Elections everywhere are decided when votes are cast and counted. The confidence of election victory is exuded by every contestant until it is won or lost. Hon Prince James Bemgba Tor Mede is a governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, who feels he can pull positive surprises in the March 11 general election. He speaks with The Voice Politics Editor, James Shim on his convictions for victory. Excerpts:
What is the situation with the Social Democratic Party in Benue State?
I won the Primaries and I was returned Candidate and my name submitted to the National Secretariat as winner. The National Secretariat of the party and is forwarded my name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. INEC then, with due diligence published my name on the 4th of October, 2022, when they displayed list of candidates for governorship and State Assemblies across the federation on their portal. We started our campaigns that same day before one Jeffrey Kuraun came up and started parading himself as candidate. I called him and informed him of the danger in what he was doing but he did not stop until one day he went to court and unknown to me, he claimed substituted service on me. The case dragged on until last Friday I won him in court. So I am the substantive Governorship Candidate of the party and there is no problem.
How did he embrace you as the party’s Candidate after the court ruling?
I tried reaching him on phone but he switched off all his phones. I later saw a publication coming from him through one Denen Achusa, a media person, stating that he is going to appeal which I don’t have problem with. He has the right to appeal his case. But two days before the court pronounced judgement, he went to court and swore an affidavit claiming that I am the one that swore it, and that I stepped down for him. So that kind of forgery made me angry and I had to invite the police. I copied the Commissioner of Police, the DSS, the secretariat of the party and INEC, which are the relevant authorities, to be aware of what he was doing. All the while I didn’t care about what he was doing because it could be like chasing shadows. But with this now, if I kept quiet it will be like I actually did it because he used the document at the National Secretariat to get the Certificate of Return, that I stepped down for him. So I reported him and I am waiting for the police to do their work.
You said that you got your election from the party primaries but people are saying SDP did not conduct primaries in the state; what is your reaction to this?
I would like to know such people because even the person that took me to court did not say the party did not conduct primaries. We were three and see any Benue person that will say SDP did not conduct primaries.
The governorship election has barely weeks to its conduct so where would you start to make the desired impact in the election?
I have already started. I started campaigning on the 12th of October, the day I was diligently certified by INEC. I was featured on Radio Benue, and as I am talking to you I am campaigning. I have been campaigning every day
So what are you selling to Benue people?
I am selling my ideas, my intentions.
What are the ideas, what intentions do you have to change the situation of Benue State?
We know our problems. Every day we see our cash crops and economic trees wasting. I look at an idea of having cottage industries to take care of that. I look at the idea of promoting agriculture. Benue is appreciated in education, everywhere we come tops. I will see how we can maintain that. I want to see how Benue ladies will stop spoiling the name of the State outside. Any town you go to and hear about ‘angwan Tiv’ is the ‘ashawos’, they are almost becoming an embarrassment to Tiv people. Our friends call us security people and it is not the kind of security that we should be talking about. So I feel strongly that I will be able to change the situation. Akwa Ibom people used to be servants everywhere but when Godswill Akpabio became the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and introduced a lot of things to the state, they started running back. I remember the situation in Jos where you used to see Akwa Ibom and Igede serving people. Now the thing you have is Igede because Akwa Ibom people have gone back and have gotten jobs. I tell you, if I am the governor of Benue State, and having known some of those things I am sure of bringing them back home and on the right footing. I know Benue right now is on the red point. Me coming to contest and mobilising people, I am beginning to see Benue on the yellow point. And once I have the privilege I am ready to put Benue on the green so that we can go
What kind of economy will you run as they keep saying government is no good manager of companies and industries?
Everything is done according to the desires of people. You cannot just conclude that governments are not good managers of economy. There are examples I can give you that government succeeds in business. I am a private sector person because since my graduation from the University I have been in the private sector. I started work with a company called Associated Airlines. There was a time I was Manager in Makurdi Airport here. It wasn’t Nigerian Airline. And I have a company called Mede Achi Nigeria Limited. I also run a block industry company here in Abuja. So I know that a private sector driven economy can do better but government can also do well. Remember the time of Aper Aku, he succeeded until successive governments. The government was ready and they succeeded. They had Taraku Mills, they had Lobi Bank, among others and they succeeded. It was another government that did not have the vision that killed them. It was during my co-candidate for governorship, Roberts Orya under whose care the bank died. So if someone is not a good manager but happens to find himself in government, it doesn’t mean government is not a good manager. I will tell you that governments that are ready, is just an idea. Look at what Donald Duke did in Cross River in Obudu Cattle Ranch, up till now it is a government business but the economy is moving. So whichever line of economy we take, it depends on the readiness of the people.
How are you going to address the issue of nonpayment of workers’ salaries here as a civil service state?
That one is not an issue. They keep calling Benue that name but it is not too good for us. We will industrialize the state. Considering your question as a civil service State, the issue of salary is never an achievement to any governor. That you have paid salaries is something that must be done. Why did I say that, because it is the people’s right. I will have no business with salaries of civil servants. They normally have salaries from federation account. So as it comes, it goes. The issue of local government autonomy, I have no eye on what accrues to local government chairmen. Peradventure I become governor in Benue, the first thing I will do is to grant local government autonomy. I was shocked, my brother, Titus Uba as Speaker leading the state assembly will go ahead and sign against local government autonomy. In the past, local government chairmen used to give contracts.
You are also from Vandeikya Local Government Area just like some of the candidates. Apart from your local government which areas do you think you have popularity advantage that will make you win the race comfortably?
Across Benue. You know I am a Vandeikya person by name, I was born in Gboko and I grew up in Makurdi and my mates are in all the local governments. All my schooling was in Benue so I have the opportunity of having mates in all the local governments of the State. Again, I have been doing business in the state all this while. I was once Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ortom on Culture and Tourism before I resigned to maintain my membership of the APC when he detected to PDP. When Arc Asema Achado was running for governorship, I was the Director General of his Zonal Campaign. I am a grassroots politician in the State with coordinators in all the local governments. I am not expecting to have bulk of votes in Vandeikya at all, I am expecting to have bulk votes from outside because there, will shall divide it.
What therefore would be your message towards the March 11 election?
I will like to tell the people particularly the civil servants to be assured that here comes their success, their green governor, their son who is ready to stand with them, who is ready that their sufferings are over. And for people in the villages who may not know their rights I want them to know that there is a person who has come to better their situations and will ensure their happiness. Let them vote rightly in the sense that it shouldn’t be the money. A lot of people have been selling their votes and you have no integrity when you sell your vote. Let them look at the people very well and know who they are choosing. There is this issue of godfatherism. Why the two dominant Political parties are having issues is because of this godfather. Whoever emerges governor in any of the two parties, there will be fight. So I will be the best candidate for them. Even my very close brother, Iorwase Hembe is not an alternative because some of us that have known him, he is not accessible and cannot accommodate views, rather, he goes fighting for money. So let the people consider that they have the best candidate that can listen to them, and that is me.