By Dapo Akinrefon
KOGI STATE governorship aspirant, Mr Abdulrazaq Isa Kutepa is contesting election on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
He is one of the over 30 aspirants eyeing the Lugard House come 2011. In this interview, Kutepa, dismissed insinuations that Governor Ibrahim Idris has endorsed an aspirant to take over from him. Though he hails from a minority tribe in Kogi West Senatorial District, the governorship hopeful sees himself as a unifying force. Among other issues, he vows to do everything within his reach to sustain the relative peace in the state. Excerpts:
You seem to have a strong faith in the PDP. Why?
Of course, I really do have a strong faith in the PDP. And that is why I have decided to remain in the party all this while, and now I want to be the governor of the state on its platform. The PDP as the biggest party in Africa, has been able to make significant impact in the lives of Nigerians since the entrenchment of democracy in 1999. the impressive impact it has made across the country can not in any way be over-emphasized. So, I believe so much in the PDP.
Are you not afraid that you will be slugging it out with about 30 aspirants to secure you party’s ticket for the 2011 governorship election in Kogi State?
I engage people not based on ethnic consideration but based on ideas. All of that requires you competing with people. I am not jittery at all over the huge number of aspirants that have so far emerged on the same platform with me in the PDP. In the private sector, when you are competing there is an analysis we always do. It is called SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat).
I have done the SWOT analysis of the political space, and I have a good understanding of my chances. The concern of the Igalas is that if they let go of power, they are not sure what will happen to them. They are, therefore looking for a reliable partner. The major tribes are suspicious of one another.
So, I see myself as a trusted and tested minority candidate that can be the bridge and the unifying factor. The minority don’t have the population, size and wherewithal to dominate any one if they wanted to. That is why my support base is from the big ethnic groups. I believe that I will be the best unifying force in my state and I will ensure that the interests of the people ceding the power and all other groups large and small are protected. Everybody in Kogi State regardless of their tribe or what part they come from in the state will certainly benefit from my government if I eventually emerge as their governor.
What actually motivated you to go into politics?
I believe that our country deserves to move on to the next level. If you look at Nigeria today, the private sector is performing better than the public sector. We must move Nigeria to the next level. We must move to the point where the leadership has expertise in wealth creation rather than being experts in the sharing of wealth they did not create.
What is your economic agenda for the people of Kogi State?
Kogi State is a highly blessed state. I am not sure there is any state in Northern Nigeria that has received the level of investment in non oil sector like Kogi. In the last 20 years the state has received about $8billion. The Ajaokuta Steel Company has been valued at $6billion. The new Obajana Cement plant is about $1billion. The location of Kogi State makes it a natural advantage for the location of industries because you can easily link the south and the North from Kogi State.
The State shares boundaries with 8 states in the North, East, West and FCT. With this advantage of its central location and the existing infrastructure in Ajaokuta, and the dredging of River Niger , the State is the natural hub for the industrial revolution in Nigeria. In addition to all these, the state is blessed with huge iron ore deposits in the central senatorial district upon which Ajaokuta steel complex is built, huge limestone deposits in the Western Senatorial district upon which the Obajana Cement factory is built and huge deposits of Coal in the Eastern Senatorial district upon which power plants and alternative sources of energy can be built.
What we need to do is to bring the necessary private sector expertise to deploy financial and human resources to transform these potentials to wealth and employment for our people, empower our women and rural dwellers and halt the rural urban drift. In doing all of these, more wealth is created for the Government beyond the monthly federal allocation, to provide the infrastructure and enabling environment for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive.
One of the major features of Kogi politics is its multi-lingual factor and ethnic division. The Igala have had the upper hand in the ethnic game against minorities in Kogi West and Central in past elections. How do you hope to overcome these obstacles as a minority?
As far as I am concerned, it is not that Igalas have an upper hand in the sense that you are looking at it. Rather, Kogi people have always tried to look at the best candidate at any given point in time. For instance, Kogi West voted massively for the incumbent in the first and rerun elections and it had nothing to do with his being an Igala man rather it had to do with his leadership qualities.
These are some of the salient issues in Kogi politics that people tend to gloat over. It is a collective insult on our people to say they are tribalists. This is not what I see in Kogi State. Did the majority not vote massively for a Senator from the minority for 2 consecutive terms in Kogi West? Our people play politics of maturity and I see my people to be too enlightened for the parochialism being ascribed to them. I offer myself as the candidate that can take the state to the next level and the people have the capacity to judge that.
How do you see the idea of having a consensus candidate from your senatorial zone as being canvassed by the Kogi West Forum? Do you think consensus is realistic, where over a dozen aspirants have emerged from the zone?
Consensus is an integral part of politics. It is the ability to aggregate the various interests into an acceptable common interest that will make the difference. At the appropriate time and with the appropriate reading of the balance of forces, political realignments will take place for the common good of our people. It is inevitable.
How true are the insinuations that Governor Idris is fully backing you for the plum job in the state?
The governor is a matured politician and the father of the state who cannot be seen to take sides in a contest among his political sons. He has always insisted on providing a level playing field for all aspirants. As one of the closest people to him in the state, trust me when I say he has not endorsed anyone over another. So, anyone who claims to have received his endorsement is lying.
As far as I know, all the governor is after is to ensure that an honest and God-fearing man takes over from him next year. He wants somebody who will be able to continue with his good works towards developing the state to take over from him. All the analyses and report we read in the papers that the governor is supporting this person or the other person are completely wrong.
What do you make of EFCC’s advisory list that seems to contain the names of some of your co-contestants suggesting that they are not fit to stand for election?
No one is guilty under the Nigerian law until a court of competent jurisdiction so pronounces. The Attorney General of the Federation has also weighed in on the issue of the advisory in line with Supreme Court decisions so I think the matter is settled.