I have all it takes to restore Kogi State —Wada

Captain Idris Wada, the immediate-past governor of Kogi State, is aspiring to return to office on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with YINKA OLADOYINBO, he speaks on key issues relating to the coming November 16 governorship election in the state.

 

YOU have just completed consultations with delegates from the 21 local government areas of the state. What was the experience?

My visit to the 21 local government areas of the state was well appreciated by the party’s stakeholders. Everywhere I went, the youth, women and men were all happy to come out and receive me. Their happiness, respect and appreciation are a result of the good governance witnessed during my tenure. They all said they missed me and equally wished me well in my political endeavours.

So, the impression while on the field was that my aspiration was welcomed by Kogi people. They equally pledged their support to me. They were eager with prayers that I should come back and rescue the state from the mess that is going on now, because one could see abject poverty, depression and hunger on the faces of the people. You could feel hopelessness in the eyes of the people.

So, people saw my candidacy as a way to go back to their normal ways of life.

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There are so many aspirants from Kogi East where you come from. How do you intend to surmount this?

I have made great impact in Kogi East. I have structures in every local government. I have people I worked with in the past. Most people elected as delegates had worked under my tenure. Some were party officials during my tenure. I have achievements to show in every local government I visited. These were things I was able to do when I was governor.

In Kogi East, people were excited to receive me. The fact that there are many aspirants does not reduce the support for my aspiration. None of the other aspirants has anything to show in Kogi East. The situation we are in currently requires experience and ability. The people appreciate the fact that the things I said have been proven to be true. They appreciate the fact that I do not talk often, but when I do so, I mean it. They see maturity in my composure. That maturity, experience, exposure and the fact that they can see what I did while I was there as governor separates me from other aspirants. I have history to rely upon.

 

Are you not worried about the emergence of many aspirants in the PDP?

I am not worried. It only gives me a cause to wonder if the people of Kogi East really know what they want. Governorship aspiration is not a small thing. I am not sure people understand what it entails running for the governorship of the state. It entails a very big financial capacity, experience, quality of individuals. I don’t see some of the aspirants carrying this package. They create the impression that they are serious. When we came in, we created a well-organised setup. We came with concrete plans, in terms of campaign organisation, among others.

Promptly, we made the right impact; unlike others who have no clear agenda. They were doing “start and stop” campaign, leaving gaps in the mind of the people as to whether these people are serious or prepared. Running for governor is a major project. It is not parading with SUVs or merely appearing on the television and social media. It is more than that. It is a deeper endeavour that requires thorough preparation.

So, I cannot see some of the people going far. The fact that many people want to be governor of the state is a reflection of the strain governance has exerted on the people. That is why some people think if Yahaya Bello can be governor, I too can be governor. That is how I see it.

 

Contesting election in Nigeria now involves money. Are you comfortable with this development?

It is a very sad development that our politics has been too monetised, giving room for people to think it is cash and carry. Democracy is not for sale. It is not to be sold to the highest bidder. We need to fundamentally go back and look at campaign spending. People should not spend as much money to be able to get into elected office.

Many people are denied the opportunity to participate in the process. So, our leaders and politicians must go back to the drawing board and create more level playing field, so that anyone who is qualified can come out and let the people judge on the quality, knowledge, experience capacity and management abilities, rather than the size of their pockets or their bank accounts.

In developed countries, it is crowd funding, where people who are sympathetic to your aspiration pool their resources to fund campaigns. This helps people to come out to run, knowing that eventually, the financial burden would be borne collectively.

In Nigeria, the person with the fattest bank account becomes a winning candidate. It is wrong, because anybody who spends so much wants to get his money back, at the expense of the people.

 

There have been issues around the political behaviour of Kogi East people. What is your view on this?

Yes, I’m worried. I have not noticed any real change in the political behavior of people from Kogi East. I am only hoping that with the prevailing hunger and poverty, they will be driven to vote for experience and capacity. I hope they will vote for a leader with a clear vision and integrity; that will pull the state out of the current challenges it is passing through.

Any mistake they make now could plunge the state into tragedy in the next four years. God forbid; Kogi may cease to exist as a state. No salary will be paid, no infrastructure development anywhere in the state. Only an inexperienced person can wriggle his way out for the first one year, before finding his feet.

 

There is relative high rate of youth restiveness in the state. How do you think this can be tackled?

I am worried by the level of youth restiveness, but I have a solution to it. We demonstrated it by our YAD4KOGI programme; many youths who were demoralised had no hope. We brought them back to life. We rehabilitated and re-orientated them to try and work for themselves. We established The KOICA – a training institute – in Felele. It was meant to improve the lives of youths. The centre was meant to be a centre of excellence and to attract students from other West African countries.

The Koreans we brought helped us make contact with Ghana, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries for them to be sending their students to Kogi. By now, we would have built hostels for that facility so that students would be staying there. And when they are released to the society, they could begin to do well for themselves.

So, if we come back, we will come up with a programme of re-orientation on how to fish; to have a future; and not be used as thugs during elections. When we come back, we will offer them encouragement with seed capitals to enable them get on their lives for the better.

 

What are your plans for some of the projects that were called ‘legacy projects’ when you were governor, but which have been abandoned now?

If elected, I will go back to the abandoned projects. The money is still there in the capital market. But you need integrity and financial management to access it. Bond monies are tied to projects. So, I will get the money, finish all the road projects, water and other infrastructures that would benefit our people.

The bond money is of low interest – about half of what a commercial bank would charge you.

Look at Kogi House, in Abuja. With our feasibility, projections and cash inflow, we would have been earning billions of naira from that project. The project was well thought out. We got a viable partner – an 11-storey building for N2.2 billion in Nigeria. How much was the Revenue Building constructed by Governor Bello? It was N1.3 billion. It was not up to one-third of Kogi House in Abuja.

We negotiated that we would build the complex substantially. It was going to be a quality hotel. We have two floors for the use of Kogi State government. But the others are a quality hotel to be managed by the Chinese for 20 years for them to get their money back. Eighty per cent of the project cost was borne by Kogi State government, while 20 per cent was by the Chinese company.

You know governments are good at building things; but how about management and maintenance? You want to come into a hotel, the air conditioners are not working; lights are not working; water is not rushing. That was why we signed the contract. There was never inflation, but we tied the project to bond money and part of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The plan was 50 per cent IGR was going to pay outstanding leave allowances for workers; 50 per cent was directed to that project.

So, I saw a way of funding it to the end before we started and it takes discipline to do such. I was not doing it to impress anybody; rather, I was working for the people of Kogi State.

 

Many people have said violence is a factor in this election. Are you prepared for the violence that could be unleashed before, during and after the election in November?

I am a man of peace. I came into government to improve on the lives of the people. I’m not desperate. If the opportunity comes for one to be governor, I will serve with all my heart and mind. But it is not a desperate project for me. Coming back to run again is in the best interest of Kogi State, and that is my motivation. It is not about self.

We were cheated in 2015 and anyone who has the fear of God will not allow cheating. So, this time around, we will not watch them cheat us. I am proud that in 2015, no life was lost, even though we lost the election. But thank God, nobody died. We now know the terrain better than before. We will make sure our supporters are not intimidated, again.

 

A major issue in Kogi is the payment of salary of civil servants and pensioners. How will this be resolved?

You must pay people for whatever work they do for you. It is scriptural; it is in the Bible and Koran that the workers’ sweat should not dry before you pay them. Employees of government are on contract. Welfare and security are the major priority of government. During my tenure, I made sure that basically, workers were paid as early as possible.

My plan was for us to be self-sustaining after eight years. And so, we planted seeds in that direction. We improved the business environment, using the ethanol factory and Alo Cement Company.

Payment of salaries will remain number one on the priority of my administration. Even pension was more important to me when I was in office. This was because these are people who had served. They had no other source of income than their pension. So, I made sure those who served and those serving were rewarded. This is to encourage those serving to be more dedicated to the service of the state.

Payment of salaries will remain a priority. I doubled gratuity payment while in office. I added additional N50 million. If I was still there, by now, we would have completed the payment of all gratuities, because I started from 1991. I tried to solve Kogi State problem conclusively.

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