A very good morning to you, thank you for joining us this morning on our program; I’ll call it our program because it’s your program and it’s our program together. This is The Manifesto on Ashiwaves FM; it’s a 60-minute live political personality program and you can phone in as well. It presents to you dynamic men and women in politics; I’m talking about great aspirants and office seekers that have the right answers to your yearnings and aspirations for the dividends of democracy in our country and in our state. Leadership, they say, comes from God and whoever is blessed by God is indeed elevated to the next level. Judging from these words we’re privileged to bring to you today our guest on today’s edition of The Manifesto. He is a born farmer, an administrator on merit and an industrialist per excellence. He is the promoter of The Oracle Foundation, a non-governmental organization, NGO that is geared towards community social responsibility, charity, philanthropy and social development. He is also the current Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment and a gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in Benue State in next year’s General Election. Without much waste of time, please help me welcome Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom to The Manifesto Studio on Ashi Waves FM. It’s good to have you on our show this morning, sir.
Alright, this is your first time in our studio I guess.
Alright, I love my job. Why I say I love my job is because I have the honor and the privilege to put you on the hot seat this morning. That’s how it goes, right?
Alright, my name is Shidoo Tarkaa; please join us on The Manifesto this morning. Well, I told you earlier, it’s a phone in program so you can join in on the program this morning. All you have to do is call 08100644644, that’s the number to call.
Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom is a household name in Benue State and we know you for so many things but we want to know you more this morning and of course in politics, who is the man Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom?
Thank you very much. My names are Chief Dr. Samuel Ioraernyi Ortom. I hail from Nzorov, Guma Local Government of Benue State. I was born 23rd April, 1961 to the family of Ortom Adorogo. And I went to Primary School just like every other child and in 1976 I gained admission into Idah Secondary Commercial College. But in my form two of my stay in Idah Secondary Commercial College, in 1979; I wrote my exams in form two and came back on holidays and my secondary school education had to be truncated due to the retirement of my father who was a police man and I could not go back to school. But then instead of idling away, I had to find a way of sustaining myself and also how I could further my education. The more interesting thing, I must say, is that it was at that time that I came in contact with the Lord Jesus Christ and I became a born again Christian. That was the turning point in my life. I had to go into doing some menial jobs and one of the things or places where I found myself was the Gboko Motor Park. I started as a motor park tout and then graduated to a conductor and then within a short time I became a taxi driver. After sometime I found myself working with Ben Ihurakar Integrated Farms as a driver and then later I became a salesman/driver. a In the course of working with Ben Ihurakar Integrated Farms, I had the inspiration to further my education through correspondence. I obtained a diploma in Salesmanship and that was the second phase of trying to acquire knowledge or education. By the grace of God within two years I graduated with that diploma and this was in 1984 and I got a job with Gyado Foods. They were producers of Pepsi-Cola, Mirinda Orange, and Mirinda Lemon; and within a space of one year while I was employed at Gyado Foods as a salesman/driver I got four promotions and rose to the position of the substantive sales manager.
During this time I also felt that I needed to augment my knowledge and needed to further my education and through tutorial I studied and sat and wrote for my General Certificate in Education, GCE, and at a sitting, I got four credits. I continued working with Gyado Foods until 1989 when the people of Guma Local Government needed me and I was graciously elected as the local government chairman. Yet the quest for further education led me to study more and I sat for the second time to write GCE in order to enable me have the prerequisite to enter the university. Thereafter, after the completion of my tenure as local government chairman I went back to school at the Ahmadu Bello University where I was pursuing a diploma program in Journalism and at the same time I sat and wrote the IJMB and by the grace of God I had 12 points. Thereafter, I was given admission into the Ahmadu Bello University to read Political Science but unfortunately due to some economic reasons it was difficult operating under the military government and so that had to be truncated. I came back and eventually I was elected the State Treasurer of the All Peoples Party, APP, and subsequently I decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and became the State Secretary of the party. My quest for further education took me to the Benue State University where I read Advanced Diploma in Personnel Management and thereafter was given admission again to do Masters in Public Administration. I succeeded and completed this in 2004 and also sought to further my education by also enrolling for another Masters in Development Studies. Eventually I was elected as the National Auditor of PDP and so I could not continue because it was a full time program so this took me to Abuja. In the course of my search for further education I found an online distant learning program from Commonwealth University, Belize and I was given admission to do PhD in Management with bias in Conflict Management. I did that and did my dissertation on The Impact of Conflict on Nigeria with a case study of Niger Delta crisis. I successfully concluded this in 2011 while I was working as the National Auditor of the party and today I am the Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Federal Republic of Nigeria. I think that’s who I am in a brief summary.
Yes and it tells us a whole lot about who the person Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom is and of course one thing I have learnt from your story this morning is a rise from grass to greatness.
And of course it means that it is a story that indicates that the common man can hope that you can be a driver at one moment and the other moment rise to whatever level you want to rise to.
I like talking about my story because it gives a lot of people inspiration. When they hear my story it gives them hope, it gives them inspiration that despite your little beginning, what is important is the end, just the like the Bible says. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning. It does not matter how little you take off, it is the end that matters. It is an encouragement to the younger generation to inspire them to know that despite the challenges we have today in our country, despite the difficulties that we may find ourselves, what is important is that we should not take into wayward life but we should look on to God. Like I said, my story had to change even when I dropped out of school and found myself in the motor park, what was important was that I knew God and then I had hope and I desired to succeed and I was determined and I had faith in God and today you can see me where I am.
You are currently a serving Minister in the country, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; what have you been able to draw to Benue with that office?
Let me say that I appreciate the management of Ashiwaves for this opportunity to talk to the people of Benue and I also appreciate you for the opportunity you are giving to the people of Benue through this medium. I appreciate you very much and I want to say that as a Minister I know that my constituency is not just Benue State. I have been a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but my immediate constituency is Benue State and for the three years I have served in the Federal Cabinet, I have been able to contribute to the economic growth of this country, and by extension to Benue State. Apart from facilitating and giving jobs to quite a number of Benue people, our responsibility in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment where I am serving is to create an enabling environment to stimulate and direct foreign investment into all sectors of the economy, facilitating trade in goods and services and maximizing the benefit of international trade through functional bi-lateral, multi-lateral trade relations with other countries; accelerating the growth of the industrial sector and enhancing productivity, fostering the development of SMEs as the engine room of economic growth. The role of the Ministry is to create an impact in all sectors of the economy. The vision of the ministry is to promote economic development, create jobs, generate wealth and we do this through policy, regulation, and facilitation framework. Before now, there was no ministry which focused mainly on investment climate and investment generation. You see what we do like I said is more of policy, regulation, and facilitation framework. So we may not have physical structures that one can see but we create the enabling environment for industries, for investments, for trade. And over these three years we have carried out investigation of the investment climate and we have also repositioned a number of things – policies of trade, industry and investment. We are trying to create an environment in which our industries can thrive because no country can make any impact on exporting its primary products. We identified this and we knew that the environment in Nigeria was very harsh for the industrial sector to succeed and so we have in conjunction with International Development Agencies and also stakeholders in the Nigeria Industrial Trade and Investment sector met and we have done quite a lot of re-engineering to ensure that we provide the environment that industries, trade and investments can thrive well for the benefit of our country. Today, one of the greatest challenges we have in our country is unemployment and I know that as a key operator in politics and government at the local government, state and federal levels, I know that it is impossible for government to provide all the jobs that are needed. Gone are the days when opportunities were waiting for graduates in the universities and even the polytechnics or colleges of education, gone are those days. Today, the number of people we have completely outweighs the number of jobs we have in government and so the only way that we can curb unemployment is for us to encourage the organized private sector or individuals who have the creativity, who have knowledge, who have the ability to boost industry, trade and investment. This will bring multiple opportunities to our country, it will create jobs, it will create opportunities, and it will generate wealth and several other benefits that will come as a result of us learning not to just to export crude oil or other primary products that God has endowed us with in this country. And so emphasis is on how we can get moribund industries working, how we can attract new industries to take care of primary products, areas where we have comparative and competitive advantages, how we can do this to create jobs and impact on the economic development of our country. And this is what we’ve been doing and so far we have succeeded in getting the approval of the Federal Executive Council on the auto policy, on the Industrial Revolution Plan for the country, sugar policy and several other policies that we are undertaking to ensure that we re-engineer them and position them in a manner that the private sector can take advantage. Government is no longer willing to be the sole participator in developing the economy because today international best practice is that the private sector is given the enabling environment and government facilitates and provides the enabling environment and then regulates to ensure that the private sector is not exploiting the masses. This is what we are doing precisely. So this is about policy, it’s about monitoring and ensuring that these things work out. So many times I have encouraged Benue people to take advantage of what we are doing. I know that we are disadvantaged here but with continuous monitoring, continuous education, continuous advocacy, people will take the advantage that we are providing now. So far a lot of Nigerians have taken advantage. The auto policy is now working. You can see that already, May 29th this year, Mr. President launched Nissan products that were certified by Nissan Japan that are fit to be used in Nigeria and elsewhere and can be even exported and so we are producing this year. Hyundai are going to roll out their new products by the end of August. Peugeot automobile have already concluded plans to commence work on the new plant that they have set up. These are coming up as a result of our new policy in the auto industry and several other companies have indicated interest. Mr. President is just coming from America and Ford also indicated their interest to come and also set up an assembly plant here. I can assure you that all these we are doing, once these industries begin to work, once there are commercial activities that are going on and once investments are coming in, I can assure you that massive job opportunities will be created for our dear country and Benue State of course. But I want to say that Benue people should not sit back and watch. This is an opportunity that is being created for them; they must arise and take up the opportunities that are available to them. While they cannot be industrialists themselves, they should be able to participate in one way or the other. Maybe by supplying something and this cannot be done always because the opportunities are very few but it will require the desire, the determination and faith to achieve results. I can assure them that that they are just like every other Nigerian, they are not different from those Nigerians in Lagos, in Kano, in Rivers State or elsewhere, they are not different, and we can work together and achieve results.
You talked about what your office as Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment has been doing for Nigeria and Benue State. Let us bring it closer to you now; it’s so important you give back. So what have you been doing?
Like I said this is my primary constituency, Benue State and I have been here, I know that one day I will still come back here. I’m a Minister today, one day I will not be Minister I will come back here. But I tell you, right from the day I started working in the motor park, I started making my contribution, positive contribution to the society, to Benue State and I have always had it in mind that because I went through very rough times, there were times in my life that I slept without food, I know others are going through the same thing today. So my focus has been what can I do to pay back to the society where I am today? Even before I became Minister, I had this on my mind and that was what led me to establish Oracle Business Limited. Today it is a conglomerate; apart from where we started, the printing and publishing, we have moved to agro-based industries. We are producing feeds for fish and poultry, we are producing shear butter from shear nuts, we are producing water, both bottled and sachet water, we are also producing poly bags for Benue people. An interesting trend is that this has afforded us the opportunity to provide jobs. Today as I speak to you we have provided over 400 jobs and of course we are into commercial agriculture, we are doing mechanized farming and by the grace of God we have provided 400 jobs and people are working. One thing I must confess is that we are not making the desired profit that a business man will make but the interesting thing is that we have been able to put food on the tables of Benue people. You can imagine if these 400 people were on the streets of Benue today I can assure you that some of them would be robbers, some of them would be a nuisance to the society. So in as much as we are not making profit due to the harsh environment that we have found ourselves in, the infrastructural deficit in running business and several other disadvantages that we have all over in Benue State, we are hoping that these things will improve because of the efforts of the Federal Government which is putting in based on the new policy of industrial development that we have put in place and the efforts of the state government that is putting in. We believe that the environment will improve and then we can make profit. But it is interesting that this has provided opportunity for Nigerians. But one other thing we have done in community development in Benue State is that we have been able to float an NGO that is able to separate the help ministry from the business in order to be able to support the business because we believe that not everyone is opportuned to be where I am today and so whatever I get, it’s important to give back to the society. For instance our NGO has floated a driving school and we have graduated quite a number of young men who are now professional drivers who instead of just flowing about without hope today they are professional drivers. And one thing I can assure you is that, yes, today there are drivers on the street but to get a good driver is something hard but in our curriculum we have introduced the aspect of training our drivers to be God fearing, before one graduates, he is able to imbibe the fear of God and we give thorough training in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Commission. So we have graduated about ten sets since we started and the thing is going on well. The other aspect is that we have been able to retain St. Theresa’s hospital and also Rahama hospital both in Makurdi where we treat people who are bitten by snakes especially those who cannot afford to pay the bills. It is very expensive to treat snake bites especially species like puff adder and viper. You know that there are some situations where we spend five to six hundred thousand naira on one single case for one to be cured of snake bite and so this is what we have been doing and so far we have been able to save quite a number of lives and of course our people are peasant farmers. Most of them, they have what we call hernia and these two, most of them cannot take care of themselves, we are able to fund the bills for them through these two hospitals. We have been able to take care of scholarships for quite a number of indigent students who went through the same way that I went when I was coming up in trying to train myself. And so we have been taking care of quite a number of students who cannot afford the fees, we pay their scholarship and do quite a number of other things for them. We know that we are farmers and we have done quite a number of things within my immediate community to encourage our people instead of idling away, to do farm work by provision of seedlings and also by facilitating their mechanized farming. So we have been able to give back reasonably to the society based on what we have, our limited resources.
If you’re just joining us, it is The Manifesto, a live phone-in political program and this morning our guest is Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom. We always want to ask this question as our stepping stone to what we actually have on the program for this morning. It is a fact that there is a standing government in place at the moment, the government of His Excellency, Governor Gabriel Suswam. If by God’s grace you become Governor of Benue State, you will be taking over from him. So what is your general assessment of his administration?
Let me tell you that I want to thank God for our current Governor, Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam. He is not just my friend, he is my leader and I appreciate him. I believe that leadership comes from God and I contributed to producing him as Governor in 2007 and also worked very hard for him to be reelected Governor in 2011. The truth is that if I had my way and if we had the opportunity, if we had a third term and he had the opportunity for a third term, I would have supported him. My assessment is that he has done very well despite the distraction in Benue State; the culture we know as pull him down. I know the battle that he has fought over the years but I thank God for the achievements he has recorded in infrastructure, in maintenance of peace, trying to keep people together, trying to unite them, and trying to help them develop themselves. I deeply appreciate him, he has done very well.
We will like to know what your political ambition come 2015 is. We have heard, yes, but we want to hear it from yourself this morning and of course your agenda for the good people of Benue State.
I want to say that I am making myself available to the people of Benue State to assess. I know that as a Christian, John 3:27 says “a man can receive nothing except it is given to him from above.” So I believe that it is God that crowns. But at the same time the Bible says, ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened and seek, you will find. I have done the other two, what I’m doing now is seeking. I’m seeking the required blessings of God in collaboration with the people and so I believe that I’m the best material for the Governor of Benue State come 2015 because God has given me the opportunity to work at the local government, at the state and at the federal levels and so I have the connections, I have the experience, I have the knowledge, I have the wherewithal to work as Governor of Benue State because issues of local, state and federal governments will not be alien to me because I have acquired the knowledge and I know the people. In our Nigeria of today you need people with the capacity. You have seen what our Governor is doing and I have commended him because he had that national exposure and today he is able to bring it to bear on governance in Benue State. The truth is that if we hadn’t had a Governor like Dr. Gabriel Suswam, the battles he went through these years, we wouldn’t have been where we are; we wouldn’t have been peaceful, we wouldn’t have recorded any meaningful development and so you need someone with that kind of exposure to be able to do it. The second thing is that I’m experienced in politics. I have done it at the local, state and federal levels so I have been able to contend with all the challenges that come to a politician. I want Benue people to assess me based on this. The third thing is that I have contributed to the economic development of this state through my establishment, through my philanthropy and I believe that Benue people will give me favorable consideration. Above all, I want to say that I’m a child of God, I fear God and if given the opportunity, I’ll rule with the fear of God. When you have the fear of God, the Bible says, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. What we are passing through in Nigeria today, we need the fear of God to add with our own wisdom to be able to contend with the challenges. So the fear of God will usher in truthfulness, transparency, equity, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, accountability and then when you have all these values in place, I can assure you there will be unity, there will be reconciliation, and we will work together and I can assure you that we will have no choice than to develop Benue State together. For me, as someone who has passed through all these tiers of government I’m quite familiar and I know the challenges that we have in Benue State today. I tell you that poverty, ignorance and disease are the most notorious but we can surmount these when we come together, when we work as a team. So as the Governor of Benue State, I will ensure that I will take from where Suswam will stop. I will make sure that I add value all sectors of the economy. But priority will be given to industrialization, priority will be given to trading, priority will be given to issues of investment. We shall industrialize and we’ll do it in various segments. We’ll introduce Small and Medium Enterprises, SME’s; we’ll introduce medium scale industries and large industries. Some of these SMEs can do these things to finished products or as raw materials for other industries to complete the process. Then we’ll encourage massive commercial activities to go on in the state, we’ll also encourage investments to come because we cannot do development alone, we need people from other parts of the country to come, we need people from other parts of the world to come here. I’ve travelled wide and near. I’ve gone to Asia during these three years of as Minister, to Europe, to America and there are massive opportunities for investment once government is able to provide the enabling environment. That’s how we’ll do it. And so this will bring multiple benefits to the state. It’ll create jobs, it’ll create opportunities, it’ll create wealth, and it’ll create so many things that will be of benefit to the people of Benue State. This is why I’m seeking to be Governor. But like I said, power belongs to God and He giveth it to whosoever He wills.
This is a phone-in program and so you have the opportunity to be part of the program this morning. The number is 08100644644. It looks like we have a born orator in the house today who keeps giving us the right answers to our questions this morning. But let’s see who is on the line. Okay we lost that caller; the number to call is 08100644644. Oh my goodness, it looks like everyone is afraid of the Minister this morning. But I know so many people still want to ask you questions. So just keep those questions and comments while we ask the Minister one more question, your comment on the allegation of romancing with opposition party in the state.
These are people who I say that they are completely ignorant about what politics is and about what political parties are. I know that political parties are mere platforms for people to attain to power and once that is done we should reunite and emphasize on developing the state. It’s not all about political parties. Politics should not be a profession for people to be there, we should focus on development and when you talk about I’m in PDP and so I shouldn’t talk to someone in APC or whatever, that shouldn’t be. Once we struggle to get power through the platform of a political party and achieve that we should leave that aside and work towards developing the state. In any case, I’m in PDP and I’ve never worked against my party and I’ll not do that because I have been Secretary, Deputy Chairman, and National Auditor and today a Minister. I’m a Minister on the platform of the PDP and there is no way I’ll work against my party for the benefit of another person or party. I’m working with my leader, the Governor of Benue State who has been of immense help to my life. The business today that I’ve established was through his generous contribution to me. In fact for the first time in the history of my life, holding two million naira which was my own was courtesy of the Governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam, while he was at the National Assembly. That was what facilitated me to push the business to where it is today. Whatever I’ve gotten, my Deputy Chairman, he single-handedly struggled and fought for me to be Deputy Chairman of the party. National Auditor was zoned to Kogi State, he went there and took it back to Benue State and gave it to me. These are things that I cannot forget in a hurry that the party has done for me. Today, I’m a minister, it was the Governor that facilitated my being minister. What am I looking for in any opposition party? But I want people to know that I’m a Christian. I’m a peace-loving child of God who believes in peace because “blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called children of God.” And so I’m working towards harmonizing people. If I have my way I will prefer to unite the entire people of Benue State rather than pulling them apart. It is said that divided we fall, united we stand. We are better off being united together as a people; it will be better for us and for posterity.
Caller: I’m Hon Aondowase from Tyogbenda Udende. I’ll like the Honorable Minister to continue with his ambition to govern the people of the state. He should continue with the fear of God because our country Nigeria is filled with people who lack the fear of God. But he has the fear of God and if he continues definitely the problem of unemployment will come to be a thing of the past.
Tarkaa: Thank you so much for calling on the program. Okay let’s see if we can take another caller.
Caller: I’m calling from Logo Local Government, my name is Mrs. Ukoso. I want to ask the Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment a question. He has served in many positions and has accumulated a lot of wealth. I want to ask the reason why he is not contented with the current position he is holding and what he has.
Tarkaa: I get your question, thank you for calling. So why are you not okay with just being a Minister?
Life is a struggle that you continue to attain to higher heights. I’ve been a Minister for three years and I’ve enumerated the achievements that we have recorded in that Ministry and I feel that I’ve completed my assignment and that is why I’m looking for a higher position in which to serve better. In the Bible we are told that if you are able to make good use of the little talent you have you can be promoted to do more. That is why I’m looking for an opportunity to serve my state and my country Nigeria.
There is one more allegation we need you to clear. The allegation that you were collecting money from Federal Agencies of the Aviation Ministry to finance you gubernatorial bid in Benue State.
If you know me, and of course the people of Benue State and Nigeria know me that I’m a Christian and that the allegation is false. It is the same thing with the phrase in Benue State, pull him down. A petition was said to have been written by someone who is not known to Benue State, who is not known to Nigeria. An address was given in Niger State that I was collecting money and funding my campaign. That was one of them, there were four allegations. The second one was that I collected N100million from the Federal Government as flood money to give to the people of Benue State; and the third one was that I collected an agric loan of N50 million and that I’m not a farmer. The fourth one was that I collected vehicles from auto manufacturers and I branded them and I’m using them for my campaigns. All these allegations are completely false. They were meant to stain my name, to blackmail me and to intimidate me out of the governorship contest. I knew that it emanated from Benue State though the address was from Niger State but nobody came out to own it. I just saw the publication. They were false allegations meant to spoil my name and campaign. I’m not deterred by that. The Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. I challenged the petitioner that come out with those facts and tell me where I was collecting money. The agencies are there. As a Christian I cannot indulge in those kinds of acts to get money to fund my campaign. I believe that power belongs to God. The same God who inspired me to contest this election is the same God who is going to provide me with enough money to take care of my campaigns. Today, people are the ones campaigning for me. All the publicity materials you see round Benue State are done by people with their own money. Even as a Minister, because of the enthusiasm, because of the faith and hope that people have in what I’m doing, they are contributing money to me. I mean people have contributed vehicles on their own and those are the vehicles I have branded and they have offered to work for me. So it was false allegation. It has no basis and nobody has come out to own that petition up till now.
Let’s know your view on the current security situation in the country and Benue State quickly before we say goodbye on the program.
I want to say that security generally is not the responsibility of government alone. It’s the responsibility of all of us. We must join hands together with government to protect ourselves and property. The security agencies alone will not be able to cope until we synergize with them as a people. I appreciate the efforts of the government. As a government official myself I know that government is putting a lot of resources together to ensure that we curb the security challenges. But I believe that by the time some of these policies we are talking about begin to work, it will be minimized to the rarest minimum because today part of the security challenges we have is as a result of the huge unemployment deficit that we have. If we’re able to get people involved and employed it can go a long way in curbing this challenge. So I appreciate this but I also want to say that together we can team up with government policies and to large extent be able to curb some of the security challenges that we have.
I must say it has been a great time on The Manifesto this morning with Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment and also a gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State. It has been a pleasure talking to you this morning.
We are wishing you good luck; we’re hoping that when next we call you by God’s grace, His Excellency, to come back to the studio, you will grant us that privilege.
Amen and thank you so much.
Recorded on Saturday, 16th August, 2014; Katsina-Ala, 8am.