Hon Terwase Orbunde was the immediate past Chief of Staff (CoS) to the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom. He is now a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue state. In this interview with TOR VANDE-ACKA, he speaks on some issues affecting the state, which he intends to tackle if elected as governor. EXCERPTS:
It is your intention to govern Benue State. What exactly do you want to bring to the table for the people of the state?
In 2018, we were in China with His Excellency (Governor Samuel Ortom) on a tour, we sat down and did some analysis. I reminded him that we came to Government saying we will do agriculture-based industrialisation; industries cannot be with generators, there must be a solution on power but China is not the place. At that time, I just completed a study on Brazil. We went to see how Brazil had solved their power problem: hydro, solar, thermal, even gas powered plants. We came back and the following year, 2020, the Governor asked me to go back to Brazil this time to look at funding models. So, I led the second team to Brazil that looked at funding models and we did a case study of one particular hydroelectric power in Osina Polo. These people had generated power, they borrowed money from international agencies, built their power stations and within three years, they repaid the loan that they took. The plant was ten years old, looking brand new and I was encouraged to ask more questions and therefore we had to talk with people who do surveys, people who do design, construction and distribution and we located five places where we will be generating 300 mega watts of power. The need of Benue State at this time was about 120 mega watts of power. The whole of industrial area is looking at about 10 mega watts, so it gives you an idea what kind of power need that we have and if you have 300 mega watts of power, it means that it can pay itself. When you have an increase in agricultural productivity, the only way that the market can be sustained is to ensure that there is a market buying because from the supply and demand side, for prices to be at the constant, you must have a constant buying, that’s why you must industrialise. So, Government must take that initiative, that’s why long term multilateral loans become important; loans that are not commercial. They are development loans and the agencies are there, we are talking to some of them. You are given money to organise farmers’ cooperatives and their productivity increases because they are no longer doing subsistent agriculture. Then you have quality seeds and inputs in terms of fertilisers, herbicides and insurance. You have to insure; that way, when a farmer knows that at harvest N15,000 is going to be the price of 100 Kg of rice and you have given a loan of equivalent of five bags, he knows that when he harvests, he is paying back what he took with the produce because he doesn’t have money. When there’s a buyer; Government is going to arrange that, so there is someone buying; the farmer will then be free to sell when he is harvesting or sell later. But if a farmer has three hectares and 30 bags of rice per hectare, you are already talking about 90 bags, if he takes 10 or 20 bags to settle his loans; that farmer still has a form of insurance, a form of security. You have people graduating from school consistently. So what are you going to do? You must find a place where you will put them and I use my son as an example, if I want him to go to farm, I must use a gadget that will interest him not the normal hoe, he will not be interested. He will put his earphone and be listening to his music, while he uses an equipment to harvest, to plant and all that. That’s the way I’m looking at it so that agriculture that is our mainstay, our area of comparative advantage will go that way.