Hon. Titus Uba is the Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly and the consensus candidate of the G-14 caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 gubernatorial elections. He spoke to PHILIP NYAM on his emergence and vision for the state
What is G-14 and how did you emerge as the consensus candidate of the group for the PDP gubernatorial election to succeed Governor Samuel Ortom?
You know the way the party flows in Benue State is quite different from other states. G-14 is the 14 local government areas in the Tiv speaking areas of the state. You also have the G-9, which comprises the Idoma and Igede speaking areas of the state, making a total of 23 local government areas in the state. So, the politics in the two Tiv speaking areas, that is Zone A and Zone B. Politics is about numbers and in the Tiv speaking areas, which is the G-14, it takes a lot of time, painstakingly netting all of that to bring out a consensus candidate.
The G-14 kept meeting for a period of over two years just to arrive at a consensus candidate. We were all together 34 aspirants contesting for the seat of governor and at the end of the day, they started the zoning issue. This is because you can’t just sit with the 14 LGAs.
You have to rotate the position among the 14 LGAs to say: the governorship was here, it was there and then this side, and so, it should be zoned to this side.
That was how gradually, they started pruning down and finally it was zoned to the Jechira axis, which comprises of Vandeikya and Konshisha local governments, and that is my zone, and finally, it was micro-zoned to Vandeikya where I was now picked to become the consensus candidate of the G14. It was not an easy process as it took a lot of time and consultations and finally, we got it there. So, that is how I emerged as a consensus candidate.
Was every stakeholder carried along in the course of these consultations?
If you see the composition of the kind of cream of sons and daughters of Tiv land, that were also vying for this position, it needed a lot of consultations, meetings, talking to one another, because every one of them was highly qualified. So we needed a lot of talking to be able to convince everyone that this is where the governorship should be zoned, so one doesn’t need to get aggrieved. It took a lot of consultations.
At a point, Governor Samuel Ortom advised us to get a forum. So, we had a forum of aspirants, the first of its kind in the state, to the best of my knowledge. So, we were meeting on our own and talking to one another and even when the pruning down was done, we kept meeting and finally, the zoning was done and I emerged, they all agreed.
They had a meeting at the Government House where they all agreed and jointly handed me over to the governor. Hon. Chile Igbawua was the chairman of the forum
. Why do some aspirants, including Chile Igbawua who is chairman of the Forum go ahead to buy the expression of interest and nomination form after your emergence as a consensus candidate?.
All of them were at the meeting, but remember, we are talking about politics. It’s all politics. Some people would want to come in and play some game to their advantage.
Even some people will come out and tell you that you are their best, but the day of voting, you won’t see them. So, it’s that kind of thing. They all agreed and were all there, but I think one or three of them, went to buy forms. But basically, the larger choice is that the G-14 PDP has a consensus candidate.
Do you think PDP still stands a chance to win in Benue State?
I like that question. The answer is that there is no other party in Benue State.
Are you saying APC does not exist in the state?
Well, we don’t even talk about it. Benue is a PDP state and we are not joking about it. When we had the local government elections, what happened?
We won all the 23 local government chairmen and the 276 councillorship. So, what are you talking about? I don’t think there is another party in the state.
Are you by this declaration seeing yourself already in the Government House?
Yes, that is the voice of the people and the voice of the party. If PDP says yes, there is no other party that can say no. So, basically that is the true picture you have just painted.
What blueprint do you have to transform the state if elected as governor?
Yes, this is the type of question that every other aspirant would want to answer. I kept telling people that the era of blueprint has come and gone. Let’s pick a programme for the state and do it from beginning to finish, so that if you fail, your people should hold you accountable.
If you goggle now and say blueprint, you will see millions of them. I will simply choose one download, edit it and present it as my blueprint print… I am going to enhance mechanised modern agriculture. If I do that, my state will become so rich that other states will come and borrow money from me.
That is the truth about it. If I may expand a bit on that, look, agriculture goes with natural resources. The paper I presented at conference of Mzough U Tiv is titled “Save River Benue”. If you are crossing the River Benue from North Bank to the other side, you will see sand. Some three years back, you saw what happened in Makurdi. There was this flood and the whole town was flooded. What happened?
There is a very big dam in the Cameroon, which is the biggest in the sub-region. It is threatening. So, once in a while, it is vented. So, when they vent that dam, that is what you see happening in Makurdi. This is because, it is up there in the hills and Benue is in the valley.
God forbid if that Dam opens today, there will be no house standing in Makurdi including Lokoja and all the adjoining areas of the region, because there is no bed to hold that water any longer.
So, if River Benue is not dredged, in may be some 10 years from now, we are not praying for anything to happen, but if that happens, that is what will become of Makurdi and even the Lokoja town. So, let me tell you something about the sand we have in Benue State.
There has been a research and I am speaking to you as an engineer. I am a mechanical engineer, so I am speaking to you from that background. That sand in Benue has what is called Silicon, which is used in producing glasses. The quality you have here is the one that is used to produce bullet proof glasses.
When I met with the Chinese, they said Benue is sitting on billions of dollars.
Today, if you dredge that River, you will have a company that will be extracting Silicon and even exporting it. Even if you invite the Chinese people to come and dredge the River, you can use it for other purposes including transportation.
When Benue Cement Company was built at that time, all the equipment were ferried from Lagos to Makurdi, but today, you cannot do that, because no ferry can ply. So, if you dredge the River, you can even have a small port for transport business.
Benue has been battling insecurity, especially herdsmen in recent years. How do you intend to resolve this if elected as governor?
You see, with all I have said, talking about agriculture, you cannot do agriculture with insecurity in place. That’s why today, you cannot go back to the farm. But you and I know that if Governor Ortom had not come, given the way the herders were coming, today, you and I would not have been in Makurdi.
He handled the issue of insecurity in the state and we are believing strongly that by the time his administration runs out, the issue of insecurity in Benue would be gone and we will be able to return to our farms and begin to do what God gave us to do. Governor Ortom has handled the security situation even beyond Benue and that is why today, he is applauded in high places and we are happy that he came.
Governor Ortom is to us as an angel, without him, we will not be here in Benue state. Yes, we still have some pockets of insecurity here and there, but the herders have been curtailed. I promise that by the time this administration winds up, the issue of insecurity will be done with. For me, I have a strategy, but I won’t discuss it here because it is a security issue.
One of the controversial issues in the state is the anti-open grazing law. Now you have said that you believe that by the time this administration leaves office, the issue of insecurity will be gone. Assuming it does not?
I am very confident that insecurity will be done with. We have constantly say that the government at the federal level did not handle the issue of insecurity as expected, not only in Benue State, but the country as a whole. By the time this administration leaves and another one comes in, we are sure the story will change.
For us in Benue, we will do everything possible within the law to ensure that insecurity is gone in the state. We have just amended the anti-open grazing law, because we saw that the penalties were not stringent enough, so we decided to make them stiffer, so that, if you come today and do open grazing and your cow is arrested, after two, three days, you will come and pay a fine that is higher than the cow.
Before then, they were still bringing their cows to graze and if you arrest a cow, they will come and pay a fine and go away. So, it was like they were just coming to buy grasses for their cows. So, we decided to amend the law and put in stiffer penalties. The anti-open grazing law has come to stay.