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My focus is rural development — Gov. Idris

By Gbenga Oke
ALHAJI Ibrahim Idris, the Executive Governor of Kogi State in this interview with some  Journalists in Lokoja spoke about various national issues and his developmental strides in the state. He explains what his dreams are for the state in the future just as he stated that his administration has achieved more in the areas of education, housing and Agriculture. He also  argued that Nigeria’s democracy has achieved a level of stability but stressed the importance of  unity  to make a change in the nation’s democracy.  Excerpts:

Since your second-coming, how has it been governing Kogi state?

Gov. Idris
Gov. Idris

Well, we have been doing very well to make sure we serve the people.  We are committed and the people are happy with what we have been doing so far. Also, we have been able to provide all that is necessary for now based on what we have.  I would have loved to do more than what we have done, but at least I have used what is at our disposal to make sure development goes round. Development is not just in the capital city alone, infact, most of the developments are outside the capital in the rural areas where we have more people.

You were talking about the power project on television. What is this project all about?

What we realized is that, we cannot leave that only to the Federal Government alone; at least the state government has to play its  own part. This will facilitate rapid  generation of power  in the country and we are playing our own role in our own way.

For instance, I contributed to the electricity project which runs from Ajaokuta to Lokoja.  I made it possible to work. This also applies to the other power project which runs  from Ajaokuta to Anyingba and other villages. I was the one that erected the poles.

All we are doing is to ensure that people have light because it is very important and to me, light is no more a luxury. I feel it is a necessity and we must make sure it is provided for our people. What I am saying in essence is that, there is need for us to join hands with the Federal Government to make sure that the seven point agenda which includes  power generation  is a realised.

How soon do you think this power problem will be a thing of the past because we understand that you are bringing in some Chinese or Koreans to participate in the project?

We have some Koreans who were trying to use coal and luckily, we have coal in Kogi state and we are made to understand that coal provides the cheapest means of electricity in the world for now,  and we have it in abundance. So it is  easier for us and we are working.

We have talked to them and  have signed an MOU with them. They will bring in their money and of course, we have to buy some percentage and then we will arrange with the PHCN on how we are going to do the contribution. But of course most of the distribution will be from Kogi state and then the excess power generated  would  be sold to the national grid.

When  are they coming?

Already, the people have come and gone back, but we are still working on the modalities.

From the look of things, it seems your administration concentrates more on education than other sectors in the state?

For me, I believe we need to put more emphasis and priority on education and whether you like it or not, it is better for you give your child education than money because if you’re able to give him education, you have done more than what is required for that child and that is why I make sure education is my priority.

With regard to tertiary education, we have done a lot at  Kogi State University.  It was actually a glorified tertiary institution before my administration and there is no doubt about it.  The university was  denied accreditation in 29 courses and it was at the edge of collapse and we thank God for giving me that initiative that there is nothing impossible if one  makes  up his mind.

I have shown the world; we were able to put it back again by making sure that all the 29 courses denied accreditation were fully accredited. I am happy that this has been done and hopefully by 2010, we will be admitting our first graduates in the Faculty of Law. We are already working on that and by 2011, we would  start admitting into the Faculty of Engineering.

Everything has actually been adequately put in place by the Specialist Hospital now which is going to form part of the university’s Medicine Faculty. For now, Kogi state University is the best State University today.  But I am looking forward to making it the best university in Nigeria. As at now, we have over 70 professors at the university and we are still adding more because like I said, my dream is to make it the best university  in Nigeria.

If you look at Nigeria as a country, it seems we have retrogressed in the last ten years of our democracy. In your view, how will you describe 10 years of  democracy in Nigeria?

I will disagree with that because we have done very well to the best of my knowledge. It is not possible to put things in place on time and it is wrong for Nigerians to compare ourselves with United States or Britain. We have forgotten that these people have started before us.

If anything happens in London today, we want it done in Nigeria now. We have forgotten that  we are still being called a developing country. But it is not good for us to think that because we are developing, we remain developing indefinitely.  No, we must think of getting there and definitely, we would  get there.

I want you to know that when you talk  about democracy being sacked it has to do with  our level of advancement of our politics or understanding in Nigeria. In the past, it was common to have feuds among politicians and the next thing that would happen is that  the soldiers have taken over. But  with understanding, all these things will definitely stop.

At least, for the first time, we had a democratically elected president and governors. it is a lot improvement. We may not know it because we are the ones, but  people from outside will say we have done well because there is no break in democratic governance  any longer and we want it to continue like that. Firstly, we are bound to make mistakes and we will correct the mistakes ourselves, that is my belief.

So, I agree with you if you say we have not achieved  much. Yes, because the expectations are very high and you are looking forward that we have to meet it. We just have to be there as quickly as possible; that should be the thinking of every good Nigerians. I agree with you and by that, I believe we will create an impact that will make us stay ahead all the time.  But for us to say we have not done nothing, I disagree with that.

As a democrat, what lessons have you learnt from Nigeria’s 10 years of democracy?

Well, as a politician, when you pass through politics, you do not need any PhD again as far humans are concerned because that will give you the true perspective of humans being. If you are an outsider while looking at people, you will think they are not doing well.

You will notice a lot of mistakes, but you need to come in and see how difficult it is. I want you to know that  to correct or amend something  is very difficult.  These are challenges that are facing all of us. We must agree that these challenges are there, but what do we do?

Like somebody will tell you, this is nonsense and they don’t know what they are doing. If you say everybody is stupid and they don’t know what they are doing, who will do it? So, I will advice that if you think that you have something to offer, come in.

My belief and I have  always told people around me is that, it is always good not to say this is how we are doing it; I disagree with that. If you bring people to do this thing, we should think of how else to do it. I want peo
ple to exercise a little patience, but of course, work towards achieving our aims, goals, objectives. It is not going to be done by anybody else; it must be by all.

Some of the opposition party members are now coming back into the fold of PDP.  People like Senator Ohiare of  Action Congress is  returning back to PDP. What is your position this?

Let me tell you, as a leader, you must patient and tolerant. Any leader that says things must be done according to my will at a particular time  is not a leader.  You must be very patient, tolerant and must have the heart of forgiveness. I have advised Ohiare that since he is  coming back, there must be some little problems between him and the people down there.

I have advised that now that he is back, you should forgive and forget and allow peace to rain.  I have forgiven those who offended me  because we are all part of  the same family and we don’t need to start fighting ourselves.  It is uncalled for and because he said he wants to come in, even if we are not so ready, but because he wants it today, we have to accept him today and bring him in.

Infact, all of them wanted to come in today, but of course he wants to come in earlier. But we said  there is no need saying no to him because that is his wish.  I do not believe we should say no him until when others are coming in, No, because democracy must be free for whatever you want to do.

But presently, almost everybody in Kogi state are decamping to PDP and we are ready to absorb and to take them in as our own. I have said it many times, they are only claiming to be AC, it is just like somebody putting AC cap, but his mind is in PDP, that is exactly what is happening in Kogi. To me it is just like husband and wife fighting and later, they settled.

Is it because  you promised some of them positions, that  they are returning back to PDP?

I don’t have the right to give anybody anything. Am I God?. It is only God that has the power to give. The only thing I believe probably is that, somebody might be a vehicle to allow you to be there; maybe, but to say whether I am prepared to give him Senator, Rep or Deputy Governor; I’ll be lying.

I don’t have such powers; it is only God that has such powers. Now that he has come in, let him play his card well for whatever position he wants.  But for me, all I need is to prepare a level playing ground for everybody to play and that is what I am after. I am not saying it for Mr A or Mr B.  For whatever you want, the PDP umbrella can accommodate all of us;  if you know how to play your card, come and play it, if people accept you, who am I to say no.

The auditing exercise going on in Kogi state is causing  lot  of controversy in some areas. Some feel  the auditing was meant to reduce the staff strength of the state. How true is this claim and will you say the exercise has achieved the desired goals?

A lot of revelations are coming up and we are doing very well. Like I have said earlier, whenever you want to do it right, you must be ready for that challenge. A lot of people will say no to it; this is natural and some people will say yes to it.

When we started initially, labour said no; they don’t want it, but fortunately, the civil servants themselves said yes, we want it and when the labour called for strike, the civil servants said they are not going on strike because they are interested in what is happening. Gone are the days when somebody will come and tell you to go left and you start going, Nigerians will ask questions now and the typical example is what is happening in Kogi.

Two times, they tried to stop the civil servants that they must stop the auditing, the civil servants said as far as they were  concerned, it must be done. Like what I said, we should expect that to happen because those  that were beneficiaries of that  arrangement won’t want such a process to take place and there a lot of the
. I am happy with what is happening now and this is the best time to do it.

If I don’t do it now, it will be difficult for my successor to do it simply because if he does that immediately he comes in, it will affect his political carrier. So, this is the best time to clear all the mess for whoever who is coming.

Also, our intention is not  to reduce the staff strength, but to fish out the ghost workers. I know there are ghost workers and there are so many of them and we are already discovering them and by the time that is done, we will be able to know the actual workforce of Kogi state.

In  Kogi State alone, we have over 28,000  workers. This is just too much compared to other states that are having between 13 to 15 thousand workers; we are having double. Although, Kogi state is a civil service state, everybody is an academic and educationist, and everybody feels the only way to go about it is being in the civil service, when there are other areas they can make impact.

Are you thinking of doing the same auditing in other areas of governance like in the  award of contracts ?

There is nothing you do that people must not talk about.  The moment you want to do anything good, people must have things to say. Wouldn’t you be surprised if somebody tells you that nothing has ever happened in Kogi? Kogi is okay; they have the right to say what they want to say since they believe the state is in order. But the moment you know what you are doing and you believe in it and you believe what you are doing is right, please go ahead and do it. To me, as a leader, criticism has to be there.

In the area of housing, what has this administration achieved?

So far, we have been able to build about 502 housing units here in Lokoja. Also, we are building 50 mansions for permanent secretaries, judges and civil servants here in Lokoja. Most of my developmental projects are in the rural areas. As I am talking to you now, there is an on-going construction  project of  20 units of houses  in every local government which  totals  about 420 houses.

I believe that development should not be in the capital alone, the rural and local government areas should benefit from what is happening here in the capital so that they can have a feeling  of what democracy is all about. That was why I decided to start building those houses in all the local government areas and the second phase will be about 50 units in every local government. So I know that by the time I am leaving, the local governments will have a good share of the housing units.

In the area of Agriculture, how has this administration fared?

I want to tell you that  I have my ideas and if there is a way, I would like to do more than what I have already done. I have made up my mind and I had a meeting with my commissioners recently and I told them everybody must be ready to go to the farm.

The youths who are saying they have nothing to do are lying; there must something for them to do and then you as the leader must be there at the forefront before they will follow you. That is the determination we are talking about because if you just sit down and expects manna to come from heaven, you will be deceiving yourself.

I want to ensure that by the time I leave Kogi state, the state will be the highest producer of palm tress, cassava, rice and of sugarcane and all that it takes to put these things in place including  the machinery is actually being put in place.

For example, we have already started work in putting place a sugar company in Itagi, that actually has been completed. All these I am planning now is not for me to reap during my time in office, No, that is never my plan,  it is to create an enabling environment for whoever is coming to build upon, because what is important to me is the future of Kogi state.


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