By Samson Ochono
When the 10th National Assembly is inaugurated in June this year, one prominent name will be missing from the list of the incoming Senators. It is a name that should be on the list of the new occupants of the red chamber at the time. The name is Samuel Ortom. He is the senator Nigeria will miss! I won’t go into the intrigues and circumstances that led to Governor Ortom not going to the senate, because that is a topic for another day.
I have observed the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom for quite some time and come to the conclusion that he is not the type of leader you meet everyday who cares only about what benefits him. Nothing approximates the test of true leadership than challenges of crisis which demand the best from those saddled with the responsibility to lead. Unfortunately, only a few leaders measure up to the task of providing leadership, in the true sense of the word.
As we are seeing it play out so glaringly in Nigeria today, leadership deficit either reflects in preference for prevarication when objective realities demand unflinching display of responsibility or barefaced acquiescence in the face of daunting challenges.
Governor Ortom stands for truth, justice, equity and fairness. He is also a true friend to his friends. He doesn’t betray his friends. He steps forward to accept responsibility and steer the ship to provide direction when others choose to be politically correct. He has demonstrated this humane trait in his friendship with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
After the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential primaries of 2022 in which Wike came 2nd behind the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Rivers State Governor appeared like a forlorn figure. Hopes began to rekindle that Atiku might pick Wike as his running mate, but such hopes too were soon dashed. Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa was chosen to fly the PDP flag with Atiku. Wike’s camp was thrown into despair.
It was in the ensuing silence that Governor Samuel Ortom roared from the Benue Valley like a lion! He threw the bombshell when he granted live interviews on Arise News and Channels television. Ortom pointedly condemned the injustice done to Governor Wike and tasked the leadership of PDP to placate the Rivers State Governor in the interest of the party. He was the one who revealed how the committee Atiku set up to choose his running mate picked Wike in a majority decision, only for the presidential candidate to turn down the choice of the committee which was a far more popular one.
Some persons within PDP were uncomfortable with the boldness of Governor Ortom, but what they could not do was counter the points he had raised with superior arguments. Months later, the cry for justice that Ortom made paid off. Wike became the sought-after ‘bride’. PDP eventually set up a committee to reconcile the Wike and the Atike camps to brighten the chances of the party ahead of the 2023 elections. Presidential candidates of all the parties met with the Wike camp known as G-5. Their trip to Paris and London in the later part of 2022 saw them hold meetings with Atiku, Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu.
Read Also: Ortom: The Rise Of A Patriot
It is important to stress that Ortom could have chosen to say that after all, he is from the north like Atiku and the PDP National Chairman Ayu (now suspended) is from his state. In fact, he played a pivotal role in the emergence of Iyorchia Ayu. That would have been a comfortable route for Ortom to follow and abandon Wike. But as a leader with a national outlook and one who sees beyond ethnic and regional boundaries, he chose to stand firmly behind Wike like the rock of Gibraltar.
It is gratifying to see Governor Ortom rekindling the hope that those in positions of authority at different spheres of public space can indeed put the interest of the people above self-serving political niceties that appease the status quo by lending credible voices in demanding a new Nigeria founded on the basis of fairness, equity and justice.
Nigeria is in dire need of leaders who love this country and want it to avoid hitting the iceberg and sinking. Governor Samuel Ortom is such a leader. Though he is only governing a component of the country – Benue State, Ortom has shown uncommon patriotism by constantly watching the country’s back and making timely interventions with his statements and objective opinions on national issues. In all instances, what the Governor says turns out to be the right alarm and caution that jolts Nigerians to the reality of the danger ahead.
Governor Ortom has etched his name in history as a leader worthy of emulation. Here is one leader who accepted the historical responsibility of being the voice of the people who are the custodians of the mandate of office. He has constantly spoken truth to power.
For Samuel Ortom, bold commitment to the cause of freedom, fairness, justice and peace has been a vivid demonstration of the beauty of leadership.
When INEC declared the candidate of APC as winner of the 2023 Benue North West Senatorial election, Governor Ortom initially directed his legal team to challenge the declaration but a few days later changed his mind and asked that the case be withdrawn from the tribunal. He gave reasons for his decision.
“Though there was glaring evidence of malpractices including non-transmission of results electronically during the conduct of the Benue North West Senatorial election, I have taken the decision to withdraw my case from the tribunal. As the Bible says in John 3:27 “A man can receive nothing, except it is given to him from heaven. Let me add that the decision to withdraw my case from the court is in the interest of peace and without prejudice to the suits filed by other candidates of our party, PDP.”
Benue and indeed the whole of Nigeria missed an opportunity to have a true senator for voiceless!
* Ochono wrote from Apo, Abuja.