By Magdalyne Dura
At various times, societies have had women that played significant roles in the history of such societies. For the Christian brethren, the most fitting illustration of the role of women in the life of a nation state finds habitation in the story of Esther. It is of course, from such history that the maxim of behind every successful man, there is a woman emerged, thus, underscoring the silent, yet salient roles women play in the society. In Benue State, for instance, Mbakaan Tsendzughul alias Naira and Kobo, Elizabeth Ivase, among many notable others, did make their families and humanity proud due to their impact on the society.
It is to this lineage that Wan Adaga Mtom, Dr. Eunice Erdoo Ortom, Wife of the Executive Governor of Benue State, belongs. Indeed, Her Excellency is, commendably writing history in her own way and serving as the compass for her husband; a man who has been recognized by many as an uncommon leader. As proof of her commitment and dedication to this role, Dr. (Mrs.) Ortom resigned her position in 2015 as Chairperson/Chief Executive Officer of Oracle Business Limited when her husband, Dr. Samuel Ortom, assumed office as the Executive Governor of Benue State. It is worthy of note that the Governor had founded the company several years back, with interest in printing, agriculture, gospel outreach and charity.
With this resignation, Dr. (Mrs.) Ortom, as Wife of the Governor, did not only demonstrate her team spirit but also satisfied the high ethical and moral standards of noninvolvement in business. By these actions, the First Lady did not leave anybody in doubt as to her resolve to provide cover for her husband, her head and serve as his compass. To effectively do this, she began mobilising women and youth for prayers after the Governor was sworn in for his first tenure. It must be noted that the Ortom administration is built on the altar of the fear of God.
The First Lady is the Governor’s prayer warrior; the Governor has stated this at different fora. These prayer activities are chiefly conducted through Benue Women In Prayer (BEWIP) and Benue Youth In Prayer (BEYIP). It is refreshing to state that these prayer groups are already in their 4th and 3rd years of existence respectively. Both prayer groups have attracted women and youth across the state, who meet on a regular basis for the sacred service that the governor dearly appreciates.
For there to be team work, there must be a unity of purpose where the same goals are collectively pursued. This has not been lost on Her Excellency as exemplified in her mobilization of, especially, Benue women and youth in service to God. This is because the fear of God is one of the key attributes of the Ortom administration, bearing in mind that in his first Democracy Day Speech, the Governor had called for prayers and subsequently dedicated the State to God.
Time and again, many people have attested to the benefits of having a praying wife. In the case of Ortom, it is evident in the interventions of his amiable wife, our delectable First Lady, within his time of leading Benue State as Governor. These interventions, which cut across charity, spirituality and mobilisation of the Benue woman for political participation have yielded bountiful results. If it is counted that the Ortom administration is gender sensitive, kudos must be given to his wife for her persuasive ability. In the 2016 Local Government Area (LGA) election, seven women were elected as heads of local government councils. This is in addition to several other women who were elected as councilors as well as the marked improvement in the number of cabinet positions occupied by women.
Interestingly, five women still hold position as Chairs of their respective councils in the current Caretaker Committee arrangement in the State. Dr Eunice Erdoo Ortom is still at the moment, making a strong case for other women in the forthcoming local government polls. With the push for results, we are positive that scores of women will win elections to the highest political office in their LGAs.
Mrs. Ortom has, through Eunice Spring of Life Foundation (ESLF) as well as BEWIP and BEYIP, garnered unprecedented support for the programmes of her husband. Her contributions were brought to the fore during the last electioneering campaigns, as most of the groups with links to the First Lady declared support for the re-election of Governor Ortom and worked tirelessly to actualize it.
In the last four years, ESLF has impacted Benue women, youths and other vulnerable persons in significant number of ways. These include interventions in health, education, economic empowerment through agriculture, among several other areas of impact. The idea behind the Foundation, as she has confessed, is to support her husband’s efforts in effective service delivery to the people of Benue State. Since inception, the Foundation has continued to provide medical outreach to rural women, during which they are attended to by medical specialists, including surgeons, pediatricians, eye ophthalmologists, pharmacists and nurses. As at August 2017, over 70,000 rural dwellers in over 100 communities across the State had been reached with consultations and drugs while surgeries for various medical conditions have been carried out on yet another 3525 needy persons on same programme.
Recognising that economically empowered women and youth are the bedrock of Benue’s economic prosperity, Dr Mrs Ortom, through her Foundation has hosted over 6000 women and youth to the Foundation’s annual economic/entrepreneurship summits where an estimated 25% of participants have been sponsored for follow-up vocational skills trainings in different areas of need and interest in Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China.
The Foundation’s interventions in Agriculture have seen to the training of over 600 rural farmers on innovative agricultural practices while literacy promotion has been vigorously pursued as a core objective of ESLF’s interventions in Education.
Effectively, Dr. Eunice stands out as a pillar and engine room for reconciliation for her husband. A man needs not go home with problems, least of all, take out with him problems from the home. Thankfully, the Governor finds in the Benue First Lady, his wife the pill to cushion whatever pressure he is faced with in power.
Recently the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja affirmed the mandate of Samuel Ortom. At times like this, it is also proper to celebrate team members who always stand with His Excellency, who else, than his worthy partner and compass, Her Excellency Dr. (Mrs.) Eunice Erdoo Ortom.
Your Excellency Ma, Congratulations! Thank you for showing Benue women the roadmap to being effective help meets. We love and appreciate you.
Dr Mrs Magdalyne Dura
Special Adviser to Benue State Governor on Development Cooperation, SDGs and NEPAD