By Abrahams Kwaghngu
Having to contend with prolonged attacks from strange herdsmen, the rural farmers in some communities in Benue State finally began to experience a renewed peace following the sustained peace building efforts of the Samuel Ortom administration and the pragmatic steps taken to put a halt to the avoidable conflict between indigenous farmers and strange herdsmen.
The Ortom administration, in a demonstration of courage, boldness, political will and determination introduced the Anti-Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranches Bill which enjoyed accelerated legislative attention and massive support from within and outside the state. The signing of the Bill into law by Governor Ortom before enthusiastic stakeholders marked a historic turning point in the years of unprovoked attacks by violent herdsmen against some farming communities in the State.
The orchestrated criticism from a section of the livestock breeders association was expected given the fact that every positive and promising change in the history of mankind is often at first greeted with stiff resistance from those who would wish the status quo to continue to the detriment of peace, security, economic development and national unity.
Such was the reaction from a so-called livestock breeders association who passed off a golden opportunity to take part in the public hearing organized by the Benue State House of Assembly to present their case.
Today, the Ortom innovative solution of introducing the anti-open grazing law has become a model for other progressive minded states to follow.
Already, the Taraba State House of Assembly has passed the Anti-Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranches Bill which was equally promptly signed into law by the State Governor.
This is commendable as Benue State under the proactive leadership of Governor Ortom believes in the unity, peace and stability of the North-Central geopolitical zone within our peaceful and prosperous great country, Nigeria. The same anti-open grazing bill is also currently undergoing swift attention in the Edo State House of Assembly with other states set to follow suit all in a quest for peace, security and agricultural development.
The Ortom Administration has equally demonstrated exceptional courage, resilience, patriotism and political will in confronting entrenched negative systems in the state inherited from the immediate past administration which had stunted the development of the state and saddled it with huge liabilities.
One of such is the ongoing efforts to weed out ghost workers to make for a manageable public sector wage bill through initiatives among which is the table payment of salaries programme designed to reduce the over bloated wage bill he inherited and ensure timely payment of civil servants salaries, the arrears which stood at a colossal N69 billion when Ortom assumed office.
Already, many incidences of malpractices such as some civil servants have been discovered to be earning more than their statutory salaries, names of dead civil servants still reflecting in the wage bill among other anomalies.
It has now become evident that sustained unfounded criticism of the Ortom administration is emanating from the camp of those who have plundered the resources of the state and nearly brought it to its knees before the divine election of the present Governor who against all political odds won the 2015 general election on an unchangeably solid mandate of the people who ultimately are the true custodians of power.
It is becoming clearer by the day that at the end of the first term of the purposeful and positively impactful tenure of Governor Ortom, Benue State would have been placed on a sustainable path of development.
The several accomplishments across many sectors of the State’s economy have invariably resulted into calls from people for the continuation of the Ortom mandate beyond 2019 to anchor his developmental vision for the state.
The servant-leader for now is focused on his rescue mission while leaving his political future to God to decide at the right time.
*Kwaghngu is Senior Special Assistant, Office of the Governor of Benue State, Makurdi.