Ortom, Wheelbarrows ‘Youth empowerment’ gone wrong
Distributing wheelbarrows to youths at a time when Benue is losing its ‘Food Basket of the Nation’ title to incessant attacks from suspected Fulani herdsmen is misplaced priority.
The past week has not been the best for Benue youths both home and abroad.
This is because the amiable governor of Benue state, Samuel Ortom ‘decided to empower’ youths not with tractors, loans to start up businesses or some skill acquisition programme but with wheelbarrows.
“Gov. Ortom for you” read bold inscriptions on the dark-green painted carts.
Pictures of Governor Ortom inspecting the wheelbarrows soon went viral on the internet – especially on social media.
“Your governor is in the news again for the wrong reason,” wrote a friend as he shared a picture of the wheelbarrows with me.
This comes barely three months after a Benue state lawmaker, Honourable James Gbande was pictured kneeling before Governor Ortom for allegedly making comments on the attack of some villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
I must say that at times like these, it takes courage to identify yourself as a Benue state indigene.
Few weeks after a tour of China, one would have expected better innovative ideas from the ‘Ortomatic Governor’ as he is fondly called.
That may be the difference between ‘Automatic’ and ‘Ortomatic’. Disappointed, that was how I felt (still feel).
In our democracy where salt and rice are used to lure the electorates into voting for a candidate, distributing wheelbarrows to youths could be a ground breaking achievement.
When the news of Governor Ortom’s branded wheelbarrows got to the public domain, the backlash was terrible.
From cartoons to write-ups, the Benue state governor was lampooned.
For a long time, most people would only remember Ortom for this ‘heroic’ act.
Terver Akase, chief press secretary to the Benue state governor’s reaction to the matter did little or nothing to the situation.
“We wish to make it clear that the consent of the Governor was not sought and he did not give approval for anyone to inscribe his name on the said wheelbarrows,” Akase said in a statement on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
Ortom’s spokesman isn’t done yet…
“Governor Ortom is aware that the wheelbarrows in possession of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) were recently donated to the state by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) for victims of crisis in parts of the state so he couldn’t have claimed credit for the gesture.
“The Ortom administration has numerous laudable empowerment schemes for youths of Benue but the donation of wheelbarrows to the youths is not one of such schemes.
“Consequently, the Governor has directed Secretary to the State Government to issue a query to the Executive Secretary of SEMA to explain why the said action was taken by his office.
“Governor Ortom has also directed the agency to immediately remove the inscription from all the affected wheelbarrows,” Akase’s statement read.
Going through the statement, few questions came to mind…
Why did Governor Ortom not order the removal of his name from the wheelbarrow when he inspected the carts?
Why did it have to take public outcry to effect the change?
Was the governor trying to take the glory for items donated to Benue state by Nigeria’s refugee agency, NCFRMI?
Whose idea was it to inscribe the governor’s name on items donated to the state by the federal government?
The height of sycophancy.
What is the use of wheelbarrows, hoes and other farm tools when farmers cannot go to their farms for fear of being attacked or killed by suspected Fulani herdsmen?
At a time when Benue is losing its ‘Food Basket of the Nation’ title due to incessant attacks from suspected Fulani herdsmen, distributing wheelbarrows to youths is misplaced priority.
How about tackling the problem of insecurity in the state by signing into law the anti-grazing bill which seeks to prohibit open grazing carried out by Fulani herdsmen and their cattle.
This would further reduce the usual Fulani-farmers clash which leads to the loss of lives and properties.
Lest I forget, there is a Wheelbarrow Pushers Association in Benue state.
Like other Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led states at the time, Benue wanted ‘Change’ – positive or negative, no one cared.
Haven served as minister of state for trade and investments during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Benue indigenes expected so much from the Ortom government.
Two years down the line, Benue state has not ‘Changed’ — maybe not what the people expected.
The journey of a thousand miles they say begins with a step. The ‘wheelbarrow’ step is to the ‘left’. Governor Ortom and his advisers should try the ‘right.’ Distributing wheelbarrows as means of ‘empowering the youths’ in 2017 is illogical. The kind of joke no youth in this present era would want to listen to or laugh about.