Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, in this interview on Channels Television’s Programme, Politics Today explains how stabilised the state is politically and economically and why he thinks some Nigerian Senators are making the Red Chambers a ‘laughing stock.’
Are you not somewhat embarrassed by what is happening, especially what people say about the politics and how it is handled in your state which some have said is a threat to democracy?
I so much appreciate your inviting me here today. First, I want to assure the people of Kogi State and the people of Nigeria that Kogi State is stable politically, economically we are getting stabilised security-wise.
When I resumed office on January 27, 2016, I met a state that was bastardised economically, and we were facing a lot of insecurity in the land at that time like kidnapping, armed robbery and what have you. The state was largely divided along ethnic lines, religious lines and class difference.
Just 24 months into this administration, we were able to stabilise the state. Today Kogi State is the safest in the country. Today our economy is stabilising, the people of Kogi State will see ourselves as one indivisible entity. The people of the central, basically the Ebira, our brothers from Igala land that is the Kogi East Senatorial district and the Okun people where Senator Dino Melaye represents. We look at ourselves as one individual Kogi citizens first before you talk about where you come from. Now regarding the threat to democracy, I think Nigerians today know exactly who and who are threats to democracy in Nigeria.
Can you react to some of the other issues that are being raised?
Now like I told you, we know who are threats to democracy in Nigeria today. First of all, we have a Senate occupied by some men of integrity and while we have some who are just making the Red Chamber a laughing stock.
We have the national budget, up till now no mentioning of it. We have a lot of appointments made by Federal Government to various parastatals and agencies of government. Today they are lying in the minutes, none is being cleared and several other issues. So when we are talking about threats to democracy, I think they should ask themselves. I have great respect for some of them who are there in the Senate that are very concerned about the development of this country. I am sure the rest, you will be able to know about that.
As far as Kogi State is concerned, among the legislature, we are living harmoniously, and they are assisting my government in moving forward. You are talking about infrastructure, go to Kogi State today and compare it to 13 years of PDP rule in the state. In just 12 months, you will be able to answer the question that some of us are raising for us here.
Even in their various constituencies, you can see that our people are going to the stream to go and fetch water. We have a lot and massive water projects going on in the state, massive road construction going on in the state. Go to the state capital and look at it and compare it to when I assumed office. They are Abuja-based politicians, they have lost touch. They don’t know what is happening in Kogi State.
Is it not intriguing that you have about two Senators from your political party in your state at the three senatorial districts and those two Senators from your political party, you are not in good terms with them? Even the ones in the opposition are not happy with you.
We are aware of a particular Senator who wants elephants to be shared in Kogi State and I refused. The people of the state must have value for the lean resources that we are generating, and we are receiving. If that is his problem, so be it. Then we are aware of the history of political violence.
In Kogi Central Senatorial District, that within 12 months we have put an end to it. The recent happenings in the district, of course, the people elected him over there, and if he wants to go home to go and do empowerment, he is free to do that. But not to go home to go and begin to shoot into the air and begin to destroy lives and properties.
You have been alleged as a mastermind of the attacks on one of the Senator’s empowerment programme in Kogi State. Are you aware of that? Why did you do so if you are responsible?
First of all, on that day I was in Kano. I had just received a message of a Senator coming home to do empowerment. The next thing was the crisis that ensued.
I will not dwell much on this because the police have made a lot of arrests and he himself would be called upon to come and answer questions. Before that there used to be a political crisis and no action is taken is over in Kogi State. However how highly placed you are in Kogi State is to engage in thuggery, you will be called to answer for it.
There was a motion raised on the floor of the Senate by a Senator from your state, Dino Melaye, about the plan to import military gears into the country with the aim of using it as a disguise for some people who are said to be alleged thugs. And the Senate constituted a committee headed by Senator James Manager. We understand that they were at the airport and the customs have allegedly confiscated some of these gears. We also understand that one of your officials have been linked to this. Are you aware of this?
First of all, we are law abiding citizens and we are going about our normal business. We are not involved in any importation of any military weapon into the country, not to talk of linking it into my state or myself or to any of my officials. Nothing of that nature. They are running away from their shadows because there are arms and ammunition that have been recovered and arrests have been made.
A Senator in the Red Chambers as I speak with you is running away from his shadows. So they are just chasing shadows, nothing of that nature has been linked to me, nothing of that nature has ever happened. Let them face their job in the Senate and pass the budget. Nigerians are waiting for them to do their job.
Are you planning to sell assets belonging to Kogi State?
In Kogi State, we have assets that are not contributing one single penny into the coffers of the state. We are ready to sell and we have started the process of selling some assets that are not of value to the state.
We have over four million citizens, we have assets that are not making any meaningful contribution to their lives. If that is done in the Federal Capital Territory, if that is done by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, if that is done in other states including Lagos, Kaduna, etc and we are doing it in order to now back the proceeds of the sale of these non-essential assets of the state so that the good people of the state will derive maximum benefit.