SPEECH BY CHIEF DR SAMUEL ORTOM, BENUE STATE GOVERNOR- ELECT DURING A COURTESY VISIT TO PRESIDENT-ELECT, GEN MUHAMMADU BUHARI ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 13TH, 2015, IN ABUJA.
Mr. President-elect, Vice President-elect, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Your Excellency, we are here to bring you warm felicitations from the good people of Benue state. We congratulate you and the Vice President-elect, Prof Yemi Osinbanjo on your historic victory which is unique in the political development of Nigeria. Nigeria and indeed Benue state is excited by this victory.
We are happy that Benue state shares a long history of affinity with you, right from your service in the Nigerian Army as a Brigade Commander in the state. You are therefore not new to us and we are not new to you.
Mr President-elect, there is no doubt that your victory in the last presidential election was fueled by your strong conviction to serve Nigeria and the tenacity which you have exemplified through your aspiration to the office of the President of this country. We therefore admire this courage. Your staying power in the political struggle since 2003 is akin to the fighting spirit in every Benue person. This is indeed the same spirit that has led to the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to form the collective will and move Nigeria away from the decadence that pervaded in the last couple of years.
Your Excellency, permit me to touch on some key areas that are of great concern to us in Benue state.
Benue state is an agrarian state with vast potentials in agriculture. It is a huge base for economic growth when properly harnessed. It is in this light that we are truly encouraged and excited when you declared that your administration will shift focus from oil to agriculture. To us in Benue, this singular move and perhaps many more by your administration, would put the state on the fast lane of economic growth where jobs and wealth will be created for our people. It is a great show of commitment in reviving the hidden treasures of the North. We support this initiative completely.
Another critical issue is that of electricity generation and distribution: Your Excellency would recall that this sector is one that has suffered from inconsistent policy decisions to outright neglect. Like every other state, Benue needs a leap from the present decay in the sector to boost economic empowerment. We therefore need to put necessary infrastructure in place to guarantee steady power supply which would support the drive of my administration to create an enabling environment to support small, medium and large scale enterprises. Secondly, our industrialization policy which is in tandem with the APC manifesto would remain a mere dream if the power sector is not tackled quickly.
Mr President-elect, Vice President-elect, distinguished Nigerians, let me draw our attention to a very familiar threat to lives and property in this country. And that is insecurity. As we all know, no country or state can develop without security. When we live in peace, we can then put in place strategic plans to boost our economic development. We are all too familiar with the incessant clashes between pastoralists and farmers in many parts of the country. From Benue to Plateau, Taraba to Zamfara, Katsina and name it. Several communities have been sacked by these people whose business it has been to spill innocent blood. For us in Benue state, our people who are mostly farmers can not even afford to go to their farms any longer for the fear of these people. Our new government in Benue will be happy to partner with the federal government to bring this menace to an end as soon as possible.
River Benue is ripe for dredging. This accounted for earlier plans by successive governments’ plans to dredge the river which will in turn facilitate and boost inland port activities including a Makurdi River port. Your Excellency Sir, the dredging of River Benue will also elevtae the status of the Nigerian Naval Base in Makurdi. The operations of the Navy here will become more functional and add to the security cover around the state.
Sir, we would ordinarily not have bothered to shout on top of our voices on this matter if it had not occurred in the past. I talk of the relocation of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies within NASME, Makurdi to Abia state. Sometime in the past, we had watched helplessly as the Nigerian Tubers and Root Crops Board was relocated from Makurdi to Umudike also in the East. This should not happen again. We appeal to His Excellency to prevail on the authorities concerned to rescind the decision to relocate this school away from Benue state.
Youths and Unemployment:
Statistics show that more than 60 per cent of the Nigerian population are youths. Most of these young men and women are not gainfully employed. And this is one of the biggest dangers facing us as a nation. For us in Benue state, our strategy as we take over the reins of power is to encourage micro, small and medium enterprises as well as encourage increased trading and commercial activities. The core thrust of this deliberate policy is to eradicate ignorance, poverty and disease. With this, there will be jobs for the teeming youths as quickly as possible for us to enjoy peace. We therefore solicit the quick intervention of the federal government in addressing unemployment of the youths as a matter of urgency.
Ex Service Men:
His Excellency would recall the role played by Ex-Servicemen in keeping the unity of this country. Sadly, these patriots are often times ignored and left to die in penury. The situation where the ex service men go for months without their monthly pension calls for concern. We believe that in tackling corruption, this too should be looked into with a view to nipping it in the bud.
Your Excellency, Benue State has played important roles in the unity of this country at very critical times. We have also done tremendously well in both the national elections and governorship elections. It is therefore our hope that the state will be rewarded with placements of our people in federal MDAs in your administration.
Finally sir, I cannot afford to end this address without re-echoing the will and desires of our people for the candidature of our leader, Senator George Akume for the office of President of the Senate. In advanced democracies, leaders move up the ladder after exhibiting tremendous capabilities in their responsibilities. Senator Akume has shown more than enough of these qualities. It is under the leadership of this distinguished Nigerian that the APC grew in leaps and bounds within the North Central region. Today, we stand here to raise the destiny of this nation because of the contributions of this great leader. For us in Benue, we believe that this effort be recognized and the state rewarded with the position of President of the Senate.
God bless Your Excellency.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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