<<< By Terver Akase >>>
Governor Samuel Ortom became the first governorship candidate of an opposition party in Benue State to defeat the candidate of the ruling party. As his victory was received, celebrated and he was settling down for the business of governance, so did a monster rise from the dark corners of the state to stage a vociferous campaign of falsehood to discredit anything and everything his administration would do. The campaign of lies has been anchored by the main opposition party in the last one year and four months of the Ortom administration.
But the determination of the Governor and his team to do the right things has exposed each lie told about the government for what the falsehood is – a mere lie.
Below is a checklist of some instances of the victory of truth over falsehood in Benue State under the Ortom administration. The Short Lifespan of a Lie.
* Governor Ortom made a pronouncement in his inaugural address that he will cut down the number of commissioners and special advisers. The opposition quickly described the Governor’s statement as pretence, that it won’t happen. It came to pass that the size of the cabinet was reduced – from 17 commissioners to 13 and 28 advisers to 20.
* Governor Ortom also declared amnesty for armed persons. The opposition discredited the programme and doubted the number of weapons the government said it had recovered until last week when the armoury was open for the world to see the over 600 weapons of destruction.
* The Government said it inherited an empty and deficit treasury and the debt profile of the state as left by the previous administration was over N100 billion. Again, the opposition said this was a lie until records were published to confirm the position of government.
* The Governor promised to probe the previous administration. The opposition described him as ‘a toothless bulldog’ who could bark but not bite. When the Elizabeth Kpojime Commission of Inquiry was put in place, the noise died.
* The Ortom administration raised alarm that the previous administration had sold many assets of the state including its shares in major companies. The opposition denied and described this as a false claim until EFCC and other anti-graft agencies stepped in and the truth began to emanate with several arrrests of fraud suspects made in a bid to recover over N107 billion looted funds.
* Governor Ortom promised to run a transparent government where he will declare to the state the precise income and expenditure. He also promised to involve the labour unions in the disbursement of funds. The opposition again said the policy won’t be feasible. Today, the policy is in operation and labour unions are carried along every month. The people know precisely what comes into the coffers of the state and how the funds are utilized.
* The Governor introduced the anti-corruption mantra ‘If you chop money, money will chop you’, but the opposition brandished stories that he was paying lip service to the anti-graft war. When he asked his special adviser and political ally to resign following his indictment on alleged funds diversion, the opposition went mute again.
* The opposition published several false stories about the payment of backlog of salaries the previous administration left. The Ortom administration set up a verification panel to handle complaints by those who felt that they were shortchanged in the bailout payment. Three months later, the complaints faded away and the lies disappeared.
* The Ortom administration announced that it will mobilise contractors back to the sites of 11 roads abandoned by the Suswam administration in different parts of the state. The opposition came out and swiftly claimed that the previous administration completed all its road projects. Now that the contractors have actually gone back to site and evidence of work going on is published on daily basis, the denial and the lies have gone mute.
* Governor Ortom promised the state that under his administration, accreditation requirements of College of Health Sciences and BSU Teaching Hospital will be achieved and the first ever set of medical students will graduate from the university after 12 years of stagnation. The opposition again described this as a wild goose chase. The Governor’s promise was fulfilled and the BSU School of Health Sciences has now graduated four sets of medical students since the breakthrough.
* The Governor assured the people of the state that his administration will revive and reposition the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery to enable the institutions recover their lost accreditation. As usual, a number of opposition fingers rented the air calling the move a waste of resources. They said trying to resuscitate the two abandoned health institutions was tantamount to pouring water in a dry hole. In fact, they accused the Governor of looking for ways to enrich himself. But today, not only has the accreditation of the two schools been restored, world class facilities are in place for use.
* Governor Ortom again promised to start the process of construction and rehabilitation of primary and secondary schools which had been abandoned across the state. The government announced that it was collaborating with UBEC with N7.6 billion available for the projects. As it is in their DNA, the opposition waved aside the promise. Today, 740 primaries are being renovated in the 23 local government areas of Benue State while plans have been concluded to commence the facelift of 64 post-primary schools.
* The Governor promised to reform taxation and introduce Point of Sale, POS, devices for Internally Generated Revenue, IGR of the state. The opposition described the move as impossible and impracticable in Benue. The POS device was eventually launched and the pessimism from the opposition camp disappeared.
* The Ortom administration announced that it had made history as the first state in the country to meet requirements for accessing the 2015 Round of MDGs/SDGs Conditional Grants as well as the first state to mainstream the SDGs in the state development plan. The opposition again disputed the feat until Governor Ortom was invited to address one of the side events at the United Nations General Assembly in New York where his achievements in SDGs projects received global spotlight.
* The opposition also attempted to doubt the release of N500million for construction and equipping of laboratory at the Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev, and rehabilitation of Agric Training centres in Mbatie and Otobi until work commenced in the institutions.
* Also contended by the opposition were the decision of the State Government to evolve a new policy for procurement of fertilizer at 38% subsidised rate to farmers and the facilitation of N2 loan to farmers. The opposing voices lowered earlier this week when the Bank of Industry, BOI visited the state and signed the MOU for the agriculture loans.
* The Ortom administration released N100 million for 116 water projects in Oju, Tarka, Konshisha and Ogbadibo Local Government Areas under the Benue State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, BERWASSA
It also ensured the restoration of water supply in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala with the payment of N900 million to the contractors. These were described by the opposition as fiction until the projects indeed commenced.
* Governor Ortom promised to send a bill to the State House of Assembly for a law to prohibit open grazing of cattle in the state. The opposition went berserk with unfounded allegations that the Governor was only pretending. When the bill was indeed sent to the state legislature, the nay saying subsided.
* Similarly, the opposition said the state’s chieftaincy law won’t see the light of day. Now that the law has been passed, signed and new traditional rulers are soon to emerge, we no longer hear the voices of antagonism.
To be continued…