Why Kogi people need my service now —Abubkar Audu
Mohammed Abubakar Audu, the first son of the former governor of Kogi State, the late Prince Abubakar Audu, is among the contestants for the All Progressives congress (APC) governorship ticket for the November 16, 2019 poll. In this interview by OSARETIN OSADEBAMWEN, the aspirant speaks on his chances and plan if elected governor. Excerpt:
What do you think are your chances since two other members of your family: and uncle, Yahaya Audu and a younger brother, Mustapha Audu are in the race?
In the beginning when the opportunity came, more than 50 people indicated interest in both political parties. At close of the sale of form, less than 30 forms were sold. In the APC, where I have interest, we are 10; some of them are members of my family, who believe that they have other ways of prosecuting political intentions. I know that I do have a cordial relationship with every member of my family. Some may, at the appropriate time, consider that we have to continue or not. For now, you cannot stop anybody’s aspiration. I know that if it is the government of the day, once they know you are trying to aspire in an interest that will conflict with theirs, you become an enemy of the state. I am not like that; I allow people to express themselves very well, knowing that they could have something to use in helping the state. It is always good for the state to have options that you can pick from. I am hoping that in this regards, I probably will be the best of the aspirants.
You were once quoted to have said that the shoes of your father are too big for you. What exactly did you mean?
The story of Kogi is a very unique one. It is a state with abundant resources that is most often mismanaged. I can tell you for a fact that a couple of years ago, I did not have in my mind, the thought that I will run for any office because I followed my father very closely during the campaigns. I saw how hectic, how tedious and how unsure things could be because he was a master; he was able to navigate the waters, except where he was deliberately deprived.I thought I wouldn’t be offering myself for any elective position in light of these circumstances because I felt like I was doing quite well in my private business. However, the recent unfortunate developments that surround the state has made it imperative for anybody with human conscience to try and approach the state and rescue it from the state in which it is. I can assure you I thought it was appropriate, to watch the current government deliver what best they could offer. Today, I can confirm to you that their best is not good enough and in many cases would be the worst of other days. We understood that Kogineeds a change. However, under the APC, the party the late Adoga brought to Kogi, I tried to see if there was any major contender who could deliver the dividend of democracy to the people. I waited patiently and saw as they lined up themselves one by one, offering themselves for service, I realised that the majority of them were what I call the sunset politiciasn. It is unfortunate when you are waking up when the sun sets instead of when the sun rises. You have been in a career all the way from the beginning to the end and whatever you are supposed to achieve in the height of it, you have achieved it and at the point of retirement, you want to take on a young state like Kogi state. That is impossible.
A lot of them with “retd” after their names want to start a new career and you expect a different result now? How can that be? Some others simply do not have the experience; I have had the experience of about 20 years or so in the different aspects of the private sector administration, finance marketing and other forms of businesses. I developed a lot of innovative skills, and so on. Such a state with abundance resources needs someone who is focused to harness the resources. If I am able to prudently apply the resources to the needs of the people, Kogi will be taken out of the current situation it finds itself. I have evaluated the ability of all the other contestants; I believe I should offer myself in order to achieve the best.
Secondly, I noted that the largest political structure, which could deliver this kind of mandate is the Audu political structure. I cannot turn my back on them; they currently do not have any other form of political leadership. I noticed that people have been hiring their names and they have no connection no bond. They have not even approached the structure from the right approach. So, in this regard, people are just dropping names that they are of the Audu political family. I am not going to make any noise that they are endorsing me. We are the Audu. They are with me.
I am lucky to be a member of the political family and a member of the Audu biological family. I am the only one in the state to be like that, and I intend to use this to the benefit of the people.
What do you think are the critical areas that require intervention that can transform Kogi and deliver quick wins to the people?
The first thing is employment, to create jobs for the teeming youths. Kogi is populated by idle young men and women, who in some cases, have gone through the height of educational achievements but there are no jobs. In some cases, they have not done very well in school and they do not have any vocational training centres to develop skills and become very productive members of the state. It is a time bomb, as it will now serve as a feed stock for armed robbery, kidnappers and all forms of societal ills. We must arrest the trend for the good of society. Job creation is also related to the issue of salary payment in Kogi because of the lack of innovation by the recent past leaders. They have not been able to develop the state or the resources of the state, so they made Kogi predominantly a civil service state, where people feed from hand to mouth. As the Federal Government allocates the money, you share it and wait for the next month. The state has been placed with the kind of stagnant growth for over a decade and we are not going to allow this to continue. We must ensure this first of all that even on the salary that people are not earning, we will make sure the issue of non-salary-payment becomes part of our history; never to be repeated! After we have dealt with the issue, we will create, enhance, ensure and stimulate a very viable private sector. That is to say we will create access to funding; we will ensure that people have access to the factors of production. In Kogi, you have all forms of abundant resources. We have arable land for agriculture. We have everything; now, what we need is the capacity to do it.
We will provide these solutions very quickly. We will work with our local government organs to ensure we create a micro-finance bank across the state in every local government, so that people do not need to go far to have access to funding in their local government. After that, we will ensure that we create private patronage for particular businesses in the rural area so that the people will have a good rate of return financially and be able to make those rural settlements a place where they can actually stay and do business. This is of the essence.
I remember during the time of the late Prince Audu, he encouraged quite a lot of business men from all local government. You had millionaires among them. He had multi-millionaires and businessmen that were all doing very well and they all became stimulant packages for the private sector. To depending on government is not exactly the way to go all the time. The private sector will also provide an alternative for the people. So, when somebody graduates from school for instance, he thinks for himself. Do I want a government job, work in the private sector, or do I want to be an entrepreneur? You now have options available to you and based on this, you excel.
The second important thing is providing critical infrastructure. We have a government. That government in the centre houses the Ajaokuta industrial estate. Ajaokuta is the industrial base of Nigeria. Sixty per cent of your population does not have access to good road to go to where they come from. We have plans for good roads, street lamps and reflectors, electricity local government by local government in the state. Not less than 10 local government areas are bordered by the river; that is access to water and it is not being utilised. So, we intend to ensure that we also create a viable water infrastructure, so that pipe borne water will be available in as many local government areas as we can cover.
Certainly, we are going to make a lot of emphasis on critical infrastructure. We will set up agricultural tenders board to ensure that agricultural products are regulated in terms of how they are produced; the benefits to the farmers, how they are sold and the benefits to the distributors; access to funding and capacity development research and so on. We will develop the agric sector to boost so much capacity. This I assure you.
Education is even a very massive problem. I do not know what those in government are trying to turn the state to. Most of our institutions are shut at the higher level. We expected that in 2018 or 2019 that no single child born in Kogi should have a school more than one kilometre from where he lives. Unfortunately, it is not so now. It is called primary education. You must have absolute access to it! That is how we did it; that is how we got the access. We were privileged; why don’t we extend the same privilege to the younger generation? This we intend to look into and provide access to primary education to children.
At the secondary school level, we do have a problem which is the standard of education. Our schools at that level are not very competitive in terms of our students getting into higher institutions because of the poor quality of education. If you remember, the ministry of education is expected to have a well-trained inspectors who will go around to ensure that the curriculum of all the schools is the same and of a higher standard, as well as ensure that the same methodology is applied across the country for practical teaching and learning and ensure that our children do very well at the secondary level. The state of the tertiary institution in Kogi is a nightmare. What we are going to do is to augment the little government funding by going out of the country to plead for alumni of world renowned universities, who usually contribute not less than $200m per university annually, to give us a fraction of that amount, so that we can also develop our own university, not as a right but as corporate social responsibility. I am sure if we do that, we will be able to turn the university in Anyagba into a massive univeraviable to the point that their standards will be very high. They will turn out employable and qualitative graduates annually. Accompanying education is to create a viable healthcare to promote access to healthcare. We will ensure that we bring in good equipment for tests and diagnosis to ensure accurate diagnosis and that our hospitals meet the needs of the people.