Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The National Conscience Party (NCP) gubernatorial candidate in Benue State, Dr. Stephen Akuma has said that his major focus would be on agricultural development and Human capital development.
How bright is your prospect as far as winning the election is concerned?
Very bright because the people are not just voting for the NCP simply because of the party. They know the party has a history of ideology and a history of good people. It is the only party with ideology founded by late Chief GaniFawehinmi. But they also believe that my personality stands tall among other people who are contesting having taken the fact that I am the youngest among the contestants so far and I have been educated up to PHD level in the United Kingdom. I have also contributed positively to community development. So, I think my chances are very bright that even people in other political parties are going to vote for me.
So, what will you be bringing to the table for the Benue people if elected as governor?
We have two cardinal points. First, we have agricultural development and secondly, we have Human capital development. Under agricultural development, we are looking at building more warehouses, storage facilities. We are also looking at building extension workers in the value chain. We are also looking at building agro industries like fertilizer blending plants and also tractor assembly plants which we hope to do with our PPA arrangement. On the human capital, we are looking at developing our people to meet the 21st century citizens like other citizens around the world. Basically, what we are saying is that we are going to start governance from the scratch because we intend to within the first nine months of our administration, collect personal bio data from all citizens so that we can build a data bank where every person’s record will be kept and through that data bank, we can know when and who to give free education, free healthcare services and so on. We can also know through that data bank, those who are genuine workers and all of that.
Aside from that, I’m sure you are very much aware of the incessant farmers/ herders clashes that have continued to result in several loss of lives and property in Benue State.
Only this year, we are told that about 500 lives have been lost with several communities, farmlands and property destroyed. If elected as governor, what are you going to do in this regard? The incumbent governor has tried to enact a law banning open grazing. What are you going to do about that law if elected?
The truth about it is that the anti open grazing law is not the governor’s law but the people’s law. I also marched on the streets of Benue asking for that law so that we can have a situation where both farmers and herders would live in peace because it’s not just the Fulani that are herders or have cattle. We also have prominent citizens of Benue having cattle here. So, the law is a law that has come to stay. But what we are looking at, we want to also go back and look at why we came to this point. We know there had been farmers and herders clashes in the past but it has never degenerated to this point. So, what happened and all that. So, we are going to have stakeholders meeting where we would bring up all the issues that have happened within this period and analyze them and think of a way out among the stakeholders. But we are trying to build an artificial fourth tier of government where our Chiefs will be chief executive officers of their various hamlets and chiefdoms so that we can organisecommunity policing well. We also hope to revamp the vigilante system and link all of them to divisional police officers. Then, areas where we have these incessant attacks, we hope to use drone technology to get information and surveillance in those areas. So, outside this, we want to do this with the people and through community policing because in the federal law, we can’t do state policing, we can only partner with the Federal Government. So, we are going to also fund the Nigerian police with logistics such as telecommunication gadgets, stipends and also vehicles for their operation.
As a youth, what do you have to say about the not too young to run bill?
Well, it’s a very nice bill. Though the bill as nice as it is, is not really aimed at helping the youth to go into power at this moment because most of the political parties will not field people that are young to contest. But we hope that they should do that. On the whole, I would say that the not too young to run bill is a nice one. Some of us are contesting because we know we have the age and the competence to contest. But with the bill now, some other people that have something to offer to contribute to the society can also contest. It’s a nice bill and it’s a clarion call to all young people who want to participate in partisan politics to join me.
In politics, we talk about godfatherism. We would like to know who your godfathers are?
I have two godfathers. The first is God the Father and the second is the people. Both have been very supportive since I started this journey.