4 Okpoga Street
High Level Makurdi.
12 June 2020
Your Excellency Samuel Ortom
Executive Governor of Benue State,
Benue People’s House,
WHERE IS THE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT?-OPEN LETTER TO MY GOVERNOR, HIS EXCELLENCY SAMUEL ORTOM
It is with the highest sense of patriotism that I write you on this historic day in Nigeria; June 12. It is a historic day because of its recognition as Nigeria’s Democracy Day; the day in history that Nigerians freely voted without prejudice to religion, a process that was annulled by the military.
President Muhammadu Buhari, after due consideration approved of and proclaimed June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day, thereby recognising the struggles of our heroes past in the entrenchment of democratic governance. Today, therefore, reminds us of our freedom of assembly and speech, right to vote, right to life, consent, minority rights, equality before the law as well as inclusiveness.
Once again congratulations for completing your first year in the second term of your administration as the Executive Governor of Benue State. May I also use this opportunity to congratulate you on the occasion of 2020 Democracy Day celebration. You are a product of democracy and have sworn to keep to its tenets. Well done on the journey so far.
Your Excellency, there is no gain denying the fact that you came in to administer over Benue State at the time of economic recession, a period that sent economic stress across the globe. Aside this is the insecurity, which has left thousands of the people of our state taking refuge in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps across the state, with hundreds sent to their early graves amidst huge loss of property, maiming, rape and lost of cultural values. The gruesome murder of our people by rampaging herdsmen, even as the atrocities due to the pastoralists persists, is still fresh on our minds.
At the inception of your administration in 2015, you promised to build private sector capacity and encourage the sector to thrive vide micro, small, and medium scale enterprises, trading as well as commercial and investment activities. You promised to run an inclusive, accountable and result oriented government; a new way of doing things. Above all you promised to be transparent, accountable, fair to all; you promised justice, humility, selflessness, forgiveness and reconciliation for peace, unity and development.
It is five years now, plus, that you have been in the saddle. I beseech you my Governor, in retrospect, where are we in your quest in the achievement of a new Benue?
When on 21st January this year, the Supreme Court of Nigeria affirmed the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) declaration in returning you as Governor in 2019; it validated the vote of the people of Benue State. What that meant was that the people, for the second consecutive time, gave you their mandate, to continue in service to them.
Where is the amnesty programme? What has become of the young men that embraced the programme? Are they all back to the trenches, is that why we have the rising wave of insecurity in the state? You started well, but seem to derail. Or, are you overwhelmed by statecraft?
There is an upsurge, recently, in attacks on farming communities in the state by herdsmen. Kwande, Guma, Gwer West and Obi are still on the run. This is in addition to the spate of communal conflict. While I commend your initiative for community level security apparatus, let me urge you to be proactive to put an end to these anti-development issues.
I have waited patiently, to see how you are following up on your policies. Not much seems to have improved, in terms of welfare of primary school teachers. Investment in infrastructure in primary education without corresponding improvement in welfare of teachers and supporting staff will do little in service delivery.
Benue still grapples with issues of gratuity and pension, not just to retirees in the primary education sector, the situation of retirees in the state generally, is worrisome. Sometimes I wonder if your direction on monthly deductions, for pension still operates. Nothing is heard of gratuity, payment of pension is in dozens of months of arrears.
With the latest approval by the State Assembly, for another facility, Benue’s debt burden is a little less than One Hundred Billion Naira. And what do we have on ground to show for these huge debts or to ensure pay back?
Your government took off in 2015 with a financial burden and is geometrically increasing this burden, with little investment for pay back. Agriculture, one of the key themes of your administration has not received the required budgetary approvals to catalyse industrialisation, contrary to your projection.
The local government system in the state has not fared any better. From contest to now selection of supposed elective officers at the tier of government, the closest to the people. Rather than play supervisory role, as provided by the Constitution, the state is in full grip of the third tier of government.
I can go on and on. However, let me pause, to remind you that the new Benue, you promised was set to ensure human and social freedom, robust economy, functional institutions, a sustainable environment, open government partnership and ensure patriotism and religious tolerance.
As you celebrate the 2020 Democracy Day, and as you continue in service to the state be reminded once again, of your promises. What does the future hold ahead of us? There seems to be no change from the status quo, which called for the 2015 wave of change. Instead, we seem to be overwhelmed by the challenges staring us in the face.
We need to have a well-planned programme for the IDPS, since it is not likely that they will go home soon. There is the need to take inventory of livestock, and employ both diplomatic and proactive measures to ending insecurity due to the herdsmen attacks. There is need to improve funding in agriculture. Your initiative to allow civil servants time to attend to their farms will better serve its purpose if you support them with input.
Your Excellency Sir, Covid-19 pandemic should serve as an eye opener in improving our dilapidated healthcare system. There is the need to expand and better equip the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), to be capable of eventual health emergencies. The same applies for our General Hospitals in the state, if they must be relevant in the provision of secondary healthcare services and we must as a matter of urgency pay prompt attention to Primary Healthcare which is on its way to the morgue in our state.
You must not lose sight of your promise for a robust private sector economy. It is not enough, to make verbal commitment. Take action, to stimulate the growth of MSMEs.
Remember those that have retired after years of service to the state, remember those that are still in service; not forgetting the essence of social investment programmes for the teeming population of the unemployed Benue Youth.
As you reflect on this day of democracy, in the history of the world’s most populous black nation, may you also reflect on your service to the people of the state thus far. So that, even if you cannot achieve all that you’ve promised because of paucity of funds and wasted opportunities in the last five years, you will make conscious efforts to tackle insecurity and set a proper road map for agriculture, education and healthcare development.
Your Excellency, may I leave you with this very popular Chinese proverb to ponder on; “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Once again happy Democracy Day celebration my dear Governor and may history be kind to you!
John Aondohemba Tseayo
Concerned Benue Citizen