benue State under Samuel Ortom is headed in the direction of reclaiming its lost glory so that great friends of the state like Osedebamen Isibor can visit it and have verified stories to tell and no longer rely on partisan informants.
Akase is Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Benue State Governor