On May 29th, 2015, when the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom took his oath of office one of his promises to the Benue people was to operate an all people inclusive government, conducting an open door policy where the people will partake in manner of governance.
He further rejected the use of titles as well as abolished the customary practice of protocols and even renamed the Government House, Peoples House. In all these not a few watched these with a pinch of salt as they saw it as another publicity stunt.
However recent events have proven that the present administration has moved from the white – wash terminology of “people- inclusive”, to actively allow people contribute to the running of state affairs.
Only this week had the state nearly been thrown into serious chaos due to the decision by the state government to embark on a
biometric screening exercise of the state civil servants to rid it of ghost workers and generate data for better administration. Beautiful as this idea seemed, the state civil servants had suffered many long months of hungry and starvation conditioned by the non-payment of salaries by the previous administration running into nearly six months, as such would hear none of that especially as they had already been given hope in the decision of the Federal government to offer aid by way of a single digit loan given to states for this purpose, commonly called “bailout”.
This confusion prompted the state governor to reverse his decision to screen civil servants before payment of the backlog of salaries owed and in effect ordered immediate payment of the arrears in order to pacify the angered workers, while recommending that the screening be used for subsequent payments.
This move as expected, has calmed the wailing and lamentations of the poor civil servants who were near comatose and were nearly losing hope of a way out of their financial situation. However not only did the payment alleviate the suffering of the hardworking Benue Civil Servants, but it further exposed the governor’s style of leadership.
The payment of salaries without recourse to screening has been viewed by many including critics of the Samuel Ortom administration as a fulfillment of his agreement with the people to operate an open door policy where the feelings and contributions of the people will play a pivotal role in governance.
Even as this may be the most evident of these acts, the governor who has severally encouraged criticism which according to him help him in taking sound decisions, has severally in the past exhibited this rare but unique trait when he heed the advise embedded in the criticism of former Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav to set up a committee to handle the state’s Amnesty programme which has been widely acclaimed to be a huge success. The governor does not even hide his appreciation of such constructive criticism as at various fora he openly acknowledges that contribution of Tsav to the programme’s success.
in his pursuit for a people inclusive government Samuel Ortom has also embraced all social media platforms, an avenue where most of his critics have taken advantage to ventilate their misgivings on policies of his administration. He does not only visit such platforms but also picks valuable criticism to further strengthen this resolve to ensure people participation in governance.
The social media had witnessed at the inception of his administration a barrage of criticism over the deplorable look of the state due to the overbearing presence of garbage heaps and lack of sanitation even as Facebook critics of the administration blamed and took swipes at his administration for this eyesore. The government on reading these positive criticism swung into action and today Makurdi and its environs have been rid of this foul sights.
Same goes for the recent maintenance of major streets and roads in the state capital, which was necessitated by the barrage of criticism on the wake of his 100 Days in office where many critics and followers of the former governor chided the Ortom administration for its inability to even repair roads. On getting these observations the governor wasted no time and ordered immediate repair work on the roads pending a time when funds will be available for comprehensive roads.
The list of such people motivated actions is inexhaustible but it is known to many even those who criticise the government that the Benue People may actually have landed themselves a people’s governor.
It is also instructive that other states take cue from this sample to be able to deliver the true dividends of governance to their people as a government detached from the people will never feel the pulse of its electorates. After all democracy is widely defined as government of the people, for the people , by the people.