As the Kogi state governorship election scheduled to hold on November 16, 2019, draws nearer, the director-general of media and publicity to the governor, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, tells TOPE SUNDAY in this interview that his principal, Yahaya Bello, deserves to be re-elected.
Your principal, the governor, is seeking re-election, but how has it been in the last four years?
It has been very fantastic Kogi was in a mess in terms of administration and development before his Excellency took over in January 2016. It was the kidnap capital of Nigeria; other violent crimes were being perpetrated across the state. It was a very tough one, but as he was coming to manage a very difficult state and a very difficult situation, he was prepared to salvage the situation. He came with a blueprint known as the new direction movement and the blueprint is targeted at reviving education, health care, infrastructure development, agriculture and other sectors of the economy. So far, it has been a huge success because as far as Kogi state is concerned today. Today, the state has moved from being the second most endangered state, to the second most peaceful state in the federation, according to the Bureau of Statistics. It shows that something drastic and pragmatic have been done to achieve such a very huge feat in the area of agriculture. We’ve done very well in planning for farmers across the state. We intend to do mechanised farming across the state and the second biggest rice mill has also been built by this administration. It is going to be commissioned this month (July) and it is 98% completed and we hope that after the commissioning by the president we will start production of 100 tons of rice per day. The capacity in the mill is times two of what is obtainable in other mills with an installed power. We intend to have a stage, which we will give power to neigbouring communities free.
The governor has done well with little funds allocated to him, and he has covered a wide area of the economy. He is making sure we reform the civil service in the state that was in a rough anthill which needed a new touch; hence, we have installed a data base to help us manage the situation.
He has done tremendously well to the point that his opposition are going down. Though, he has had challenges with salary payment, which started with his predecessor, Captain Idris Wada, as wrongly stipulated that the issue emanated from this current administration. He (Wada) knew the inflow of funds into the state was minimal, he applied for a bail out of N80 billion, and the federal government graciously approved N50 billion successfully accessed N20 billion.
You don’t expect that from the 80billion appropriated and the N50 billion approved, there’s no way we can successfully handle the problems linked to salaries with the last salary paid last month. We can say we own four months and we hope to clear them when we take our bailout.
On the salary issue, there are some people in Kogi that said since this administration started they have not accessed their salaries; what do you have to say to this?
The governor is a victim of this magnanimity when we had our Staff Verification Exercise (SVE); we invited the press to observe every details. You would see that there are people who died six years ago but are still on the government’s pay roll. Some impute fake names, others with forged certificates all these were discovered and they are acts that are punishable by law. The labour leaders appealed to the governor to consider some which he (governor) forgave.
To genuine civil servants with accurate papers, we owe them four months.
Last year, the media paid a close attention to issues that people were dying in the state due to unpaid salaries. And to those that are not familiar with the happenings in Kogi, they are saying if the ticket is handed to the governor, APC may lose the state. How will you react to this?
Yes, we have seen such situation with people saying the governor is not popular. Like I told some people last week, the time your opponent starts praising you and you are comfortable with what you are doing, just know you are on your way out of office. But when they say all sorts of things about you, it shows they are scared of the fact they can’t take power from you. He (the governor) has proved his opponent’s wrong by leading a campaign of the party in February and Kogi delivered massively for Mr. President. Out of three senatorial seats, we won two and one was due to over voting in some areas which is being contended in the law court. We are sure of victory for senator Smart Adeyemi; out of the House of Representatives seats, we delivered seven only one was won by PDP. Also, out of the 25 House of Assembly seats, we won all. That shows that this man (the governor) is on ground and can always win elections and deliver Kogi to APC; that’s the situation.
Looking at the primaries in the state, some of the APC aspirants think that if indirect approach is used, it may lead to legal battles after the election. What’s your view?
We don’t have faction in Kogi APC, we had congress from the ward, to state congress, panels were sent by the NWC to supervise these congresses, and it was successful. There is no faction and what is allowed is a group which helps them achieves their political agitations within the party. There is no case in the law court as all cases have been withdrawn.
How do you intend to deliver the state?
This is not the first election he will be going into; he contested for the primaries of APC and came close to clinching the ticket. He came second to the late Abubakar Audu and he was part of the campaign before the election was declared in conclusive. Then, he later won the election, which the then incumbent governor (Idris Wada) also participated in.
The governor hails from the Kogi central, but the state’s politics is determined by the people from the Kogi East. Don’t you see this as a minus in his attempt to come back for the second term?
I can understand the sentiment but it would have worked when GYB came in, but now, Kogi is a united state and not a divided one. His appointments and projects have been evenly distributed. The biggest achievement of this governor is his ability to unite the state and to give everyone within the state, the sense of belonging.
How will you react to this rumor, that whatever the chief of staff tells the governor is what he does?
People have not really moved away from the sentiment of the past, ever since the creation of the state. Before he became governor, every other governor was an Igalaman and they ensured that their chief of staff emerged from Igala land. On the day of his Excellency’s inauguration, he appointed Chief Edward Onoja from another senatorial district as chief of staff. The message being passed across connotes that your origin does not matter.
Secondly, the governor is a team player when he gives an assignment; he has confidence in your ability to execute it.
He (the governor) has a lot of confidence in the people. He (Onaja) is a brilliant chief of staff who listens to his boss, he can be said to be very loyal and somebody who knows his job.
What are those things you think he will do in his second tenure?
He will consolidate on his improvement agenda and hope that in the next four years, he would have moved the structures in the right direction. We are confident about that.
What is your administration doing to revive Ajaokuta Power Plant?
What we can do is to lobby the federal government since it is a federal government’s project. The governor is doing that, Kogi state as a government is doing that to ensure we lobby for the reservation of Ajaokuta plant.