*SAYS ORTOM LAYING FOUNDATION FOR TRUST IN GOVERNANCE
By James Ibechi
It is no fluke that Brigedier-general David Mark(rtd) is still in active politics. Neither is it by chance nor by persuasion by any well meaning stakeholders.
Rather, it is his personal resolve and sustained determination to perpetuate himself at the Senate — typical of the sit-tight African overlords — in the name of representing the Benue South Senatorial District.
Or so it has appeared, going by a circle of happenings in the Zone C area of Benue State.
When many of his traducers wanted him to quit, having considered him to have failed to deliver his promised Apa State, or worse still, failed significantly to improve the lives of the Idoma people who are believed to be largely living in abject penury, even at the time the ex-soldier superintended over the senate affairs for two consecutive times, he refused to quit.
He has by that earned himself the epithet of the ‘longest serving senator’ in the history of Nigerian political representation. Yet, he would still not quit when the ovation was loudest, just perhaps because he was a major power player in a party that once boasted that it must rule Nigeria for 60 uninterrupted years, only to be recently humbled by a lad they called a greenhorn, Daniel ONJEH.
Even at that, he would still not bow out, because for him, it is external forces, enemies of Idoma nation, at war with Idoma. And since he considers himself as indispensable in a part of the world which he has colonized for 16 wasted years, he must lead his people onto the battle against the so-called Idoma enemies.
Sentiment: when earlier this year he had ONJEH as his major opponent and he was said to have won it was not the enemy at work, but when he had his election cancelled he has to squabble again with same ONJEH it is idoma enemies at work.
The tide and time have certainly changed. But David Mark and his cronies seem not to know. The drumbeat has stopped but the dancer is still dancing on the stage. And now the elders and juggernauts are seriously disturbed and there seems to be disquiet.
The Victory of Governor Samuel Ortom at the nation’s apex court recently offered auspicious occasion and Lawrence Onoja and many spirited Zone C sons have stood up against Mark even as his refusal to quit for younger generation of leaders to take over has continued to draw flaks from every nook and cranny of Idomaland, ahead the schedule rerun election between Mark and Onjeh.
Below is the full text of the speech delivered extempore by Onoja at the reception for Governor Ortom following his victory at the supreme Court, at Abuja on Friday, as compiled by James Ibechi.
“First of all, let me give a few words of encouragement to the people of zone C because we are the one to run an election come February 13.
“If you had listened to me when I was rejoining APC from ACN at Otukpo, I said that the age of garbage with Idi Amin will soon be over. Our people have an adage that if a masquerade is dancing on the stage and the drum stops beating, it is better to stop dancing and come down from the stage. But there are some people who continue to dance on the stage without knowing that the drum has stopped beating.
“And also, if you’re a masquerade and you stay too long on a stage you become a capital human being.
“I happened to be a military officer in those days who had governed two states. During our swearing in, IBB would tell you that two things you must remember are: (1) That it takes a good governor to recogise a good governor, (2) When you are appointed, you come in between two situations: First, you must be able to balance between the resources available to you and the expectations of your people. What the governor of every state or president of any country does, in such a situation, is to balance those two factors: the resources available to you and the expectations of the people.
“It is difficult to balance the two but, what the governors do is try as much as possible to ensure that they touch the lives of the people they govern. So, whether it is the military or civilian government, the key objective is, with the little you are touching, how much you are able to touch lives.
“I am glad today that the Supreme Court has confirmed the legitimacy of the mandate of Governor Samuel Ortom. I think this the most important decision. The last time we had a stakeholders meeting in Makurdi where I spoke briefly that Dr. Ortom has started wonderfully. First, once you are able to get the people you are governing together, that is the first thing you do, to ensure unity.
“We were there at the stakeholders meeting when the people from the PDP and other parties spoke and reaffirmed that all of us must join hands together and support this young man, so that he can take us out of the woods in Benue State; and that is what he has started.
“What I will appeal to the people of Benue State to do is that, what President Buhari and all his governors, especially APC governors, are trying to do is to lay a foundation for trust in governance.
“Before, it was business as usual. You came and you took so much money. Those of them that took too much are suffering from it. But what Ortom is trying to do in Benue is to lay a path, a platform for people to have confidence in governance. And it takes time. We just have to be patient because the mess that was created before he came cannot just be wiped out overnight. Our people must have to bear this. We must try to talk to them, when we go to our various localities, to be patient. Even if you are not paid on time, be patient. Even if you do not have a job on time, be patient. With time, Ortom is going to ensure that all these things are there and we are going to enjoy life in Benue again.
“One thing he has done that I must support him with my entire family, in the next eight years he is going to stay – and I will even support him to go to senate after that, I’m going to be his campaign manager – is that, he has not thrown away elders at all.
“A former governor saw me one day and said “what are you still doing in politics? I asked, ‘what have I done?’ And he answered, ‘you are too old to be in politics.’ And I told him, ‘everything that has a beginning must have an end.’ Life is not a bed of roses. You may be a governor today, tomorrow you may not be again.
“One thing Ortom has tried to treasure is wisdom, knowledge and the experience of elders. Some of us who are elders will be behind him and caution him when he goes the wrong path. If I am given the opportunity I will continue to do that.
“We in Zone C, with Governor Ortom, we are going to win the battle that is coming on February 13, because the man dancing on the stage does not know that the drum has stopped beating and he has to leave.
“I have tried and I have won election but because of the power that be at Abuja then, I could not go to the Senate and I said God has destiny for everybody. At a point in this country, I was number three citizen, 1996. If I am not going to be a senator, let the younger one come on board.
“I am sure Onjeh will listen to the elders. May God give Ortom the grace to touch the lives of the people of Benue, which is the essence of governance.