Kingsley Fanwo is the Director-General, Media and Publicity to Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello. In this interview, he speaks on the forthcoming governorship election in the state and the chances of his principal, among other issues.
How will you rate the administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello in the last three and half years as governor of Kogi State?
It has been so far so good. He has done very well in repositioning and rebuilding the state from the ashes of the past. He has done well in turning Kogi State to an agricultural hub. He has revolutionised education by creating better environment for teaching and learning in our schools. Industrial actions are now things of the past in our tertiary institutions. The governor has done well in the area of security too by turning around a state notorious for violent crimes to a state that is now nationally rated as the second most beautiful in the country.
The administration has constructed many roads, schools, health facilities as well as water facilities across the state. But, the most cherished of the sterling achievements of this administration has been the success at uniting the state. Before now, we were splintered along terrible lines of division. Today, ethnic trust has replaced ethnic distrust. The governor has broken the fences of division. He has also given power to a generation of youthful minds, who are now serving the young and the old in a more pragmatic manner.
But, Bello’s administration has severally been accused of owing months of salaries. What is the true situation?
Let me start by thanking the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Capt. Idris Wada for helping us to clear the air that salary issues didn’t start with us. Despite belonging to a different political party, he came out to vindicate us. He told the world that it was because of the challenge in paying salaries that his administration applied for N80billion bailout. N50 billion was approved and we have only been able to access N20 billion from the approved sum.
We hope to get the balance soon, so that we can clear the few months we are owing. The governor has already given a commitment to clear the arrears as soon as he gets the bailout. It is an inherited problem, which he is working hard to solve. He inherited months of salary arrears from his predecessor. But he is determined to solve the problem permanently. He also deserves commendation for repositioning the civil service.
The governor has been criticised by his opponents as having not done any project in the state. What is your take on that?
When you are hailed by your political opponents, who want the power you are holding, you should be worried because they see you as beatable. But, when they cry hoax and venture into propaganda to attack you, they are surely afraid of your reputation. The detractors are seeing what the governor is doing. A former member of the House of Representatives from Yagba Federal Constituency once went on a national television to claim the governor has not done anything. But, his constituents called him out and reminded him that the governor has built the second largest rice mill in his Yagba West Local Government Area.
Some of these people are wailing because for the first time, gerontocracy was rested. For the first time, an Igala man became a Chief Of Staff to a governor of Ebira extraction. For the first time, the godfathers milking the state have no more access to the treasury. For the first time, Kogi’s resources are working for Kogi people. When you confront them with the facts, they will quickly accuse you of lying. The immediate past Minister of Health came to Kogi and told other governors to learn from what we are doing with healthcare delivery here. The people know their governor and their governor knows them.
How was the governor able to achieve unity in the state?
He didn’t mouth it; e acted it; he demonstrated it; he practicalised it. Unity is not a word, but an act. Appointing someone from another tribe as his Chief Of Staff sent the right signals to the people. They knew change had come. Distribution of appointments and projects were equitably done. He demonstrated the uncommon leadership trait of equity, fairness and justice. Today, we are united more than ever. The governor consciously and conscientiously removed the ethnic barriers and that has promoted peace, stability and security.
Do you see the governor winning a second term?
The people of Kogi State already gave him a second term by supporting the party he led in the February and March elections. They said he wasn’t popular, the people said he was popular. So, it is not about my feeling but that of the people. The people spoke during the last general elections and will speak again in November. The governor will win resoundingly and dwarf previous gubernatorial election figures. He is with the people and the people are with him.
Some All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders in the state have faulted the indirect primary adopted to pick the governorship candidate of the party. What is your take on that?
What the National Sorking Committee (NWC) of the APC adopted was the recommendation of the State Executive Committee of the party under the leadership of Hon. Abdullahi Bello. So, Salam Tom Adejoh was simply executing his contract of faking factionalisation of the party when there was nothing like that. The NWC is aware the party has no factions in the state.
Those who didn’t work with APC since 2015, but want to be governor today are the ones trying to create factions within the party. The NWC has taken a decision on the mode of primary to adopt, let all aspirants go and campaign for the ticket of the party. Governor Bello has singlehandedly shouldered the responsibilities of the party since 2015. He has rebuilt the APC and made it stronger. He deserves another term to consolidate on his achievements.
Will the governor work with those contesting against him if given the ticket?
He is a team player and a peaceful man. He is a leader, who is ready to work with anyone who shares his ideas of a better and more prosperous Kogi State.
What is the stance of the state on RUGA that has been trailed by controversy?
We have made it clear that it is the antidote to the clashes between herdsmen and farmers. RUGA can help spring up a new economic opportunity in dairy production. It will create employment, ensure peace and allow the farmers to improve on their production without the fear of herdsmen destroying their crops. It will also help security agencies to do their job better and also help in designing the security architecture to fish out the criminal elements among the herdsmen. So, RUGA is good for Nigeria.