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Ortom on the way to PDP?




Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom may not have decided to align forces with his former political party juggernauts in the now opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) circles to fight what he frequently called “injustice” meted out to him by the governing All Progressives Congress-led government over herdsmen killings to enable him sail through the troubled waters to actualize his second term ambition, the handwriting on the wall appears to be speaking volumes.

Before the governor was elected into the position he is occupying today, he passed through several huddles as a chieftain of the same PDP. There, he became Minister of State, Trade, Industry and Investment in the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, but was denied the party’s ticket as candidate for the 2015 governorship election in the state.

In the build up to that general elections, in his determination to achieve his dream to govern the state, Chief Ortom dumped the PDP after he lost out woefully in the gubernatorial primaries. Statistics showed that he polled 111 votes, while Hon. Prince Terhemen Tarzoor, an anointed candidate of the party in the state clinched 517 votes to pick the keenly contested ticket.

Ortom’s poor outing compelled him to seek alternative platform to forge ahead with his ambition and officially resigned his membership of PDP in his Nzorov council ward in Guma local government area of the state and picked nomination form to contest the gubernatorial primaries of the APC. The decision, he said, followed mounting pressure from his supporters and other stakeholders to seek an alternative party to pursue his dream.

At the polls, where he locked horns with the PDP’s Tarzoor, Ortom floored him scoring 422, 932 of the total votes cast against Tarzoor’s 313, 878 votes to emerge runner-up.

Soon after he assumed office barely three years ago, one of the greatest challenges that continued to stare the governor in the face, apart from non-payment of salaries which had accumulated between seven to 12 months, including pensions is the growing insecurity situation where suspected Fulani herdsmen have continued to invade, attack and kill thousands of innocent people with property worth billions of naira also destroyed with no compensation for the victims.

The killings however, predate his administration as it started way back in 2011 and from that time till now, the people have been attacked 47 different times. Several times, the Muhammadu Buhari-controlled Federal Government had treated letters written by the governor to the presidency over planned attack by the Miyetti-Allah Kuatal Hore leadership to kill the people with levity.

Governor Ortom had repeatedly called on the Federal Government to arrest the situation but no proactive measures were taken to contain the situation. Over 700, 000 internally displaced persons are currently in the seven camps in the affected local government areas including those from neighbouring Cameroon over crisis.

The deployment of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the visit of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau failed to help matters as the crisis worsens.

But significantly, the massive killing of 73 innocent people in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state on the New Year day by armed Fulani herdsmen has continued to attract the sympathy of Nigerians from all walks of life including both APC and PDP serving governors and business moguls.

The first set of APC governors that visited to commiserate with the government and people of the state over the killings were Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna State), Simon Lalong (Plateau State), Alhaji Yahaya Bello (Kogi State), Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar (Jigawa), Mrs. Grace Titilayo (Deputy Governor of Osun State) and Alhaji Kashim Shetima (Borno State).

On the side of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the governors that have so far visited included Nyesom Wike (Rivers State) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti State.

Other distinguished Nigerians that have paid sympathy visits to the governor included President of the Nigeria Bar Association, (NBA), Mahmoud Abubakar and former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa.

But out of these visits, the one Benue people considered most embarrassing was that of the APC governors led by Governor Shetima. Their visit is seen as adding more pains to injuries inflicted on the people as they saw what happened to their colleague in APC as nothing even as Governor El-Rufai was busy fondling his i-pad at the New Banquet Hall of the Government House when they came without relief materials for the IDPs. Their visit lasted for less than 25minutes.

But the visit of the PDP governors indeed put smiles on the faces of Benue people especially the IDPs as Governor Wike who proceeded to the grave yard where the 73 people were buried, donated N200 million while his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayodele Fayose who also went to the grave yard to see things for himself, donated N10 million to assist government purchase relief materials for the IDPs.

That was not all, the PDP governors from Government House proceeded straight to the residence of former governor of the state, Dr. Gabriel Suswam in Makurdi where serious political issues were allegedly perfected to put mechanism in place to ensure their “romance” with Ortom turned out well.

Currently, Gabriel Suswam is angling to contest the Benue North East Senate seat to pull the rug off the feet of former PDP National Chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, whose posters have already flooded Makurdi metropolis for president, though no political party logo in on the posters for now. Gemade is currently representing that zone in the upper legislature on the platform of the APC.


Governor Ortom’s major sin in the eyes of the Federal Government is his firm position on the Anti Open Grazing and Ranching Law which he promulgated as a deliberate measure to end years of conflict between Fulani herdsmen cattle rearers and Benue crop farmers. His resolve not to allow the invaders take over the rich land given to the people by God has placed him in the bad books of the government in power which it is alleged to be working round the clock to plot his fall in 2019 a decision that informed his rumoured flirting with the PDP in recent times.


The governor had revealed that he will dump APC for the PDP immediately the people of state ask him to do so. He was responding to the call by the Governor Fayose who paid him condolence visit following the killing of several people of the state by Fulani herdsmen.


Fayose had told him to change to another vehicle if the vehicle conveying him cannot take him to his destination and or it is faulty.


Ortom is a swift response said, “I am a member of the APC and about the issue of joining another vehicle, Benue people are here and they are hearing you. I cannot decide for Benue people, the people will decide, it is what they want that I will want. Anything Benue people say I should do, I will do.


“Nigeria can never be the same, Benue can never be the same because there is going to be a paradigm shift; there is going to be a turnaround never witnessed in our history. And one of them is that I have joined my brother Fayose to be outspoken on things that are done wrongly in this country. We have a constitution and laws guiding us and I believe in the rule of law and due process and anything outside that whether here or at the national level I must challenge.


“Those who think that I am talking should give me justice; let there be equity; let there be fairness; let there be transparency in what we are doing. Not hiding under to intimidate and engaging in name calling. It will not be accepted.


“I am an elected governor and I must speak on behalf of the people who put me there and nothing more, because I am accountable to them and whatever they want is what I will do. With the State Assembly we are working together, the law was a product of the people.”


But whether the governor will defect to PDP remains the major issue being discussed on the streets of Makurdi, the Benue State capital. For now, he has said the matter is not on his table and that he has suspended all forms of political campaigns ahead of 2019, as a result of the bloody clash between herdsmen and unarmed farmers in the state.


The governor’s statement has been interpreted in some quarters to mean that he was set to dump the APC for PDP. His Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, declared that there is no way the governor could contemplate decamping to a another political party. “How can someone even think of that? There is no plan whatsoever for the governor to join another party,” said.

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‘Radio can be used to check herdsmen/farmers’ clashes’



Mrs. Alison Data Phido is the Executive Director, African Radio Drama Association (ARDA). ARDA was launched in Nigeria in 1996 and has more than 30 radio stations across the country. She speaks with FLORA ONWUDIWE on some of their executed projects in form of drama and jingles which have been syndicated to other countries in Africa and broadcast on the BBC in Hausa. Mrs. Phido also suggested the methodology to put an end to Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ clashes


What informed establishing the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA)?


The ARDA was established in faraway Harare, Zimbabwe. It was during a development communication symposium of people who are interested in using radio to the development of communications. It has scholars; radio producers, actors, presenters, even some development people, people who are working in health, agriculture and so on.


So, it was a symposium that was looking at ways we can communicate better with our populations on several development areas and problems that we have in Africa. It wasn’t just Africans; we had people from Asia, Philippines and the Caribbean. There were people who are passionate about what the most accessible medium is and how we can use it so that people will really benefit from it. Those of us who went from Nigeria were amazed at the sheer possibilities of how one can use a simple medium like radio to achieve so much in terms of development. We were amazed because at that time, radio was no longer an attractive medium.

If you were born in the 50s, or grew up in the 60s and 70s, you saw the impact of radio. In the 90s, television had taken over and videos were the in thing. And the reasons were not far-fetched. But even in the developed countries, radio is still very important to them; so why is it not that way in Nigeria. We knew at that time the radio had become deregulated so even the private radio stations had programming that was nothing to write home about.


Mostly, they were playing a lot of music and advertisements. Nobody was spending money producing programmes anymore. But in other countries, you hear about people using radio dramas to promote agriculture, make people think about family planning, better reproductive health; they are using radio drama to promote girl child education. We saw what people were doing with radio and we said, why can’t we do the same in Nigeria, Africa. So the association was born.



What are those contents that affect Nigeria that you are using radio to promote?


Think about all the indexes of under- development; education, good governance, democracy, democratic principles, accountability, corruption. We talk about reproductive health matters, children’s health, nutrition in families, female genital mutilation, widows’ dispossession, and child’s rights. Under gender inequality, we talk about sexual responsibility issues, HIV/AIDs and Malaria.


The issue raised was that people in the rural areas are mostly affected. When you take some of these executed projects to them, the barrier is language; how do you communicate for them to have an impact of ARDA’s project?


We speak in the language that they understand. We do this simply because our methodology starts from who we think the beneficiaries are. For example, in a particular location, they have an issue that they feel that we can help them address; we start by researching, talking and engaging them in trying to find solutions to whatever issues they have. We normally package our programmes in the languages of those people and that is the beauty of radio to be honest. Because if you are low literate or illiterate and you don’t have access to print medium, you cannot understand or read or write. But then people are speaking your language on radio, you will understand them. That is why radio is accessible because even for low literate people, at least it is oral, so we try as much possible to speak to people in the language that they understand and that is why we define our audience first of all.



The issue of reproductive or maternal health is predominantly in the rural areas for lack of facilities and lack of education. The Lagos State Government seems to be more involved, does ARDA work with states?


In every state where we worked, we tried to get the states to key in. If you want things to be sustainable, you have to look at what you have on ground; what is the structure. Maternal health for instance is an issue that they want to address. Many states have family planning units or maternity unit; they have all kinds of programmes that look at addressing maternal health. Nigeria is one of the countries that has very high maternal mortality rate. We are one of those countries that have more women dying just because they are pregnant or delivering a baby. Many countries have reduced incidences of maternal mortality. We are still on the high side.



Do you syndicate some of these projects you execute in Nigeria to other countries in Africa?


Yes we do. We have worked on several Hausa and Fulani projects before. I mention those in particular because if you look at West Africa, Hausa is spoken by populations in several of these countries. For instance, Hausa is spoken in Niger, Cameroun, Mali, Ghana and across the coast, you have pockets of Hausa populations; so you have a lot of international radio stations having Hausa service. We broadcast in the past on BBC Hausa service, Deutchvelle in Fatuwan; a radio drama series that we had in Hausa called ‘Asuga Ategiri’ for several years. That is to show you the reach as we were getting comments and letters from Libya, Sudan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Niger among others. We also belong to a network that was set up by an organisation called the Panos West Africa. They support the community radio stations and many countries have hundreds of them. Nigeria is still a new thing here. In Ghana, Mali and Niger, they all have community radio stations and they want contents and they beg for contents. What Panos does is try and get people who are building content to try and contribute to its bank. Once these programmes are in the bank, any radio station can use them.



When the initiative was launched in 1996, did you know that you would go this far?



I knew that we would go even further than where we are now because it was a huge and very big vision. I saw the number one development communication entity, development communication agency on the continent. That was what I thought this organisation is going to be because there has never been anything like it; we have advertising agencies and other media agencies but there are no development communication organisations.



ARDA is made up of experts with cross cultural perspective. What does this mean?


We have the expertise in ARDA that is always a little bit more than what other people have to offer. For example, we have staff or associates from advertising background, which means they are experts in how to package communication to motivate people to buy something; either idea or products. We have people who are producers of media materials, film producers or radio producers, scriptwriters, trainers who can facilitate any workshop or people who can come up with a curriculum or any kind of training.


The edge we have above other people is every single person here has a developmental background. A developmental background gives a different perspective, knowledge and awareness.



Most Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) usually fold up after a while for lack of fund, but ARDA waxes stronger; the bride of long list of foreign donors, grants and support from within. What is the secret that has kept the organisation afloat for other founders of NGOs to take a cue from?


Some NGOs have come and gone, most of them could be lack of funds, and some may have completed whatever they mandated for themselves to do. But for ARDA, we had a vision for an enduring organisation. So when you had that kind of a vision, you set it up from the beginning to have those characteristics that will make an enduring organisation. What are the things that make an organization stay? When you study organisations that are there for decades there are certain significant characteristics. I think the main thing is that, there is a niche for the kind of services we are offering, because even in the developed countries, communicating development is something that is ongoing. There are things that you are always going to communicate to your community population, so the niche we have carved for ourselves is something that we needed that will always be an important service. So for developing countries, the issues are numerous, there are some long standing matters that still need to be communicated. The other things that made us to survive till now and for us to be attractive to donors as well as partner organizations are two folds; we do quality work that they can see the value, success and impact of some of the things we had done in the past. We have structures in place to manage funds that we do receive, which means that a donor is confident that they gave us money. There is nothing that donors love more than having structures, checks and balances, like having a supervisory board, are they meeting, do you have audited accounts, those are the things that make people part with their money. Also, another source of our income is we do consultancies.



You said you had a project where you had to educate the Fulani herdsmen, what kind of project was that?


It was a project on Climate Change; an adaptation to Climate Change. Why we worked with the herdsmen is because of the constant conflict between the herdsmen and farmers in the country over resources. Because it is about the distribution of resources, scarce resources and the natural habitat of the herdsmen, the Sahel region of the country is very dry now. Many people can tell you how far the desert has encroached into our country. So you can imagine the Sahel being the driest. We also have the Guinea Sudan areas, which is coming down almost to Benue, Guinea Savannah regions, so you find during the dry season, that there is hardly adequate water and greenery or food for the cattle and most of the breeders that raise cows are nomadic. If there is no food they move South west, until the rains begin and they go back. It is the way that they have always traditionally done their work.


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Election: CNPP knocks President for withholding assent



The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has said that President Muhammadu Buhari was ill-advised by the enemies of democracy to withhold assent to the recently passed Electoral Act amendment by the National Assembly, urging the lawmakers to invoke their veto powers and sign the amendment into law in the interest of the country.


While reacting to the rejection of the amendments to the Electoral Act by the President, the CNPP in a statement by its Secretary-General, Chief Willy Ezugwu noted that no sacrifice was too much to save the country and the Nigerian democracy from nose-diving into a one party state.
The CNPP said: “Those advising the President on the reordered electoral sequence must have deceived him that the amendment was targeted at his reelection. In any case, is Nigeria not greater than any one man’s ambition?


“The President should focus on conducting a free and fair election like the previous government, which conducted the election that brought him into office. The truth of the matter is that a President that has done well will be reelected irrespective of the date the presidential election was conducted.



“Therefore, the unannounced fear of the Presidency that the amendment will adversely affect President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection is unfounded as the withholding of the President’s assent is not in his interest. The action is strongly portraying Mr. President as one who is not concerned about deepening democracy and has no interest in the credibility of elections after his tenure.


“We therefore urge the representatives of the people at the National Assembly to immediately invoke their constitutional powers and veto the President’s assent to move the country forward on the path of true democracy.”

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NIM calls for abrogation of Lagos Land Use Charges



The Nigerian Intervention Movement, Lagos State Chapter, has lauded the recent general protest against the newly introduced Lagos Land Use Charge, especially the over 166,000 signatures it allegedly mobilized against it, stating that it is the triumph of “peoples power”


Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, NIM, which also commended the institution of a suit against the Act, stated that though the Lagos State Government has reduced the charges by 50 per cent, the wish of the people is total abrogation of the law.


According to the Coordinator of the Movement in Lagos, Mr. Bolaji Ogunsewe and Ronie Dikko, the state government was not only insensitive by enacting such law at this very critical period of the nation’s economy, but it has actually overreached itself with the action.


“By rushing to town after protests from all sectors of the society to announce 50 per cent reduction, the government merely portrayed itself as a listening government, but failed to address the main issue which is the justification for the law. Hence we are calling for its abrogation and are happy that some bodies in the state are taking legal action against the law,” Dikko said.


In his contribution, Mr. Ogunsewe said the enactment of the law “violates taxation principle, which is predicated on economic success of the people. Taxation is in relation to the overall performance of the economy? Government cannot take any action on taxation without calibrating economic success of the people. In this case can it be said that the economy is buoyant or collapsing? If it is collapsing. So what is the justification for this taxation at this period?


“ The government should drop the entire law and return it to the Lagos Stat House of Assembly, commence public hearing on it and gauge the views of stakeholders to look at the desirability or otherwise. The law is unacceptable and it is capable of causing great disaffection and further pauperize the poor in the state,” he said.


Early last week, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chairman, Ikeja Branch, Mr. Adesina Ogunlana, led other human rights activists, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Joint Action Committee, to protest the newly introduced Land Use Charge.

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