Mr. Abraham Kwaghngu is the Special Adviser to the Benue State Governor on Special Duties. In this interview, he spoke about achievements and challenges of the Samuel Ortom led administration, the threat of the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore over the recent passage of the Anti-Open Grazing Bill in the state and more. Excerpts:
By Peter Duru
DO you agree with critics that Governor Samuel Ortom has wasted two years in office?
I think those who say this government has not performed are not in touch with their people back home. They are obviously people who are living outside the state and perhaps do not come home regularly to appreciate the positive things that are going on in the state at the moment. I want to say emphatically that within the last two years, the Governor Samul Ortom led administration has performed and done a lot of things which have touched the lives of the people positively.
In terms nonpayment of salaries, you know very well that the government is owing workers at the state level arrears of four months. Now, consider if the governor had said he would draw a line and not pay the arrears that he met on ground and decided to pay workers from the date he assumed office in 2015 do you think we would have had arrears? When this administration assumed office, we met arrears of about six months, if the government had drawn the line at the time, everyone knows that this government wouldn’t have been in arrears.
But the government has ensured that at the end of every month workers are paid full salaries, not half or quarter salary as was being done by the last administration. And then the leaders of workers’ unions are fully involved in meetings that are held to ensure the disbursement of the funds for payments.
What is your reaction to the opposition by the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella organization of Fulani herdsmen to the governor’s assent to the bill prohibiting open grazing in the state?
Well, it is a matter of law. Due process was followed in the entire process. An executive bill was sent to the State House of Assembly which deliberated on it and also organized public hearings on the bill where all stakeholders had their say on the bill including the herdsmen without any contrary view and after that the House of Assembly sat and passed the bill.
And on the day of assent by the governor he also called all stakeholders to witness the signing, and they unanimously gave their support. The law is about the protection of the lives and property of the people of Benue State who were being killed and maimed in their hundreds in their ancestral homes without any form of defense whatsoever.
The people of Benue State are solidly behind the governor and the government on the issue. They are unequivocal on this matter irrespective of their tribal and political divide. Benue people have collapsed their political differences to stand with the governor.
In fact, the people have formed a shield in defense of the governor on this matter, and they are resolute in their defense for the governor which is the first time it is happening in the history of our state. So it is now a subsisting law, and I don’t think any individual or group can come out now to kick against the law which enjoys general acceptance.
Going by your submission on the achievements of the administration in the last two years, what do you think about 2019 and the prospect of Governor Ortom winning the next governorship election in the state?
2019 will certainly be about the people, and I can assure you that when Governor Ortom finishes his four years the people will be begging him to run in 2019 because what he has been doing for the state has never happened before given the level of transparency in governance, the openness in the running of government. He has restored peace and security in the state and went further to hand the state over to God.
And you know that anyone with God is sure of victory because he only rules in the affairs of men. You know that with God all things are possible. If a man can disappoint you, God will never disappoint and abandon his own, that is the story of Governor Ortom who has handed everything about the state and himself to God.
What has been your experience working with the Governor in the last two years?
I must tell you the truth that the experience has been wonderful. It’s been the best experience I’ve had in my life. I’m working with a man who has a fear of God, who believes in due process and diligence.
One who does not believe in anything that is evil and strives to address the challenges of the people despite the obvious challenges, he always ensures that things are done rightly. I’m truly fulfilled working with him in this administration.