Dr. Paul Angya is the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, LP, in Benue State. He was Director at Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, and acted as its Director General in 2016. In this interview with Aviashima Toom in Makurdi, he disclosed why he joined the governorship race and his plans if elected governor in the 2019 general elections, among others.
What do you intend to do with Benue people if you are voted as governor, do you have a blueprint?
I have a blueprint and it is titled: “New Deal for Benue.” The New Deal for Benue takes a look at the total environment of Benue, where we are now and is targeted at revamping the state, rebuilding the collapsed economy, collapsed infrastructure, roads, schools the health facilities and so on. We want to look at the situation of unemployment in Benue State; we looked at the security situation in Benue, the total picture of Benue and have formulated all this in our blueprint for Benue.
We also looked at how we can use the most important resources, which is human resources to develop Benue, to rehabilitate the roads, schools and hospitals in the state and make them functional for the benefit of the Benue people. We have discovered that the reason for the failure of our local market and the economy of the state is because farmers are unable to market their goods. People are unable to access the local markets and produce because there are no access roads. But we have a large number of youths, who are idle and we can engage them in manual labour to open these roads so that traders can access them.
We are looking at the revenue generation in Benue and we think that we have the potential and the ability to generate enough revenue to be self-sustaining. The first step to take is to decentralise revenue collection in the state and create a situation where civil servants will not have physical cash. We will also look at agriculture because Benue is an agrarian state. We look at the need to explore the full spectrum of agriculture from the farm to the finish line.
For instance we lose more than 90 percent of our annual yields in the state, be it yams, oranges, tomatoes among others and this is because we don’t have processing plants. We don’t have storage facilities. We don’t even have electricity and so we think that if we encourage the establishment or revival of the agro allied industries, we will be able to save our losses and, therefore, we will also be able to regenerate our revenue.
We are also looking at schools. We will restructure our educational system; upgrade the public schools so every average child in the state will go to school. We will make public schools attractive for a conducive learning atmosphere and we can do that by rehabilitating the schools to a good standard. If you go to many schools in Benue today, they are without toilets; water and most secondary schools in the state are without computers.
Now, JAMB uses computers to write their examination, so if a child has never seen computer in his or her life, how is he/she going to write the examination? We want to take a global look at the school systems so that we can upgrade the schools. We will train the teachers; improve the learning and teaching facilities in schools across the state. Now mushroom schools are everywhere. A private trader in the market will have one room and start a school. How can such a school train children?
We want to establish and revive our health system for a viable health delivery. We will have a cost effective health system and upgrade the facilities so that we will stop taking medical trips to India and Dubai.
The blueprint also looks at gender issues because we want to take a look at the position of women in the state economy. Women have an important role to play in the state economy and to do that; we have to look at small and micro enterprises because that is where they are. We can create ways for them to access funding opportunities like Bank of Industry to enable them improve their businesses. We will inspire the people of the state.
Most industries in the state have gone moribund. What are you going to do in this area if you are elected governor?
You may be embarrassed to know that since (Moses) Adasu, there has never been any single industry established in Benue State. It will also be more embarrassing for you to confirm that since 1999, there has never been any productive enterprise established by the Benue State government.
The time that you can look at Benue and think about prospect, think about productivity was when Aku and Adasu were governors. Of course, with limited resources and the collapsed economy, which is where Benue is now, the only option we can take is try to revive the industries that Aper Aku established. It is the only way you can provide employment for the teeming youths of the state if you have industries that are thriving.
It’s a whole chain from those buying from farmers, those transporting, those supplying, those actually working in the industry and those who are dealers in produce. If you only get the tomato factory in Wannune working to produce tomato paste, you will eliminate 50 per cent of poverty in the whole of zone B area of the state. Every woman and man plant tomatoes. Once you harvest them, the life span is only one to three days and because there is no access road, the tomatoes get wasted.
But if you have the tomatoes paste industry in Tarka revived, the tomatoes that are not consumed will simply be pushed there and processed. In this way, farmers will get value and there will be no waste of their produce. We are not thinking about establishing new ones. If you can just get three of them working, it will be ok. If you get the fruit juice company in Katsina Ala working, waste will be minimised in zone A.
When you go to my village, a bag of orange is N300, but when it gets to Abuja, it is sold at N10, 000. Can you imagine what we are losing in Benue State? So, if you have a fruit juice company in Katsina Ala working, then the farmer is saving his N9, 700 for every bag sold.
As it is now, if a farmer sells about 20 bags of orange in Benue State, he will lose about N186, 000. But every year, Benue produces millions of bags of oranges. So, if it is only one million bags, the state will be losing about N9.7 billion. With this, you can see that Benue is losing billions.
How are you going to handle the issue of security, as the governor?
Security is very important to the lives of a people. I just graduated from the Institute of Security Studies. It is an institute set up by the Federal Government. The institute is only meant for people in the security agencies, but somehow, for the past two years, the Federal Government decided to bring in civil servants from strategic agencies whose mandate has to do with national security. For that reason, I was invited from my agency to go for the training. It’s a 10 to 11 months course and that is where everything that has to do with national security and regional security in West Africa is discussed.
First of all, you have to understand the security architecture of the nation or state, to be able to deal with security issues. Networking is key and most important factor in security. It’s like a cult. Every single agency, even if they give you a state police, you will still have a lot of security issues. That does not mean I am not an advocate of state police. I am, but so many of the security issues are beyond one point, one person and one nation.
Take for instance the issue of terrorist Fulani herdsmen, they come across the borders to attack and kill. We have discovered that a lot of them are not from Nigeria. Who then is responsible for security at the borders? It is the Immigration. Who has the police force? It is the Federal Government. Who has the intelligence network? It is the Federal Government: the DSS.
Who has the brutal coercive force? It is the military. So, you can see that this has to do with a network and you can only activate this network if you can understand the architecture. When you have a government that is completely ignorant on how this works, the result is like you are a sitting duck, especially when the borders are porous.
As for Fulani herdsmen, we have traveled across West Africa, and other African countries to make comparative studies. Ghana has the same problem of Fulani herdsmen and local farmers. Uganda had the same issue, but they have been able to solve the problem. No situation is the same.
In Ghana, we have the same terrorist herdsmen like the same ones coming here. First of all we need to create an environment that will accommodate these herdsmen. That environment is not where you will give them your land or cattle reserves. It will be ranching. Ranching is a big global business. By the way, Aper Aku created ranches 40 years ago in Benue. He created ranches in Ikyogen and Ikwe.
That guy was like Nostradamus; he saw the future. With ranches, when the herdsmen bring the cattle, you show them the way there and when they get there they pay. You pay per head of cattle. There will be veterinary clinic there. You have people providing grasses and other services and these will go to the state government.
So, cattle rearing in this way will be a good business for the cattle rearers and for the government. With this, cattle will not be roaming around and if we see your cattle outside the ranch, you fall prey and we will penalise you. But if these ranches are not available, it will be like building a wall in river without opening where water could pass. It will push down the wall. Even in my house here, if you leave a tap water running without creating a channel for it to pass, it will push down the wall.
We will build state of the art ranches like it’s done in Uganda, like it’s done in Argentina, and Israel. If ranches are built, so far as the people are not Fulani terrorists, they can live in Benue. One of the greatest security challenges in Benue apart from Fulani herdsmen is unemployment. Many youths have no jobs and when they have no jobs, they are looking for where to release that energy and they will naturally put it into crime.
The only way you can reduce this is by creating jobs. How can you then create jobs? It will be by reviving the industries, being productive, innovative and creative. This is not rocket science. For instance, look at public transportation; we can make public transportation to look attractive and to create the highest level of jobs for graduates. We can start building state of the art bus stop with Wi-Fi, which is the modern practice in the world.
We will then get new buses with air-condition and get drivers who will man them. I tell you, it will step up employment level and generate revenue for the state. Automated Teller Machines will be fitted in the buses, through which passengers will have to pay. This is going on in Lagos and the state is generating billions. If you generate employment, you will make the state productive where the young men will not have to move about looking for white-collar jobs.
Communal crises are also created largely by unemployed youths, who move about looking for trouble. By the time you make agriculture attractive, the economy will improve and crime will reduce. Benue and Nigeria, of course, are still practising manual, not even mechanised agriculture.
But in advanced countries, even farming has gone digital. People are now using drones and automated tractors to farm. People are doing farming inside their sitting rooms. I think they call it soilless farming. You can produce thousand seeds of yams in your house without soil. In Nigeria today, you have governors that cannot even switch on their computers, how can they know what is happening. Our problems are solvable and they can be solved.
Sir, you left PDP for Labour Party and there are allegations that you don’t have structures. What is your reaction to this?
I never belonged to PDP or APC or any political party. I have been a civil servant and I am still a civil servant, collecting salary from the Federal Government. I have been a public servant for the past 20 years. I had been a practising lawyer for 14 years before I joined the public service.
As I speak to you, I am the most senior director in the service of the Federal Government from Benue State and I am still there. I decided to join politics because of the debilitating economic situation of Benue State. I think with the level of experience I have garnered over the years in the service of Nigeria and across the world, I will revamp the state’s economy and develop the state. I thought that I should be part of the revival of Benue State, which is why I have to come to contest for governorship.
When I came into politics, I looked at the existing political parties, the APC and the PDP. I discovered that they are directly responsible for the decay in the economy of Benue State. These two political parties have kept interchanging the same individuals. I wonder whether they are playing a friendly match, because you can no longer identify the two teams.
They are the two leprous fingers of the same hand. So, I say if my objective is to transform Benue, to develop the state, then I have no business with the two parties. The Benue people also told me that they no longer want to associate with the two political parties.
They identify economic collapse, corruption, decay in the state, which they say is caused by APC and PDP. They told me that if you are going to be a part of that, we will not vote for you. They told me that as a public servant who is automatically a member of the Labour Party, I should join it.