In an interactive session with journalists at the Government House, Lokoja recently, Governor Idris Wada, who is seeking a second term on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, said he would defeat his challenger, Abubakar Audu of the APC, again at the November 21 poll.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Festus Owete was there.
PT: Kogi State is now 24-year old. How would you assess the development of the state since its creation?
Wada: I think as a state, we have done relatively well. Development must be measured against the resources available to the state. This state was created as an amalgamation from Kwara and Benue states. Kogi was an engine room for production of civil servants for the whole of Northern Nigeria in those days. So, when Kogi was created from Kwara and Benue States, a lot of civil servants came in, so we are more of a civil service state; we inherited a lot of civil servants. And about 80 per cent of our income goes to payment of salaries, and that limits the amount of money available for infrastructural development. So, that explains to you the level of infrastructural development. There are a lot of civil servants, pension liabilities and things like that.
PT: You are about four years in office as governor, would you say you have performed well?
Wada: Since I came in, I have focused on how to attract investments to the state. We have improved investments, and we have signed a lot of memorandum of understanding with investors to explore the solid mineral resources we have in this state. Some of these things take time to germinate, they have to do their capital formation, attract the funds, do the feasibility study and be sure that the project will be viable. It is one thing to have solid mineral, it is another thing to make it a viable proposition. So, we have set up one structure to help whoever wants to do this in our state. So, we have attracted one industry, a cement industry, in Allo, across the River Niger, on the eastern side which may be completed before the end of this year. It is more like a joint venture, Public Private Partnership (PPP), with a Chinese company. It is almost coming on. There is the Ethanol factory and it is in Bana area, along the Lokoja way. So in a nutshell, we have attracted some industries and some small scale industries are coming up too. We believe that over time, with more industrialisation, our economy will improve. We have focused on agriculture as an engine for growth, job creation and wealth creation for our people. We have fertile land, so rather than depending on federal allocation, we believe that in future, agriculture will be the driver of the economy of Kogi State. So, with more people being employed, our tax income will improve, and our overall income generation will improve, and then better infrastructure development.
Also, we are trying to sign strategic partnerships with some construction companies for infrastructural development that allow for such long time to pay because again, we don’t have large chunk of money to do big projects. So, we look at ways of structuring infrastructural development. We subscribed to the bond, you asked about, purely for infrastructures. It was a bond of N20 billion, we have done about 12 infrastructural projects with most of the projects at 40-50 percent completion now with the amount of money we have dropped, and the bond is seven years retaining period. We have been in need as a state because we don’t have bulk money to pay loan in short time, and we saw the bond as a vehicle for infrastructural development. So, I think we have done fairly well, and with these new strategies we are introducing, in the coming years, our infrastructure profile will improve. I need to inform you also that we have just drawn N8billion, out of the N20 billion.
PT: But the opposition say you have done nothing since you assumed office.
Wada: You should expect that one from the opposition. It is natural for the opposition to condemn a sitting government. A sitting government has a lot of issues to deal with. Opposition has nothing to show, they are not in government. So all they have is to oppose. But in reality, we have done things, and I can tell you here in Lokoja alone, we are building a 16-kilometre by-pass road from area 8 to Ganaja, a 16-kilometre dual carriage way which is going to open up new development areas for this capital. It has not happened in 24 years of our existence. We need to do a layout. Lokoja is a historical town, it has a culture, and it has people who have sentimental attachment to their fathers’ property that we cannot just go and knock down those properties, and start erecting modern buildings. So, we have to tolerate the culture and the society. Now, we decided consciously to open a new area and develop it as a modern city; that is a major decision of a government to do that. We are building 500 housing units here in Lokoja, 200 of them are at roofing stage; we hope to complete them in the next three or four months. We are doing that in three sides, along Ganaja road, along the expressway, we just built a most modern vocational training centre in cooperation with a Korean development agency to train young people on IT, welding, mechanical engineering, automobile engineering, diagnostic equipment for modern vehicles that you have now, that you have to plug in and all of that. It is a very modern centre; we just commissioned it about one and half months ago.
We have water projects all over the state; we have done at least over 300 boreholes across various communities in the state. We brought electricity to many towns and villages, we are doing water project in all the major towns in the state. Some of them were done 20 years ago, we are doing total rehabilitation and refurbishing and new ones are brought in. We have built five zonal hospitals. We are building university teaching hospitals as a tertiary institution, for the Kogi State University in Anyigba. We have four-floor modern diagnostic centres at our specialist hospital here in Lokoja; it is almost completed, it is right by the road side. Most of the equipment are on ground already. So, I believe that looking at our record, we have done a lot, but don’t expect the opposition to praise us because if they praise us, they have no business coming to compete for election. This is my view. These are just the few comments I want to make. If you go to Abuja, we are building an 11-storey Kogi House. It is a land that Kogi has in Abuja for about 20 years. We took the bull by the horns, the building is now on the 8th floor, we started it about six months ago; if you go to our lodge in Asokoro, for 20 years, it was not touched, it has been redesigned, it has been restructured, it has private 20 rooms quarters for our security staff that move around, officials of government that go to Abuja. We have turned the place around to a befitting edifice for Kogi State. We have a liaison office in Lagos, when I came in, it was not unusable, and we are converting it to a modern and useful property that could generate income for the state. The idea of Abuja building is not just a symbol of our state; it will generate revenue for us. We all know the value of a property in the central business district of Abuja. So, we are making these investments for the future of the state, to position us to survive as a state without depending much on federal allocation.
PT: A former governor of the state, Abubakar Audu, recently emerged the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress. Aren’t you intimidated by his credentials as a former governor?
Wada: In my opening remarks, I said power comes from God and He gives to whom He pleases. I cannot be intimidated by any human being. I will do my best. My programme is about ideas and development ideas to the people, trying my best to serve the people well. I hope that they will reflect that in their support for me if I emerge as the candidate for our party for the November 21 governorship election. Don’t also forget that I am not going into the election as an individual. If by the grace of God, I emerge the candidate of PDP, I would be going as the representative of a political party, PDP, which is the government in power in our state today.
And in 2011, we ran against Prince Abubakar Audu of the then ACN, and we defeated him then. He is a human being. He is also coming on the vehicle of a political party. It will be a competition between political parties, not individuals, but individual too will play a role. But then, it is up to the voters to decide whether they want to support someone with a gentle mien or someone with a tough mien. It is a choice; it is a democratic choice that people have to make. We have different styles of governance. I believe in the gentle approach, I don’t tolerate violence, and I try to work with sincerity without too much propaganda to deceive people. So, during campaigns, people will know what we have in mind for the state; they will know which party to support.
Yes, it is true that APC won the presidential election, but we won the State Assembly election. The colours of these elections are different. This time, people will be saying, what are the issues and what have you done? What can you do more? And all of these will impact on the electorate differently, and I believe that for this election, based on our record, based on what we have done, what we have in mind is that the people, by the grace of God, will make PDP achieve victory.
PT: What is your attitude to the agitation for power shift in Kogi State?
Wada: I believe in power shift, I call it power rotation now, not shift; it is a rotation. That is a new terminology our people have invented for it. I believe the state belongs to all of us, and every citizen has a right to lead the state. But for me, it is not a straight forward issue which one man can drive. I can show leadership by expressing my view, and supporting all endeavours toward actualising it, but it requires continuous engagement of our stakeholders, our political leaders, our youths, our women.
All the stakeholders in the three senatorial zones must engage themselves to discuss about it, and work out the modalities. We have to ask ourselves, what is the easy thing, is anti-clockwise rotation easier than clockwise rotation, which should come first? We must also consider the interest of even the minority tribes within the major tribes in our state because we are all citizens of Kogi State, and all these issues need to be carefully discussed over time. We shouldn’t bring it up only when we are running for governorship election. Let’s start now and work towards 2019, for example, today. So, that is my own take on that, I support it, but let us not leave it until when somebody is running for governorship, then you start using tribal sentiments to whip up people’s support. No, let’s agree because no zone can win election alone. It needs the other zones. This is my view.
PT: Sixteen years after the country’s return to democratic rule, would you say Nigeria has made any significant improvement in the way elections are conducted?
Wada: I think, honestly, as a nation we are growing democratically. I think the culture of democracy is stabilising our country in a gentle way. People are beginning to respect the will of the people, expression of their preferences. I think leadership of parties too are more refined and focused, trying to sell the message of the parties rather than insulting one another. So once that type of attitude on the part of our political leaders is improving, it rubs down on the electorate and supporters of our parties. So, I think my feeling is that by the grace of God, it will be getting better and better for us politically.