Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has said that governors of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) defecting to the All Progressives Congress(APC) are running away from prosecution after mismanaging public trust and resources. In this interview, he spoke on various issues.
You have come under attack recently in the media by some people who say your government has not achieved anything since you came on board in 2015. How would you respond to that?
In politics, you will always expect attack from your opponents. Even when there’s nothing to say, they will find a way to portray you as a bad person in order to generate discussion and try to castigate you and make you feel bad before the people. But I’ve always said I’ll not be distracted. I had the mandate in 2015, I had another one in 2019; my commitment is the renewed effort to ensure the dividends of democracy to the people. My stand against the injustice, unfairness and inequity that is going on by the Federal Government of Nigeria, headed by the presidency has orchestrated the renewed attack on me. They feel that they will send a narrative that will impact negatively on me, but I think that our people are wiser, more than what they think. And I’m more committed, even with the attacks, I’m more committed to ensuring that we have justice, without justice, there can be no peace in the land. And I’m more prepared, just like Martin Luther said; “if I keep quiet in the face of injustice, then I am worse than the people who perpetrate the injustice.” And I am not prepared to be part of that, my people require justice. I’m appealing and begging the presidency and those people who are not happy with the kinds of things I say to ensure that they give justice to my people. If they feel offended, I’m more offended than them and I will not be distracted by what they say. That alone will not make me to be silent. I will continue to say it as long as God gives me the strength and the spirit to continue in this life. I will continue to say that this presidency has murdered justice, murdered equity, have murdered fairness in this country. And that’s why you see various agitations. I don’t support what Kanu is doing, I don’t support what Igboho is doing, I don’t support it because I believe in the unity of our country Nigeria. It is the presidency that is promoting this unwanted agitation for the separation of this country. So the president should come out and give justice because he cannot deny that he is the president of this country. He is the leader of this country, he has the mandate of our people to govern at this time so everything rests on him. The Bible says that, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” If the head is not right, nothing will be right. So I am saying that Buhari should rise up; it’s not enough to raise your ministers, raise those who are working with you, raise those you have appointed to take crumbs from the table of the presidency and then insult patriotic people who want justice, equity and fairness for their people. If I don’t speak, who will speak? I was elected popularly by the people of Benue State in 2015 and in 2019. So, if I can’t speak who will speak for Benue people? So I stand committed even to the extent of those who are oppressed in other parts of the country that people cannot speak on their behalf; I speak for those oppressed people in this country. What is happening in Nigeria is not right, things are not going well; the President must arise. It should not be enough to raise people to insult me and to say things that are not warranted. If I did not perform in 2015, in 2019 my people wouldn’t have elected me. If I did not perform in 2019 to date, my people wouldn’t have continuously passed vote of confidence on me. Those people who are in Abuja and are paid and are eating crumbs with appointees of government, let them come to Benue State and issue press statements, let me see the reaction of the people in Benue. For me, I’m committed in delivering dividends of democracy. As I talk to you now, there are quite a number of projects to be commissioned and I am going to do that. I’ve commissioned some before and I’m still going to do it. And I think I will ask Mr President to come and commission some of my projects. I will also invite the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs to come here in Benue and commission in Benue so that they will appreciate and not continue to sponsor people to rant against me and my government.
There are growing concerns that your party, the PDP has become polarized and that is the reason why some governors are living the party. There are also said plans to remove the national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, how true is this?
You know in politics as defined by one of our greatest philosophers in our time, that politics is a game of interest; no permanent enemy, no permanent friend. People are free to defect to any political party for whatever reason that they find expedient. I was in PDP when things did not go down well with me, I defected to APC and I won election in 2015 and several other people were carried on my back as a result of my defecting to APC and they won.
In 2017, when things did not go well and I was defending my people and some people felt that I should not defend my own people, I defected back to PDP and also won election. So I have no issue with those defecting here and there. But the only challenge is that, let those people come clean because you heard the former National Chairman of APC say that when you defect to APC, you will become a saint; even if you are a devil, you will become a saint. And so people who have mismanaged themselves and mismanaged public property are afraid. And that’s the instrument that the Federal Government is using on our people. They came to me and I said no, I have no skeleton. Let them bring it out. If you don’t do well, I will take you to court and we dig it out there. You have also heard about a minister in the federal republic of Nigeria, current minister serving today who has embezzled a lot of money and bought an estate for $37million and $20million was recovered from her house. And up till today, we have been calling on the presidency to expose that Minister and let there be justice. But have you heard anything from the presidency?
And even the EFCC, I want to challenge the EFCC Chairman, he is a young man, he should stand on his integrity and what he told us when he was confirmed.
Let there be justice, equity and fairness. He should unearth that Minister; it is not enough to say a serving Minister. Let him come out to tell us who that Minister is and how far he is going about the investigation. We have heard about several former Governors who were being prosecuted by the EFCC but today because they are in the APC, everything is silent.
What kind of justice are you talking about in this country? What kind of integrity is the presidency talking about?
The presidency should come out and tell us if his hands are clean. He that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Where are the Mr. President’s clean hands in this matter that we are talking about? How can you be accommodating people who are perceived to have criminal tendencies in your government and you tell me that nothing is happening. It is not fair. This is not the Nigeria we bargained for. This is not what Mr. President stood for in 2015 that prompted Nigerians to vote for him. It shouldn’t be a matter of trying to hide the sacred cows and then castigating people. Somebody stole a chicken, he is arrested by the EFCC and jailed but somebody stole billions and because he is in the APC you allow him. Posterity will not forgive Mr. President if he continues in this manner.
I want to say that there is God. There is God and I want to tell Mr. President that there is God. One day when the day of reckoning comes, God himself will give judgment and then we shall know.
The name Samuel Ortom has become a household name because you do not hesitate to speak out on issues that affect the generality of Nigerians. At the end of your tenure in 2023, what do we expect from Governor Ortom.
Well, after 2023, I have told you that for me as a human being, I am prepared to go back to my farm. Thank God I’m one of the biggest farmers we have here in Benue and indeed the North Central zone. I have been doing that since the year 2000. I am grateful to God and if nothing happens, I will go back to my farm. But I tell you, the Bible says that as many that are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God. So God has not spoken about the future. I told you long ago that God spoke to me in 1992 that I will be Governor and in 2012, about 20 years after, God said that it would be 2015. And by the grace of God with all the challenges, I became Governor. And in 2017, when things became difficult for me, I opted not to contest for second term, and decided I was going back to my farm. But that night, God told me ‘I’m not done with you, you have not committed any offence; I will still be with you and give you victory.’ And by the grace of God, we all saw it and how it went. There was federal might, inconclusive elections and all those were not able to stop me. And by the grace of God, I am governor today.
Credit: Daily Sun