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Opinion

Samuel Ortom: Notable milestone despite the odds

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By Tunde Olusunle

His profile as some kind of activist chief executive, naturally compels some inquisition into the extent of his discharge of his basic, primary official endeavours. He was elected principally to provide leadership; foster sociopolitical harmony in a multilingual, multicultural polity; ensure security and contribute to the infrastructural development of his state. But then his voice is loud in the nation’s ears, regularly alluding to government’s abdication of its responsibilities to his people, if not its covert complicity with their tormentors. He is never tired of voicing out specifically, the post-2015 traumas and travails of his innocent and hapless people, particularly in the hands of rampaging and ruthless Fulani insurgents. The nomads have made existence drab, dreary, depressing and despairing for his constituents.

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The new year in 2018 in Benue State, was for instance, ushered in with the macabre massacre of 72 indigenes of the state by nomadic herdsmen. A mass burial of the victims on Thursday January 11, 2018, commanded global revulsion, as it was telecast realtime on terrestrial television. Such killings, albeit on smaller scales, have recurred in the state again and again, becoming an obvious distraction on the path of good governance. Our subject remains unbreakable and vociferous, reminding us of lines from some evergreen compositions of the iconic *Afrobeat* musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. In response to the regime of malfeasance and injustice, foisted by successive Nigerian governments, Fela bellows: *I go talk o, I go talk plenty o/I go shout o, I go shout plenty o.*

Samuel Ortom was inaugurated governor of Benue State, the trademark “food basket of the nation,” May 29, 2015. He succeeded Gabriel Suswan, who is now the Senator representing Benue North East. Ortom was initially elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC). He was decisive, however, when he crossed over to the opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP), July 2018. He opined at the time, that “the APC was no longer a platform that had the interest of the people of Benue State at heart.” He expressed the conviction that “the amelioration of plight of his people would be better realised in the PDP.”

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Ortom tells you he is not given to self-gratification. “I’m happy you were at the church service in my hometown, Gbajimba, in Guma local government area, a few days ago,” he begins. You probably heard when John Dyegh, the member representing Gboko/Tarka federal constituency in the House of Representatives, spoke during proceedings. He made the point that much as we are working within the limits of resources available to us and peculiar constraints, we have not been talking. I agree with him. My style has always been for our efforts to speak for themselves. Maybe I’m publicity-shy. But I’m happy that you and I are talking now, so we can run through a few things we’ve done.”

Continuing, Ortom says: “When I see on social media that Ortom has been governor for seven years and he has not built a toilet, I laugh. My predecessors did their bit, and I’m also contributing my quota. Coming to specifics, we are active in all the three senatorial zones of the state. Besides the civil service, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the state. Remember that is the motto, the legend of our geopolity. Primarily therefore, our focus is on rural roads which will facilitate the evacuation of farm produce from the hinterlands to the markets. The percentage completion of our various road projects are varied in instances, largely due to the resources at our disposal. In some instances, we have built the bridges and rolled out laterite, making the roads motorable. In some other instances, we have done surface dressing, while elsewhere, we have fully applied asphalt overlays on the roads.”

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Ortom’s administration has also pursued urban renewal in the three main towns in the state, namely: Makurdi, Gboko and Otukpo. In Makurdi the state capital, notable roads undertaken by his government include the: Bambam-Federal Low-cost Housing Estate Road, Off Naka Road and the John Kwaghgba Road. There are also the NKST- International Market-Yina Street, Off George Akume Way, the Gabriel Suswam Road, and the Terwase Agbadu-Yakyo Junction, Apir Road, among others. The urban renewal programme in Gboko, traditional headquarters of the Tiv nation, has gifted the town a new state-of-the-art palace for the *Tor Tiv,* the paramount Tiv royal. Roads like Isaac Shaahu, Martin Dent and Captain Dawn’s Way have also been built in Gboko.

Veering towards healthcare development, Ortom tells you his administration has built 42 primary health centres across all 23 local government areas, (LGAs) of Benue State. The teaching hospital and all secondary health centres, notably General Hospitals, are undergoing massive upgrading. Ortom attributes the effort to a facility provided by the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN). In the educational sector, thousands of hitherto dilapidated primary school buildings have been refurbished and are wearing new looks, while chairs and tables have been procured to end the practice of students sitting on bare classroom floors.

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Ortom is equally excited about the gains of his government in agricultural development: “We have introduced new methods of farming,” he affirms. “We’ve bought tractors and supplied fertilisers. We are also introducing new products to our farmers, like watermelon which, hitherto, was not grown in Benue, despite our rich and adaptable soil. Research is also in progress on other crops compatible with our environment.” It is a measure of the high premium placed on agriculture that Ortom’s government periodically declares “work-free days” to enable civil servants tend to their farms.

His administration has also tried to encourage “value addition” to agricultural produce, to create a value chain down the line, from the farm to the dining table. “As Minister for Trade and Investment,” he notes, “we encouraged producers across the field, including in mining, to enhance the quality of what they produce. From processing, to packaging, to marketing and distribution, it’s a long value chain. We can create wealth, employment and opportunities. If the products can be exported, that guarantees us foreign exchange. We tried to get the Bank of Industry, (BOI), to put in a N2 Billion facility, to boost micro, small and medium scale enterprises here. It is doable in our state with 96% arable land, with two of Nigeria’s biggest rivers, Katsina-Ala and Benue, which can ensure all-year-round farming. Government at the centre, however, has to do a lot more for the people, in the area of infrastructure for instance. Who can run a production line with the cost of diesel today, or the condition of national road network, which is largely decrepit?”

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Salaries and pensions have become intractable issues in most states of the federation. Ortom informs us he inherited a mammoth bureaucracy with its attendant high costs, from preceding governments. “Benue State has the largest wage bill of all the 19 states in the North. Placed besides all the states in the country, we come a close third behind much more richer states like Lagos and Rivers,” he informs you. “I inherited a liability in excess of N70 Billion in salaries, pensions and gratuities, when we came in in 2015, and I’ve been able to reduce that by almost 50%, to N34 Billion.” He is glad that his government has domesticated the National Pension Commission, (PENCOM) law, which will be critical to the resolution of the intractable problem of workers’ entitlements. His dispensation has saved about N5 Billion with PENCOM, and hopes to build this up to N10 Billion, so as to leverage requisite facilities in PENCOM.

To complement the conventional security agencies in the containment of Fulani herdsmen’s incursions into the state and curtail their brazen attempts to appropriate land belonging to Benue people, the Ortom government has remained proactive. A “Community Volunteer Guard,” (CVG), was recently established. This is in addition to the preexisting “anti-open grazing law” enacted by the state government in 2017, which prescribes specific roles for livestock guards, “agro rangers” in safeguarding the patrimony of the people of Benue State. Ortom is upbeat about the performance of these multilevel initiatives in protecting the state from those he describes as “enemies of the state, modern day neocolonialists.” “We’ve arrested over 20,000 herds of cattle,” he announces. “They are brought to our quarantine unit and defaulters pay specified fines. Your cattle will only be released to you if you hire trucks to move them. We’ve apprehended over 600 herdsmen who trespassed on other people’s farmlands and the law requires them to pay additional fines. More than 200 of them have been convicted. They either pay the required fines or go to jail.”

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Making a detour into political discourse, Ortom admits his party is experiencing some challenges. He is reassured, however, that dialogue has been initiated at various levels. His words: “I can’t say that things are well with our party. But discussions are ongoing and that is what I’ve always encouraged. Everybody cannot be winning all the time. There are certain internal mechanisms that should be deployed in conflict resolution. I’m interested in ensuring that we discuss amicably, so that we have a win-win situation.” According to Ortom, “Nigerians must have an alternative political vehicle, different from the abysmally inept performance of the APC. They have succeeded in achieving their promise to take our country from top to bottom. They are indeed trying to take us beneath the bottom. It’s a big shame. Together, we in the PDP have to join heads to find meeting grounds on contentious issues so that we can move on.”

And just if the 2023 polls were just tomorrow, how does he think his party will fare? “I can’t see the APC winning the elections. They are being shredded at various levels. Two weeks ago, two of the five APC members of the State House of Assembly, decamped to PDP. There are 30 members of the House, so only three are left. APC doesn’t feature in day-to-day conversations in Benue State and the situation is the same in several states. There are glaring lacunae, total disconnect between APC and the people of Nigeria. Speaking from my experience in over 40 years of my experience as a politician, I can’t see APC competing with the PDP inspite of our problems.”

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Asked if those he once accused of stalling a one-on-one encounter between him and President Muhammadu Buhari had pulled back, Ortom says they haven’t. This he says, has compelled him to come out in public to express his displeasure on issues. “They haven’t backed down. It’s the second year running and I can’t see the President. People can be so unduly wicked even unto themselves and their constituents. We applied for a bailout of N42 Billion from the government to clear the backlog of our commitments to our workers. At the point of the release of the fund, some people who call themselves leaders of Benue State, leverage their relationships with the federal government, not to release the funds. They didn’t want us or our party to take the credit for balancing the books. Can you imagine?”

Ortom is delighted when you admire his signature, multi-coloured cap, which has been widely popularised under his leadership. He brands it the “Benue Unity Cap.” The idea behind the concept, he says, was to make the point very early in the life of our administration, that we intended to run an all-inclusive government, which accommodates all and every ethnic group in the state. The three widely known ethnicities here are the Tiv, Idoma and Igede. There are others, but these three constitute the principal tripod. You will also see the Nigerian “green and white” colours there, which reaffirms our place under the national umbrella.”

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-Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE).

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Opinion

Wike’s Rejection Of Atiku Should Be Commended For Equity And Fair Play Matters Arising

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By Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah

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“I beg them today, they should not waste time to suspend me, they should call a National Executive Committee (NEC) – meeting – now and say ‘you are now suspended from the party. Anything you see, you take. They know what I will do.” Nyesom Wike Sep 23 2023.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to reject PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubarkar is no longer news. He claimed that Atiku and his party broke a gentleman’s agreement to return power to the South.

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According to the Rivers State Governor, Atiku can no longer be trusted because of his inconsistencies; he claims the PDP presidential candidate is dishonest, unreliable, untrustworthy, and deceitful. He also slammed Iyorchia Ayu, calling him a “corrupt, arrogant, conceited, racist, power-hungry, anti-southern bigot.”

I’ve heard a lot of people argue for and against Wike’s actions, with some saying he shouldn’t take the roof off the house and others supporting every move Wike makes.

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Some even went as far as saying that Wike has pitched his interest against the North and must suffer a backlash from his actions, fearing that the North would annihilate him.

The first question that came to mind was, “What is the North’s interest?”

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The truth is that it is in the North’s best interests to relinquish power to the South; having a single region rule at the villa for 16 years back to back is nothing more than injustice and a violation of fair play rules.

Imagine the Ijaw men staying at the villa for 16 years stretch ; this portends that a single tribe will take over the running of the villa and, by extension, the country by DEFAULT.

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I am from Edo State, so if I were to be elected president, there is a good chance that most of my advisors would be from the region of the South-South where I grew up, this is what we call by DEFAULT.

No one wants to work with people with whom they are uncomfortable, so what we call NEPOTISM in Nigeria is sometimes done by DEFAULT.

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Read Also #NBA: How Kashim Shettima Outsmarted Peter Obi And Atiku With His Dress Code And Eloquent Presentation Matters Arising

The childhood friend I appointed goes on to recruit his own childhood friends as aides, allowing the majority of his geopolitical zone to gain closer access to him, this again is by default.

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Fortunately for us, Tinubu grew up with people from all tribes and regions, which was reflected in his cabinet when he was Lagos State Governor.

Since Northerners actually believe in fair play and a national quota system that rotates the presidency in favor of all regions, it is no longer in the North’s best interest to hold onto power for another eight years.

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The APC northern governors are Tinubu’s candidacy heroes because they insisted that power must go back to the South, they stood up for truth and fair play.

Read Also Obi No Get Certificate? INEC Throws More Spanners As Electoral Body Reveals Tinubu, Atiku Others Certificate Status

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Even Wike admitted as much when he stated that the APC Northern governors are more organized in terms of demanding fairness and equality than the PDP as a party.

Wike is fighting a battle for justice and fair play, and he is fighting for a party that has purposefully taken a full region, the South, for granted. “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere”.

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Wike should be applauded not only by the APC, but also by the general public, because of his ideology of sticking to the truth and ensuring that it prevails.

You may not agree with his style or his loquacious mouth, but you “hypocritically” agree with his spending money on the same party while its presidential candidate was in distant Dubai attending to his self-interest and saving his own money to secure the party’s ticket on election day at the expense of fairness.

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Wike has exposed the PDP presidential candidate and done significant damage to his reputation in the last few days, which the average voter ought to be fully cognizant of.

The Economist Intelligence has hinted that Tinubu will win the upcoming presidential elections, which highlights the legitimacy of Wike’s actions.

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The APC and Tinubu would benefit if the governor of Rivers State supported a different party instead of the PDP.

If Wike supports the LP or any other party other than the APC, it will deplete Atiku’s vote and give the APC an advantage, and if Wike finally joins forces with the APC, which all indications point to, the election will be won before February next year.

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Wike, in my opinion, is a potential APC hero for revealing the mask behind Atiku’s presidency.

My Name na Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah and na me b the Chairman and CEO of Bush Radio Academy.

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Opinion

On Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral Service: Observations and lessons for Africa

Queen
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By Obi Chindo

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The ‘whole world’ was present in the Queen’s burial service. Significantly, all the world leaders, political and religious heads from all over the world and from all walks of life were seated accordingly before the service began.

I observed there was no poster of the deceased queen, no order of service except that provided by the church, no sackcloth by the family of the queen (at least to identify her immediate family) and no Ashoebi for Queen’s family, well wishers and relatives.

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The service was solemn and interestingly soul-mellowing. There was orderliness and organization. The military parade and match by the royal navy and others was nearly perfect and a top notch. They displayed expertise in the highest level.

Her children, grand and great grand children were all composed and comported, calmly sitted and flowing with the tempo of events. No stress on their faces as a result of running around for their mother’s burial.

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The singing of hymns, chanting of psalms and canticle were like voices of many waters. There was no shouting, no noise, no repetition of words like ‘Praise God!’ ‘Hallelujah! Amen! Sons of the living God! Shout a big Hallelujah!

The homily which was delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev’d and Rt. Hon Justin Welby did not last more than ten minutes. His opening prayer was less than ten seconds and he didn’t even say closing prayer. In fact I didn’t know he had finished preaching.

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As a burial service that had many world leaders in attendance including muslims and other unbelievers, I expected a salvation message from the Archbishop so that those men will hear the true word of God for once. But no!

He didn’t even make reference with emphasis to any scripture let alone calling for altar call for those who wanted to give their lives to Christ. I expected the preacher to tell us more about the dead queen, her life and times but he didn’t do that.

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No recognition of dignitaries in the service by the Archbishop of Canterbury. No special greetings whatsoever by the family of the bereaved. No collection of offering. No launching and fund raising in the burial service in support of the church. No announcement on where guests and visitors will be served food.

They knew why they gathered, did that exactly and dispersed. Altogether the service lasted an hour. No time for frivolities. Everything was well ordered and arranged. Her palace was not repainted to look new to the visitors. No gunshots were heard. No masquerade.

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Lessons:

If as Africans we have nothing to learn from the queen’s burial, we must learn simplicity and avoid unnecessary wastage of finance and time during burials. We must discourage extravagant display and waste of resources during burials.

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The church has a vital role to play in reducing a lot of financial burdens placed on people who are bereaved of their loved ones. Insisting that the family of the deceased should pay a certain amount of money before burial is not in the best interest of the church.

If we don’t redefine our concept of Christianity in Africa as simple, accommodating and devoid of ostentation we may continue to lose membership. We must leave Christianity as simple as it is meant to be where everyone is treated equally with love.

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‘Giving honour to whom honour is due’ is good but it must not override our sense of duty and consciousness of time in a public worship. It must be closely watched to avoid eventual shift of our attention to human worship.

We must resist the temptation of raising money in church services when we see political money bags and dignitaries, more especially during burials and other services that are not originally intended for fund raising.

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Rev’d Fr Obi Chindo: Prolocutor for the Poor and the Marginalized

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Opinion

Good governance key to substantial change in Nigeria—Boniface

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A young advocate for good governance, Boniface Ogunti, expressed concern over the welfare of Nigerians and Africans ingeneral, as he maintained that good governance remains the key to effect positive and sustainable change the people yearn for, including other issues he spoke about with Kayode Sanni Arewa

Boniface. It’s so great to have you here. Thank you for being with us today. Can we have your bio data; dob, tribe, schools attended, local government area and other personal data?

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Boniface Ogunti is 26years old and was born February 18th,1996. I am a Nigerian Liberian who was born and brought up in America, I went to Park center highschool, North Hennepin College in Minnesota

There aren’t many billionaires like Boniface Ogunti, who are both humble about their origins and committed to inspiring future billionaires. Tell us about what inspires you and generally about yourself?

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I am not considered a billionaire in America but I am considered a Multi Millionaire. What inspires me is knowing where I came from, to make it out of where I came from you gotta be very creative. to be successful where i came from you had to be from a rich family or you played sports in America as i was an African being raised in America. I had to get around the right people for me to succeed Because my environment was set up for me to fail. That is why I am so committed to inspiring people who want to be successful because I know what it feels like .

Over time we have watched your business grow. Can you share your success journey with us? How many employees do you have currently?

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I started out in Ecommerce, selling products on social media and I was able to generate over a million dollars in sales by unique advertising skills.. When I realized I had a unique advertising skill, I knew I had to capitalize on it, which led me to create my first company called “Current9” . Current9 business module was to help the everyday workers become their own boss by providing online workshops teaching these unique advertising skills so they can their businesses. Current9 became a global movement, i decided i had to give back to my Motherland “Africa” by creating “Ogunti Group” which resonates with where i come from. The Ogunti Group was created for investments and partnerships which I have been able to achieve, as I am in partnership with the Liberian government by providing trucks to transport Iron Ore and Palm Oil to other neighboring countries. Current9 has transitioned into “Circle Of Success” which now does educational/marketing events, empowering everyday people and entrepreneurs as a community of like minded individuals. i have currently have about 80 employees across all my businesses

We watched a video earlier where we learned a little bit about digital marketing and business growth, which we’ll speak about towards the later half of the interview, but we saw there that you are such a supporter and such an advocate of entrepreneurship, which isn’t really a surprise because of your ideology to life, but I’m curious to know how and why you decided to build businesses around digital marketing at a young age, what influenced you and impacted your journey?

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As I was growing my business there were a lot of different Challenges i faced, atimes i felt discouraged to continue because I didn’t have all the required skill sets I have today. What kept me going was my principles I live by, which is; Know thyself, appreciation, relationship management, Mastering the basics..

What were some of the challenges that you faced during that time, and which leadership principles did you stay rooted in as you were guiding this process?

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Can you give us the summary of your business journey; the challenges and the triumphs?

Seeing that you’ve set a standard in training people on how to build a successful business, and more people are coming to you for mentorship, do you ever worry that people will be disappointed?

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I never worry about being disappointed as a Mentor because everyone has a current self and desired self and I KNOW that everyone is going to do a lot better than by themselves, due to the way my mentorship programs are built, you can never live the way you came .

What is your real mission in life and would you say you are getting there?

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My Real mission in life is to do whatever God sent me here to do and to impact as many people God wants me to impact

Tell us about your future plans for Current9.com and the achievements so far?

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So Current9.com is now Circleofsuccess.com which like i said earlier is a community of like minded individuals who are ready to become their own bosses and we at Circle of Success are here to help them achieve this goal. Our achievements so far has been that we have helped numerous people become financially free and independent

If you are made the president of your country, what are the first five things you would address and why?

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if i am made the President of my country the first thing i would do is create s Structure of Governance, build Infrastructure and empower Entrepreneurs because without a proper structure of Governance there can never be any real or substantial change in a country, then infrastructure can come and empowering entrepreneurs is an investment in society as a whole

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