Saturday, May 27, 2017

Opinion: The Ortom Wheelbarrow's Story, a Hoax after All!

The news report that Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue state, Nigeria, gave out wheelbarrows to empower youths in the state was no doubt one of the stories,
if not the singular news story that drove the most conversation across Nigeria in week gone by.

And the reason is not far-fetched at least before the facts contrary to the stated are in; it is smacked of rancid insensitivity and political colourlessness.

Trust Nigerians from different walks of life never to let an opportunity such as this fly by without heavily weighing in with different shades of opinions.

Samuel Ortom, Benue state governor of the ruling party, APC..

It is always worse if the actors are politicians like the case here because from history and experience they have the penchants for all manner of political shenanigans, notoriety and stunts.

So, it's not surprising the amount of spontaneous hula-baloo generated in the public domain when the news story breaks.

In short, it virtually brought all other activities to a halt.

Some of the questions that immediately come to mind are: 'what was the governor thinking?  Could the story be true? Is this a joke or something?’

Indeed like every story that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, it quickly gained traction and was the talk of town.

Expectedly, the social media also simply make mincemeat of it.

And swiftly, a torrent of condemnations followed without even journalists deeming it fit to get to the root of the matter.

Below are samples of some of the critical views expressed by the people.

It was considered to be the height of inhumanity to man and a disservice any one can mete out to his fellow human being in the name of helping them.

It was to many an intolerable and unpardonable insult, particularly, coming from an elected public officer when what's on everybody's lips is moving the vast majority of our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

And for someone to imagine the best way to achieve poverty 
alleviation is gifting a number of one of the crudest and earliest of human inventions, the wheelbarrow.

What's more, it was seen by virtually all the commentators I chanced to hear as symbolising nothing but the new low in the history of the governed and the government relations in Nigeria.

One implied meaning could be given to all of these, and that's the governor wishes his people stay right in the pre-historic past while the rest of humanity forges ahead with advance ways of getting goods moved around which the wheelbarrow represents.

David Mark, PDP senator representing Benue south senatorial district.   

Next is the Mark's twist to the story.

David Mark, a substantive senator representing Benue south senatorial district; and the erstwhile Senate president of the Federal republic of Nigeria, while speaking in Rivers State during the commissioning of projects completed by his host, Governor Nyesom Wike, decided to take a dig at Ortom.

Blazing the abusive tone and ably trailed also by his host, he was reported to have mocked Ortom unending.

He was reported to have lambasted governor Ortom of busying himself with presenting wheelbarrows of all the things in life to empower the youths of the state while other governors are busy delivering on their mandates with state-of-the-art infrastructures.

In the twenty first century, who does something as dumb if not a leader utterly clueless when it comes to governance his rants must insinuate.

Above all, he rated Ortom's performance very low in development indexes since assuming office in 2015.

Obviously without cross-checking his facts, he cheerfully scored what he believed to be a valuable political point against the opposition APC governor.

But no sooner than his tirade was delivered, the Benue state government through its chief press secretary, Terver Akase, released a press statement purposed to clarifies things and put the records straight.

According to the press statement, we now know that the idea of empowering the youths of the state with wheelbarrows was solely the initiative of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons, NCRMIDP; and not the conception of the state government as widely reported.

It was equally meant, the press release continues, to alleviate the sufferings of the selected victims of armed herdsmen attacks especially in the Agatu Local Government Area of the state.

In the press release, Benue state government did not missed out in the opportunity to take a swipe at Senator David Mark who was described as a ‘man disconnected with his people who repeatedly voted him into the senate since 1999.’

Terver also called Mark a failure with regards to the level of infrastructural development especially in his senatorial district and local government.

“This is a man who couldn't construct the road to his village even when he presided over the senate for eight uninterrupted years, submitted Terver Akase.”

All he did, according to Terver, when there's need for him to visit his home state as senate president is flying in chopper to his golf course in Otukpo instead of travelling by road to see things first hand.

And for him to now turn around and accused the Ortom's administration of non performance is nothing but hypocrisy of the highest order because the PDP which governed the state before 2015 electoral rout have nothing to show for their prolong rule.

He goes on to list a number of developmental projects the Ortom's administration is currently undertaking as proofs of the governor’s commitment to discharging his mandate with people oriented programmes and initiatives.

From the foregoing, it is clear the press missed the substance of the story by miles.

Instead, it decided to chase after the elusive shadow which is not healthy for the image of the press going forward.

In my opinion, what a section of Nigeria mainstream press and its on line co-travellers have only succeeded in doing with the Ortom's story is spreading falsehood; misinformation and mischief about a gentleman governor who knows nothing of the project he simply helped delivered to the beneficiaries.

And finally both in the short and long run would’ve succeeded in damaging whatever good reputations the governor has if these lies have been allowed to go unchecked by ascribing programmes and programmatic that weren't his ideas or his government's.

And at such anomaly, everyone seems to have had a field day whipping governor's Ass left, right and centre until the truth of the matter at last slowly crept into daylight.

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