Chief Dr. Samuel Ortom, Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, is a governorship aspirant in Benue State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Himself a publisher, he hosted colleagues and journalists to a dinner at his Makurdi residence recently during which he declared his aspiration to them and also sought their support. Chief Dr. Ortom explains why he seeks to be Governor in a preamble at the interactive session. Excerpts:
Fear of God my guiding principle
I want to say that I’m not just interested in the governorship by coming out to seek for bread and butter. I’m really committed to give service to Benue State and to bring my experience to bear on the social, economic and political development of the state. Having served at the local government, state and at the federal levels, and having acquired enough experience I know that as Governor of Benue State I will add value to the development of the state. If given this opportunity I will serve and lead with the fear of God. The fear of God, as the Bible says, will give me wisdom and by extension I’ll serve the state with wisdom because the Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Where we are today in Nigeria, where we are in Benue State we need divine guidance, we need the wisdom of God to be able to cope with the challenges that are confronting us. The fear of God will translate to truthfulness, equity, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, accountability, reconciliation, goodwill, peace, and above all unity. If we have these in place I believe that together we can move Benue State ahead.
Adding value to all sectors
As Governor I’ll appreciate our past leaders especially the present Governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, who came with a lot of zeal and despite the challenges, despite the antagonism, despite the distraction, he’s been able to bring development to bear on the state. As Governor I’ll add value to all sectors of the economy taking over from where ever the present Governor will stop. I’ll continue from there because government is a continuous process. I’ll also seek to improve on all sectors of the economy. Moving forward and having had the experience at the local, state and federal levels I’m quite familiar with the terrain and I know the challenges that we’re facing today as a country and as a state.
Unemployment, the most notorious challenge
I know that there are many challenges but the most notorious one is the issue of unemployment. As we’re sitting here some of you are also affected. It’s either you’ve labored to train your brother or sister or your own children. Today they’ve graduated but they’re still depending on you. You go out on the streets and you’ll find a number of graduates that are in the labor market. Of course it’s also said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I believe that other challenges that we’re facing today like security if we were able to curb the issue of unemployment in the society we would have succeeded in reducing the security challenges that we are facing today in Benue and in Nigeria. Having also had the opportunity of working for the last three years as Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, and looking at the challenges we have and having the opportunity of touring the globe especially in America, Europe and Asia I’ve seen what is happening. For instance, China with a population of over a billion people is able to contain the issue of unemployment to a large extent. We need to learn from the example of China and do something that will add value to our state.
Industrialization is panacea to unemployment
For me as Governor of Benue State I will encourage industrialization that will add value to our primary products. It is said that any society, any state, any country, that depends on exporting its primary products is as well exporting jobs, exporting wealth, exporting opportunities, is exporting everything that ordinarily would have been utilized to the greatest benefits of its people. As Governor of Benue State I’ll ensure that we industrialize the state and identify those areas where we have comparative and competitive advantages and encourage industries in such areas. God has so blessed us in agriculture, in solid minerals and in several other ways. If we’re able to exploit these areas we’ll go a long way in helping our society. When we industrialize we shall be providing several opportunities to our people. We have seen that worldwide it is no longer a viable option for government to continue to thrive in the business of industries or commercial ventures because government is not able to do well in these areas and it cannot be encouraged to continue because it will be a waste. Our program will be to ensure that we encourage the private sector. We will encourage private corporate organizations, we’ll encourage private individuals, and we’ll encourage people with the will, with determination and creativity to go into processing industries so that we can add value on our primary products. Government will facilitate, government will create the enabling environment, and government will support the private sector. For some of you sitting here my intention is that while you’re doing your professional practice you’ll also have another opportunity of venturing into something that can provide extra resources for you to be able to cope with life. It will also provide opportunities for other people who are coming behind us to also be employed. I believe that if we do this it will go a long way in helping us.
Attraction of investment into the state
To follow up on this we shall ensure that we go outside of the state, outside of this country and source for investment to come into our state. I believe that we will be able to do that. A lot of countries, a lot of individuals and corporate organizations have huge resources but the raw materials, the land, the environment in their countries are not convenient for them to invest. So if you are able to provide an opportunity for people to invest they’ll come. From my experience in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, I know that once government is able to create the enabling environment, is able to guarantee a safe environment for these investors they’ll be willing to come and invest in our land.
Encouragement of commercial activities
Another thing will be to encourage commercial activities. Those who cannot set up these industries, those who cannot produce these primary products that can be processed will be encouraged to massively go into commercial activities so that they will be able to market what has been produced. These are measures that I think my government can take to curb unemployment. Like I said we’ll give attention to all sectors of the economy and we’ll ensure that where ever His Excellency, Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam will stop we’ll continue from there and add value.
But priority attention will be given to industries, will be given to commercialization, and will be given to issues of investment. I believe that within four years we should be able to do a turn around. This is a field in which I’m quite familiar. It is no longer news to you that the enterprises I had put in place are today generating more than 400 jobs for Nigerians in Benue State. Those people could have been on the streets of this state but we have taken them off the streets and you can imagine the multiplier effect of what we have done. You can imagine if we had one thousand people in Benue State who are able to do something similar or to even generate just two hundred jobs and when you multiply that you can imagine the number of people that would have been taken off the streets. I believe that together we can make it.
The people have given me go-ahead
I had the inspiration to do consultations round the state and I visited all the zones in the state and consulted with the people and they were unanimous that they need someone like me at this particular time. But for me to take a final decision I decided that I’ll call you together since this is my constituency and let me consult with you because you have extra eyes, you have extra ears. I have to receive your blessings. I know that the general misconception that people have about politicians is that they are all liars. By the grace of God we’re going to turn around that because I believe that politicians especially leaders should not be given to lying. They should rule with the fear of God and that should translate to truthfulness as I said. I shall always stand by the truth and the Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. I’ve consulted and the people have given me go-ahead. But I think that I must also consult with you because this is my constituency. You know what is happening because a lot of people have indicated interest and you have always been covering the activities of those who are aspiring and you are in a better position to at least give me an honest advice as to whether I should go in or not. But I want to assure you that it is well. The people have given me the nod.
Zoning and adoption by traditional rulers
When the Tiv people came together and said in their wisdom that the governorship should come to Minda and four people should be adopted one from each of the local governments in Minda, in my local government I was adopted to go ahead.
Power belongs to God
To me it is not a matter of life or death because I know that as a Christian I believe that power belongs to God. John 3: 27 says a man can receive nothing except it is given to him from above. Psalm 62 verse 11 says God has spoken, twice did I hear that power belongs to God. If you go to I Samuel 2 from verse five to nine it talks about the power and the sovereignty of the Almighty God. God can raise one up, He can pull another down, God can kill, and God can give life. God can raise someone from the dust, like me, God raised me as a drop out in form two, God raised me as a motor park tout, that is raising one from the dust to where I am today. I like that verse nine of that scripture which states that by strength shall no one prevail. I equally know Ecclesiastes 9: 11 that the battle is not for the swift nor for the strong nor the race for the fastest runner nor success for men of wisdom but victory belongs to God and he giveth it. I’m a living testimony of what God can do and I believe that it is only He that has the ultimate power although he passes through people. I know these things that is why I have told all those who are supporting me to never in the course of seeking for support for me, to fight, to make trouble or to quarrel or to be against any other person because at the end of the day God will decide who will take over from Governor Suswam. I want to thank you for coming and I want to say that as your member if you make me Governor we shall work together and by the grace of God I shall seek to improve, not just adding value to all sectors of the economy like I’ve said but I’ll also seek that we’ll take this our profession to a level that is better than where we are. I want to seek for your continuous prayers for me that God would see me to end of this journey.