Alhaji Abubakar Ibrahim Idris is the son of the former Governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. The young Idris, who is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), speaks to TOPE SUNDAY on his aspiration, the challenges in the state, among other issues.
Kogi state has been in the bad news in recent times. How do you intend to change the narratives about the state?
What brought about the negative story is the people, people make things the way there are. Sadly, with what we are experiencing in Kogi you are right; there are a lot of negativities.
There is negativity in governance, negativity in welfare, negativity in civil servants’ welfare, negativity in education, in health and in other all spheres. What we intend to do is to change the narrative so that the state will be looked up for more positive mind set. In that process, you will find out that it (the negativity) will translate to productivity.
A number of civil servants are reportedly owed several months’ salaries in the state you intend to govern. What do you think is responsible for this?
It’s really sad that we are caught up in a situation where we have to go through the issue of salary arrears. Like you rightly said, salaries are supposed to be a no brainier; it is not something the workers should think about really. These are things that are supposed to come automatically, it’s not a privilege, it’s a right. As a worker, it’s your right to be paid your salary. So, for us having issues of non- payment of salaries, is really disheartening coupled with the fact that when I look at what we get in terms of subventions from the federal government, it’s not like the state can’t pay, it can. Take for instance, when you look at last month’s bills, I was made to understand that an inflow of about N7 billion came in and how much are the salaries? It is N4.4 billion, so why does the government complain? Or why is it not paying the salaries in full? The state government still has N2.3 billion remaining. So, something is just fundamentally wrong and it is those fundamental wrongs that we intend to come in and correct.
You have not worked with the government. In short, you are a green horn who is coming from the private sector. What do you think qualifies you to run for governor in a complex state as Kogi?
Okay, let me throw a question back at you. My father was a green horn when he contested for the governorship of the state. But was never a governor, but he ruled well at least quite a lot of people still appreciate his government. When it comes to governance, there are things I will like you to understand. Governance and business seem to go hand-in-hand. If you are a good manager of resources, if you are prudent with resources and at the same time you are a businessman that has that drive to multiply his earnings, I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t do well in governance. In my own case, I have been a very successful businessman and even from the background, I have watched how his Excellency (my father) ran the state. I did that for nine years. I can say if you go to a single class for a whole nine years, there is no way you would leave that class empty-handed. In terms of me being able to run the state, I believe I have the abilities to run the state, but then you also agree with me that you must not have credentials to be a governor. It’s not about the numbers of degrees or qualifications you have, but your given abilities to be able to turn the fortunes of a state around and at the same time, being able to give the citizens a sense of belonging, a sense of safety; importantly, giving them the confidence that you mean well for them. Putting all that together, I feel that I have what it takes because like I have said, from the business point of view and from the fact that I come from a political family, I’m the most qualified for the job.
Your father served Kogi for two terms and now you are coming as the daddy’s boy. Don’t you think or feel the people of Kogi will want to think it’s a family affair?
With all due respect, let me ask one question or let me ask a couple of questions. Am I of age? Do I have the necessary qualifications to run for governor of Kogi state? Am I from the state? Do I have the right to vote and be voted for? If answers to all these questions are yes, it really amazes me that at 51, I will be a daddy’s boy. From all indications, I have all the right being an indigene of Kogi state to run for governor.
I know of a political family in Kogi state that has two of its siblings running for governor and nobody is saying anything about that. I know of a former chairman’s son that is going to run for governor and nobody is saying anything about that. It’s appalling to me as to why people look at me as a daddy’ boy; for others to do it, it’s okay, for Abubakar Ibrahim Idris to do it, it is not okay.
What qualifies others doing it better than me? I believe by all standards, I have what it takes to run the state and I believe within me that I have what it takes to become better than what Alhaji Ibrahim Idris did, that is the case. I don’t see any reason you have this impression or notion that I am a daddy’s boy. I am I old enough to face trials? If I am old enough to face trials, does that mean if I am standing my trials they will say I am standing on behalf of my father? So, now that I am running a race, he is imposing me on the people, it now means I am a daddy’s boy, doesn’t it sound ridiculous? By and large, I have come to terms that my only crime is that I am my father’s son.
When you look at it critically, even from where we borrowed the democracy, George Bush senior was a president, George Bush junior was a governor, George the third was a senator. George Bush senior served for one term, he was the 42nd President of the United States and then came Bill Clinton and immediately, George Bush junior who is his son became the 44th President of the United States, his younger brother took over as governor of Texas.
If where we borrowed the democracy it seems as if it is okay, why is ours different? I know of a national leader of a party whose is wife is in the Senate, he was a governor. Also, right now in Niger state, Abubakar Bello is the governor, his father was the Kano state governor and it did not cause any issue. I wonder why mine is such a big deal in the eyes of everyone.
Former Governor Idris Wada who many believe is very close to your family is said to be nursing the ambition of coming back as the governor. If he declares, he may run on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Considering your aspiration, will this not cause division within your father’s political structure?
Again, let me first say here, it’s God that gives yes power. God might not come down and do it physically, to that effect, our destinies are different and he has the right to contest for his second term. I think I have the right to contest for the same race because it is not written in any part of the constitution that because I am a son to a former governor and he is a friend to the former governor we cannot go after the same office. Then, it’s interesting to know that his brother (Engr. Musa Wada) too is running for the race. If it is okay with them and it has not destroyed the political structure, I don’t see why my running for the same position will destroy the political structure. Though, I look up to him as a father, that does not disturb my right of running for the governorship race.
Your dad served for nine years and Captain Wada also served for four years. Do you think your party, PDP, has done enough for it to be voted for in Kogi state?
Honestly, PDP has done better than APC in Kogi state because throughout the tenure of the PDP in Kogi state, we have never had any cause to owe salaries up to 28 months. We have never had a cause for our lecturers to go on strike neither our doctors nor the judiciary. Now, we are facing a situation where almost everything is mortgaged, the civil servants are not being paid their salaries, the lecturers are on strike, the doctors are on strike. Only God knows how much we are indebted to. When you look at all this vis-a-vis Alhaji Ibrahim Idris’ government, he did not take a single loan till he left government. During his tenure, salaries were paid as at when due till he left government, there was infrastructure development and there came Captain Wada who owed only three months’ salaries, but it was based on circumstances. Are you going to compare pair that with a government that owes up to 28 months’ salaries?
How prepared are you to challenge the incumbent governor?
My drive is to put things back in place, make life better. I am not competing, there nothing to compete with, you can’t tell one single thing that they have done. There is really nothing on ground to complete with. The truth is that it is not even about me, indigenes are prepared to vote him out. How do you measure preparedness? By the amount of violence, our people know the right thing; our people have been subjected to that so much. The people of Kogi state are prepared to chase him out. It’s not about me; it’s about ‘we.’ Enough is enough of this type of government in Kogi state. He should step aside so that people with better ideas can come in. At this junction, I want to add that it is not just about Abubakar Ibrahim, it is about the best person to move the state forward. For me, it’s never been a do-or-die affair; it’s looking at Kogi with the vision. We don’t have to depend on federal allocations so that we can be self- sufficient considering the fact that we have the brightest and smartest youth. I feel if we tap into that we will be able to achieve goals.
Lastly, Ajaokuta has been lying low for years. How do you think the sleeping industrial giant can be revived?
Ajaokuta had been completed to a certain extent, to the last I know. It’s a very little percentage that was not completed and that is why it has been mortgaged for the past 30 years. I look at it as more of being political. It has been politicised in such a way that an investment that has been completed 90 per cent and all it needed is just an extra 10 per cent, I don’t see why that 10 per cent can’t be completed. It sounds baffling that we are able to complete Ajaokuta steel plant 90 per cent; all we need is another 10 per cent and it has taken over 35 years to finish, what other thinking will you have if not a lot of politics? I am sure with due determination and with government’s commitment, the 10 per cent is not a thing they can’t complete with no time.