By PETER DURU
Terhemen Tarzoor is the governorship candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Benue State. In this interview, he bared his mind on various issues including the general elections. Excerpts:
How will you address the problem of backlog of unpaid salaries of workers and pensioners if elected
The thing about the unpaid salaries of workers’ and pensioners is that, its a global economic issue happening across the whole world. So, Nigeria is not an exception and Benue forms a sub-set of the universal set. So if Nigeria is also affected, it goes without saying that Benue will also be affected because we are also part of Nigeria.
Both PDP and APC controlled states are affected, so if for instance APC is owing salaries in Osun state for up to five months and Benue is owing less than that, I think we have to reason here. And I put the statistics on ground for you because numbers don’t lie. Benue State is the highest salary-paying state in the country second to Rivers State. And again, Benue State is one of the highest civil service-employed state in the 19 northern states second to Kaduna.
Benue state is the only state running a State University Teaching Hospital in northern Nigeria and the cost of running a University Teaching Hospital is up to the cost of running another university because you have consultants who are needed elsewhere and if you don’t pay them, they are ready to move to another place where they may be engaged. So you are compelled to pay them a wage that will make them stay. So you imagine the workload in terms of numbers and finances on thestate via-a-viz what comes in from the federation account.
So what we are saying is that people should learn to live with the realities on ground. I hope this global economic recession will not continue like this. When we come in, as governor, we will certainly get out of this trenches. As I am coming in, we are praying and believing God that the situation will be improved upon and we will clear this backlog and start on a clean slate.
I remember, during the George Akume’s administration, the issue of JJ meaning June July months was like the national anthem. Then, we were not faced with these economic challenges yet we incurred that and one can say it was not deliberate but today its obvious that we are owing due to the global recession that Nigeria and Benue cannot exonerate themselves from. People should stop whipping up sentiments by using that to vote against the PDP, its a worldwide phenomenon.
You recently took your campaign to the popular Makurdi Modern Market where you were caught on camera eating food in the open in that market…
The old women I ate with were women that are close to my mother since my Form One and Two days in the secondary school. My mum used to take me to their shops to eat mamaput whenever I came back from school. So the fact that I am what I am today does not stop me from seeing them and recognizing that I used to eat there when I was in the secondary school and they are still there. So you cannot disconnect me from my people, I must live with my people, eat what they eat, drink what they drink and do what they do.
The rumours making the rounds is that some of those who contested the PDP governorship ticket with you at the primaries are directly working against you. Have you taken out time to reconcile with them?
Well, the fact remains that after the primaries, there are still some ill-feelings, which is normal, but in the spirit of sportsmanship and positive spirit of contest, I can assure you that there is no disagreement among us after that contest. We have been working together as a people, we have been talking as people from the same ethnic divide, we have been relating with each other and most of the persons who contested with me accompanied our campaigns when we were on tour of the 23 local government areas of the state.
So I can vouch for them and tell you confidently that nobody is working secretly against my candidature because they all know that we have a common denominator which was hinged on the fact that anybody that is elected at the end of the day, we all will follow. And be that as it may, we are not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that success is ours. So nobody should abuse our minds that somebody else is working discreetly against me, we are all happy, its a PDP family.
Successive administrations in the state have relied on the federation account to do projects. How do you intend to break the jinx, what are your plans to boost the IGR and economy of the state?
We must as a matter of urgency ensure that we redirect the focus of this state to see that giving the situation on ground, where the centre is no longer holding in terms of oil prices, we must look inwards.
We will dwell so much on agriculture. I am going to ensure that agriculture is industrialized and make it a hub of turning round the fortunes of Benue state, and in the process of doing that we will create jobs because people will work in these companies, and we all know that whenever you engage 20 to 40 hands in any of the companies, you have narrowed the unemployment ratio and increased the employment ratio. It will also earn revenue and add value to the state as well as discourage the state from over dependence on the federation account.
You travelled to United States of America recently with a delegation from Benue State. What was your mission?
My journey to the United States of America (USA) was tagged: “Tarzoor’s Visit to Benue in the Diaspora, USA”, I was first hosted at Atlanta-Georgia where I interacted with them and proceeded to to Houston. But I can assure you that our engagement was very fruitful.
Fruitful because the Benue sons and daughters in Atlanta were out there to bare out their minds on how they want Benue state to be in the nearest possible future, and what they feel should be done to ensure that Benue is greater in the years ahead than the Benue of today.
And I can assure you that during the interface, it was indeed a good reasoning moment. And because of the informed nature of the interaction and reasoning, a lot of ideas were unveiled on the current economic situation in the world, and how the situation has affected our state.
One thing that summarizes the gains of that visit was that we unanimously accepted for the establishment of a ‘Benue State Diaspora Affairs Bureau’ (BDAB).