Chief Dr Samuel Ortom recently resigned as Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment to pursue his governorship aspiration in Benue State in 2015. In an interview with journalists he speaks on the motivation for the ambition, his priorities if given the mandate as well as achievements as minister and other issues concluding that all he needed to win the race was a level playing field and not any special favor: Excerpts:
Politics is a game full intrigue; how do you assess your chances after consultations with stakeholders across the state?
I’ve always said that John 3:27 says a man can receive nothing except it’s given to him from above, power belongs to God and He giveth it to whosoever He wills. Now, politics is a game of intrigues but that is what I seek to correct because for us to be able to advance and make things work for us in Nigeria and Benue State, and effectively develop our State, we must be truthful, we must be fair in what we do, we must be transparent and we must be accountable. To me, the issue of intrigues and manipulations, we’ve done it in the past, and Nigeria is where we are today because we have never gotten it right. Just like the Bible says you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free; it is only when we do things that are truthful that things will begin to work for us. So as far as I’m concerned, I consulted with the people and they overwhelmingly accepted that I should go in for the governorship of Benue State come 2015. I’m quite confident that based on the consultation I’ve done and the responses I’ve had from Benue people across the entire state, the three senatorial districts and across all segments of the society; politicians, non-politicians and all that. And in all these the people were unanimous; that look, for you to have acquired the kind of knowledge and capacity over the years, we see you as the one that can take Benue State to the next level from where ever Dr. Gabriel Suswam, the Governor is going to stop. You can take Benue State to the next level because, if you talk about party politics, I’ve played it from the local Government, state and federal level. If you talk about governance, I’ve always been there from 1992 till date. If you talk about organized private sector where the world is turning to and even Nigeria is now providing the enabling environment as government to ensure that the private sector thrives in order to curb unemployment, create wealth and generate opportunities for our people, I’ve been there all this while and I have made my impact in Benue State. Today, the enterprises that I have put in place even before I became Minister are given employment to over 400 people. By the grace of God the management intends to double that by middle of 2015. And I think that if you have a thousand people doing the same thing, we will be able to curb the kind of unemployment that is going on here. The people were unanimous that look you’re one of the very few people that decided to invest despite the very hash and difficult environment that we have operating business in Benue State. You’re one of the very few people that have put resources together to invest and you have given employment to our children. In every household today in Benue State, if you go there, there are one, two or even five graduates who are unemployed. It’s a very big burden on the youths and for us that have the youth at heart, we intend to do this, despite the fact that we are not making profit per se. But as someone that God has endowed with the knowledge and creativity to be able to do what I’m doing, I’m very happy that I’ve been able to impact on peoples’ lives and I’ve given employment to people. So if you talk about being God fearing which I think is very important for development in our state and country because the Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and also when the righteous rule, the people rejoice, when the wicked rule the people mourn. I think that the quality of having God in my life is also an added advantage because that is what the people told me; that we have seen you as someone who is truly worshiping God in truth and in spirit and who is committed to serving God and working for humanity. And with this they felt that as someone who fears God, this will translate to ensuring that the values that can add up to development like truthfulness, equity, fairness, justice, transparency, humility, accountability, selflessness, reconciliation, peace and unity. And when you have these values in place, you are bound to develop because everybody will be his brother’s keeper. Today, the intrigues are there because nobody trusts another; everybody is manipulating things to suit his own ego or interest within his enclave. When you have the fear of God with these values everybody will be excited, everybody will be happy, everybody will work to develop the state not developing individuals. I think that is where we have gotten it wrong. And it is largely because of the greed that is associated with the people who do not know God. For me, I don’t need to acquire too much for myself and no matter how rich I am, if my people are poor, I’m a poor man, because they will still come back here. I feel very sad each time I come home and I see people gather at my gate to solicit for peanuts, it’s very sad. I don’t send them away and each time they come, whatever I have I share with them, but the truth is that, I’m not happy inside me. If I had my way my intention is to be able to impact on these people’s lives, not giving them the fish but also teaching them how to catch fish themselves because I cannot always be there. And I tell you the truth, as Governor of Benue State you’ll not see anybody hanging around my gate at any given time because I’ll engage them. We must consciously do that. Otherwise we’ll be a failed leadership as far as I’m concerned. These are things that people themselves are saying. And also when you talk about someone who dropped out of school in 1979 in form two and someone who started work as a motor park tout and today has risen to be where he is, it’s a clear indication that I saw poverty, I fought poverty and I defeated poverty. And with this kind of capacity that by the grace of God I have, I’ll be able to translate that, knowing full well that my heart is not to enrich myself but my heart is to give out, to touch lives, to give meaning to peoples’ lives. With this kind of leadership, I believe that we’ll be able to impact positively on the peoples’ lives. So my aspiration is well received by the people and I have been encouraged to go ahead and seek the mandate and they’re going to give me. And I believe God that at the end of the day I’m going to make it no matter the difficulties that may come my way. At the end, I look forward to the Almighty God and I believe that I’ll make it and that is why my consultation and aspiration is devoid of any kind of strife or issues with people. I don’t join issues with anyone concerning my aspiration, those who support me fine and good, and those who don’t support me fine and good. Those who criticize me, most times I learn from their criticisms and I’m able to take off from there and I believe that by the grace of God it shall be well.
You just left the federal cabinet; what would you say you were able to do especially for the people of your state as Minister?
Why serving as Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment for the past three years, working with Dr. Olusegun Aganga, the substantive minister, we’ve worked harmoniously. For the very fact that there was no strife between us, was one achievement. But you recall that in the mid-term report of Mr. President, he singled out the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and commended the Ministry for driving the transformation agenda in that sector and for the achievements that we recorded. For the avoidance of doubt let me say that our ministry is not a capital ministry that you see tangible projects per se, it’s about intellectualism, it’s about policy, and it’s about strategy, it’s about regulation, it’s about providing the enabling environment for industry, trade and investment to flow. And so over the years when we came we looked at the investment climate and we successfully worked on the investment climate and to a large extent we’ve been able to improve on the investment climate and today investments are coming into our country in large number. Between 2011 when we came in, 2012 and 2013, we’ve been able to attract over 23 billion U.S dollars worth of investment into the country. And this is as a result of the work we did on improving the investment climate and providing the enable environment for businesses to thrive. Some of them have done their due diligence, some of them have commenced work; some of them are still mobilizing to work and we believe that by the time these investment are fully put in place and the industries are working, you will discover that this will provide massive job opportunities for Nigerians, this will provide massive work and also, other opportunities that would accompany that. And again not just within the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, because of the new policies that we put in place and the improvement we’ve done in the investment climate you can see that others sectors of the economy and other ministries have also attracted huge investments in almost all the sectors of the economy. Today Nigeria is seen as an investment destination on the continent of Africa because of what we’ve been able to do. In fact, 2011, 2012, 2013, United Nations Centre for Trade and Development, UNCTAD, rated us as the number one investment destination in the continent of Africa. Within us here, we’ve been able to successfully launch the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan, which is supposed to revolutionize the industrial sector of the economy. The Auto Policy which is also part of the Industrial Revolution Plan is already showing good results. May 29th, 2014 Mr. President successfully launched a Sports Utility Vehicle, SUV, car with other vehicles that were successfully assembled in Nigeria, not imported. Today, Hyundai is already working out something and before the end of the year they should be able to produce a made in Nigeria assembled car. Today Innoson is also improving and has gone further to secure partnership with other Chinese companies that are coming in to upgrade the facilities they have in Nnewi and to begin to produce other brands of vehicles that will be affordable to Nigerians. We had also because of the policy, Peugeot Automobile that was moribund, today they have already done some due diligence and done some refurbishing of their machines and before the end of the year, they should also roll out made in Nigeria Peugeot products. Several others, up to 21 different companies round the world have indicated intention to have their assembly plants in Nigeria, including Toyota. And so, this is an improvement. The idea is to ensure we have these assembly plants in Nigeria. That alone will provide massive job opportunities for our people. So everything is targeted at trying to involve Nigerians. Today, if these companies start operating properly, it will go a long way in reducing the capital flight that has been in existence. Over N500 billion that goes out of Nigeria every year to buy vehicles will be circulating within Nigeria. You can imagine what impact that will make on the economy of our country. That is about the auto industry. We have also been able to do a policy on the sugar industry. Today we have gotten over three billion U.S dollars worth of investment that is spread around seven states. The idea is that we consume a lot of sugar in Nigeria but we are not participating in the production. Importing all the sugar from other countries is as good as we’re also exporting jobs, we’re also exporting all the opportunities that should accompany this production if we are producing it here. And of course in Nigeria the climate is good for agriculture, for sugar plantation and all that. These are massive opportunities that in the past we had lost and we believe that if we have proper investment in sugar cane plantation and processing, this will also provide massive jobs for our people. Before we came in, Nigeria was also producing about 12 million metric tons of cement per annum with an installed capacity of over 19 million metric tons. Today as I talk to you Nigeria has the capacity of producing 39.5 million metric tons of cement in Nigeria. And the demand of the Nigerian market is less than 25 million metric tons. The implication of this is that we now have the capacity to begin to export and already we are exporting cement to other African countries. I can assure you that the cement industry is one that is providing a lot of jobs, creating wealth and all that; because everything about it is huge. We have also attracted investment into petro-chemical industry. We now have a free zone that already investors have indicated interest to invest massively in petro-chemical and related industries that will accompany that. So what we have been able to do generally is to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. The policy of government now is to work with the organized private sector so that a conducive environment will be provided so that the private sector will do business. Government cannot do it alone and government is no longer interested just like any other country in the world that has had a successful record in business, government is no longer interested in investing in commercial ventures, except where it is necessary. Otherwise the private the sector has proven that it does better. So government is only interested in providing the environment. So within my ministry that is what we do. As relates to Benue State, I keep calling on Benue State indigenes, Benue State people that no other person can develop the state. We have potentials here, we have solid minerals, we have prospects; not just prospects, we have the capacity as the Food Basket of the nation to feed the entire country if only we are able to exploit the potentials that we have. So it is important to tap into these government policies. Like I said before, ours is about policy, strategy and regulation, so we have provided the environment. It’s left for the people to take advantage of this environment that we’ve provided. It doesn’t matter, you can start from somewhere. We are also responsible for micro, small and medium scale enterprises. One of the things that we did to regulate that sector was to ensure that we have synergy between training, financing and doing the business itself. We have been able to successfully bring the International Training Fund, ITF, which is an agency under the ministry, SMEDAN, which is also an agency under the ministry and also Bank of Industry so that they work together to ensure that finance does that become an impediment to successful small business and also training. Because when you have training and backup it is easier for you to conduct your business in the manner that it will be successful. So these were the things we were doing and those who have heeded to our advice have taken that advantage. But like I said ours is not a capital project based ministry where you can see those tangible things but we provided the intellectual framework for businesses to grow.
One had expected that you would use your position especially as Supervising Aviation Minister to complete the Makurdi Airport Cargo Terminal project before you would leave the Federal Executive Council; now that you’ve left what is the hope that it will go on?
Government is a continuous process. As supervising minister, I inherited that project from my predecessor, as Supervising Minister and I did my best. But I can tell you that there is a general problem in the country today, paucity of funds. And it’s a major problem. I’ll continue to follow-up with the person I handed over to. We went further to make arrangements for commercial flights into Makurdi. I think government is still discussing with them. At least we have the opportunity of having at least the route from the commercial city of Nigeria, Lagos and then Abuja to Makurdi, then Makurdi to Abuja and Lagos, and vice versa. I know that that project is very dear because we need it. Initially we had some issues with the Nigeria Air Force management, we had issues with them on security, but I think we came to terms on the way forward. What remains now is funds to complete it. The project is solid; more than 60% of the work for the terminal building is completed. The cargo terminal is still at the foundation level, but what brought a stop to the cargo building was the security issues that were raised by management of the Nigeria Air Force but the project will be completed. I can assure you that this government, the transformation government does not believe in abandoning projects, all the project that have been started will be completed. I believe that eventually, because this is a military base and for commercial activities to properly take place eventually Benue State must also identify a land and establish a civil aviation airport that will be for the state.
Looking at Benue State as an agrarian state, we want to know in specific terms; how do you hope to drive the Benue economy through agriculture?
I think we must be grateful to the almighty God for putting Benue State where we are today. The land is fertile, the rains also come on time and the yield from the land is also good. Like I said we have the capacity of feeding the entire country if only we are able to co-ordinate agriculture well and also apply new technologies that we have round the world. Above all, we have the River Benue and the River Katsina-Ala; these are huge opportunities so if we want dry season farming we don’t even need dams. The natural provision by the almighty God is there for us but there is a problem. I’m one of the very big farmers we have in Benue State today and not just peasant farming, I’m into mechanized farming with 10 tractors, a combined harvester and I have also employed people working with me on the farms. I have over 600 hectares of rice farm. Also, I’m into yam production and I have over five hectares that we are using for yams and cassava production. I also produce grains. But the challenge is that there is no value addition. I can, as a practical farmer, tell you that we’re not making any profit; an average farmer in Benue State is not making any profit because there is no value addition. For me, as Governor of Benue State I will ensure that we massively go into value addition through industrialization. We can segment this into various groups, large scale industries, medium scale industries and also micro, small and medium scales, so that we get our greater percentage of people who are unemployed to be working either on the farms to produce primary products or through processing, because that is the only way to go. When we add value through processing that provides us with the potential or ability so that we can sell it to other parts of the country and even export. It will go a long way in encouraging the average farmer to continue to work hard. Today we have the potential of exporting yam flour if we process them. But the whole of Benue State which is known for yam production there is no single yam processing industry. And several other things; soya beans that is produced massively within Benue State, we’re still selling the primary product. We are not processing it here; but the truth is that a product like soya beans when you process it, there are several other byproducts that come from it, but when you sell the grains as a primary product you are selling just that grain. I have been in this business myself and I know what it is. I’m a private sector person as a farmer and also as governor I will ensure that we add value through industrialization. It’s a matter of providing the enabling environment, the investors are ready. I’ve been to Asia, I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to America and one thing I’ve realized is that people are willing to invest but every business man who is willing to invest is also looking at the security of his resources and as governor I’ll provide the security, provide the enabling environment, and you will see that people will be willing to come and do investment here. We have these abundant raw materials in Benue State; in agriculture, in solid minerals and several other things. So I’ll seek to ensure that we massively encourage investment activities in industry and commercial activities and these will give us several opportunities; provision of jobs, creation of work, and creation of opportunities; and of course industrialization will naturally come when these things are happening. So I want to say that there are several ways apart from agriculture that we have comparative advantages and we’ll apply them through industrialization. Once we do value addition the people will have value for their products because when you are processing yams, when you are processing soya beans or you are processing other agricultural products, it means the demand will be high and the prize will also be up. Apart from the job creation our people will be excited, and they will be happy; that is the only way to reduce rural urban drift that we have here today. All those young boys doing okada, all our young men parading on okada, if we have real value for the agricultural product they will go back to the villages. But for now there is no value addition. So what I intend to do is to ensure that we add value to our agricultural products and not just our agricultural products, Benue State has several other opportunities that can be exploited; we will go out there and exploit them and make things work and I believe that everybody will be happy.
What’s your reaction to the various attempts to prune the number of governorship aspirants, especially from the Minda geo-political axis?
It is good development, at the end it has to be one person; the seat is just for one person. I know that everyone who has indicated intention to contest if it is capacity, if it is years, if it is age or education, every one of us has at least school certificate which is the requirement for academic attainment for the position. I’m aware that all of us have worked in one or two places so we are equally capable. Every one of us is more than 35 years so it is clear that every one of us is competent. But since the seat is only one, if we had more than one seat it would be a different thing but since it is only one whichever method that is adopted will eventually produce one person. And of course our party also encourages dialogue; consultations and dialogue and consensus where the stakeholders agree that this is what we’ll do it is accepted. But where there is no agreement, the end result is that we will go to primaries. So it is a good development. When we were invited by the Tiv Traditional Council to be interviewed we were all there. And one good thing is that they decided that the governorship should come from the Minda, in their wisdom. That is what was ruled and some people raised issues with that. They were not comfortable that traditional institution should handle the matter and that the party should handle the matter so Minda PDP Elders Forum came out with a template to conduct a search and also to streamline the number of aspirants. We were told to bring some documents which we did. At the end they came out with the result that four of us should purchase the nomination form because in their wisdom they felt that since the seat was going to go to one person there is no point for 18 Minda sons and daughters to go and get forms for N13 million and at the end one person was going to clinch the seat. They felt in their wisdom to restrict it to at least only four people to buy the form and after the screening of the party, if all of us sail through, then the caucus will sit again and try to advice, to appeal, to consult, to work towards ensuring that one person is produced as a consensus candidate. In the event that other zones are interested in that one person then it will be a consensus arrangement. That will save us all the trouble, the acrimony, that will save us the trouble of intrigues, that will save us the trouble of hatred that accompanies primaries when they are conducted even when people win and some loose, that will save us time and the resources that would have been channeled to other things that can bring succor to our people.
I don’t know about government encouraging thuggery, I’m not aware of that, but one thing I’m aware of is the restiveness of the youth around us because of the huge unemployment that we have in our land today. Like I keep saying, I’ve demonstrated it; today taking off over 400 youth out of Makurdi streets, who are deeply engaged from Monday to Saturdays in my factories, it’s a clear indication that I have passion for the youth and I’m also working to engage them. I’m faced with the trouble as a governorship aspirant, anywhere I go, even if I go for a private meeting, once my name is mentioned you’ll see a large crowd of youths in their numbers beseeching me. They expect you to give them money when you don’t give they’ll insult you. Even if you give sometimes they fight among themselves and end up destroying that money. It is not a good sign for our democracy, not a good sign for our future. My intention is that I will give hope to the youth; I will give inspiration to them. My life history portrays that. Anywhere I’ve been and any opportunity I have to talk to the youth I tell them about myself. There’s no point taking to a wayward life when you find difficulties. Even when you meet crossroads, what is required is of you, one, have the fear of God and to work hard, be determined to succeed. When you have that God will always help you. My story is one story that if I had wanted to take to wayward life, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you today. So, everywhere I go, I try to engage them and to encourage them to begin to do something. Some of them are waiting until they become local government chairmen or councilors or ministers or governors before they will think they have arrived. The Bible says there is greatness in little beginnings. As long as you refuse to take to wayward life and you do the right thing, God will always find help for you. Being in position, going to the top, you must start from the lowest part of the earth before you go to the top. It is not overnight because we do not have wings like the birds, to fly; you must climb and that is what my life history is. So, I want to assure you that my program for Benue State for four years will definitely reduce unemployment, will definitely reduce idleness, and will definitely reduce the number of youth walking on the streets. Today the enterprises that I’ve put in place have generated jobs for over 400 youths. Those youths, you won’t find on the street from Mondays to Saturdays, some on Friday, they’re always engaged, so it’s about engaging the youth. Once you engage them, some of these security challenges that we are talking about that we have today, some of these pick pockets, if they are in one factory working, if they are engaged somewhere, they won’t be on the street so those pick pockets won’t be there. Snatching of phones and all that won’t be there. It is said that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So we won’t leave room for the youths to be idle. I tell you the truth; I will provide jobs for all the youth as governor of Benue State. I will ensure that every youth has something doing. This can be done.
If China with a population of close to 1.5 billion are able to a large extent minimize unemployment, using a modified Chinese model, we can turn around the economy and engage the youth through several commitments. We’re lucky with abundant raw materials in agriculture, solid minerals and several other opportunities that we have, once we’re able to provide the enabling environment and encourage the organized private sector some of these youths you see on the street that today offer themselves to be thugs will become managing directors of their own enterprises. They will see that things will begin to work and they’ll be happy about it. It’s a matter of summoning the political wing to turn around the economy and engage the youth and things will work. My target is to engage the youth, trying to engage them and once they’re engaged, the issue of them becoming security problem in our society will be minimized.
How would you react to fears from some of your supporters that the government of the day in the state does not favor you?
I do not know about the government’s interest. I’m very friendly with my Governor and the leader of my party in the state and other party leaders are working together. One thing I know is that the Governor has decided to be an unbiased umpire. That much I know. I don’t know why this government would be against me, I’ve been part of this government and we have been working together. My loyalty is to the Governor of Benue State who is the leader of my party and he has assured me of a free, fair and transparent process that will usher in a new governor on board; and that he doesn’t want to be involved unduly which I commend him. That I know because many other people are interested and I see no reason why the Governor should single me out and go an extra mile to support. A level playing field is all that I need. At the end it’s the people that will decide. And the Governor has consistently has said that look the people should decide. One thing which I think the Governor says which favors me more than any other person is that for someone who will take over from him; he’s praying to God that the person must be God fearing, and I’m God fearing, I fear God. At least even as a politician, it is difficult to identify who is a Christian but you are journalists and you know, you interact with people and you know. For me Samuel Ortom, majority of the people know me as a Christian and I’ve taken Christianity as my way of life. Everything I’m doing is as Christianity dictates. If I offend you, I apologize to you. I try to live a life that will give glory to the almighty God. If the Governor came out to say somebody who would take over from him should be God fearing, amongst all these people who are contesting, I don’t want to judge them or judge anybody but I think that I’m God fearing, I meet that criteria. The second one, the Governor said himself that as a leader of the party somebody who should take over from him should be a seasoned politician. Among all these people who are contesting, this one, I can challenge anyone. Among all those people contesting with me, who is a seasoned politician like me? There is none. So by extension, it is as good as the Governor has adopted me. But I’m not looking for any adoption, I want, like he said, he wants the people to decide, that he Governor alone cannot do it. So I’m working as if I have no friend in the Governor, I’m working as if I have no one supporting me, I’m working to get the mandate of the people. And the third one which I heard the Governor say is that it is good for someone who has the capacity at all levels of governance to succeed him. Haba, as local government chairman in 1991, and someone who has served you in this state I’m now at the Federal level. Amongst all the people who has the capacity more than myself? So I have no issues and I commend the governor for not identifying with one aspirant including me. Let the people decide. That is democracy; that is what we want and that is the only way we can advance the democracy we’re talking about.
You keep emphasizing the engagement of youths through cottage industries, how would you generate power to drive these industries?
Yes, getting power can be another opportunity that will massively provide wealth, create jobs and other opportunities for our people. It’s the matter of getting an investor, providing the enabling environment with active government support to bring power. The federal government policy on power, where people have the capacity to do independent power they’re free to do it. So nothing stops us from doing it in Benue. We can choose to use coal which we have in Owukpa; we’ll take coal from Owukpa and generate electricity here. It’ll create jobs for those who’ll be mining the coal. Power generation wherever we site it will be another opportunity that will be bringing employment to other people. Then things will work. That is what I’m saying that my government will add value to all sectors of the economy but priority attention will be given to industries, commercial and trading activities and then investment. When we cannot do it on our own we will seek for investment from other countries or other international business men who have the resources and are willing to do investment, that is the way to go about it.
What’s the latest about your blueprint?
Like I said, I have a 144-member Strategy Committee that I shared my mission with them and they broke into 17 different committees. We’ve had a look at the preliminary copy of the blueprint and very soon the enlarged group will be meeting to finalize. I think that before the primaries my blue print should be out for the people of Benue State to see. Basically, like I said, we’re going to add value, using my wealth of experience, to all sectors of the economy including health, education, rural development, agriculture and reorientation. This is one area that we need something to be done to give people a new orientation that will take us to the next level and add value to other sectors. But priority attention will be given to industries, commercial activities, trading and investment. The committee is made up of intellectuals from the academia, members of the organized private sector, seasoned politicians, the youths and the women and I believe that it will bring the best for Benue. We had a large number because the more the merrier and we believe that all Benue interests should be included. We even extended a call to others who are not members of our party because the strategic committee is not even a partisan committee. So we’re talking about Benue interest. So people who are not politicians at all, top civil servants and several other groups are members, so at the end we’re expecting a document that will give you a comprehensive expression of what we intend to do in the next four years and of course, we had the permission to also look at Benue Advance Plan, look at what Aper Aku did, and look at Our Benue, our future. We had the permission from the present state government to look at all these and try to incorporate them so that there will be synergy and continuity in what we’re going to do at that level.
How true is the insinuation that you’ve concluded arrangements with Senate President David Mark to produce your deputy as a way of winning his support for your election as governor?
I’m a seasoned politician who has been in this game for over 30 years and I can assure you that I can never discuss any issue of my deputy with anyone for now because I know that it is not within my reach. I have no power to appoint my deputy. I have been involved in the selection of other deputies that have been appointed including the present one; I was there when he was appointed. It is true that the party allows the candidate to nominate his deputy but the reverse is the case when it comes to reality. You cannot do it because you are working with stakeholders. The issue of deputy or running mate is the prerogative of the leadership to decide after weighing the balance when you become the candidate. So it is not the matter of my business and David Mark, it is not the responsibility of an individual or myself to sit and decide who becomes my running mate. When that time comes the party leadership will sit and decide who my running mate becomes.
Someone said you aspirants have been shying away from comment on sports.
No, I’ve never shied away from it, sports development it is part of my blueprint. The proposal we have. I take this as another very huge opportunity to engage the youth and also generate wealth for people. There’re a thousand and one talents in sporting activities that are idling out there. My government is going to provide the facilities, engage experts who will identify and groom talents; who will go into the hinterland and identify talents wherever they are in various sporting activities, put them together and develop them so that they can be used in Benue State, they can be used in this nation and also be used internationally. What government will do will be to provide the enabling environment, provide the facilities, provide the training, get the experts to train our young men and women, you know sport is mostly about young people. In sports like football you have a life span and when you’re above 30 it becomes a problem. So it’s about targeting the youths, its part of the program we have in ensuring that we target and engage the youths.
Do you have any advice for the Benue people?
I want to first of all thank the Benue people. I thank you for providing this platform and to say that for me we must know that we are created by God and God will be honored if we do the right thing. And when God is honored He will also honor us. Job 36 verse 11 says, “If they obey and serve God they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures.” Verse 12 says “if they do not obey not they shall die by the sword and perish like people without a vision.” I want to admonish our people that for us to prosper, for us to leave a pleasurable life, for us to develop we must imbibe the fear of God, when we do that things will work. I have said repeatedly that recipe for success and failure is in these two scriptures. If we disobey God and God is angry with us there are certain things that will serve as a punishment to us and we will be dying by his sword and perishing like people without a vision like what happened to us when Fulani people came and invaded the whole state from Agatu to Guma, from here to Gboko and Jato-Aka and all that. So we must come back to God and appreciate the fact that we need God to support us. Like I said when you are a people under God and you worship God you’re bound to do things which are truthful, things which are transparent, things which are fair, things that have equity, things that ensure there is justice, you do it also in humility and you provide selfless service. You ensure that you account for everything that you do. You seek reconciliation, you seek peace and when you have these there will be massive development in our state. We’ll build up ourselves so I want us to know that power belongs to God and He giveth it to whosoever He wills. My co-aspirants and everyone who is contesting should pray and ask God’s for direction and also ensure that there is no fighting. We shouldn’t do anything to destroy one another. For me those people who even hate me I know that as a Christian when a man’s ways please God even his enemies He will make them to be at peace with him. So I believe that even those people who hate me if God wants me to be Governor He will make those people to be at peace with me. So I have no issue with anybody. No one can stop my ambition if God wants me to be there. So there is no basis to continue to have strife, problems with one another, that this one is not supporting me, we shouldn’t have that. So I want to encourage us once again that let Benue people continue to pray for our leaders, continue to pray for our Governor. It shouldn’t be just casting aspersions against him; insulting us, it makes it worse. If you have to criticize it should be constructive so that the leadership can take up from there. But what the Bible says and wants us to do is to continue to do is to ensure that we continue to pray for our leaders so that there will be peace. I know that Suswam is doing his best but there are challenges in our country today, it’s so right from the federal level and in the other states too. If I were to open up to tell you the financial challenges that we had in my ministry, it would amaze you how we’ve been able to survive up to this time. So there are challenges everywhere we need to pray for our state for us to work in harmony. If there are suggestions that can help, we need to put them on the table. But I believe that above, let us continue to pray for a successful and peaceful transition to the next level in 2015. If there is peace all of us will live to appreciate God.