Bala and Ortom: Time for Statesmanship, By Issa Aremu

It amounts to saying the obvious to accept that Governor Bala Mohammed (born 5 October 1958) is the 4th democratically elected governor of Bauchi State. Similarly it is an open knowledge that Samuel Ioraer Ortom (born 23 April,1961) is the third elected governor of Benue State in the current democratic dispensation. But that is where the obvious “difference” lies. Both Ortom and Bala share a lot in common than they would want us to believe through their reported star-words of different name callings. The two preside over second generation states. Benue State is named after the Benue River. It was formed from the old Benue Plateau state in 1976 just as the state of Bauchi was formed the same year out of the then North Eastern state.


The two were once privileged Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Bala Mohammed was the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2010 and 2015. Samuel Ortom was a Minister of State Trade and Investment during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan making him co-cabinet member with Mr Bala. The two are tested veteran politicians of this era in which the end seems to justify the means, regardless of the cost to party principles, the communities, comradeship and well-being of their followers. Indeed the two are typical pro-types of “political butterflies” of this republic, in which politicians see political parties as mere ladders to the next political office . In April 2015, Governor Ortom contested for Governorship of Benue State and won under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). But in July 2018, Ortom announced his departure from All Progressives Congress to decamp to PDP. In March 2019 Benue State, he was reelected as Governor with 434,473 votes to defeat the runner up Emmanuel of APC who had 345,155 votes. On 21 January, 2020 the Supreme Court affirmed his election. Similarly, Bala’s political trajectory follows the same pattern of pursuit of power through many political platforms with an eye on the goal: political power! Under All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) he was elected to the Senate representing Bauchi South Senatorial District. In March 2010, he fell out with his “god-father” Isa Yuguda. He was among the senators who championed the controversial “doctrine of necessity”, which appointed then Goodluck Jonathan as acting president to replace incapacitated President Yar Adua. Bala has always not been a champion of “Fulanis,”. His sympathy was with Niger Deltan Good Luck Jonathan than with an indisposed President Yar Adua who by all measures was deserving of our compassion . Following the death of Umaru Yar’Adua, Bala Mohammed joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and became a close associate of President Goodluck Jonathan with a worthy portfolio to match: FCT.

In 2018, Mohammed emerged as the governorship flag bearer of People’s Democratic Party ( PDP) candidate for Bauchi State. On 26 March 2019, Bala Mohammed polled 515,113 votes to trounce the incumbent Governor Mohammed Abdulllahi Abubakar who received 500,625 votes. His election was also later upheld by the Supreme Court.


Bauchi and Benue States ranked 7th and 9th in terms of populations: 4.6 and 4.2 millions respectively. The two states are certainly not among the 10 leading states by GDP. Benue is ranked 15th with $7 billion GDP, Bauchi 22nd with $5 billion GDP compared to Lagos’ $33 billion and Rivers state’s $ 21billion GDP respectively. Poverty head counts of the two states average 60 percent. There are no quotable quotes attributed to the duo on poverty eradication, fighting corruption and wealth generation. Interestingly the two are from the same party (PDP) whose Publicity scribe , Kola Ologbondiyan once hailed their victories with fanfare in March 9 2019 polls.


The point cannot be overstated: both Bala and Ortom are united by history, geography, underdevelopment and poverty of their peoples, conferred political privileges (in the class of Governors with immunity) than they want us to believe through their recent diversionary diatribes. I search in vain for an iota of Godliness in their verbal hemorrhage . “AK-47-bearing herdsmen are forced to do so because the government has failed to secure their lives and livelihoods” according to Bala. He went further to say herdsmen “need the AK-47 rifles to defend themselves from cattle rustlers and other challenges encountered on the road”. He took a swipe at his counterpart, Samuel Ortom, for alleged “anti-Fulani sentiment” who in turn verbally assaulted his “brother, friend, and colleague Bauchi Governor Mohammed”. Witness Otorm : “I am beginning to think that my brother, the governor of Bauchi State is part of the terrorist Fulani organisation that is terrorizing this country.
One critical question begging for answer is: Who speaks for Nigeria and Nigerians when elected governors who took oath to defend the constitution of Nigeria unacceptably pitch their tents behind unknown parochial constitutions of their “peoples.” The two Governors are of my generation, born at independence. Without Nigeria possibly they would not be known for what they are today: accomplished senator, Ministers and Governors. It’s time to reinvent statesmanship in place of the current official brinkmanship that is worsening the security challenges in the country. Benjamin Disraeli, was twice Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 19th century. He once observed that; “The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians”.


The exchanges between Bala and Ortom are unhelpful to their peoples who deserve good governance which can only come through cooperation and solidarity of governors not grandstanding of dubious value. I recently hailed the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) led by its chairman, Dr Kayode Fayemi for the engagement with all the stakeholders including the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), security agencies and other stakeholders on the recent security challenges in Ondo State. Thats the way to go. We need robust communal ownership of policing through cooperation between states and with the Federal government. What is at stake is development and productivity for a nation trying to exit a recession in a pandemic. 1999 constitution describes all Nigerians as citizens. Only criminals profit from unconstitutional profiling based on language and religion instead of their crimes. Every avoidable clash between farmers and herders pushes Nigeria further into food insecurity and import dependency. The urgent need to ensure security for national development should guide the national security narrative. I agree with Linda Lingle that “Politicians all too often think about the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation”.

Issa Aremu mni