By Emeka Mamah
KADUNA State governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa recently marked his 100 days in office. He spoke with reporters on some of the activities of his government within the period. Excerpts:
You have been in charge of affairs of the state for a little over 100 days as governor. How has the journey been so far?
It has been an interesting journey. However, as we move ahead, we will certainly be looking for areas for further enhancement of the implementation of our 11-point agenda which cover a broad spectrum of services that the government has rendered and all that is required is to, from time to time, elaborate and enhance what is left. That is what we are trying to do within the short period that we have.
We took over government about six months to the end of the year, the budget had already been prepared and its implementation had already commenced. We are a government of continuation and consolidation and we will do everything possible to continue and consolidate what has been done. Let me thank you for the support you have been giving us and I appeal for more. We are going into very interesting weeks ahead; a time for intense political activities because the elections are just around the corner.
I want to call on all of you to exercise restraint and assist us to consolidate democracy we are striving as a nation to sustain. We thank God that we are about to complete the third segment of uninterrupted democracy since 1999. You have played a very great role from 1999 to date and you still have a lot to do in the coming months by the way you report and carry out your editorial duties.
The issue of zoning has been on the front burner in the country for some time now. In view of the recent decision taken by the PDP, what is the position in Kaduna State going to be like?
The debate on the issue of zoning is very well known. Every day, you pick a paper or listen to the electronic media; it is the issue that you hear. It came to us here in the 19 Northern Governors Forum meeting and it went to the National Executive Committee meeting of the PDP and I am sure that you are conversant with the positions that were taken.
We sat down at the NGF and deliberated extensively on this issue and at the end we came to recognize the fact that zoning is enshrined in the PDP constitution. At the same time, we recognized that something very fundamental happened to us in this country and that is the demise of the late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, then the elevation of the erstwhile Vice President to the position of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the consequent elevation of our erstwhile governor to the position of Vice President, my own divine elevation to the position of governor and also the deputy governor.
The northern governors took a position that we recognized that zoning is part of the PDP constitution and also, we recognise the very fundamental thing that happened to us in this country which you cannot just wish away. That was why the northern governors agreed that the President has the constitutional right, as a seating president to contest the presidency of this country. If you are asking me about the situation in Kaduna, it is not different from what is happening at the national level.
One of the first decisions taken by your government is the direct release of allocation to local government councils for their projects. What was responsible for this and how has this impacted on the state and local councils?
I do not know what information is available to the people, but before we came in, funds were being released to the local government to run their activities. But there were certain funds belonging to joint projects. I have always said that even between the states and Federal government, there are joint projects. Both the federal, states and local government, the objectives are all one and that is to serve the people, provide goods and services and provide infrastructure.
Along the line, the capacity of these three tiers of government differs and along the line, there are needs for collaborations. A number of roads have over the years been executed through collaboration between the federal and state governments. It is the same thing at the local government level. There are certain activities of local government which they cannot on their own handle.
But since it is the same people we are serving, there is absolutely nothing wrong if the state and local government collaborate to provide electricity, rural feederal roads, free medical treatment to pregnant women and children. Before we came, there has been a lot of impact. We are going out soon to visit the local governments and you will hear it from them on what we have been able to do.
You decided to set up Ramadan feeding centres in the state as well as subsidize Hajj fares. What informed this decision and what is the cost implication to the government?
There are two parts to the question. On the issue of Ramadan feeding centres; let me say that this is a very special month for Muslims all over the world especially in a developing country with a very high rate of poverty. When we have people making this kind of sacrifice, you look for ways of supporting them, especially the less privileged. I just looked at it and felt that it is not a new thing because some states have been doing it over the years. We should be able to learn and borrow from good practices.
After all, what is the essence of government? It is supposed to improve the welfare and lives of the people. We started by looking at this holy month of Ramadan with the local government and we saw the need to establish the feeding centres for the less privileged who cannot afford it. I think it is something that we should adopt nationwide. I am not concerned about the cost and I don’t have the answer as to the cost. For me, we all saw the need to do something new this time. As I said, this is not the first state to do that and I think we should sell it to all the states of the federation during the holy month of Ramadan.
On the Hajj fair, one of the issues prospective pilgrims always look up to every year is the Hajj fare and many of them pay for themselves. The number of people that government sponsors is negligible. Most of them save money to pay for themselves or for their family members. Over the years, if you look at the air fares by the various states, you discover that there have always been some variations.
So, the first thing I did was to set up a committee to look into this and find out why we have higher fares. Why can’t our fares be lower than other states? The committee did a very good job and made recommendations on how this can be approached and we have approved and adopted that recommendation and it is being implemented. Government policies should be subjected from time to time to review for possible improvement. In my opinion, there is always room for improvement and that is what we are trying to do. That is why we are talking about continuing, consolidating and enhancing the achievements we have been making
over the years.
After the National Sport Festival, the government said that it was going to lease the facilities put in place to facilities managers. But this has not been done. The most worrisome aspect is that these facilities are already decaying. What is responsible for this?
I share in your concern and I have long given a directive that this be resolved immediately. I agree with you and share in your concern. I want to assure you that it is going to be resolved shortly. I have directed the Commissioner for Sports to set out all the issues that have to do with prospective facilities managers so that they can take over those facilities and I have no doubt in my mind that it will be done shortly.
Recently, the state government went to the Capital Market for a N15 billion bond and this decision has been criticized by the opposition who feel that it is a way of plunging the state further into debt. How do you react to that?
We put the bond in place in order to execute some projects. As I said earlier, we are continuing, consolidating and enhancing. That was why when we came we said we will continue from where the last government stopped. There is no harm in going to the Capital Market. Two weeks ago when I was at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, I told the chairman and council members that there was the need for them to enlighten Nigerians about what the stock exchange is there for.