Ortom and the Economics of Survival


By Francis Ulal Damina

Most often, I am surprised by how our world is replete with well-ordered contradictions. But are they really contradictions or God’s creative ways of making the world perfect? This really calls for humility on our part as puny creatures with limited wisdom tied to our nature. But all the same, one has to concur that God’s ways are not ours. How for instance does one fully comprehend the complicated perennial problem of evil versus the goodness of God? If He is alive and good, and looking at how religious we are that at times, we are even ready to fight His battles, why should He not be with us now that there is so much hunger, killings of innocent people and the lingering fuel scarcity just to mention a few out of a long queue of avoidable human predicaments we are now facing? Others may specifically want to ask where He was when over a thousand got killed in Southern Kaduna and the 73 recently sent to their early graves in Benue.

While I am not unaware of the attempts to answer these very nagging questions of the relationship between good and evil by great philosophers at the turn of every generation, I am fully aware that attempts by the likes of St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, etc, to answer the seemingly enigmatic puzzle ended up with more questions than answers.

Only recently, my reflection seems to corroborate the saying that God has a reason for everything. As a student of Philosophy and Theology, I have prodded so much on the economics of evil and have discovered that sometimes, what appears to be bad or evil to us may at the end be part of God’s creative plan for the ordering of the universe. There is a motley of examples to show. For instance, even sinners have a place and are important in the economy of salvation. Without them, pastors and priests will have to join the unemployment market where the unemployment rate is worrisome. This is why I am of the opinion that pastors and priests should treat sinners with respect especially when preaching knowing that their employment insurance depends on them. I am afraid that the day everyone becomes ‘born again’, that is the day priests will all lose their jobs in a nation where the religious industry employs more than government. Or, are churches not proliferating everyday with untrained pastors, apostles, prophets, healers, etc, emerging from the blues?

Have you also observed that our bad roads have created a lot of opportunities for hawkers/vendors who make their kills when vehicles slow down at pot holes? Or Is it the conflict-situation that has created the opportunity for some of us to emerge as human rights activists simply because of the unfiltered noise we make? Is it equally not true that a lot of people are busy making their kills by pretending to be liaison persons between the internally displaced persons and willing benefactors?

Yes i know I digressed. But it was to create a background to the fact that there are people who benefit when evil thrives. And this is what I see going on in our dear country and particularly in Benue.

Before now, it was probably an open secret that Governors Samuel Ortom and Yahaya Bello of Benue and Kogi States respectively are the worst performing Governors in Nigeria. And it will require a FIFA referee to determine who, between the duo, is the better-worse. But fortunately or unfortunately, and unlike Bello, Ortom is now utilizing the conflict-situation in his state to: one, divert attention from his nonperformance, and to, two, buy legitimacy by regaining the confidence of Benuelites. Like other conflict entrepreneurs, the Governor who tactically defied party allegiance has suddenly transmuted into a sort of defensor populi by creating a narrative that casts him as an ethno-religious knight in defense of his people against a Buhari-led Federal government that appears tolerant and even supportive of the killer-herdsmen with whom the president shares a tribe and a religion. Ortom, I am sure, is not unaware of how religion and ethnicity have been used in purchase of legitimacy in other states by his fellow politicians over the years. He may have seen how former Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima used what Obasanjo referred to as ‘political Sharia’ to source for legitimacy in Zamfara State. My friend Sam Omatseye put it well when he said:”Ortom is wagging the dog’s tail. He has been an abysmal failure as governor, owing about a year in salaries and presiding over Makurdi that still looks only a little better than a village in the 1980’s . The herdsmen crisis is an opportunity to ride to a second term . It is a boon for him from the enemy”. Speaking on this style of politicking then, Bishop Kukah said:”The reaction to Buhari saga shows in many respects the fact that we are still not out of the woods. Indeed, those who have argued with no supporting evidence that June 12 showed that we have overcome the politics of ethnic differences and regionalism have overstated their case. We still have a long way to go.” Yes, governor Ortom knows very well that with so much killings by the so much criminalized Fulanis in the middle belt presented as being in a mission of Islamization with a stamp of approval from the president himself, it will pay to ply through a road tarred with both religious and ethnic sentiments to cover up for his sins and then regain the confidence and trust of Benuelites in view of 2019. And this is exactly what politicians especially from the north have been doing thereby producing the bricks that laid the foundation of a region built on religious and ethnic distrust. This is why the north is more of a religion than a region.

In his commentary on the manipulation of religion and ethnicity by politicians, the late Prof. Steve Nkom of Ahmadu Bello University’s sociology department said:”It has been the familiar trick of all selfish ruling classes to re-direct the accusations or venom targeted at them to those expedient or even ‘manufactured’ areas that affect or vex the interests and sentiments of the general public.They seek to gain legitimacy and political relevance by shifting the goal -post. They pretend that the attack is targeted at ‘discrediting their religion or ethnic group’, whereas it is their credibility that is in question “. He therefore warned:” Those engaged in defending any class and or group that still practices this outmoded game of manipulating religious, ethnic and sectional sentiments in order to gain or retain power are doing a disservice to all. It severely compromises their legitimacy by bringing it on the soft tissue of manipulated sentiments and prejudices”. He then called on those defending this type of politics to count its huge cost for society which includes “the perpetuation of ignorance and other ills, needless division and acrimony among the masses, avoidable religious tension including violent fundamentalist aberrations such as Boko Haram, poverty and retrogression for the generality of the people, complete vulnerability to the machinations and dictates of a selfish minority, and so on”. Corroborating on what the revered Professor said, Kukah added:” The ‘patron’ is not so much concerned about the welfare of his people, for he requires that existing condition as a grazing field to satisfy his personal ambition and hold onto power. The people are told that they are Hausas, Northerners, Muslims, Tivs, Yorubas, Igbos, Urhobos, or whatever. There imagined ancestry, with no historical or anthropological basis, becomes the fig leaf for covering the nakedness of the patron’s greed”.

And this is why the North has remained backward in education as the politicians who engage in this dangerous politicking will have to deliberately keep society unaccessible to quality education.

– Damina, a student of Religion and Society; can be reached on francisdamina@gmail.com

This nonsense must be collectively stopped. Ordinary people, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Fulanis, Igbos, Bakulu, Northerners, Southerners, and so on, must have by now, understood the antics of our politicians. The recent epistle written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for instance, should be able to teach us a lesson or two seeing that after the epistle and the unnecessary arguments that ensued among ordinary people, an Obasanjo and Buhari met in Adis Ababa exchanging pleasantries with bout of laughter. We must know that the struggle for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria can be achieved only when ordinary people from the North, South, East, etc, come together irrespective of religion and ethnicity, to fight against the greediness of our elite that has brought us to where we are today. While we insist that the protection of human life remains the justification for the existence of any government, the security of lives and property is our collective responsibility. This is why we must do all that is humanly possible to stop the sporadic killings in our land. And in the circumstance, it will require us to move away from popular but fruitless narratives into sincere diagnosis of the issues against the many half truths in the marketplace.

These half truths which Omatseye identified as “The South truth, the north truth, the Christian truth, the Islamic truth, the middle belt truth, the DSS truth, etc, will never bring us out of the current cul de sac that is threatening the unnegotiable dignity of human life, until we have a version of truth that stems from our conscience where God Himself, and not dangerous politicians of Ortom’s stock, speaks to us.

In any case, as far as the killings in our land are concerned, truth is the first casualty! However, “ humanity first “, as Samuel Kukah admonished.

Damina, a student of Religion and Society can be reached on francisdamina@gmail.com
Pix: Ortom.jpg

‘There is No Opposition Party in Kwara State’

Abdullahi Oganija is the Director, Media and Publicity, Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) Mandate Constituency/Campaign Office, Ilorin, Kwara State. He discusses a wide range of issues with select journalists. Hammed Shittu was there

What are the achievements of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki in Kwara State after almost three years?


ost of his programmes are done to cushion the suffering of the people of the Emirate and Kwara at large. Let me start from the education sector. In 2016 alone, over 47 classrooms were constructed in both Kwara Central and parts of the Emirate. A lot of teaching aids had been supplied to where they were needed. Apart from this, we discovered that most of our students, especially those in public schools lacked computer facilities.

Then, how do you think they can compete with others, now that most of the qualifying examinations like JAMB are taken by means of computer. As it is, if you are not computer literate, you cannot even sit for UTME. So, the Senate President felt it was important and donated computers to many Secondary Schools in his Senatorial District. Apart from this, he provided some instructional materials that are very useful for the students. He also paid the school fees of some indigent students, whose parents could not pay. Recently, we assembled over 400 students here, who could not pay their school fees and he helped them. This amounts to more than N10 million; this is in the area of education. There are many more things he had done. He also awarded scholarship to First Class students. He had done others in the past, sending students abroad to study.

He had done a lot of things in the area of education. Let’s take a look at the area of water. Anybody that brings water is like that person is bringing life. There is virtually nothing anybody does without water and, as you would agree with me, the problem of water in Nigeria is not peculiar to Kwara State or his Senatorial District. The National Assembly, which he chairs, has been finding ways to address the problem of water shortage in Nigeria. The major one is that they have legislated that all the local government areas should at least reticulate water through a minimum of three kilometres, and when you come back to Kwara State, some of our dams have a lot of water but there is problem of reticulation. So, in this area, he has been able to assist, especially when you look at the expansion of some dams, like Sobi Dam.

Senator Saraki has been able to assist in that area, the project is ongoing. This one will be able to serve not only Kwara Central but also some parts of Moro Local Government Area in Kwara North, upon completion. Meanwhile, before that is completed, he has sunk about 139 boreholes in various places within Kwara Central. But out of that 139, 117 have been completed. I want to say that there is a lot of problem in the town when you talk about water because most of the wells have dried up due to the dry season. We have to resort to alternative measure by buying water from water works and paying to transport it so that it can be delivered at every door within the Emirate. Those are the areas he has been assisting on the issue of water shortage. I think in a few years to come, the problem of water will be a thing of the past with the help of the Federal, State and those who feel concerned about Kwara water project.

But some people are skeptical that the intervention was just a ploy to hoodwink them to continue what they normally do during the voting time. Do you subscribe to such assumption?

Why would I subscribe to such? Naturally, the only time you experience shortage of water is during dry season. If you see anybody bringing water during rainy season, he is not helping the matter. What the Senate President is trying to do is to assist the people. It is only during dry season that you can cushion the effect of water crisis. And when you don’t have problem, how can you solve it? So, there is nothing like water scarcity during the rainy season. It is only when you are in dry season that you can come up with something to assist your people in the area of water crisis. When you have a well and the rain is falling, why would you need to bring water tanker around? So, we are doing it for politics. He is doing it because he believes people need it. This is politics and you cannot have everybody on the table.

How far has the ABS Mandate Office been able to bring on board those perceived as opposition in the Emirate?

The question is who are the opposition? The so called opposition people were once our friends. We had eaten in the same pot. In case you don’t know, 90 per cent of politicians in Kwara State are Sarakite. But when some cannot achieve their aim within the group, they fall out. Others who have been serving for years, and were asked to step down for two or three months, felt they have to continue in the same manner. So, in that regard, there is nothing we can do to them; and we don’t see them as opposition, we can call them “aggrieved politicians or party members.” Even today, you see them in the composition of PDP (in the state). Don’t be surprised by tomorrow, they will come back to their house. So, this opposition in Kwara, I don’t see it as a big deal. Maybe they are angry about certain things, we will continue to approach them and bring them back to the house. It is their house, because they are our brothers. What we do in this house is to bring everybody on board. I want to say that by next election, you would see the changes. That is all about opposition, there is no opposition in Kwara.

But the result of last government election took many by surprise with PDP recording some victory. What is your take on that?

I’m a practical man. When everybody is complaining about last local government election, my own take is different. What are the total votes PDP recorded in the last local government election? What are their total votes in 2015? What about the previous elections? We need to compare and contrast whether there is a crack, whether we have lost some of our members. But when you go by data, you would see that we have not lost anything by that result. What happened was that most of our people relaxed. They didn’t take the election seriously. I will use Alanamu (Ward) as a study. Alanamu vote strength is between 12,000 and 15,000 votes. Going by last local government election, the election was less than 4000 votes. Even PDP could not make any headway with that. There was mass apathy. People thought the election was a walkover for them and went ahead to relax. So, the process got weak for them. So, that was what happened about the election. Even in Ilorin West, we had AD councilor in the past; this is not the first time. Even among ourselves we had protest votes. There are people among us that in their own area, they have not been doing well, as a result of that people voted against them. The problem is not about PDP or the opposition having more strength. It is about our people because Senator Saraki alluded to this. Definitely, there is something going wrong within the house. As a result of that, there was a need to do some restructuring, and that was what brought people like us. But by the next election, we will put PDP where they belong.

pics: – Alhaji Abdullahi Oganija.jpg