Benue and her Ph.D Governors: Like Suswam like Ortom – Kwaghkohol Shija

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This write-up is inspired by another article which I read on the net titled ‘Ortom and Benue APC: Running from Pillar to Post’ written by one Nath Adzer-Ikyondo.

The Benue state Gov. Chief (Dr.) Samuel Ortom, is someone I respect. He parades an impressive CV: ex-driver, ex-Council Chairman, ex-State PDP Secretary, ex-State PDP Deputy Chairman, ex-National Auditor of PDP, ex-Chairman of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), ex-Minister of State (Trade and Investment), ex-Supervising Minister of Aviation. That is quite some journey.

I recall that when Ortom appeared before the Senate for his ministerial confirmation, he shocked the august audience when he confessed that he was an ex-motor park tout. He amplified the shock when he added that he now had Ph.D. And since then, I have considered him a model of a grass-to-grace story; a classic story of an under-privileged person, defying all odds to enter the three most exclusive chambers in life i.e. the corridors of Power, the Boardroom and the Ivory Tower.

So I was stupefied when I read in the said article that Ortom got his Ph.D in three days…and in a hotel suite…in Dubai.

What is curious is not even that Ikyondo was audacious enough to suggest such; the curiosity is really that up till now, Gov. Ortom’s otherwise loud media aides have chosen to be quiet about this three-day Ph.D miracle. But I refuse to be persuaded that this silence is golden.

This is more so as the governor’s profile, as posted by his SA (Media and ICT), Tahav Agerzua, states that the governor studied and earned his Ph.D throughLong-Distance Learning (LDL) from the Commonwealth University in Belize. I, therefore, expected him to expose Adzer-Ikyondo‘s mischief by putting the records straight. But it is not too late. And I know Mr. Agerzua will say something in his inimitable style NOW. Even if he is busy, his boys – Terver Akase, Nath Ikyur and, my name-sake, Iorliam Shija – can rise to the occasion without majoring in pejoratives.

This is because the article has gone viral, and in places like Makurdi, Gboko, Adikpo, Otukpo and Abuja, some people are photo-copying the article and sharing it in offices and joints.

A similar thing happened under Gov. Suswam. While controversy raged over his many GCE certificates, Suswam dashed to the University of Jos to bag a Ph.D in two years! It was a Ph.D that was meant to seal the lid on the GCE scandal – after all, if he had a Ph.D., what was ordinary GCE? But rather than assuage our doubts, his “Executive Ph.D” only nourished our doubts. Till today, the question persists: “Does the Rt. Hon. Gabriel Suswam (Ph.D) have O’Level GCE?” This is not a good question for a “Learned” man who also wishes to pass as an intellectual and be taken as such.

So the Ortom Team must speak up. The more they delay, the more they confirm that the “Long-Distance” in Ortom’s “Ph.D” is physical distance i.e. the thousands of kilometers he travelled from Nigeria to Dubai to be so awarded. That would be “a Long-Distance Award,” and not “Long-Distance Learning.” They mean different things, and to try to use one in the place of another is to try to be clever by half.

And while Team Ortom is clearing the air on this, it may as well go the whole hog by laying bare these basic facts: When did Ortom enroll for this his Ph.D and when did he round it off? What was his Dissertation Topic, and who was his supervisor? Who are the principal officers of this university? Does this university have a physical address in Belize or it has only a Post-Office Box presence? If its address is in Belize, why was Ortom awarded his “Ph.D” in a hotel suite in Dubai? Surely, it cannot be true as the grapevine now has it that the governor actually paid $12, 500 for this “Long-Distance Ph.D.”

If Ortom delays much longer, it would only prove that his “Ph.D” is a fraud. It then means, like Suswam, he has taken a short-cut to the intellectually sacred peaks of the ivory tower and gate-crashed into the elite caste of the intelligentsia. And like Suswam, he would, forever, remain an uncomfortable stranger, an irredeemable outcast, in the academic community. This would explain why, like Suswam, Ortom holds intellectuals and all things education in disguised contempt.

But why does a desperation for power go pari-passu with a desperation for Ph.Ds in Benue state? As the hood does not make the monk, so a “Ph.D” cannot transform a pretender into an intellectual or give him a seat among the truly educated.

Foremost intellectuals in Tivland like Professors Iorwuese Hagher, David Ker, James Ayatse and Mvendaga Jibo did not start their journeys to the top with these types of Adikpo-Market Ph.Ds. And up-coming intellectual-giants such as Dr. Zacharys Gundu, Dr. Leonard Shilgba and Dr. Son Kai Igyoh can hold their own anywhere because of rigorous scholarship; not fraudulent, “Long-Distance” jokes!

But history has taught us in Benue that a governor does not need a Ph.D to deliver on his promises. In four years, Aper Aku, with his Bachelor’s Degree, gave the Old Benue: the State Secretariat; the Idah Sanitary Wares; Taraku Mills; Ikyogen Cattle Ranch; Benue Breweries; Makurdi Modern Market; Staff Development Centre, Makurdi; College of Education, Oju; Otukpo Burnt Bricks and Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi ….

It is interesting to note that while Gov. Aku built the entire Stadium Complex in four years, Gov. George Akume Ph.D, could not complete the so-called Olympic-sized Swimming Pool throughout his eight-year tenure – although it was a budget item almost every year! As for Taraku Mills, Akume asphyxiated it with loans that were guaranteed never to perform!

The work-force that Aku helped to train or recruit, Suswam (Ph.D), refused to pay their salaries or pension/gratuities. And now, another Ph.D is in charge. The future looks foreboding. It makes me want to paraphrase Alan Paton: “Cry the Beloved Benue, For our unborn children are the inheritors of our worst fears….” But I will wait for clarifications first because I could be misinformed. And I am waiting.

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