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Regional News of Tuesday, 21 December 2021


Why I want to succeed Ortom –Akase, Benue guber hopeful

Terver Akase is the immediate past Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom Terver Akase is the immediate past Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom

Terver Akase is the immediate past Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State who recently resigned to contest the governorship race on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in 2023.

In this interview, the guber hopeful speaks why he wants to succeed his principal in office. He also talks about what he will be bringing to the table for the benefit of the Benue people if elected.

What really prompted the idea of going into the governorship race?

Thank you very much for that question. I have a desire to serve the people and I have been within and around power for some time now. When I was in Port Harcourt, my Primary beat was Government House, the then governor of River State was Rotimi Amaechi and the governor who is there now, Nyeson Wike, was Chief of staff at that time. So, all of those people I saw at close range. So that drew something to me, I got closer to power, closer to leadership and could see how Governor Amaechi was doing: meeting with people, tackling problems.

That time, the issue of militancy was at its peak in the Niger Delta, how the Yaradua administration came and how it was handled, how the government was tackling issues. So, I became interested in knowing the act of governance and I was studying this and many other people in government like the former Commissioner for Information, Mrs Ibim Seminetari, one of the people who affected my life positively in terms of excellence in governance and so on.

So, I began to develop interest in governance and now that Ortom became governor here and invited me to come and work for him, I have been around power for six years being in sensitive meetings, seeing how things are done and before this, I have had a small track record of leadership. Right from Primary 1, I was chosen as the class captain.

The teacher just came into the class and asked the pupils, my classmates, to choose someone who would lead them and everybody unanimously pointed at me; I am still in touch with some of them, that was in Primary 1. Then, later on I began to play football at Agbeede and again, my teammates unanimously made me their captain, the Young Planners Football Club of Agbeede, I was their unanimous captain for many years  as long as I stayed in that community and was playing football.

Then I got to Benue State University Makurdi in Mass Communication and a leadership at that time was needed and again, my classmates said I should be their president even though election didn’t hold; their unanimous decision was that if election was going to hold, I would be their consensus candidate. I went to NYSC and after the orientation camp, we were sent to our various places of primary assignment in Nkanu West of Enugu State where I served, my fellow Corps members again unanimously chose me as their Corps Liaison Officer (CLO).

That is, you are like the president of corps members in that Local Government. Before then, I was the president of National Association of Konshisha Students. I started as a secretary and when the president died in an accident, I was made president. Let me also remind you that I was the president of Konshisha Students at the College of Advanced and Professional Studies, Makurdi and unanimously chosen as well and in BSU, I was the Secretary of Konshisha Students.

I didn’t participate in any SUG election really and I believe that if I had gone to SUG as well, I would have got a position. So at my own small level, I have had this leadership trend and if I didn’t take note of it, I would be doing injustice to God because He has shown me clearly that I have leadership traits in me because anywhere I go, my colleagues usually see me as somebody who should lead them. So with all of these things, I decided to give it a serious thought; it is possible that God is speaking to me and maybe I’m ignoring this because I have played back different stages of life that I passed right from Primary 1 to Port Harcourt and I have seen that at every stage; I’m always chosen as a leader by my colleagues; no one imposes me on them. So perhaps people are seeing something in me that I’m yet to see, so let me give a serious thought.

When Governor Ortom gave me opportunity, I began to study governance beyond my job description as Chief Press Secretary; I was interested in governance beyond my office. I was interested in knowing how decisions are made, what are the problems of Benue State? And in the past six years, I have got a lot to know about the state, the challenges that are there, the solutions that are being proffered and more that can be done. So with all this background, I got motivated and I began to pray about it. I said I have tested leadership even though at a small level; the Bible says if you cannot be trusted with small things, then you cannot be trusted with big things. So if people see something in me at all levels that I have passed, then it means I have the leadership qualities especially with the experience I have now: I have public service experience, I worked with a Federal Government agency for 10 years; I was with FRCN for 10 years before the governor called me to come and work for him. So I have the experience to lead and if I’m given the opportunity, I will not disappoint the people.

You know that Benue State has a very peculiar problem especially in terms of insecurity, both internally and externally. How do you hope to handle this particular issue when you become governor?

Security has to come from the people, security is a joint venture, it’s a collaborative task and that is why the efforts that are being made by the Benue State Government now are very good because the idea of recruiting Community Volunteer Guards is the way to getting it right because even the military cannot succeed in providing security without intelligence gathering. So what the Benue State Government has done to get to the grassroots and recruit people at that level is good. When you step in any community, every community person is known, so when you come in and you are a new face, they know you. Then if you come and they suspect that you are coming to make trouble, they inform security agencies and you will be picked up. We will network with community people and empower them to give adequate and timely information to the government and security agencies and we will support security agencies. We will build on what the Benue State Government is doing in terms of security and we will uphold all the laws that are here to provide security for the people of Benue State; we will also provide security agencies with logistics and equipment to be able to respond to issues  because that is the way we can get it right. So, we will tackle insecurity as a matter of priority.

The herdsmen menace that is affecting our people, we are praying that before 2023, the IDPs will go back to their homes. No government will be happy to see its people away from their homes. So we are praying that this happens but if it doesn’t happen as God may have it, we will continue to see how the issue of herdsmen menace will be tackled in collaboration with security agencies because our people deserve to live in their homes; our people deserve to own their land and we will encourage people to go into livestock production. Our people should also own cows; there are different breeds of cow, it mustn’t be those white cows that Fulani are carrying about; there are bigger and healthier breeds. There are pigs and goats of different species, so we’ll invest in livestock production and encourage our people to go into them so that people who are into the production of cows, pigs, goats and sheep will have the capacity to feed them so that they can grow big and produce a lot of meat and milk for our people.

It has been six eventful years of Ortom’s administration which you were part of, how would you describe the government thus far and how has been your relationship with the governor?

That’s an obvious question. He brought me and I have already spoken elaborately about that. Governor Ortom is a humane person who has compassion for his people and he listens and he believes in superior argument. If something is tabled even in the EXCO, he will allow people to make their contributions and the superior opinion is what he goes for, believing that opinion majority of the people around the table have accepted is best for Benue people. If Governor Ortom notices that you have done something wrongly, he will not rebuke you publicly to embarrass you, he will call you privately and tell you this thing you did was wrong, don’t do it again. But if it is corruption, of course, he will allow anti-graft agencies to do their bid. I’m talking about simple errors like maybe somebody was supposed to receive a delegation and the person wasn’t there on time, people came and were waiting. So I’m not talking about stealing money, I’m not talking about maladministration. But if you do something good, he will praise you publicly to encourage you and to inspire others.

If you put aside the financial constraints  that have bedeviled Nigeria and Benue State inclusive over the years, then you will give Governor Ortom a huge pass mark because he has touched positively in all facets of the economy. It is not possible for any government to treat all problems of a society at once or in a few years; that’s why society keeps evolving and developing. But comparatively, if you look at the challenges that have been here and how efforts should have been made, then Governor Ortom has done well. He has kept to most of the promises he made; some of them everybody knows are beyond the capacity of the state, like the issue of security; it’s beyond any state. That’s why it’s supposed to be a joint effort by both the government and the people.

The issue of salaries he said he would pay from January 2018 and he has been paying, what is remaining is the arears. So Governor Ortom has done well if you ask me.

As one of the youngest governorship aspirants in the state if not the youngest, you know that the issue of youth unemployment has become a recurring decimal not only in Benue but in the whole of Nigeria and this youth unemployment has kept a lot of youths at 35 and above in their fathers’ houses, what will you do differently to ensure that these youths are enriched?

Yes, Job creation is one of my main campaign points and I believe that if we don’t do anything drastic about youth unemployment, we will be heading for doom. So we have to take deliberate steps, that is why I have been speaking to Benue youths that when we come in by the grace of God, we will create employment for youths using ICT. Information and communication is one of the oil wells that we have in Nigeria. Young people across the line are making money using the internet and other aspects of ICT. So, we will go into ICT so that our people can make money using Apps and other forms of digital economy. What I am saying is that we will develop a digital economy for Benue; efforts have already started by this present administration and we will build on those efforts. We will also create wealth using Agriculture. The value chain of Agriculture is very big, it has very many stages: from cultivation, production, processing, distribution, marketing and so on.