By Ariyo-Dare Atoye
There is a distinct lack of leadership right across all levels of the Nigerian society. There is really little or nothing to inspire hope under the present system because statecraft is at an all time low. As it were, there is a near-absence of governance in the country, while influence peddlers and power mongers are having a field day exploiting everything in a manner that threatens our collective future like an active volcano.
After five straight quarters in recession, it seems our economic managers have found no strategic clue on how to get us out of this biting economic mess. As a matter of fact, governance is no longer exciting, purposeful and there is absolutely nothing significant to cheer about; it has become a mere mumbo-jumbo to the extent that wheelbarrow is now advertised as dividend of democracy in Benue State. The tragedy of inept leadership is eclipsing our nation!
Benue, placed in “the middle of the belt” of Nigeria by geographical arrangement, is the food basket of the nation and is unarguably blessed by God with courageous men and women and with fertile lands. It should ordinarily be the busiest, most productive and most strategic state in the country, in terms of utilising farming as a big business in addressing the daunting challenge of food insecurity in West Africa.
It has the potential to be self-sustaining through agriculture to create unimaginable wealth that would substantially raise the living standard of the people and create chains of businesses for employments. However, while the state is naturally and abundantly endowed, getting the right leadership to harness its huge potential to launch it into both national and global reckoning has become a major misadventure. Unfortunately too, the state is threatened by wider conspiracy of terrorism.
Overtime, the leadership has failed to sensibly decipher the real reason the state is perpetually under attacks from marauders and barbarians, who have been ceasing lands and destroying the ancestral homes of the people. What is going on in Benue is akin to a pogrom, and more fundamentally, food terrorism on a large scale against the whole country. The whole nation is yet to come to this painful understanding, but this wicked plot is fast extending to every part.
The latest law prohibiting open grazing in the state will achieve little or nothing without the political will and courage to implement it. The governor had severally chosen to play politics with a neighbouring state accused of harbouring these marauders in the past; so it remains to be seen if he would be able to act decisively with the new Act. But the law may not have captured the conspicuous threat of food terrorism in a way that draws global attention to the plight of the people.
Nigerians are deeply worried that Benue is perpetually under the yoke of bad governance and terrorism and the leadership is doing next to nothing to tackle these problems. It was consequent upon this reason that the social media space, the internet and some mobile platforms were awash with that new hit song titled “Ortom de Barrow,” after the wheelbarrow controversy, which they perceived as too petty to warrant the display of a governor’s name as an achievement.
This development sums up the discontentment of the people against Governor Samuel Ortom in the social media and beyond that, he has not shown the leadership temerity to defend his people and address the issue of bad governance. This is the wheel of truth that the song is mimicking, and which should not be lost in the mechanical interpretation of a cart – barrow plus wheel.
The need to tackle these problems headlong should be the preoccupation of Gov. Ortom, and not just the usual lying on the floor as some kind of demonstration of piety and submission to God. Fortunately, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that faith without work is dead. Hence, the governor and his media team may need to stop their baseless tirade against Senator David Mark and other critics who are telling them the truth. Rather, energy should be dissipated in proffering solutions to challenges confronting the state.
It did not resonate with Nigerians one bit that the former President of the Senate was jealous of Ortom’s rising profile in terms of achievement and because the governor “is succeeding where Mark has failed.” Such statement smacks of another petty act that bore the mindset of some obtuse folk that relates to wheelbarrow as some great achievement. It is totally unnecessary. But maybe we should interrogate the alleged jealousy that follows a kind of “rising” profile of Mr. Governor after his names was fantastically etched on carts as tools donated for victims of herdsmen attacks.
If the import of this controversy is only narrowed down by his media team to their assumed perception that the people think wheelbarrow is an insignificant implement that should not carry the governor’s name, then the narrative would be no more than an exciting story to ‘yaro-boys” who have become synonymous with this tool in various markets across the country, that their Liverpool dream is real – we will never walk alone- a governor has identified with us. But in truth, it is much more than this petty side to the matter. As earlier reiterated, the reactions, including that of Senator Mark, have merely summed up the frustration of the people about governance in Benue State.
Granted that Nigeria operates a federal system that encumbers the second tier of government from functioning more effectively, as a likely form of defence, but there is also plenty of space available to governors to inspire the people and bring sincerity to governance. For instance, Gov. Ortom did not need the permission of the federal government to go and sympathise with his fellow man in Agatu, after the herdsmen’s gruesome massacre of 2016. This is just one out of many other concerns.
Did the governor himself not inflict more injury on the people of Agatu by unilaterally giving out their lands, their only source of livelihood, to non-indigenes? Is the governor attending to state matters and local issues that concern every part with serious sense of justice and fairness to all? Those are outward manifestations exactly opposite of the values of piety and compassion he biblically and with great fanfare, professes to espouse.
The state suffers from policy direction that is hazy, while the leadership has learned nothing in its remorseless rise up the greasy pole of the social order. Workers and pensioners have become destitutes in their own land, while the threat of suicide is flagging red. The stories about Benue in the Nigerian blogoshpere are not palatable and encouraging, even though the narratives could change with new leadership thinking. The current leadership merely aped those before it; so expecting much could be a tall dream.
It is really difficult not to concede to critics who have sincerely posited that Benue State has not been lucky with “good governors,” since 1999. It is arguably meant to be so in a state where the search for a governor is crookedly narrowed and confined to a group of people, while a major senatorial zone also blessed with erudite scholars, brain and competent Nigerians is perennially and politically ostracised as incapable of governing the state or even becoming the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
Good governance can never come out of a land devoid of political justice, because the best of such land are usually hidden in the rejected ones. This has been so from time immemorial; oppressed people and besieged lands are usually liberated by rejected tribes. God is forever using things that the wise of this world consider as foolish and weak to confound them and expose their limitations. Benue State must learn to know that only political justice can bring out the best from every part.
Atoye writes from Abuja via email@example.com