Dr Victor Adoji was one of the aspirants in the just concluded People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primary election in Kogi state. In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY he speaks on the November 16 governorship election the state and insists that PDP will beat the incumbent Governor Yahaha Bello of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As a former banker and private sector player, why are you aspiring to be governor of Kogi state?
Your question carries the answer. You are talking about having done well in the private sector and my pedigree. And we are talking about the time a state should start wearing the private sector’s garment for life.
It is that experience from the private sector that I want to bring to the public sector so we can have a private sector model-driven state, which is why I said my main vision is to transition Kogi state from a civil service state, as it is, to an enterprise state.
It is that private sector experience that I am bringing to bear in the public sector.
How will you access the Bello-led administration and what will you do differently?
You have talked about the situation of things in the last three and half years, which, on itself, is an admission of the utter state of disrepair in the state as it is.
If you begin to sectionalize or compartmentalize the state, from the education to the economy, civil service process to infrastructure, then you begin to ask what is working. As it is, nothing is working. Even those things that used to work earlier have ceased to work.
Coming into Kogi is to give a new lease of life and to evolve an enterprise state on the basis of which we can develop a super state in the future.
You are fully aware that Lagos state, for example, is regarded as 7th largest economy in Africa. One of my visions is to make Kogi the 8th largest economy in Africa. That will entail many things including leveraging on our abundant natural resources, youth creativity and innovation and making youthpreneurs, agropreneurs to the population that we have so that, as a people, we can think of pushing in one direction. So that the journey to what you may call Eldorado will come sooner than later.
Do you think the PDP deserves another opportunity to rule the state?
If you talk about PDP coming back to the government in Kogi, that would be looking at it from the microcosm point of view. When you juxtapose the performance of PDP while in office with that of APC, you will know that that of APC is dismal and very disgraceful.
APC has just not taken off in the state. I will be unfair if I don’t give credit to the achievements of late Abubakar Audu while in office, but it is not about the party platform. It is about the character and discipline that the personality is bringing on board.
If the people decide that there is someone better in the APC, their votes will tell. For me, it is leveraging the party’s ideals to bring my own competence and character on board.
Non-payment of salaries is Governor Yahaya Bello’s greatest burden; however, your party has been accused of setting the pace in this regard. What is your take on this?
If they say my party started the non-payment of salaries, I take that as hypothetically correct. If my party started it, they now make champions of non-payment of salaries.
The erstwhile governor before Yahaya Bello loosely explained the situation that led to the non-payment of salaries in Kogi state, which is out there and explained very well.
I think he owed just two months salaries, but recall that he was waiting for FAC to pay one month, so technically he owed just one month. But how do you juxtapose that or make sense of a government that owes about 36 months?
It means that, all the life of the administration, he is yet to pay salaries. Recall that government in and out always claim that FAC revenue is consumed by salary payment.
I heard that there is a wage bill of N5.5 billion, which they said post-screening, they have been able to save about N1.1 billion, leaving N4.4 billion. Even at that, salaries are still not paid.
So, where is the excess going into and where is the money they are meant to use for payment of salaries? So, if they say PDP started that, which is untrue, then they have made perfect the art of not paying salaries. As it is, it is a disgrace to service and leadership anywhere in the world.
Don’t you feel threatened by the array of aspirants on the PDP platform?
Let me first and foremost establish an axiom, the least PDP aspirant is better than the best APC aspirant. That is verifiable. We are talking about certain undercurrents that are happening now that most people don’t realise.
One, age is going to play a major role in the electorate determining who governs them. Two, is character; three is competence; and four is discipline. So, the days of the old horses are gone.
You are talking about people in terms of positions they have held in the past, but we are talking about a paradigm shift and generational change. These are some of the nuances people are not careful to observe.
I am unperturbed and unmoved because I see myself as an idea whose time has come.
Ajaokuta steel company has been lying fallow for years. Do you have plans to revive it?
Maybe you are forgetting that I am running for governor of Kogi state and not the president of Nigeria. The Ajaokuta steel is a Nigeria’s project, not Kogi’s project.
The best I can do is to get to understand why it is still not taking flight and do all within my power to make sure it bubbles into life, as it is a federal project.
I will lobby to make sure it comes to life. At this stage, this is the best I can offer.
Aside bigwigs in your party gunning for the governorship ticket, you still have the incumbent governor to contend with. How prepared are you?
I left a well-paying job to dabble into the murky waters of politics. I have had a very huge successful career in banking and I have been able to acquire knowledge across borders. I have decided it is time to bring a new lease of life to my people.
I think I am over prepared for the battle ahead. Like I always tell people, other politicians come with their deep pockets and are low rangers. The emphasis here is on their capital infrastructure, that’s not what I am coming into the table with.
I am coming with a network of alliances, partnerships, abilities and capabilities. Like I always tell people, in marketing, you say 2×1,000 gives you 2,000 and 1,000×2 equally gives you 2,000. The logic is that you can have 1,000 useless people that will not give you two per cent impact and two people have 1,000 per cent impact. I belong to the latter category.
What give the confidence that you will clinch your party’s ticket?
I worked in a bank that is nationalistic in outlook. When I walked into Zenith bank, it was just any bank. When I got out, it was the biggest bank in Nigeria, by capital, profit, total access, continues liability and the 6th largest in Africa.
I was party of the team that baked that cake. Each time I look at the progress the bank is making, I see myself as a huge contributor to what we have together as a mega financial contributor in Africa.
Be that as it may, the highest I can make is to bring financial service to my people in a move to financially include my people. It is to my credit that we have branches of Zenith bank today in Kogi state. None was there before I became a staff of the bank. The banks we have across the state, of course, employ Kogi state indigenes and give financial services to the people either through loans or direct deposits. If you ask me, that is my greatest contribution.
Do you really see your party defeating APC especially after the poor showing in the 2019 general elections?
Most people who went into elections in the earlier part of this year thought the rules were as they should be. Anyone who contested in the last election will tell you there was no semblance of election in Kogi state. But this time around, I can assure you that if you come to play basketball with the rules of football, we will come ready with the rules.
That’s the new normal and I am more than confident that we will win. One, everybody is sick and tired of the non performing government in Kogi. We already know the only thing they have to their credit. If that’s the way they want to play it, we are ready. We will be left with no choice than to react if pushed to the wall.
Are you not worried that federal might may swing in favour of the APC?
Like I always tell people, when you see a pilot in the cockpit of a plane, marking papers and all that, it is just to check whether the plane is in good competition, but it is not 100 per cent guaranteed. I shall take a dive and develop my wings on the way down.
So, will you leave the party in event that you don’t get the ticket?
PDP cannot afford to be outside the corridors of power for another four years. What is going to win the November election is not about who has the deepest pockets, but he who has a sustaining character, consuming competence and the discipline to see the state out of the woods.
At the expense of sounding proud, there is no other person with those qualifications but me in Kogi state as of today. However, if for any reason or unlikely situation that I don’t clinch the party’s ticket, my primary concern will kick in. My primary concern is to make sure that the current maladministration in Kogi state is stopped.
The ambassador of that maladministration is Yahaya Bello and my primary concern is to make sure he is not in office by November 16. If I am not the one to lead the charge, I can assure you that I will be a supportive attacker of the PDP charge.