The newly appointed Commissioner for Rural Development in Kogi state, Hon Daniel One Ejigbo, in this chat with Uji Abdullahi Iliyasu said his priority is to ensure the economic, social and environmental development across the state.
Congratulations on your appointment as a commissioner in Kogi state.
Thanks. Though some would say it is belated due to the months i have been here as a commissioner. But all the same thank you.
Were you surprised to be named the commissioner for rural development?
No. I know my able governor understands the calibre of people he appoints into government as commissioners. I can assure you that we are all square pegs in square holes and the appointments and placing are based on the ability to give results and delivering on the administrations targets in each sector by each commissioner. I can tell you that I am extremely grateful to the governor for considering me worthy to serve as the commissioner for rural developments of the state at this time when Kogi state has been given a new direction to development.
What role do you see your ministry playing in the developments of Kogi state?
That is a very great question. The role of the ministry of rural development in the development and growth of the state can never be over-emphasized. The attainment of the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is at the fulcrum. Sustainable rural development is vital to the economic, social and environmental viability of any state. It is essential for poverty eradication since state poverty is overwhelmingly rural. The manifestation of poverty goes beyond the rural-urban divide. It is therefore critical, and there is great value to be gained, by coordinating rural development initiatives that contribute to sustainable development. We intend to initiate strategies that deal with rural development and also take into consideration the potential and remoteness of rural areas and provide targeted and workable approaches.
What are these new policies?
I want you to know that there is a strong link between the ministry and other ministries that impact the rural development goal attainment in Kogi state. A healthy and dynamic agricultural sector is an important factor in rural development. Rural livelihoods are enhanced through effective participation of rural people and rural communities in the management of their own economic, social and environmental objectives by empowering people in the rural areas, particularly women and youths, including through organisations such as rural cooperatives and by applying the bottom-up approach, close economic integration of rural areas with neighbouring urban areas and the creation of off farm employment can narrow urban-rural disparities, expand opportunities and the retention of skilled people, including youth in rural areas. This is my number one priority.
So, there is a considerable potential for job creation in your plans?
Yes. The potential for this job creation is not only in the areas of farming but it includes agro processing and rural industries and building rural infrastructure, in the sustainable management of natural resources, waste and residues. Rural communities in our state are faced with challenges relating to basic service, economic opportunities and some degree of incoherence with regard to planning related to rural-urban divide. Thus, our new policies hope to address that.
How do you hope to address the challenges in rural areas developments?
Investments in environmental protection, rural infrastructure and rural health and education are critical in sustainable development goals and can enhance rural well-being. Beyond meeting basic needs, our investments will be linked to the potential to raise income and productivity. The vulnerabilities of the rural poor to the economic and financial crisis and climate change we also wish to address. The success we wish to achieve in our sustainable rural development goals depends on, inter alia, developing and implementing comprehensive strategy to check climate change, drought and desertification and natural disasters.
Why is the government so interested in the developments of the rural areas?
The important role the rural areas in Kogi state and any other part of the world play in the growth of any state cannot be overemphasized. Wherever viable rural settlements exist, the government, professional planners, and inhabitants must focus their attention on the development of those areas for the retention of that local community. A rural development doctrine if it must be effective give deeper thought to the role of local rural place as we seek to find solutions to the ongoing problem of population imbalance and the dissolution of our rural areas. Let’s not pretend about it, all of us know that people prefer to live in cities because there are more opportunities, services, and great personal fulfillments. Everyone also knows that successful businesses and economic development always stay focused in urban areas to maximise transportation and labor costs. Many of our small towns and villages are in distress and needed development that has the potentials to curb the malaise of rural urban migration which is already a problem. The government needs to bring development in its physicality to the door step of these rural areas to bring growth to all.
You have always been a politician. What is your political philosophy?
Yes, you are right. My political philosophies are simple and that is the emancipation of our people from poverty and want and I believe basically that everybody have a right to be happy. If I want to expatiate, we basically live in an age when the truth that should have shaped our democracy is basically absent and the television spot is the most powerful force shaping the electorates thinking, and we are in the hands of an administration that is very interested in sharing the basic truth with its citizenry. How did we get to this sorry state in this potentially prosperous and endowed state? I put it to us all, the absence of truth and reasoning. A lot of damage has been done to our democracy prior to this administration and the role of democracy as the steward of our material and visible security and I believe this Bello administration understands the need for the redirecting of the principles and philosophies of the role of governments in the development of the masses, that is why we are here as part of this administration.
What do you think has been the major problem in Kogi’s political and economic development?
Very simple. The most ardent problem that has militated against the growth and development of Kogi state is the issue of politically vested interests. We must at this stage of our development mirror on the overall development of our people, the downtrodden who have been bashed by the developmental injustices of the past in our state by the elite. I am a democratic socialist, I basically believe in the entrenchment of democratic ideals for development of society. To me, democratic socialism means creating a government that represents all of us and the elimination of elitism. The provision of medicare, infrastructure for the use of the masses are the fruits of democracy and this is what the government of Yahaya Bello is doing.
Why do people of your state always seem to criticize your governor, Yahaya Bello?
I think you are incorrect. My governor has the support of the masses and the common folks in the state who seem to constitute the majority of the state. It seems you don’t see it coming, the voiceless and pauperized masses of this state which this governor has emancipated with his new direction policies which have systematically shifted this state away from our old ways of doing things to a pragmatic and exemplary new ways of governance. This has brought development in its physicality closer to all. Most of the criticism you hear from time to time is that of the cabal and few political godfathers who have been derobed and refused continuation of their hold on the levers of power which only benefits their families and cronies. Our governor, I can emphatically say has fought the symmetric and asymmetric warfare of the people against vested interests successfully without apology to a vociferous few and it can never be business as usual.
What has your governor done differently?
So many. You can see that the cabal which has been in power for so long has lost their voice and hope in Kogi state. No wonder within the same political party, they seem to be the opposition. His Excellency has chosen to work with the youth in Kogi state, because he knows they are the leaders of tomorrow. This has made the old generation of leaders who constitutes the failure of the past uncomfortable and they have chosen to fight the government’s policies at any given time. In view of this, the cabals don’t lose much if they dedicate a large chunk of their time making this government look bad. The good this government is doing for this state shall outlast them all.
What do you see as your rural development agenda?
There are lots of flint areas in our state. We hope to invest billions of naira in the provision of rural infrastructural facilities for our rural areas. We shall dwell on areas of concentrated poverty, as it is not only a rural problem but a Kogi problem. We shall build a broad coalition for an anti-poverty agenda such that our rural folks would not consider themselves as living in hell. We shall create affordable houses for our rural people that have not seen much of it. We shall provide money to tear down blight in troubled rural areas. We shall use the private and public partnership initiative to stimulate growth in rural areas because of paucity of funds. We shall provide a stronger infrastructural base for the quick development of our rural areas, infrastructure such as transformers, which we just provided for our people.