Monday, 19 June 2017


"I want to thank Her Excellency, Dr. Eunice Ortom for her commitment to this project.

Last night, I had to get onto the plane (in Senegal) back to Abuja at 8pm and this morning, I am here to honour her invitation.

Probably, this is because, you - the youth are the inheritors of Nigeria's commonwealth. If we do nothing about you, this nation will perish. That is the truth! If anyone of us, at our age has children and grandchildren, such a father will not be blessed by God, if he seems not worried about you.

But I will make a comment very quickly about the situation in Benue. I know the governor is under a lot of criticism and bashing. You keep complaining he has not done enough. But Benue wage bill is the third highest in the country; 7 billion naira monthly (state and local government). This is twice the salary bill of Kano.

Governor​ Samuel Ortom did not cause this high wage bill; it was left for him. I am not here to engage in lamentations but to tell you the plain truth. I am not here to defend him but it is good to let you know the truth.

If his income is less than three billion and he needs N4 billion just to pay salaries at the state level, I can tell you how much he is suffering. We have talked about it and this is a big challenge.

The average wage bill in the North is 2.1 billion. We talk to all  the governors. Here in Benue, the bill is N4 billion. There are civil servants here who get salaries higher than the governor, because somebody made the mistake.

My younger brother, Governor Samuel Ortom is in pain because I have confronted him. I went to him so we could sit down and discuss. I said sir, how do you cope with the huge wage bill when you earn less than three billion per month?  Where are the companies to generate taxes from?

Benue Cement Company which was giving us money has been sold - our shares are no longer there. The governor is under stress, which is why the programme put together by his wife is indeed strategic in uplifting you all.

As I speak to you, I got a call from a young Nigerian who is on his way to the United States of America. He has just set out of here with the first container load of yam from Zaki- Biam. The container will arrive the US on the 16th and be cleared​ at the port.

Now, in the US, one small size of a tubber of yam sells at about ten dollars. Multiply that at the current exchange rate and it is about four thousand naira.

On the 19th of this month, another container will be leaving Lagos, and I will be there to see it off. It is also from Benue.

Not too long ago, I was sitting in my house in Abuja when a gentleman approached​ me, a member of the House of Lords.  He came and when we sat down, he said life was getting tough in London.

Curiously, I asked; "would you want to relocate?" He said; "no", he wanted to be in business. What kind of business? He said; "fruits". I told him we have the best of it in Benue.

In a short while, mango will be going from here to London. That is why the title of my paper is; "Youth, Reinvent your Future".

* Ogbeh is the current Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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