Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom in this interview, indicted the presidency of promoting agitations in the country to encourage national disintegration. He also bares his mind on why he is backing southern governors to produce the next president come 2023 general elections. CEPHAS IORHEMEN captures the excerpts
What is your reaction to some attacks on you in some sections of the media by enemies of the state both within and outside?
In politics, you always expect attacks from your opponents.
Even when there is nothing to say, they will find a way of trying to portray you as a bad person in order to generate some discussion and castigate you and make you feel bad in the face of the people; but I always say, I will never be distracted.
I had the mandate in 2019 and my commitment is renewed efforts to ensure dividends of democracy to the people. My stand against injustice and unfairness that are perpetrated by the Federal Government of Nigeria headed by the President has orchestrated the renewed attacks on me.
They feel that they will send a narrative that will impact negativity on me, but I think that my people are wiser more than what they think and even with the attacks I am more committed to ensuring that we have justice.
Without justice, there will be no peace in the land and I am more prepared just like Martin Luther King jnr said, ‘If I keep quiet in the face of injustice, it means I am worse than those who are perpetrating the injustice.’
So I am prepared to be part of that. My people require justice and I have always say that those who are not happy with the kind of things I say I am begging the Presidency to give my people. If they feel offended, I am more offended than them and I am not going to 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 equity, has murdered justice, has murdered fairness in this country and that is why you see various agitations. I don’t support what Nnamdi Kanu is doing. I don’t support what Sunday Igboho is doing because I believe in the unity of the country, Nigeria but it’s the presidency that is promoting this unwarranted agitations for separation of this country.
So the President should come and give justice and he cannot deny the fact that he is the President of this country. He remains the leader of this country; he has the mandate of our people to govern at this time so everything rests on him.
The Holy Bible says ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.’ If the head is not right, there is nothing that will be right. I am saying that Buhari should rise up.
It is not enough to raise your Ministers, raise those who are working with you and 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 don’t speak who will speak? If I did not perform in 2015, my people wouldn’t have passed a vote of confidence on me.
Those who are in Abuja and eating crumbs with appointees of the Federal Government, let them come to Benue State and make press statements and let me see the reaction of the people of Benue State. For me, I am committed to 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 have commissioned some before and I am going to do more.
And I think that I am going to invite Mr. President to and commission some of my projects. I will also invite the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs to come and commission projects here in Benue State so that they appreciate and not continue to sponsor people to write against me and my government.
There are growing concerns that your party, the PDP is polarized, a reason its governors are moving state by state to stich it back, and that there are moves to remove the party’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus. How true is this?
You know in politics, as defined by one of our philosophers at a time, that politics is a game of interest. No permanent enemy. People are free to defect to various political parties for whatever reason they find it expedient. I was in PDP and when things did not go down well with me, I defected to the APC and I won election in 2015.
Several other people were carried on my back as a result of my defection and they won. In 2017, when things again did not go down well with me, when I was defending my people, some people felt that I should not defend my own people, I defected back to PDP and I also won election that is politics for you.
So I have no issues with those defecting here and there but the only challenge I have with those defecting is that let them come clean because as at today in this country, you heard the former National Chairman of APC (Adams Oshiomhole) said that when you defect to APC, you become a saint even if you were a devil. So, several people who have mismanaged themselves and mismanaged the public property are afraid and that is the instrument that the federal government is using against our people.
They have come to me and I said no I have no skeleton in my cupboard, let them bring it out if you don’t do well, I will take you to court and we will dig it out there.
You have also heard about a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has embezzled a lot of money and bought an estate for $37 million and N200 million was discovered from his house. Up till today, I have been calling on the presidency to expose that Minister and let there be justice.
Have you heard anything in that regard from the presidency? I want to challenge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, the young man, to stand on his integrity what he told Nigerians when he was confirmed, let there be justice, equity and fairness; let him unearth the Minister. It is not enough to say that a serving Minister stole money, let him come out and tell us who that Minister is and how far he is going about it.
We have heard about several ex-governors who were prosecuted by EFCC, today, because they are in APC everything is silent. What kind of injustice and integrity is the presidency talking about? Where are the Mr. President’s clean hands in a matter like this? How can you be accommodating criminals in your government and you tell me that nothing is happening?
This is not the Nigeria we bargained for; this is not what Mr. President stood for in 2015 and Nigerians voted him. It shouldn’t be a matter of trying to hide the sacred cows and then castigating people.
Somebody stole a chat and you arrested and jailed him, another stole billions and because he is in APC, you allow him to walk freely in the streets. Posterity will not forgive Mr. President if he continues in this manner. I want to say that there is God ooo, when the day of reckoning comes, God Himself will give judgement and then we shall see.
You once said after 2023, you will go back to the farm. What do we expect from Governor Ortom after 2023?
Well, after 2023, I have told you that as a human being, I am prepared to go back to my farm. Thank God I am one of the greatest farmers we have here in Benue State and the North Central zone. I have been doing that since the year 2000 and I am grateful.
But I tell you, God has not spoken to me. I told you before that God spoke to me in 1992 that I will be governor and 20 years after, God said it be in 2019 and by the grace of God, with all the challenges I became governor.
Again, in 2017 when things became difficult for me, I opted not to contest for second term that I was going to back to my farm but the Almighty God told me I am not done with you, you have not committed any offence I will still be with you and give you victory and by His grace you saw it how it went.
Federal might, inconclusive elections and all those things were not able to stop me and by the grace of God I am governor today. I have faith in God, I am a born again Christian, I trust in God my desire as a Christian is to go back to my farm but if for any reason, God directs me to do something else, I will be ready and I can assure you that I will be there.
Tell us why you decided to back Southern governors on rotational presidency?
(Laughs)…Why are you asking me that question when you know that I stand for equity, fairness and justice? That is the simple answer. In Nigeria today, we know that we are North and South isn’t it?
So if the North has eight years as president, so for the sake of fairness and justice, the South should also have it. Whosoever comes from the South is not my business, once the people accept him, I am ready to support that and based on my stand on fairness, equity and justice.
Okay, but if the slot goes to the South, the Igbos have been agitating. Do you support an Igbo presidency?
Why not. There are several people in Igbo land that are eminently qualified to be president of this country. But that is not for me to decide. I am not a southerner, I am a northerner. We are in a democracy, whatever the people decide to do in the South is what I will support.
All that I am saying is that let there be a Southern President in this country. The North have gotten eight years and what have we gotten? Injustice, unfairness, non-equity and insecurity in our land, the economy is in shambles. As I talk to you, the federal government has borrowed over N27 trillion, what they have done with it we don’t know. People are just pocketing money for their own interests. So let us try another zone.
That is the point I am making. I do not only support the Southern presidency, I support their resolution to ensure a deadline for the prohibition of open grazing law in the southern states. I also support all the “magu-magu” and the tricks the APC is making so that in 2023 they will rig the election, I support that there should be electronic transmission of election results so that there will be no rigging.
In Benue State here, anybody who is coming here to rig, I am telling you, you will not go back to your house. I will ensure that the right thing is done during the 2023 general elections, whatever intimidation that people bring will not work