2022 Benue Local Council Election, Another Vote of Confidence for Ortom


By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi 

When Robert N. Bellah, an American sociologist and the Elliott Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, among other things argued that two of the most basic components of a good life are success in one’s work and the joy that comes from serving one’s community, noting that the two are so closely intertwined that a person cannot usually have one without having the other, he neither had Dr Samuel Orotm, the Governor of Benue state and the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governor from the North Central part of the country in mind nor the state itself.

But with the recent disclosure by the Chairman of Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC), Mr Tersoo Loko, at the commission’s headquarters in Makurdi, that the PDP cleared all the 23 local government areas at the just-concluded council polls held on Saturday in Benue State, and the joy that follows the announcement, it is not only evident that words of Robert N. Bellah has become words made flesh and now dwells among the people of the state.

Rather, the development glaringly exemplifies a vote of confidence and success in Governor Ortom’s ceaseless efforts to serve and save the state. It more than anything else showcases the joy that comes from serving one’s community dutifully.

There are indeed several reasons why this feat achieved by PDP of which Ortom is the leader elicits positive reactions/comments.

First and very important is the strategic position/role that local government as the third tier of government plays as the life wire of state of the federation.

Says a recent report, local governments and elections are two essential features of modern democracies. They help to establish, nurture and sustain democracy and democratic political culture. Elections provide the electorate with the power to freely participate in choosing their leaders and in providing the much-needed support and legitimacy to the state.

During the First Republic, the native authorities (as local governments were then called) were under the control of the regional governments. The Constitution of the Second Republic (1979-1983) gave state governors the power to dissolve local councils and appoint Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of local councils.

Today, ‘the 1999 Constitution currently being operated empowers state governors to appoint chairpersons of State Independent Electoral Commissions, the electoral umpires mandated to conduct local government elections in the 36 states of the federation.

As the situation stands, there is some ambiguity as to whether the state governors can dissolve local councils before elections are conducted at the expiration of their tenure, but often, state governors capitalise on this ambiguity to dissolve local councils at the end of their tenure and appoint Caretaker Committees. Often, these Committees are staffed with cronies and party sympathisers’.

Despite these constitutional loopholes, Ortom, unlike his counterparts neither dissolved local councils nor appointed Caretaker Committees as witnessed in some states such as; Anambra State where Caretaker Committees took charge of local council affairs for about 10 years under four successive governors – Chris Ngige, Peter Obi, Andy Uba and Virginia Etiaba and again Peter Obi who towards the end of his administration organized election on January 11, 2014. Those elected have since vacated their positions in 2016. As of the time of filing this report, no local council elections have been held in the state since the dissolution under Governor Willy Obiano’s led administration.

From this latest development flow so many observations.

The Benue State governor has confirmed as true my earlier position in a similar piece Ortom; Between Leadership and Demagoguery that Ortom remains an authentic leader who daily demonstrates a passion for his purpose, practices leadership values consistently led and protected the people of Benue State with his heart as well as his head, established long-term relationship with his people/followers and have the self-discipline to get results.

That he is not among the public office holders in the country who do not have the interest of the people at heart or contemplate providing security and a robust economy which are the two major responsibilities of any democratically elected government. He is not engrossed with holding on to the people’s commonwealth. And most importantly, he is in no way reputed for using people to further his own ends, via; intimidation, being sly, getting things done by lying or other dishonest means.

In truth, the name Ortom now means different things to different people.

For other state Governors, the lesson Ortom is handing down to his contemporary is that bearing the tag Excellency does not confer excellence or greatness to anyone, but requires hard work for excellence to be outstanding, demands consistency for a star to shine, and persistence for stardom to be recognized. In the same vein, while Nigerian youths, presently see him as a leader that they can trust and look up to emulate, that the virtue which makes up values are the things we must exhibit in our behaviour, attitudes/character such as; love, discipline, tolerance, respect for human life, peace, non-violence, honesty, integrity, loyalty, fairness, fidelity and other ethical values that promote mutual co-existence, the people of Benue State on their parts, views him as a unifying factor; particularly now that he has a credible local council election in the state.

To some socio-political commentators, he is ‘Ortom the Tough’ known for speaking the truth about the true picture of the security situation to the government and recognising that sovereignty belongs to the people.

To this group, the Benue State Governor is someone who understands that ‘human relations must be encouraged in the right direction. That any act of negation or denial can lead society to anarchy, chaos and unwanted societal conflict which of course, would be detrimental to human peaceful co-existence’.

Finally, in my view, Ortom has validly proved that he is not among those voted to provide good and qualitative leadership; elected to bring the nation’s economy out of the woods and was chosen to bring democracy dividends to the people.

But instead of providing these responsibilities, they visited the masses with cluelessness and utopia. Instead of reviving the comatose economy, they threw it further down into recession and instead of bringing dividends of democracy, they democratized poverty, institutionalized unemployment and ‘governmentalized’ hopelessness and frustration.

Making this development worthwhile is the fact that he achieved this feat at a time in a country where constructive debate is often seen as unnecessary, messy and divisive, where the debate over differing political ideas and strategies is perceived as destructive to the nation’s interest.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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