In the eternal words of John F. Kennedy:
“Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future”
The one question that will always bring mix reaction to Benue people is; “did Samuel Ortom fail as Benue state governor in his first term from June 2015 – May 2019?”
It depends on who you ask. For many the answer will be a definite yes! – he failed.
Some others will tell you; he did his best. But there are many others who will prefer to say nothing.
Before he was elected Governor in 2015 Governor Ortom had a blueprint “Our collective vision for a New Benue” where it clearly projected the sum of N200 billion in four years to enable his government achieve key targets that will improve the well-being of Benue citizens.
Ortom-eter, a governance tracking project using verifiable evidence found out that the Ortom’s government despite earning more than
N 468 billion (130% more what was projected) from all sources could only achieved 30% of its 43+ tangible promises which ortom-eter tracked.
But was it for lack of resources or was it sheer incompetency and inefficiency?
Whatever, Governor Samuel Ortom has been re-elected and will serve another four years.
But why did he fail in his first outing as governor?
Here are the three reasons why Governor Ortom failed in his first term:
- Underlying incompetency?
Failure to re-solve the state’s “unsustainable Wage Bill”
Benue state earned N7.5bn monthly (FAAC: State, LGAs & IGR)
Benue state spent N7.8bn Monthly (wages, pensions & overhead cost)
Deficit -N300m monthly
One of the major challenges that Ortom inherited when he took over as governor on 29th May 2015 was months of salary arrears owed all category of public servants in the state due to, initially, a shortfall in the state revenue earnings and later on a huge and fraudulent concocted wage bill.
And on two selected interviews; Channels Tv on 2nd July 2018 and Radio Benue 4th June 2019, Governor Ortom was able to clearly outlined what the problem was with the “unsustainable wage bill” which, according to him, is driven by a deep-rooted cartel’.
However, in the 48 months (4 yrs.) that he has been in control as the state’s chief executive he was not able to bring the wage bill down to an optimal level and crush the so-call cartel.
Isn’t this an act of incompetence?
“Working with Incompetent Subordinates”
- Speaking on that same radio Benue programme on the 4th of June 2019, Governor Ortom admitted that he was working with very incompetent subordinates describing some of them as ‘wheelbarrow assistance’.
As the state’s chief executive with enormous powers, what did he do? Nothing!
Isn’t this another act of incompetence?
‘Unable to stop a senseless plundering of the state coffers’
- Again, on that same radio Benue programme on June 4th 2019 Governor Ortom acknowledge that money met for the development of the state were been diverted.
The sum of about N468 billion accrued to the state under his watch.
What happened to his famous Statement: ‘’If you chop money, money will chop you’’?
Again for 48 months (4 yrs.) that he was in control as the state’s chief executive with enormous powers, what did he do?
Nothing? Just ‘Siddon look’?
Isn’t this another evidence of incompetence?
2. Governor Ortom exhibited Policy failure?
The contentious Open Grazing Prohibition & Ranches Establishment Law was so much celebrated and touted as a signature achievement.
The law was meant to resolve the farmer/herders crisis which is so far proving to be effective even though a lot of the displaced people from the crisis are still in IDP camps.
But very important laws such a Fiscal Responsibility Act, Public Procurement Act, and Open Government partnership policy which would have enhanced good governance have not been domesticated.
Again for 48 months (4 yrs.) that he was in control as the state’s chief executive with enormous powers, why didn’t he made sure that the laws were domesticated?
Isn’t this another evidence of incompetence?
- Governor Ortom major Investment failures?
The much hyped but failed Cargo Airport comes to mind.
Again, Governor Ortom while talking on the Radio Benue programme also acknowledge failure of the Igumale cement project to take off because of an inept ‘419’ investment approach with a ‘fake investor’ in china.
Also, many MOUs were signed but obviously difficult to say if any came to fruition.
And as a former Minister of Trade and Investment, how many trade deals or key investment deals did he pulled into the state in the last four years. None?
Isn’t this another evidence of failure?
A Second Opportunity: 2019 Election Victory
Despite the obvious failure, Governor Ortom was returned re-elected in the March 2019 election with another four-year mandate.
It offers him with another opportunity to amend a disastrous first term as governor.
What does the Governor need to do to remedy the last 4 years?
- Ensure the state have a healthy and optimal wage bill
- Clear all outstanding salary and pension arrears
- Increase the state IGR with a N20bn target by the end of 2020 (IGR Project 2020)
- Modernize Trade practices in the state
- Invest more in agribusiness by boosting local SMEs
- The re-settlement of IDPs should be a priority.
How to make it Happen
- The Government must ensure a healthy fiscal management of the state funds by:
-domesticating the Fiscal Responsibility Act
-domesticating the Public Procurement Act
-adopting the Open Government initiatives
2.Engaged Competent and credible subordinates that are SMART and creative with ability to innovate to meet clear set outcomes within a time frame. Appointments should be about effectiveness and competency and should not be about connections or political interest.
3. The Government should be brave to disrupt, innovate and make the tough decisions in the best interest of the state even if certain individuals, groups or political interest will be hurt.
4. The Government must define and balance its power relations as it relates to the state’s socio-economic development interests within the broad national polity.
The Governor has categorically tell Benue people; ‘its payback time’, to give the Benue citizen quality governance.
Benue citizens will be waiting patiently and hopefully.