By Professor Pita Agbese
eeGiven his awful performance as a governor, Ortom Adorogo can be accused of many things and for the most part, those accusations would stick. If he is accused of being hostile to education, that accusation cannot be controverted. If he is pilloried for a being a gross salary delinquent, no one can dispute that. If anyone says that Ortom has not built any industry for Benue, and yet he is eager to sell off the ones built by his predecessors, there can be no dispute about that. Neither can there be any dispute that Ortom’s private fortunes have taken a quantum leap even as the rest of the Benue economy is in a rut. It is also indisputable that school fees have risen astronomically even as the quality of education has deteriorated in the Ortom years. Nonetheless, there is one area in which accusations against Ortom would sound hollow and unconvincing. No one can accuse Ortom of lopsided concentration of infrastructural development in any part of Benue. Naka does not have pipe-borne water. Neither does Agatu. Taraku is enveloped in darkness the same way Adikpo is. Schools in Agila are as dilapidated as schools Katsina-Ala. Makurdi, the state capital, is as bereft of infrastructural facilities as Otobi. Gbajimba, Ortom’s hometown, is not wearing the face of a town that has sired a state governor. Even the road to Gbajimba which has been under construction for many years is not an exemplar of a fine road. It has already developed potholes. There is practically nothing at Gbajimba that was not there before Ortom became a governor. Ortom is an equal opportunity underdeveloper.
In view of Ortom’s deep connections with Gboko, a place where he eked out a living as a motor park tout and conductor in the past phase of his life, one would have expected Ortom to have shown the city that its adopted son had arrived and arrived big. Gboko ought to be celebrating its good fortune in raising a boy into a state governor. It ought to be thumping its chest and flaring its nose at all the good things it’s adopted son had bestowed on it. No such luck. Sure, a few kilometers of Gboko streets have been resurfaced and a brand new palace for the Tor Tiv has been built and commissioned, but Gboko has not witnessed any other infrastructural development. The Tiv Tiv sure lives in a brand new palace equipped with a church, but the streets of Gboko are as dusty as the streets of Otukpo during the dry season and as muddy as Otukpo’s during the rainy season. Gboko’ a levels of criminalities are no less than that of other cities in Benue. Even the fires that the “devil” has set on markets in Benue, have not spared Gboko. Gboko is as bereft of critical infrastructure as Otukpo.
Gboko is not just a place where Ortom spent part of his teenage and early adulthood years. It is regarded as the ancestral home of the Tiv people, a place where Tivs worldwide could call home even if they live at Taraku or Washington, DC. Moreover, Gboko is becoming the educational hub of Benue with three private polytechnics in the town and a university, University of Mkar, just a few miles away. Gboko also boasts of some prominent secondary schools. Benue’s most important industrial plant, Benue Cement, is also located literally on the outskirts of Gboko. The city is equally bustling with commercial energy exuded by young entrepreneurs. Gboko may turn out not just the ancestral home of the Tiv people, but the most vibrant city in Benue. All of these emerging aspects of Gboko May be lost on Ortom. To be fair, Ortom did use Gboko as a site for “unveiling” some PDP gubernatorial candidates who were “avoidably present.” Gboko is an important city, in fact, Benue’s second most important city.
Why then has Ortom neglected Gboko as he has neglected other Benue cities? Ortom could not even re-build the Gboko Motor Park, the place that gave him an important start in life, a place he learnt his street survival skills and his penchant for mendacity? Why, despite inviting several of his colleague governors to Gboko to declare the Tor Tiv palace open, Ortom has not been able to do anything worthwhile for the city? Gboko was supposed to showcase the leadership qualities of Ortom, and the “giant strides” he had taken to ensure Benue was put on the development train, yet, Gboko is just like any other Benue city. It does not have world-class hospitals. Its teachers are owed eleven months of their salaries as other teachers in Benue. Its’ retirees are groaning under poverty and pains from debilitating illnesses as other retirees all over Benue. Gboko wears the ugly visage of a city that has been used and dumped. It has not felt the Ortom presence. Ortom has treated Gboko as an orphan sent to live with his uncle and his numerous wives. Like the orphan, Gboko has not been fed or clothed by any of the uncle’s numerous wives. Gboko is a city that other cities will not look at enviously. Its streets like the streets of Otukpo, rundown, dilapidated, hulks of eyesores. Like other cities in Benue, Gboko has a very high crime rate.
Ortom has neglected Gboko just as he has neglected every place and everyone. Ortom’s sun shines only for a selected few. His rainfall provides needed nutrients for a selected number of people. Ortom’s trees provide shades from the scorching sun for only a limited number of people. Gboko, the ancestral home of the Tiv people, the city that gave Ortom refuge from the ravages of his early life cannot seek refuge in Ortom’s umbrella. That umbrella is a tattered one. Those who seek refugee under its canopy end up being drenched and scorched by torrents of rainfall and the searing heat of the sun. Ortom’s myopic wickedness does not make any exception to any place, not even to ancestral homes and adopted cities. Gboko shares the misfortune of Ortom’s atrocious leadership with the rest of Benue. It has no immunity as the city that helped to sire a dirt-poor boy who has reached the apogee of power, wealth and influence. No one can envy Gbajimba and Gboko. They are poor cities whose son rose to the governorship only to find themselves groaning and reeling from poverty, hunger, and despondency like the rest of Benue. The tragedy of Gbajimba and Gboko is that decency prevents them from lamenting the sing-song of the deprived, “if only we had a son who is a governor…” Ikpeba can sing that song of lamentation. Gbajimba and Gboko May try to croak out the song, but it can only evince derision. The wicked may even add to the injury by retorting to Gbajimba and Gboko, “What about your son, Ortom?” Alas, the two cities cannot disown their son, Ortom Adorogo.
Professor Pita Agbese writes from the United States.