Hon. David Iorhemba is a two term member of the Benue State House of Assembly, he was also the Speaker of the House. Iorhemba,is jostling for the PDP governorship ticket to replace Governor Gabriel Suswam,who is his closest friend. He spoke with Uja Emmanuel on his chances.
First and foremost, let me say that am eminently qualified to govern the state come 2015 on the platform of the PDP on a good number of reasons. First, I consider myself very versatile in the affairs of the state that cut across the three arms of government. I worked in the Benue state judiciary for a period of twenty one years spanning from the clerk, clerical, registrar, court member, Area Court Judge and terminating as a Chief Magistrate in Gboko where i resigned. I later went into private legal practice. At a later time I was appointed Senior Special Assistant to the Benue state Governor on legal matters. Thereafter, I resigned, contested and won a by- election to fill a vacuum that was created after the demise of Hon. Yogbo that represents Guma state constituency in the state House of Assembly. I re-contested in 2011 and won where I became the Speaker. With these experiences, it has exposed me to the challenges of the state. I’m therefore conversant with the rural setting of the state based on my postings as a judiciary staff. I served at Area Court at Agasha, Abinsi, Court Registrar in Udei, Naka, Aliade, Makurdi, Area Court in Korinya, Ihugh, Lessel, Ikyado, Area Gourt Judge at Ammaafu, Acting Area Court Judge at Akpagher Mbatyav, Magistrate at Vandeikya ant back to Gboko where I resigned my appointment.
With these experiences, I have discover that the major problem of the state is rural development. Take a look at the case of Guma local government area. Gbajumba is the only local government headquarters in Benue state that does not have a tarred road leafing to it from Makurdi through university of agriculture or from Daudu to Gbajumba; like wise some other big settlements of the local government. I felt that if given the chance, I will contribute my quota to the development of the Benue state by providing roads to the standard that I feel are motorable if not tarred. This rural farmers will be able to transport their produce to the urban markets so as to improve their financial standing. When rural roads are opened, security challenges, education sector among others may have been addressed. We that live at border towns such as Guma that is bounded with Nasarawa state and at every given time, mercenaries from Nasarawa state with the use of motor cycles come through bush paths to attack us but due to poor road network, it becomes difficult to fight back and even when security operatives are alerted, they hardly make impact as a result of bad terrain.
It marvels you that some of the schools set up by the SUBEB in 1976, there area no structures there while others have more structures because contractors are unable to access the sites due to lack of access roads and therefore get back to SUBEB. So, the provision of access roads in rural communities may have addressed the education sector so also the agricultural sector of the economy. Today, farmers don’t have value for their produce because hence lack of access to the market. Therefore, if elected in 2015, I will make sure we have a law to establish the Benue state produce marketing board to regulate the sale and purchase farm produce and eliminate activities of middle men syndrome. Benue as an agrarian area used to witnessed food wastage and this is why the establishment of cottage industry is apt at this moment. I appreciate the efforts of the Benue state government that establish a tomato fruit juice at Annune but it rather at comatose. Government should lease the company out to a competent hand to manage and create employment. I will provide storage facility so that farmers will have value for their produce.
Recently, the Tiv Traditional Council trimmed down the number of governorship aspirants in Minda in which you were affected. Those this posed a threat to your ambition in 2015?
Well, let me say that it does not deter some of us from pursuing our aspiration at all. We feel that the Tiv Area Traditional Council coming in at this stage was rather too early. Beside this, the process that led to the purported trimming was also not a proper one. This is because the Tor Tiv and other traditional rulers who constituted that panel are fathers to all of us and we feel that after interacting with us should have allow the aspirants a little time for us to also interact with one another more so that we are aspiring to get nomination on a party platform. But at the moment the PDP has not release the guideline. It may be that the chosen ones may even be caught out with the party guidelines. I feel strongly that the party guideline will catch up some of the aspirants so selected by the Tiv Area Traditional Council. So, on the whole, I’m forging ahead with my consultation. You can see that in 2007, the Sankera party leaders met in Katsina -Ala local government to pick their preferred aspirants . Katsina -Ala elders chooses Prof. Iorwuese Hagher, Ukum local government produced Prof. Mvendaga Jibo and logo local government produced the late Engr. Biishibi Ati but it happened that all the nominees from this three local government did not make at the primaries. Rather, it is Gabriel Suswam who was not nominated at all that came to win nomination and subsequently became the governor till date. So, I feel that the trimming was not done in good faith and the forum of Minda PDP aspirants has since reacted against it through our chairman, prof. David Ker.
The World over, government is disengaging from managing industries. How do you intend to tackle the management and dearth of industries in the state?
If elected I intend to run industries through Public Private Partnership (PPP). Most of the farm produce are located in a particular area of the state. Yams are largely produced in Ukum, Logo and Katsina -Ala local government areas. Therefore, my government will invite a competent company to come and partner with government whereas, government will provide land and can put up structures while the intended company with expertise in citing a yam flower will come in and do the rest. We will move to Ushongo, Vandeikya and Konshisha local government areas where arranges are abound and establish a factory within or even liaise with Chuvita, one of the major fruit producers to come and operate it.
How do intend to open up local government areas so as to check cases of rural migration to the urban centers?
The state government in conjunction with the twenty three local government councils will procure earth moving equipments so that each council will have it. Graders, pay loaders and tippers so as to ease works at that tier. For example, if Vandeikya local government decide to construct a road from Chi Mbagbera to Adambge Mbayongu, the council will provide the diesel and the operators and the community will some essential services. Am going to decentralize the ministry for rural development who will saddled with the role of supervising ongoing works. This is because this ministry has been unable to supervise rural development in most if the areas. If the earth moving equipments are housed are local government areas, much work will be covered within a very shot span. Therefore, we will be dude ting money from local government accounts for the payment of these earth moving equipments.
Given the short fall from the federation account to the state. How do you intend to step up internally generated revenue and block its diversion by collectors to their private pockets?
Am aware that there is a lot of internal revenue that are untapped in the state. First, I will bring revenue consultants to take an inventory of houses in Benue state. We will provide a template. All the houses located on a particular street will be numbered and government will try to find out how one acquires the land, whether it was through traditional means or if it was through agreement, through purchase, by allocation, whether one have C of O or otherwise. Therefore, a special account will be opened for owners to pay ground rent. Through this, government will generate revenue front it. Government will obtain a bank facility to maintain such streets while Banks will be made to live up to its corporate social responsibility. Registration of motor cycles plat numbers will also give us money and many other sources like bill boards will be taped from. We will reorganize the state Revenue Board foe better performance.
What is your concept of Makurdi matter plan?
The original master plan of Makurdi which is the Benue state capital is highly distorted. Beside, development has caught up with it. One of the ways to solve the problem is to open up streets. Like Katsina -Ala street until recently did not bust up to the new Oturkpo just like the road leafing to the B. Division Police station here in Makurdi. Let me say that the planners of Makurdi town did not envisage this kind of development and population explosion that is existing here now. So, government will compensate residents tag will be affected to give way for modernization to thrive. I sponsor a motion on the floor of the house in 2010 for the executive to build an over head bridge at the wurukum round about so as to ease traffic there. But up till now nothing has been done and if elected in 2015 as the governor, I will implement the motion. Am not unaware of the fact that Benue state government have shares in Julius Berger and I keep looking through the books and it was Chief Mrs. Katsina Alu that was a member of the board and now Barr. Sam Tsumba that is representing the interest of Benue state. Since the inception of Benue state Berger has not done any project here and therefore, when elected I will press on them to build a flyover at Wurukum round about to reduce the traffic congestion. As the state expand, I will ensure that the ministry of land and survey crates more new layouts so that the Makurdi township are decongested. Open the road behind the Customary Court down wards and some others.
Sir, new building are being built on reserve areas especially at Abu King Shuluwa road with Urban Development Boarding looking the other way including the state House of Assembly. What’s your take on this?
You see, there are two sharp decide in between the the a executive and the Legislative arms of government. In as much as the House continue to pass resolutions, it is the Executive that can implement it. And if for any reason they can not implement such resolution, it is not within the powers of the legislature to force the other arm to comply. Basically, the issue of governance, one must be very courageous in taking decisions. I will certainly have to revisit some of the distortions that have been done in the state. I have courage as a judge who have passed judgements involving the people that I know. It happens else where in Jos Plateau state and it can be done here. Am not sure that the structures that are spring there have government blessings. When I come in in 2015, I will correct the anomalies in the state. Am also going to establish Benue state Tourism Board to tap from potentials that abounds in the state.
Sir, giving your closeness to Governor Suswam, fears are that he may have been secretly supporting you to succeed him in 2015. Do you share this assertion?
The fact is that the governor Gabriel Suswam regime is transiting and for him to have govern the state for the past seven years, he needs somebody that he can trust, one that he can say do this for me and it will be done, someone that he can say this is my friend. Government all over the world look at people they trust to handover the mottle of leadership. I appreciate that fact that if there is one person going about telling people that I am the anointed, I Barr. Iorhemba would have been the person but I will not do that. This is because as a person, I possessed what it takes to be the governor without necessarily saying Governor Suswam has said. Therefore, am not talking about zoning, friendship with the governor but I offered myself before the good people of Benue that I’m capable of ruling the state and so give me your mandate.
Don’t forget the governor Suswam came to join me at governor me College Makurdi in 1978 where we share same hostel and class. We again met in UniJos when he was doing hid Ph.D and I was a post graduate student of law. So, we have come a long way in friendship. In deed, I’m his creation. He has created me politically. He first appointed me Senior Special Assistant on Legal Matters. When my brother Steve Yogbo died as a member of the Benue state House of Assembly for Guma state constituency, governor Suswam gave me the backing to replace Hon. Yogbo and in 2011, he also stood by me as he ensured that nobody bought form to re-contest with me; he ensured that I became the speaker. But am not looking at that. Am of my own and by the grace of God, I will secure the PDP nomination in the forthcoming party primaries.
Source: The Nation