‘Office seekers should campaign with past record’
I won’t describe how it happened because I was not part of the shooters but we got to Nenger Utim’s village and there’s a kind of a double bend in that place and we came under heavy gun attack and two of our tires by the passengers’ side were deflated. Our car was shot at and we managed to drive about 10 kilometers outside the danger zone and we stopped. I was rescued by on-coming vehicles and taken safely to Gboko. I have made a report to the police and mentioned people. I think the police are capable of investigating it.
Why do you want to run for the Senate?
One of the principal reasons that I have decided to contest for the Senate seat of Benue North West is that we are not properly being represented in the Senate. Our incumbent senator, with very due regard to him, I believe that he may be best at executive positions. If he wants to be a President or a Vice President I will support him. But for the purpose of a Senator I think I will be much better. Judging from his attendance at the National Assembly, his contributions I think I will be a better person to represent our constituency.
You have been in the House of Representatives for three tenures, what have you attracted to your constituency?
These are tangible results that are verifiable. One of the most important things I’ve done as a member of the House of Representatives is to ensure that as Chairman of the Committee on Water Resources the Federal Government’s contribution to the Greater Makurdi Water Works was paid for. I personally collected the money and handed over to the state Governor, N1.3 billion. I have also made provision as a member of the budget committee for the refund of N2 billion for the Otukpo-Oweto road even though it’s not in my constituency. I believe the state government has spent a lot there. The money can be put to use in other places. For 2009 alone I have 20 motorised boreholes in my Federal Constituency and I am doing two dams in the state and I believe that these two dams will be used not just for the purpose of harvesting water for consumption or fish farming alone but also for dry season farming.
I have engaged somebody to train our farmers on dry season farming and I hope that if a basket of tomatoes sells for N200 during the rainy season and sells for about N20,000 during the dry season we will be doing a lot if we get dry season farming to be introduced within our area. I have built a number of schools, we are equipping a number of schools, I have given N5 million yearly scholarship to our people, and I believe that if we train a person we will be training not just the person but other people too. These are some of the things that I can count as part of what I have been doing while in the National Assembly.
During Governor Suswam’s thanksgiving service it was echoed that you’re biting the finger that fed you by aiming to contest against Senator Akume…
This is a very interesting question. I do not know what you mean by that. I have never served as a commissioner or special adviser in Benue. When I was a branch manager of a bank in Lagos from 1993-1994 that was the time Dr. Iyorchia Ayu became the minister and our former Governor became a special assistant. All these people I have never worked under them so I do not know what you mean by biting the finger that fed you. These people have never paid my school fees. After coming from Lagos I became a member of the House of Representatives; I have never been a commissioner, or a special adviser or assistant in Benue.
Was Akume not instrumental to your re-election?
That is also interesting because I think that I have voted for the senator three times and he has voted for me only once because in 1999 when he was not in Government House he was registered in Wannune but subsequently he always voted in Makurdi while my constituency covers only Gboko/Tarka council and so I am at a loss on this kind of claim. People who are not used to democracy will be tempted to buy this type of idea. These are things I am forced to say now because somebody is not coming out to say the truth. I leave that for posterity but let me say for the avoidance of doubt that as a member of the House of Representatives I have never served in their cabinet; I was not a commissioner, a special adviser, and I have never, I want you to quote me, I have never done a contract of N1 when they were in the Government House so I wonder who has really helped anybody. When the chips are down we’ll get to talk about that. But that is not what at stake today, what is at stake today is the Senate of the Benue North West senatorial district. This is not a personal issue. Let us look at the issues involved. I am saying that you have not represented us well. I’m your constituent, you’re my senator, you have never briefed me, people have been calling for me to go and brief my constituency. I think I am entitled too to request somebody to also brief me.
What will you do as a Senator different from what you claim to have done now as a Representative?
As a senator representing Benue North West I will seek to consult people, I will seek to interact with my constituents. I know as a legislator the notion that you seek to lead and you are not elected to lead the Senate you cannot afford to be in conflict with the leadership of the National Assembly for four years. That will be only to the detriment of your constituents. I will not seek to go into the Senate to antagonise the leadership at the state level. I recognise the fact that each time I cross River Benue from Abuja I know that the number one citizen of Benue here is the governor of the state. The governor also recognises that each time he is in Abuja, he has representation in Abuja and therefore, we have roles that can be interwoven. We do not have to seek to show that at any given time we are leaders in the state. One of the things that I am seeking to represent Benue North West is to reintegrate the people of the Benue North West both into government of Benue and the Federal Government.
Your coming into the race has driven a wedge between Suswam who is seen as your friend and Akume. Do you not feel so?
One of the tenets of democracy is that people who seek to represent people must seek the consent of the people. This is exactly what I am doing. Despite all odds, all insults and abuses, I have restrained all my supporters not to abuse anybody. We have a message, the message is one that seeks to bring about representative democracy in a way that people will have a sense of belonging; people will feel that they are being represented. The 1999 Constitution is superior; the Benue North West is bigger than anybody. Great men have represented this constituency, J.S Tarka, Dr. Ayu, late Senator Joshua Adagba, Senator Fred Orti and Chief Dr. J.K.N Waku. Maybe you’re also saying this thing because of the concept of somebody being a former governor. If you look at America today, since George Bush left office as President, he has not returned to Washington, he has never being heard. It is because he knows that he was just the occupant of an office, he was not the owner of the office. The state or the Benue North West senatorial district is not a limited liability company where somebody owns majority shares. It is a senatorial district owned by us with equal stakes so we can always decide through the people’s vote. If you were a former governor for eight years, Senator for four years, you campaign on what you have done. I campaign on the 12 years I have been a member of the House and the people have a decision. Do not also forget that Mike Mku, Atuluma and so many other people are contesting this election.
Has Suswam not already thrown his weight behind you?
Suswam is a party man, he is the leader of the party in the state and I recognise that if there is a party function that he attends, that is not to say that he is with me. But I think it will also be a plus for me if they say the governor is behind me. The governor may find out that working with me may attract better results for Benue. I have already told you one or two projects which just by my little position as the Chairman House Committee on Water Resources we have partnered and done; do not also forget that in this National Assembly, I have presided over the House of Representatives and as a former Speaker of the House the governor is under obligation to accord me that respect. He has the responsibility to ensure that the functions that I attend, he is also there.