The All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate in Benue State, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia says he joined the contest in Benue State to topple the maladministration that has been foisted on the state by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but Governor Samuel Ortom is sure that his party’s own candidate, Engr Titus Uba will do well when elected governor of the State on March 11th this year.
In both frontrunning political parties, agriculture tops the agenda as Governor Ortom unveiled, on Wednesday, the blueprint of the PDP Governorship candidate christened, “Soil as Our Oil” at the party’s State Secretariat in Makurdi
Dr. Alia, speaking at the flag-off of his campaign on Wednesday in Gboko, Benue state, urged Benue indigenes to join him“to rescue the soul of our dear state, Benue, from the abyss of gross maladministration as perpetrated by this PDP government.”
On his part, Ortom pointed out that the unveiled blueprint was encompassing in its contents, stressing that it captures all areas of human needs for socio-economic development, including those his government was not able to capture.
In his words, “We are here today to unveil the blueprint of our party’s governorship candidate, Titus Uba titled, “Soil as Our Oil.” I want to say that this is a sincere commitment as we go to the 23 Local Government Areas beginning from tomorrow.
“I am happy that this blueprint is being unveiled today, it has captured even areas that my Government was not able to capture and I believe that by the grace of God on May 29th, this year, Titus Uba and John Ngede will be sworn-in as Governor and Deputy Governor.”
But Alia described his foray into politics “more of a movement than contest,” adding, “we must deliberately arise and be willing to be used of God to bring His will to come to pass in Benue State.
“Much more is demanded of you and me. After the flag off today, you should not go to sleep. We are not underrating our opponents, having seen their desperation; they can do anything to retain themselves in power to inflict more pains on our great people.
“We must sacrifice our comfort, our energy, our sleep and our resources for a greater Benue.
“I therefore call on the good people of Benue State to go out en-masse and collect your voters’ cards and vote for APC Candidates from top to bottom.”
Governor Ortom stressed that Engr Uba who is the current Speaker of the Benue State House Assembly and his running mate, Sir John Ngbede were experienced hands and not novices in the business of governance.
He said the duo will hit the ground running once they come into office, adding that “They will not need to be taken on induction to begin work as Governor and Deputy Governor.”
The PDP gubernatorial candidate, Engr Uba in his address while presenting his blueprint explained that the document titled “Soil as Our Oil” had two cardinal pillars of security and agriculture.
He emphasised that the main focus of the blueprint was on security while the economic drive was premised on agriculture noting that “agriculture which is our natural endowment will be used to develop the state.”
Engr Uba further said that the blueprint was civil service friendly, stating that there was also a focus on the issue of salaries and pensions which he said the domestication of the PENCOM Law by the Ortom administration will serve as a springboard for his Government.
The Acting State Chairman of PDP, Hon. Isaac Mffo in his opening remarks said the blueprint was the work of “cumulative ideas from the painstaking research on the socio-economic challenges of the state”, adding that it originated from the manifesto of the PDP as a party concerned with the welfare of the people.
Alia, in Gboko, said his entry into politics was equal to that of his priesthood, saying “many years ago, I offered myself to go into the Catholic Priesthood to re-route lost eternal destinies and prepare people spiritually for eternity.
“The work of a priest is not restricted to pulpit alone but to ensure that there are basic necessities here on earth which if denied that spiritual work for eternity becomes foolhardy.
“In the church, or outside of it, honesty, integrity and accountability are not just relevant, but necessary. And without which life becomes brutish.
“The same people that are in the church are also in the civil service, in the markets, on the farms and even in politics etc. All these people are lamenting, and truly, the church must act, even as the good news must be preached in all aspects of our society.
“Somebody must take the bull by the horns and halt the destructive slide we are experiencing. Hence, I have joined the teeming good people of Benue to take the state out of the woods.”
“Leadership is given by God. But politics is not a one man game, but a game of the many. Every one contributes his or her quota to arrive at victory. I therefore stand here publicly, today, to say that my gubernatorial candidacy has not been due to my overwhelming intelligence. In every contest, one person would always take the lead.”
“Today we gather here to answer a call to return Benue State to responsibility and accountability. Ours is to shape governance in a way that the citizens can gleefully follow, with confidence in their leadership.
“In more ways than one, this is what has been lacking in the present administration. The citizens have lost hope in a government that has brazenly, in broad day light, misused the general heritage and commonwealth of the Benue people…
“The difference between the unemployed and the civil servant is almost nonexistent. A grossly depleted civil service, non-existent bureaucracy, lack of incentives and ghost workers syndrome govern our public sector.
“Civil servants are perennially scared of retirement where all their years of servitude are discountenanced by a malicious administration that wickedly subjects them to a life of pain and dejection with their pensions and gratuities denied them.
“For eight years, there has been massive diversion of state finances for personal gains with impunity. Above all, the local government, as a tier of government has been rendered completely dysfunctional…
“Benue State rightly is nationally acclaimed ‘Food Basket of the Nation’. However, farming no longer holds any incentives to our teaming farming population who are abandoned and without farm input such as fertilizer, quality seeds and mechanized implements.
“The little that is produced is ravished away due to lack of storage facilities, while there are no rural roads to convey the products to the markets. The lack of agricultural extension services means our rural dwellers are mentally stocked in archaic ways of farming which limit their general output and dividends at the end of the cropping season.
“Two major rivers, the rivers Benue and Katsina Ala dissect the Benue topography, alongside many subsidiary streams and water ways, limitless Fadama, all lying in waste for lack of enhanced irrigation for all year round farming which is the best form of modern agriculture.
“Every sector of the Benue state economy requires a peculiar intervention. Our educational sector that has become nearly comatose. In most rural settings, entire primary schools lack the teachers to run them with many closing down. There are no positive inducements to lure our youths into teaching which ordinarily is the noblest profession. The school feeding program of the federal government, a plausible policy aimed at encouraging school enrollment especially in the villages has become a major conduit pipe for siphoning resources meant for the human capital development of our people in Benue State.
“The failures of this administration are out there in the public domain for all to behold. I will therefore not spend your precious time on futile lamentations, which cannot deliver us from the present rot.”
On the mantra by the PDP candidate to continue from where the incumbent governor stops, he said: “What a pity! What is there to continue from? He says that Benue has made great progress under his mentor. Well, we don’t blame him; his would be continuation of lack of capacity, ineptitude, uncertainty, under-development, hunger and insecurity.”
He adds, “With hope denied, many pensioners have died, leaving their families destitute. Many must have died with anger in their hearts, anger towards the government that has perpetrated and perpetuated such injustice on them…
“Benue boasts of some of the brightest and fertile minds in Nigeria); large and fertile land mass across the state – from where the state rightly derives its name as the ‘food basket’ of the nation; Abundant agricultural and mineral resources; great potentials for oil and gas exploration; existence of rivers, among others.
“We have done our researches and planning and shall hit the ground running immediately we are sworn in, turning all these potentials into viable and verifiable achievements that would propel our state to an enviable position amongst the community of Nigerian states.
“We will Establish Permanent Integrated Forward Operation Bases for security men at all the flash points where there have been cases of armed attacks and displacement of people; evolve a policy for the rehabilitation and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) into their ancestral homes; establish emergency toll-free call centers and short codes to ease reaction from security outfits in the state; strengthen the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law for enhanced security, economic growth, and the development of Benue state; strengthen the operational capacity of existing security organisations in the state; reconcile all lingering land crises between communities and individuals to pave way for peaceful coexistence and development in the state.”
The Catholic priest promised to revamp the state government agricultural agencies like Benue Agricultural Development Company (ADC), Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA), and Benue Tractor Hiring Agency (BENTHA) to encourage modernised agricultural practices in the state, while also resuscitating Agricultural Training Institutes across Benue State to facilitate the training of low and middle level agricultural manpower.
“Give priority attention to the timely supply of subsidized farm inputs, especially fertilizer and quality seeds, to farmers through the revamped Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA) in the state.
“Ensure the revival of the fisheries department under the Ministry of Agriculture, alongside all the important fishing festivals in Benue State.
“Empower ministries, departments and agencies to propel and promote independent development of the state as an agrarian society, with capacity for food security and self sufficiency.
“Increase the capacity of the state’s strategic grain reserves and establish public public modern warehousing facilities with cold storage (for perishable farm products) where local farmers and cottage industries can store finished products and raw materials.
“Upgrade and equip all Primary Health Centers (PHCs) via the Primary Healthcare Board in the council wards.
“Establish at least a functional diagnostic laboratory in each senatorial district of Benue State.”