SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM AT THE FLAG OFF OF THE PDP CAMPAIGN IN BENUE STATE HELD AT IBB SQUARE MAKURDI, ON 31ST DECEMBER, 2018.
About four years ago, in this same arena, I addressed you the good people of Benue State. I shared with you my intention to contest for the governorship of Benue State. I requested you to vote for me and you overwhelmingly did. In May 2015, we also gathered here when I was sworn-in as the fifth democratically elected Governor of Benue State.
- Once again, thank you for the confidence you have in me. I was voted on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) because my party refused to allow the will of God, and voice of the people to prevail. But people who are meant to be together will always find their way back. They may take a few detours, but are never lost, I stand here today under the platform of the party that is a pathway; the party that has created and given birth to modern Nigeria. My authentic party – the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. This party has repented, apologized and has been rebranded.
- You may wish to be reminded that our government has focused on five cardinal pillars for good governance. We challenged ourselves with lofty targets enshrined in our working document “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue”. The project of building a new Benue, which is still ongoing is guided by five areas which we have targeted. These are:
(i) Good governance and Revenue Security;
(ii) Agriculture Driven Industrialization;
(iii) STEAM-Based Education, Health Services;
(v) Investment in critical Infrastructure; and
(v) Gender, Women, Youth, Sports and People with Disabilities.
- Today, as we stand on the threshold of history to seek the renewal of our mandate – on a different and better platform – it is important to account for the mandate earlier given, as a basis for its renewal that we seek in the forthcoming elections. While it is on record that we secured the endorsement of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2019 general elections, as sole governorship candidate, we had to abandon that platform in search of one that offers more accommodation and support for our policies, especially the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017.
- The Benue masses on whose behalf and on whose behest the Ranching Law was passed and signed into law by our administration, are witnesses to various attempts by highly placed officials in the APC-led Federal Government to frustrate an imperative legislation aimed at finding lasting peace between farmers and herders in our State. It became pertinent to make a bold political decision on the choice of platform that would not compromise our stance on a matter so key to the Benue people. That platform became very easily the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We assure the Benue people that, on this platform, our law will not be compromised and that in due course the benefits of ranching shall be felt by all. This is the platform on which we seek the renewal of our mandate. No one will bend us as far as the Ranching Law is concerned because we draw consent and sustained support from the Benue people.
- As we approach next year’s polls, we must commit to voting to keep Benue in the hands of the Benue people; we must pay keen attention to the scenario that depicts the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. We must be alert – for this election is about the soul of Benue people. Let us vote to keep our home for us and for our children; let us unite with one voice and reject all maneuvers aimed at putting Benue in the hands of individuals with questionable motives who would always pander to the whims of external interests. In this election, we must not empower men unwilling to give voice and recognition to our pains; we must not elevate those who will twist the true narratives of our misfortunes for favours. If we do, we would have lost the voice to tell the world our story. We would have lost a leadership that stands up for us. A Benue APC Senator is quoted to have said that Benue killings are done by Benue people. This was said to gain cheap favours from the constituency of the real killers. It was said by an individual who may have lost focus and hope.
- In this election, we must take our stance on all those who kept quiet while the herdsmen attacked our villages, raped our women, and killed our children and fathers. Our Benue is our home. We must guard it jealously. We must build it passionately.
We must defend it fiercely. We must put it only in the hands of those who love Benue. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. I am totally investing my life in the task ahead because I love Benue. Benue State in my hands will witness stability and greatness. Ours will be service, ours will be development and ours will be collective defense of our fatherland. That is what makes us true Benue people.
- Some elements in the opposition parties are fond of spreading false and hate speech saying “Ortom has done nothing”. Those are liars. They are ignorant. They are mischievous. May be, they are deaf and blind, or induced by intoxicating substances.
- Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, given the circumstances of our economy, unwarranted aggression and attacks on Benue, let me submit that, our government has performed excellently. I may not be a genius, but I perfectly know what I wanted as a governor. I cannot lie to the people that trust me. Take this truth from me; my government has done well, and statistics don’t lie.
(1) In terms of Security, we declared an Amnesty programme which ensured the retrieval of hundreds of weapons and ammunition from criminals and their destruction in accordance with specifications of the United Nations in that regard.
- Peace returned. Markets reopened and are booming. Vehicles, gadgets and other logistic support to security agencies have been provided.
- The Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law 2017 has been a Star executive bill that has brought succor to farmers and herders who believe in the rule of law.
- The Law prohibiting kidnapping, Cultism and other related crimes has been signed, among several other necessary legislation.
(2) In terms of Education over 740 Primary School Projects in the 23 local government areas of the state are being executed with about 500 already competed.
- Over 16,000 primary and secondary school teachers have been trained.
- Secondary schools are being renovated including the Government Girls Secondary School, and Government College, in Makurdi
(3) We have put Benue State University, BSU and all institutions on good course. Quality Education has been restored. We have graduated over 70,000 university and polytechnic graduates.
- In terms of HEALTH We have graduated 175 doctors in five sets from the Benue State University Medical School.
- Schools of Nursing and Midwifery Makurdi, as well as College of Health Technology, Agasha, have been renovated and accredited with resumption of academic activities after admission of Students. The School of Nursing has also been affiliated to the Benue State University for award of degrees in Nursing.
- 42 Primary Health Care Centres have been built across the state by this administration.
- Procurement and supply of ambulances and essential drugs to Agatu, Gboko, Ohimini, Oju, Ushongo and Tarka LGAs.
(4) WATER & SANITATION
- Over 1000 water projects executed across the state.
- Water and Sanitation facilities provided in more than 50 communities of the State.
- We mobilised contractors back to site to complete 11
abandoned road projects including those at Zaki Biam – Afia, Taraku – Naka – Agagbe
- Today, we have completed some of the roads while others are at various stages of completion.
- We awarded contract for construction of new roads which include Mobile Police Barracks – Yaikyo – Apir road, and the Origbo – lmande – Akpu – Gbajimba road.
- We have improved agricultural productivity in the State
- Revived the Fertilizer Blending Plant
- Subsidized fertilizer in the past three years
- Built Agro Processing Factories in eight LGAs under SDGs.
- Made Agriculture as business to farmers increasing their income.
- Renovated critical facilities at Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev.
- Purchase of 50 tractors through the CBN facility for distribution to the 23 LGAs.
- Partnership with Nigeria Zero Hunger Forum and International agencies including IFAD. Benue hosted the first meeting of the forum.
(7) URBAN RENEWAL AND HOUSING
- We have renovated the old complex and completed the new Benue State House of Assembly complex and the Deputy Governor’s office.
- Facelift of many government institutions like Commissioners’ Quarters, Ministry of Justice, Government College Makurdi, Government Girls Secondary School, Makurdi and the Tor Tiv’s Temporary Residence.
- Additional units of Housing for workers at Owner Occupier Scheme in Makurdi.
(8) COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
- Plastic Industry has been revived and expanded.
- Several factories and investments have sprang up at the industrial layout in Makurdi as a response to the Public Private Partnership of the Ortom administration.
- Partnership with Bank of Industry and CBN to give loans at only 5% to Benue farmers and other industrialists. Our administration provided the Two Billion Naira counterpart fund for the project.
- 15 of the Executive bills which we initiated have been passed into law including the Ranching and Anti-Kidnapping and Cultism laws.
- We ensured that International Development Agencies that left the state have returned. UNDP is working with us. lFAD is helping greatly in our Agricultural Sector. World Bank is back. UNFPA, DFID, USAID, CRUDAN, Mercy Corps and several other bilateral and Multi-lateral agencies are back and working
with the Benue State Government to support social and economic development of the state.
(11) SKILL ACQUISITIONS
- We have provided opportunities for Skills Acquisition and Income Generation activities facilitated by agencies of government like Sustainable Development Goals Initiatives and the Industrial Training Fund in addition to three Entrepreneuship Development Centres in Ado, Guma and Makurdi.
(12) TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS/LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS
- We initiated an executive bill that led to the amended Chieftaincy Law that has been used in the appointment of Traditional Rulers across Benue State including the Tor Tiv.
- Traditional rulers are now prohibited from involvement in partisan politics
- We conducted free and fair Local Government elections and restored democratic leadership at the Local Government level.
(13) LABOUR RELATIONS
- Our relations with Labour and Unions have changed for good. We have not taken workers and their Union Leaders for granted.
(14) TACKLING SALARY CHALLENGES
- We have kept our promise to pay regular salaries from January this year and we are committed to continuing with the salary payment as and when due.
- I have directed that henceforth, all salary vouchers be prepared on or before the 21st of every month.
Funds are being sourced to pay outstanding arrears of salaries, gratuities, and pensions
(15) COST SAVING MEASURES
- Trimming of government size by reducing the number of Commissioners from 17 to 14 and Advisers from 28 to 20.
- Introduction of Point of Sale, POS machine for Revenue collection.
- Reduction of Local and International travels.
- All these are done in three and half years. How can anyone say Ortom has done nothing? Such a person must be courageous opposition member who is blind and possibly deaf. I am prepared to do more in the years ahead. But together with my team, we have done well. Vote for me again.
- Our Administration has remained committed to its core values which are anchored on the fear of God which explained our objective of dedicating the State to God. These include transparency, accountability, fairness, justice, humility, selflessness, discipline, integrity, integration, forgiveness, reconciliation, restitution, peace and unity. We believe that these values make change possible and development inevitable.
- Some people say I am “stubborn”. I am not stubborn. All I want is the good of my people. I was elected by my people to serve them, to develop and defend them. If the system is not working in their favour, I will partner with them to change it. I cannot abandon the people who overwhelmingly voted for me to be killed by herdsmen while I pursue personal interest. That will be callous and irresponsible. I will press on until the people are heard, their conditions are made better and their land restored. These are hard times, and there will be hard times. But hard times make us stronger and in hard times you really know your true friends. We only live once, but if we live right on the righteous side, once is enough. We need to stand up for something. I am standing for my people. I will do it boldly because the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. I am prepared to stop running to those who ignore us when we are in trouble and rather, run to those who love us and those who give us hope.
- Great people of Benue State, I love you not because I need you, but I need you because I love you. My confidence in the present task is renewed because I can feel the presence of God. I am emboldened because you, the Benue people are behind me. I am encouraged by the presence of the great Sons of Benue like Distinguished Senator David Bonaventure Mark, Distinguished Senator lyorchia Ayu and His Excellency Rt. Hon. Dr. Gabriel Torwua Suswam. I am greatly assured by the love and support of very distinguished sons of Benue who have graciously agreed to take this trip along with me all the way to the end. Thank you all. I was smelling victory but now I can see it.
- Let me assure you all that everything in Benue is going to be alright. Maybe not today, but eventually. Vote for me and all the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, from the Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as well as our entire National and State Assembly Candidates in the coming elections and you will not be disappointed.
- I appeal to you to re-elect me trusting that the financial and security challenges that hampered the realization of our lofty dreams for the state will change for the better. You will recall that our administration brought back contractors to site on several projects and initiated many new ones. All these require the renewal of my mandate so that I can work towards their completion. Having acquired the requisite experience I pledge to pursue our five point agenda with renewed vigor and determination.
- May I appreciate the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State, particularly the Chairman, Sir John Ngbede and all members of the State Working Committee, my fellow governorship aspirants whose support I treasure beyond words, as well as all our leaders at the various levels. I cherish the confidence reposed in me and promise to justify and discharge it creditably.
- Let me express my inestimable appreciation to the Almighty God, my beautiful wife, Dr. Eunice Ortom, who has always stood by me, day and night, my loyal and able Deputy, Engr. Benson Abounu, members of the State Executive and Security Councils, the Speaker and members of the State Assembly, as well as the Chief Judge of the State and the entire judiciary. The security agencies, traditional and religious leaders, academics, captains of industry, my lords spiritual and temporal as well as the entire people of the state deserve commendation for giving us the necessary support that has enabled us to survive the turbulence of our time.
- Thank you all
- God bless you
- In God we trust.