From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

Former Governor of Benue State Chief Samuel Ortom has appealed to his successor, Governor Hyacinth Alia, to sheath his sword and work closely with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Sen George Akume for sustainable peace and development of the state.

Chief Ortom made this call in Makurdi on Tuesday while speaking at the public lecture organized by his former appointees on the occasion of his 63rd birthday.

Ortom who appreciated Sen George Akume whom he described as “my leader and mentor” said he is grateful for what God has used him to do in his life.

While also appreciating Governor Hyacinth Alia for his goodwill message and prayers, Ortom cautioned that Benue state has not had the position of SGF in the past and called on Governor Alia to make peace with him to enable the state to benefit from the position.

He said “Benue is our state, we have no other state and no one will come from anywhere to bring peace to Benue.

“Alia must sheath his sword and find ways to work with the SGF so that all of us can enjoy the dividends of that position.”

Ortom said that anyone advising the Governor to be at loggerheads with the SGF is not doing him well.

He noted that elections were conducted and won, litigation was entered and God gave him victory saying “It is his responsibility to do the needful so that Benue state will be at peace.”

Ortom lamented that Benue is under siege and the governor alone or the SGF and himself cannot do it alone without working collectively. He therefore noted that “We are available if we are called upon to support or add value to peace efforts of the government so that our people can live and enjoy the dividends of democracy.”

While he admonished the Benue people to pray for their leaders, Ortom said “If I had my way, I would have made every Benue person a Governor even if it’s for two days.

“The challenges are enormous. You would not understand the challenges we go through but when you are there, you will understand the issues better.

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“Nigeria is passing through very difficult times and that was what I was fighting against and I’m happy that people appreciated what we were doing.”

While appreciating his former appointees for organizing the celebration in his honour, Ortom said “I’m very humbled for this special lecture on my 63 birthday. This is not my first celebration but this is the first time I’m witnessing a lecture and I must say that I’m blessed and enriched with all that was said here.

“I was taken unawares. You have made me know that I am appreciated. I thought I was used and dumped. I’m grateful to God for the 8 years in office. I did everything with the fear of God, with equity, justice and fairness.

“I must have stepped on toes, for those I know and those I didn’t know, I ask for forgiveness. I am humbled by this programme and I’m further encouraged by your presence, kind words and prayers,” Ortom said.

The Guest Lecturer, Prof Samuel Aghalino, from the Department of History and International Studies, University of Ilorin who is also the President Historical Society of Nigeria said “Ortom was that Governor with a face cap. Anyone with a face cap is a revolutionary.
Ortom played a significant role in extending politics beyond the borders of the state.

“He is one of the few politicians who stood in defence of his people and was passionate in standing for human value while also demonstrating uncommon leadership.

“He was committed to the wellbeing of his people and stood vehemently, against the then government for murdering justice, fairness, equity and accountability. Ortom expressed a rare readiness to cooperate with anyone who shared great ideas for good governance.

“He was a servant leader at a great cost to himself. At a time, during the Buhari administration, the doors of Aso Rock, the seat of power, were shut against him for speaking the truth to power and holding the powerful accountable. I wonder how he survived.

“Ortom believes that politicians do not have to strive to be perfect to provide good governance to their people because only God is perfect. In his mind, they only have to love the people, therefore when it comes to democratic considerations, Ortom represents the school of thought that existence must take precedence over essence in governance.”

Aghalino said Ortom will be remembered by his people for the numerous things he has done and still doing.

The lecture was graced by prominent personalities like the former Attorney General of the federation and minister of Justice, Mike Aondakaa, Speaker, of Plateau State House of Assembly, Gabriel Dewan, Member representing Apa-Agatu Federal Constituency, Pastor, Ojotu Ojema, Former Deputy Governor, Engr Benson Abounu, representatives of the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse, Ter Gwer Dominic Akpete, the Ochidoma, Ogabaidu John Elaigwu represented by Dr Chris Ijale among others.