ORTOM: As The Chicken Comes Home To Roost


“Akume’s famed magnanimity does not extend to providing refuge to felons and fugitives to justice. He has not lasted this long in the political space by associating with people of low repute”.


Peter Tosh is a Jamaican reggae music legend in the class of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and the rest. For me, his most prophetic rendition is his chart bursting classic called “Downpressor man”. In this poetic piece, he foretells the fate of workers of iniquity and oppressors who in the end cannot escape the judgement of their actions. He asks; “downpressor man where you gonna run to all on that day?” He goes further “you gonna run to the sea, but the sea will be boiling all along that day. You gonna run to the rocks, the rocks will be melting… all along that day.”

The summary is that no one can escape the judgement of history, neither will anyone be divorced from the consequences of his actions and inactions.

The inauguration of the twin Judicial Commissions of Inquiry by Governor Hyacinth Alia in Benue state to look into the income and expenditure profiles of the State between 2015 and 2023 as well as the status of government assets at the state and local levels marks the beginning of a tortuous process of cleansing and accountability. This action is anchored on precedence where the immediate past Governor of the State, Chief Samuel Ortom set up the Justice Kpojime Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the regime of Governor Gabriel Suswam.

The findings of the Kpojime panel indicted the former Governor and 51 others for misappropriating over N107 billion and issued a white paper spelling out various sanctions on the indicted persons. Sadly, it turned out that the entire exercise was a political circus devoid of any altruistic intent but intended to whip political opponents in line using the spurious report as a weapon of blackmail. The report though not formally repealed has become part of the files on the scrap heap of that regime.

It must be pointed out that during the hype of the sittings of that Commission, Governor Ortom kept reminding former Governor Suswam to use the opportunity of the Kpojime panel to clear himself of allegations of malfeasance. When the report was released and the sum of N107 billion mentioned, Governor Ortom told the world that if he got that amount of money, he will “turn Benue into London”. Having earned over 20 times that amount in eight years, it is left to be seen if the Benue Ortom left in 2023 was anywhere near the hoods of Hackney, Peckham, or Brixton in London. May be he was referring to our local Adipko London.

I do not in any way wish to preempt the outcome of the Twin Commissions. They have their terms of reference clearly spelt out. They include, determining how much accrued to the state in terms of loans, bailouts, Paris refunds, grants, IGR, FAAC, etc. They are to look at the processes of the application of these funds. They are to solve the riddle of the mysterious wage bill of the state from Governor Suswam’s claim of N2.8 billion to 7.8 billion per month under Ortom when no new recruitments took place and rather people were retired without benefits while those in service suffered epileptic payments for eight years. It is also heart-warming to ascertain the state of our assets including moribund state industries and what became of them.

In the build up to the institution of the Twin Commissions, there have been several political tensions owing to internal disagreements within the ruling Party in the State. Nobody can pretend that all is well even though I have first-hand knowledge of the positive disposition of the perceived top gladiators towards an amicable settlement. This, I am sure will happen soon to the shame of the lieutenants stoking the fire.

You can question Ortom’s literacy levels but you can never take away from him his foxy street wisdom. He spots opportunities from a distance and cashes in without delay. He rarely misses when he shoots. When he was outplayed in the 2015 PDP primaries, he left the road into the APC well paved knowing the PDP had lost the streets in Benue. He came in and rode on the crest benevolence of our undisputed leader, Senator George Akume and won the governorship under the APC. A few years down the line, not only did he wage war against the very person who paved the way for him to emerge candidate within 24 hours of joining the Party, he packed his bags and returned to the PDP and created a base to throw the most vitriolic diatribes against our leader. If he is not sponsoring local songs labeling him Ashabugu, he is leaking private taped conversations calling him all sort of names.

When the leader, Akume led the greatest political movement to sweep away Ortom in 2023, Ortom found himself in the political wilderness. The joke was now on him. The person who boasted to have retired George Akume from politics in 2019 was now the political retiree himself. Senator Akume on the other hand is the only politician in Nigeria today not to be left out of any political dispensation since 1999.

Back to Ortom’s savvy character of exploiting opportunities. Ortom knows the powers of the office of Governor having himself abused same in eight years. He knows what it means to be in the firing line of the Governor. What did he do? He bit the humble pie and went to grovel before the man he claimed to have retired from politics. His public eulogy of our leader was meant to seek a shield from the impending probe of his eight years of sorrow, tears and blood. He saw the perceived rift within the APC as his best bet to align with the leader for protection.

Senator George Akume has a reputation for large heartedness and that is why the doors of his modest home were opened to a character who called him all kind of names including a Fulani slave and killer. However, Akume’s famed magnanimity does not extend to providing refuge to felons and fugitives to justice. He has not lasted this long in the political space by associating with people of low repute. Ortom is therefore hiding behind a melting rock (in his own case) and a boiling sea. He cannot escape a scrutiny of his eight ugly years as Governor.

I want to hold Ortom to his words that he has nothing to hide. In an interview with Arise Tv after he lost power, he derisively referred to Governor Alia as “Hon Alia” not Rev Fr Alia. He openly boasted that he is available if Hon Alia decides to probe him. He should therefore not scream witch-hunt. I expect a statement from Terver Akase, his wingman saying so. Like he severally advised Suswam, this is his best chance to clear his name. Nobody wants to walk the streets being labeled a looter, serial salary defaulter, non-performer etc.

Governor Ortom should be prepared to be served the same dish he served Governor Suswam but let him be assured that this time around, it is not a circus show but an altruistic exercise to ensure Benue does not go through that kind of trajectory again.

…Kenneth Tersoo Gyado can be reached via Kengyado@yahoo.co.uk

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