By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
Dr Joseph Ameh Erico is one of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, frontline aspirants for the November 2 governorship election in Kogi State. Erico bares his mind on the forthcoming election in this interview.
Why are you aspiring amidst the challenges in Kogi?
Whatever happened in Kogi before and now, I don’t see it as a challenge that is not surmountable. I am a man with great ideas. I started my private security organisation with nothing because I have no brother or sister that can help me at that point of need; but with commitment, doggedness, honesty and transparency, we were able to reach the stage we have attained today. I started the business in 2005 with just two staff members and today we have over 9,640 staff members all over the country. We have security agencies that partner us like the police, the army and the DSS. As long as we have arable land for farming and abundant mineral resources in the state, we have hope to attain development because what we need is a man with great ideas, a man that can turn things around, a man that can change desert to a very fertile land, that is the kind of a leader we need in Kogi to face the challenges and turn them into success.
I am not unaware that we are facing a lot of challenges in Kogi ranging from inability to pay salaries despite the increase in IGR and the huge sum of money accruing to the state from the Federation Account. As a captain of industry with over nine thousand staff members, if I am able to pay their salaries from the income we generate at a click of a button and their pensions, medical fees remitted, I don’t think the payment of workers salary will be a burden to me. It is a must that a leader should provide dividends of democracy to the people because they gave you the mandate to govern them. If the people lack water, it is your responsibility to provide; if they need a road. it is a must to give them because you promised them. But, today, the government is not ready to work for the citizenry who queue under the scorching sun to give them the mandate. This is happening because the leaders, even before they win an election, already have a mindset to enrich themselves with the public commonwealth. I have travelled far and near and I have seen a lot of things in terms of governance, and how it works for the benefit and betterment of the people. Until you use people, you cannot get the best of them and until you get the best of the people, the government cannot get something in the pocket to service the people.
What will you do differently as governor?
I will do something different first by accepting my people. I will weave all the three senatorial districts together and accept them as mine. I will build bridges between the three districts and make them to be brothers and sisters. If I am able to break this barrier that has kept people always from other ethnic groups, I will be able to make the difference where leaders, elders will be created, where potentials will be harnessed to decide the fate of the state. Everybody will bring reasoning to the table, every person will be made to come out with ideas that can move the state forward. Definitely when I come on board the state will never remain the same, it has to change positively.
Can you dislodge Bello from Lugard House?
Traditionally, Kogi was a PDP state and it is still a very stronghold of the PDP. If you take a look at the official record we saw from INEC, PDP won the 2019 presidential election with a wide margin. Inwards all over the state, we heard the sound of guns used by the ruling party to scare voters always. If you are popular, you don’t need to kill to win an election. This is a sign that those who use gun in an election are weak. I wonder why the ruling party was chasing people away and carrying ballot boxes; it is because they have failed to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. A government which cannot pay salaries for eight months cannot get the people’s votes. Even the issue of vote-buying was not also popular during the election as people collect APC money and voted for PDP. Imagine the AK47 they distributed to the youth to unleash terror on the people and how much did they buy them? We are not unaware that a single AK 47 costs a minimum of N1.5 million and they distributed the guns across the 21 local government areas of the state. This is a government which cannot pay teachers, which cannot pay civil servants, which cannot pay full salaries to local government workers and, above all, cannot pay pensioners who have worked for 35 years and retired because of old age. I am assuring you that PDP is more than prepared to send the incumbent governor away from the Lugard House.
How do you address the state’s gross indebtedness?
If you borrow money and you failed to utilize it, your debt profile will continue to increase. If you borrow money and spend it on frivolous things, you will certainly be indebted. I have said it times without number that the present administration in Kogi did not prepare to govern the state, that is why they don’t have the interest of the people at heart. How can you enjoy money with your family members and you throw civil servants into a precarious situation as a result of non-payment of salaries? We are not also unaware that many civil servants and pensioners died as a result of non-payment of salaries. PDP governments do not joke with payment of salaries and we will sustain that in the interest of economic development. This government has succeeded in throwing the state into a heavy debt which is not healthy for the state. I am assuring the people that our administration will be felt positively across the state and, gradually, we will offset the debt so that the state can come out of bondage.