By Terver Akase
Those of you who follow former presidential aspirant and publisher of Ovation magazine, Chief Dele Momodu on his weekly articles tagged ‘The Pendulum’ would have noticed that the title of his article today is ‘Buhari and the Burden of Expectations’. As I read Momodu’s piece, my mind raced down to Benue State and I saw a similar scenario. I saw the same air of change envelope the state; a wind built around the man who is the torch-bearer of change at the moment in Benue, the APC governorship candidate, Dr Samuel Ortom.
In his piece, Momodu unknowingly wrote about the Benue situation where the people’s hopes and expectations have reached an all-time high following the reality of the crash of their aspirations; a sad reality foisted on them by the dearth of good governance in the state. I have chosen to replace the word ‘Burden’ in Momodu’s title with ‘Audacity’ because in Benue State, though the people have been dazed to a severe degree, their spirits remain strong and they are demanding as a matter of right that change be effected fele je. Despite the zero payment of salaries, the zero supply of fertiliser to farmers, the zero supply of potable water, the zero bursary allowances to students etc, the people are resolute in their hope that someday soon, things will take a new turn for the better.
Even a primary school child knows that Dr Ortom is the man to beat in the coming election. He is apparently the man who has the greater support and looks more likely to clinch the guber seat. And that is where the title of this piece takes roots. Ortom is carrying a basket full of Benue people’s expectations that things should get better soon in the state. I will expatiate on this shortly.
We will be pretending that all is well in our state. No, far from it. Benue is on the brink as we speak. The state is on the edge of a precipice. Governance has been grounded in the state. I won’t write about the salaries of workers which have not been paid for six months and counting. I won’t also comment on the abandonment of pensioners many of who are dying slowly but surely. The issue of the growing debt profile of Benue is also not an unfamiliar issue here. No sane Benue son or daughter should be proud to write about the avoidable huge debts running into many billions which currently hang on the neck of our dear state like a red tag (kwembe) on the neck of a deprived dog bearing the inscription “dog for sale”. We should neither be proud that the current government of Benue has failed to deliver a basic project like the Makurdi Water Works for which it has budgeted money in eight years. As Dr Ortom has said many times, we should in that steady, pause for a sober reflection. Benue belongs to all of us not Gov Gabriel Suswam alone. No matter how bad things may get, we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater. The expectations are mounting by the day, but Dr Ortom appears calm, astute and prepared to tackle the myriad of problems confronting the state.
Dr Samuel Ortom is coming at a time the spirit of Benue people is practically down and their morale at the lowest ebb. He will no doubt inherit a near-collapsed state economy in need of urgent rejuvenation. The people will be in a hurry to see their governor steer to safety the ship which is headed for an iceberg. The people’s hopes are that Ortom should, as a matter of urgency, set to work immediately and reverse the sad economic situation, pay the workers their hard-earned wages, give the people good water, provide good roads for them and generate jobs for the youths. Luckily, these are the same expectations Ortom has promised to meet.
One of the many expectations the people of Benue have on the next governor of the state is an alternative way or ways of improving the income of the state to make its economy less dependent on oil revenue from Abuja. Here again, Dr Ortom has left no one in doubt regarding what his govt will do differently. Among the steps are deliberate deepening of industrialisation using PPP, expansion of investment opportunities to attract more investors, making commercial agriculture the hub of economic activities, expansion of BIRS, commencement of mandatory state savings (for the rainy day) etc.
The people of Benue have the right to make high demands of their next governor and Dr Samuel Ortom is aware of this right. This is why each time he sees the people come out in their thousands at APC campaign rallies (as seen in the attached photo), he smiles to himself and reassures them that Benue will work again; that the difficult times being experienced in the state will not last forever.