Ortom: A Leader Loved And Respected By Nationalists

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State
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By Ushahemba Nongu, Benue.

Across the length and breadth of Nigeria, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has continued to earn profound admiration from the country’s foremost nationalists for his courageous, firm and charismatic leadership as well as the foresightedness he brings to bear in advancing solutions to issues of national relevance.

Given the prime place Benue State occupies in Nigeria’s geographic configuration as the famed middle-belt which largely connects other geo-political zones of the nation, it is not surprising that Governor Ortom has emerged from Benue as a dogged pan Nigerian leader, who is known for his consistent voice of reason towards tackling the myriad of challenges threatening national unity and cohesion.

Many Nigerians have come to acknowledge Ortom as a man who sees tomorrow, taking cognisance of his futuristic and proactive approach to critical issues that are central to sustaining our social cohesion as citizens of this great country. Undoubtedly, Ortom has stood himself out as one of the most outspoken Governors in the times where many have given into conspiracy of silence for fear of losing political power and sustaining an unholy alliance with the government at the centre.

Governor Ortom has remained the crusader of justice for all, the justice the country desperately needs to correct the many decades of unending impunity, injustice, marginalization and subjugation that has put the nation in agony and travails which are testing our national life in all facets. That he has refused to give into political correctness for political survival stands him tall among the political class and other Nigerians.

As a voice of reason, Governor Ortom speaks from the vantage point of one who is genuinely concerned about the unity and progress of the country, and he has said a lot that were ignored but have come to pass as the country grapples with the dire consequences which arise everyday due to refusal to heed wise counsel in preference for callous emotions. Over the years, there has been congruence in what Nigerian patriots and nationalists have been saying concerning outstanding attributes that are a hallmark of Governor Ortom’s leadership models.

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka described Governor Ortom as a courageous and principled personality who stands for the rule of law in all situations, emphasising that he has enormous respect for the Governor. According to the eminent literary icon and statesman, “I want you to understand that I have enormous respect for your Governor. He (Ortom) is a man of courage, he stands for principles, and he stands for the rule of law.” Soyinka made the affirmation while speaking at a function in Makurdi, the Benue State capital on November 5, 2019.

The brave and large-hearted leadership disposition of Governor Ortom is equally not lost on Alhaji Sule Yayi, a former Deputy Governor of Benue State during the administration of then Governor Aper Aku. Alhaji Yayi acknowledged Governor Ortom as being “brave, straightforward and proactive just as Aku was.” For a man who was there at the formative stage of the State, Alhaji Yayi must have known and seen reasons in Governor Ortom’s approach to issues.

Like the circumstance of a prophet whose honour is more known outside his immediate community, in the far away South-South region of Nigeria, Elders and Chiefs of Eleme Kingdom in Rivers State had these profound words about Governor Ortom: “We have heard about your determination and love for your people in Benue. We want to encourage you to keep up the good work”, they declared when the Benue community hosted Governor Ortom in Port Harcourt on October 7, 2018.

Governor Ortom’s bold and courageous leadership models have become a reference point in Nigeria’s recent political history. In recognition of this, the African Newspapers of Nigeria, ANN Plc, publishers of the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper, ‘Nigerian Tribune’, on December 10, 2019 in Lagos, conferred a Platinum Award on Governor Ortom.

Established in 1949 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the ‘Nigerian Tribune’ clocked 70 years, and its publishers decided that for the first time in the newspaper’s illustrious history, some Nigerians among whom was Governor Ortom, should be celebrated and encouraged in their selfless service to humanity. The newspaper therefore presented to Governor Ortom, the 70th Anniversary/Platinum award for exhibiting “Uncommon Courage in Governance and Protection of Humanity.”

Daughter of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chairman, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo acknowledged that Governor Ortom demonstrated incredible zeal and sense of responsibility in the protection of lives and property of Benue people irrespective of ethnic compositions at a time some persons were playing politics with the carnage perpetrated in the State by marauding herdsmen.

Dr Awolowo noted in the letter nominating Governor Ortom for the award that “Your Excellency, you had a choice of consolidating your second term ambition in All Progressives Congress, APC by supporting the Federal Government on the issues of the herdsmen and the establishment of Ruga or cattle colonies in your state, but you chose humanity above political consideration and self-survival. You were vilified, but you persevered.”

In yet another recognition, DAAR Communications PLC, owners of Africa Independent Television, AIT and Raypower FM on January 20, 2019 gave Governor Ortom an award as “the most Outstanding Governor of the Year for his solidarity with Benue people against all odds.” The icing on the cake was the award presented to Governor Ortom by the International Human Rights Commission, IHRC, Geneva, Switzerland. It was the Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom award for his remarkable contribution towards peace and unity in 2019.

Recently, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who is Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF and APC Presidential aspirant acknowledged the notable contributions that Governor Ortom bring to bear in the NGF emphasising that Ortom is “a pillar of support towards justice, fairness and equity in Nigeria”, while Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and PDP Presidential aspirant, described Ortom as an “Elder brother who is an inspiration to most of his governor colleagues.”

Governor Ortom is no doubt redefining Benue’s place in national politics and has continually offered hope to the nation and for core nationalists who are aware of the agonies of our nationhood, Ortom is the man whose disposition is congruent that we must collectively salvage our fatherland from total collapse as our patriotic obligation.

Nongu, Senior Special Assistant to the Benue State Governor on Media writes from Makurdi.

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