A Quest for Sensitivity and Civility in Benue Leadership

Sat Nov 12th, 2022 -

Leadership is not a fundamental right of anyone. It is a privilege. Besides, becoming a leader does not indicate that one has the best qualities or is the most knowledgeable person in society. Three important lessons can be drawn from the first book of Kings (3:1-15) when Solomon was allowed to ask God for anything he wanted. First, he acknowledged God’s kindness as the source of his kingship. Second, he conceded that those he was to lead were “a great people.” Third, he asked God for wisdom to discern between good and evil. Many things fall apart when a leader is deficient in these three lessons.

As a Benue citizen, I have been attracted to the religious oratory of His Excellency Governor Samuel Ortom, who persistently quote the Bible and invoke God in his speeches. The maxim of his administration, “In God we Trust,” mimics the inscription on the American dollar. Hardly anyone could resist the impression he gives of a God-fearing leader. The Governor’s public engagements with the presidency on the killings of the Benue people by Fulani herders paint a picture of his unlimited passion and care for the people. However, his recent outings on the campaign trail have unwittingly constructed the tale of a Governor who may have lost his mind.

Among my concerns with the Benue Governor’s recent outings include his remarks regarding his political party’s presidential flagbearer and supporters.

Needless to quote his words here, but while it may be understandable that tensions are politically high and no one is perfect, Governor Ortom must remember that Christians DO NOT send people to hell. The Christian mission is to send people to heaven. It is on this basis that we are required to love our enemies and even pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44). I am not in any way passing judgment, but just trying to remind the Governor of a portion of the book (the Bible) that he so much loves to quote.

My other concern is the Governor’s reference to Holy Water in his characterization of Father Alia as 419ner. I want the Governor to know that the rite of blessing the Holy Water in the Catholic Church is not based on the power of Father Alia or any priest as an individual. By the Church’s prayer, the priest calls on God to sanctify the water and salt through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be used for the protection of God’s people against evil.

This rite has biblical foundation in the cleansing of water at Jericho by Prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:19-22). Over the centuries, this practice of the Catholic Church has given comfort to numerous people around the world. Thus, even if Governor Ortom does not believe in Catholic practices, making fun of them in political campaigns insults the sensibilities of many people. Governor Ortom needs to apologize to the Catholic faithful.

Lastly, as Africans, we honor the dead and respect our ancestors. The Tiv also say that or doon ku, which means we avoid aspersions or negativity about the dead, even if they were not good people.

We invoke our ancestors in supplication for help in moments of crisis. In this context, Governor Ortom’s strategy of invoking the late Governor Aper Aku in denigration to excuse the non-payment of salaries by his administration comes across as quite appalling. Is the late Mr. Aper Aku also contesting to be Governor of Benue in 2023? If “agreement is an agreement,” why is the State government not agreeing to pay those who have agreed to work for the government in Benue? A salary of excuses from the Governor has yet to be able to buy food for Benue workers.




source: Guardian