By Samson Fred Ochono
It has become crystal clear that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and its agents, both in Benue and elsewhere have decided to resume ferocious media attacks on the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom. The renewed smear campaign is apparently targeted at blackmailing the Governor into silence.
Recall that in the last two weeks, Governor Ortom has taken the injustice being done to Nigerians by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to the global stage, while he was in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Governor spoke fearlessly against the persecution of Christians, suppression of religious freedom and the killing of innocent Nigerians by terrorists. He indicted President Buhari and his administration who he said are complicit in the atrocities perpetrated against defenseless Nigerians.
The Governor asked the international community to hold Buhari accountable for the spate of violence and also hold the President responsible should anything untoward happen to him. That show of courage obviously did not go down well with the ruling party and its government, hence their resort to the sponsorship of media attacks on the Governor. In the last few days, we have seen several articles in the print media accusing Governor Ortom of financial impropriety without cogent proof. All they want to achieve is to pitch Benue people against the Governor by making him look bad in the eyes of the public.
A noted mercenary has been assigned the dirty role of posting fictitious and concocted reports about fraud in the administration of Governor Ortom on Facebook. Some of the reports are recycled fabrications that have been sufficiently refuted by the government previously.
I watched Governor Ortom the other day on Arise TV convincingly speaking on the issue of salaries and pensions in his state. His detractors are yet to dispute what the Governor said regarding the fact that more than 30 other states are struggling to pay wages. No one has come out to dispute the fact that since January 2018, Governor Ortom has been paying Benue State government workers until April this year when NNPC failed to remit accruals to the federation’s account. None of his critics has been able to counter the Governor’s presentation as captured thus:
“When I came in 2015, it was a problem. Accumulated salaries over the years beyond the governor that I took over from, I inherited N70bn arrears of salaries, pension and gratuity. And I have been able to deplete this during my time from 2015 to date and the arrears now stands at just about N38bn which I’m sourcing funds. Other states too have the same problem and the federal government came in and approved not bailout but loans for them to pay.”
I challenge Ortom’s traducers to dispute this statement of his below:
“And people said that you cannot bailout by borrowing. That is why even this current federal government is borrowing money everywhere. The way the economy is today, you cannot do without borrowing to solve your problems in states and all that. Go back, I am not the only one. Several states are suffering the same problems. You heard that over 30 states cannot pay salaries as at when due as at today.
“From 2018, I have been paying salaries until NNPC because of the fuel subsidy said they cannot remit money into the Federation Account and then we started having problems. It is a general problem that is affecting more than 30 states.”
Governor Ortom must have sensed the sponsored media attacks coming when he said some time recently that “no amount of desperation manifesting as smear campaigns can distract me from doing what God brought me to do for my people”. He has indeed stood for his people by waging a courageous war against enemies of his state and the country in general.
Governor Samuel Ortom is a hero whose good works and legacy will only be appreciated when he leaves office.
We at the Forum of Concerned Nigerians, FCN will continue to appeal to him not to be discouraged by antics of undemocratic forces who thrive on blackmail and pull him down syndrome. He has won our hearts as the voice of reason and beacon of hope.
* Ochono writes for FCN from Apo, Abuja.