A Toast to Governor Ortom at 56

Governor Samuel Ioraernyi Ortom, who was born on 23rd April, 1961 hails from Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.

 

 

 

He was enrolled into the St. John’s Primary School, Gboko in 1970 but moved to St. Catherine’s Primary School, Makurdi in 1974 where he completed primary education in 1976.

Governor Ortom was admitted into Idah Secondary Commercial College, Idah in Kogi State in 1976. He did two years in the school before his father’s retirement in 1979 brought an abrupt end to his dream of completing formal secondary school education on account of inability to pay school fees. 

Shortly before this happened, he had given his life to Jesus Christ.

However, instead of idling away at home to mourn his fate he girded his loins and got into the Gboko motor park as a tout.

It was in the park that a Good Samaritan taught him how to drive because of his honesty and dedication to duty. Another helped him to obtain a drivers’ license and soon after he became employed as a professional driver.

On recommendation he became the driver and confidant of a prominent Gboko-based Christian leader and politician, the late Pa Samu Ihur.

One day after close of work he hung around voluntarily in the house of his boss waiting, in his usual manner, whether his services might still be required.

That wait opened a chapter in his life that has contributed greatly in raising him up to his present status.

While sitting on a bench outside the house the wind blew a piece of paper which was an advert for enrolment into the National School of Salesmanship, Manchester, towards him.

He picked it, read, and decided to enroll for it by correspondence, thus launching himself into the world of acquiring knowledge and certificates by correspondence.

In this manner he obtained the General Certificate of Education, GCE as well as Diploma in Salesmanship.

Governor Ortom enrolled at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and obtained both the Interim Joint Matriculation Board Certificate, in 1995 and Diploma in Journalism in 1998.

He also attended the Benue State University where he obtained the Advanced Diploma in Personnel Management in 2001 as well as Master of Public Administration in 2004.

The Governor crowned his educational pursuit with a Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D, from the Commonwealth University, Belize, through distant learning.

His working experience spans the private, public as well as political spheres.

He rose from Salesman to Sales Manager with Gyado Foods Co. Limited, before his election as Executive Chairman of Guma Local Government Area from 1991 to 1993 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

In the political sphere he has been State Publicity Secretary of the National Centre Party of Nigeria, NCPN; State Treasurer of the All Peoples Party, APP; and State Secretary as well as Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, all in Benue State.

Governor Ortom was also Director of Operations of the PDP gubernatorial campaign in Benue State in 2007 and Director of Administration and Logistics of the Goodluck and Sambo Presidential Campaign Organization in 2011.

He was PDP National Auditor before his appointment as Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in July 2011.

Governor Ortom was proprietor and chairman, Oracle Business Limited the firm that owns Goshen Water which produces bottled and sachet water; Oracle Oil Mills, Oracle Printing Press, as well as Oracle Farms Limited which handles mechanized farming and animal husbandry.

The Oracle Business Limited acquired the moribund Benue State Government’s Plastics company and has sunk N1 billion from bank loans into turning it around. The company is into polythene extraction as well as making of sanitary wares, plastics products, sachet water, packaging and polythene bags.

He was also chairman, Capital Prints Limited which handles commercial printing, publishing and documentation as well as chairman, Achive Engineering Limited which is into civil and mechanical construction.

These companies have offered employment to hundreds.

Dr Ortom was National President, Independent Print-Media Publishers Association of Nigeria, IPPAN, and at the moment is the patron of the association.

He was appointed chairman of the governing council of the Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, where he served with commitment and dedication.

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of his humaneness lies in the establishment of Oracle Business Limited Foundation which handles redemptive, restorative and empowerment services.

Under the Foundation Governor Ortom has set aside funds at St. Theresa’s Hospital, Makurdi and Rahama Hospital, Gboko Road, Makurdi for treatment of hernia and snakebites free of charge to the patients.

Through the Foundation, he reached out to prison inmates, preaching Christ as well as offering love and care while paying the fines of many who couldn’t.

Another outreach of his has been the Oracle Driving School which turns out qualified drivers on a regular basis.

The former  Minister is a recipient of several awards including Best Performing Local Government Chairman, 1992; those of the Nigeria Union of Teachers and Nigeria Labour Congress in Benue State as well as Selfless Service Award by the National Union of Benue State Students, University of Calabar.

He was also given special recognition by the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers at the national level.

As Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, he contributed immensely in the attraction of huge investments into Nigeria and facilitated the employment of hundreds.

His additional responsibility of Supervising Aviation Minister witnessed increased supervision of projects in the aviation sector.

A dedicated Christian, Governor Ortom is a widely travelled man who has visited several countries in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Married with 11 children and nine grand children his hobbies include badminton, reading, philanthropy, farming, aerobics and evangelism.

His story which he told before the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday, 6th July, 2011 was so moving that he was asked to take a bow and go.

Senators were stirred by an account of his background as a school dropout, a motor park tout and one who struggled to attain education through very difficult means.

After running through his curriculum vitae, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, moved a motion, asking the Senate to allow him to take a bow without further questions because of his sincerity in uncovering his background.
Senators described him as a veritable bridge between the poor and the rich.

He resigned as Minister of State, Industry,Trade and Investment in October, 2014 to contest for Governor of Benue State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

When he couldn't clinch the PDP ticket he switched over and picked that of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and won the governorship election in Benue State on 11th April, 2015.

In spite of the difficult circumstances and deliberate booby traps in which his administration found itself it has recorded major milestones. 

On his inauguration day the Governor announced an amnesty program using first the carrot approach which led to surrender and destruction of over 600 sophisticated arms and ammunition leading to the reduction of crime in the state with over 900 youths embracing the program. 

The second phase which is the stick is currently in vogue with major successes being recorded. Security committees involving all the major stakeholders including farmers and herders have been set up at the state, local government, ward and kindred levels while support has been given to the Civilian Police Joint Task Force and the vigilant group to complement the efforts of the conventional security apparatus of state. These committees have the responsibility of tackling security threats at the various levels.

Meanwhile, Governor Ortom has ensured sustained engagement with the Presidency, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Inspector General of Police to ensure deployments to flash points across the state. The State Security Council under his leadership has been proactive by holding joint meetings with neighboring Nasarawa and Taraba States and moving to troubled areas for on the spot assessment and peace meetings.

The initiatives have restored relative peace in the state although insecurity remains a challenge in some local government areas following violence between herdsmen and farmers as well as criminal gangs.

Governor Ortom believes that the permanent solution to the farmers and herders violence is ranching while that of criminal gang activities remains the arrest and prosecution of the criminals particularly their leader, Mr Terwase Akwaza, Ghana on whose head a reward of N10 million has been offered to anyone who has information that would lead to his arrest.

Joint Security operations for his arrest are currently being carried out. 

The Benue State University was under lock and key and medical students at the institution stagnated for upward of 12 years when Governor Ortom took over. He ensured it's reopening, paid accreditation requirements that have led to the graduation of four sets of a total of 152 medical doctors in quick succession. 

Academic activities at the institution have remained interrupted since the beginning of the Ortom administration that has also increased its carrying capacity, secured accreditation of seven major courses and has paid salaries up to date. Even the salaries of staff of the Technical College at the University whose salaries were not paid for five years have had the situation rectified.

The Schools of Nursing and Midwifery in Makurdi which lost accreditation for several years under the previous regime have regained same with their reconstruction, furnishing and provision with state of the art equipment. Admission of students has resumed at both schools.

In the same vein primary school teachers were on a prolonged strike over non implementation of the minimum wage when the Ortom administration was inaugurated. He convinced them to call off the strike, commenced the payment of the minimum wage to them and they have been in class in the last two years.

Moreover, there is ongoing facelift for primary schools with 740 projects being executed across the state.

There has also been a major intervention in the health sector with the completion of 42 Primary Health Care Centers most of them provided with boreholes across the state through partnership with the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGS have also constructed Skills Acquisition Centers and agro-processing factories across the state in addition to the provision of referral ambulances as well as classroom blocks and exercise books.

Contractors were recalled to site on 11 abandoned roads with the completion of that of Oshigbudu to Obagaji,  contract has been awarded for the construction of two major highways for which work is ongoing in addition to six new ones for which work will soon commence.

This is in addition to 32 ongoing rural road construction and electrification projects being carried by the Bureau of Rural Development and Cooperatives which is also completing similar projects left behind by the previous administration.

The old House of Assembly Complex has been rehabilitated while the new one is being completed just like the Deputy Governor's Office, with the completion of renovation on 13 units at the Commissioners Quarters, that of the VIP Lodge at Gboko which serves as Tor Tiv's temporary residence and several other renovations like that which is ongoing at the Government Girls Secondary School, Makurdi as well as the Ministry of Justice headquarters, to mention a few.

In the water sector more than 500 boreholes have been provided in partnership with development partners while contractors are being paid to sustain water supply in Otukpo and Katsina-Ala.

The Ortom administration has increased advocacy for a return to agriculture and the development of the entire value chain with major stakeholders while encouraging dry season and mechanized farming with the provision of farming inputs promptly. New tractors acquired by the administration will soon arrive the state.

The transparency and accountability posture of the administration is unequalled as it abides by full disclosure and the rule of law. No one, no matter how highly placed, is above investigation in his government. 

It is noteworthy that the Ortom administration has not recorded any major labor unrest as a result of the involvement of labor leaders in the disbursement of funds that accrue to state.

However, one of the major challenges of the administration remains the irregular payment of salaries as a result of dwindling resources at the disposal of the state government and the huge wage bill.

Yet the Governor has demonstrated sensitivity on the issue by making the payment of salaries a priority. On assumption of office he directed the payment of two months salary arrears from the N10 billion take off facility he secured for take-off.

He also implemented the minimum wage for teachers and paid four months salary arrears to workers from the N28 billion bailout. Last December, he paid salary areas for two months from the Paris Club refund. Every month, salaries and pensions are being paid to one category of workers or the other just that the allocation has never been enough for all.

Governor Ortom is making concerted efforts to reduce the states wage bill through several salary verification exercises and the deployment of Information and Communication Technology best practices and exploring solutions to the salary and other challenges.

A man who always wins against the odds Governor Ortom believes that "though the giants may be on the way to hinder, God will surely give us victory."