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Kogi 2019: The options, the choice

Yahaya Bello

As the race for the ‪November 16,  Kogi State Governorship election heats up, the question on the lips of most observers is, will Kogi people get it right this time around?  It is generally agreed among the people of the State that there is need for a lot of retrospection and deep thinking to ensure they take the right foot forward to ensure that the highly endowed state takes the rightful place in terms of development.

Someone once remarked that the state has not really been lucky in its choice of leadership, and the remark ignited a hot debate.  The performances of all the past administrations were x-rayed, and opinions were expressed on who should carry the day among the current frontline contestants.  Everybody agreed on the need for a change of the leadership at this time.

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Prince Abubakar Audu was the first and second elected Governor of the state.

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He did half a tenure between 1991 and 1992 before the Abacha coup, and a full tenure from 1991 to 2003.  He actually laid the foundation of the state and built it to a considerable level of development. Some of his projects include a Polytechnic, a university, a radio station, a TV station (for NTA), among other foundational institutions.  He did a yeoman’s job of taking the state from near zero level to the frontline position among the states created along with it in 1991.

However, his major weakness was his utter neglect of human development and his dictatorial tendencies.  The generality of the people, especially Public Servants were simply tired of his tyranny.  In fact, the workers were on strike when he was leaving office in 2003. He lost the election to Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, a.k.a. Ibro, the PDP candidate.

Nonetheless, Audu contested the Governorship elections three times until he died shortly before the final announcement of the Governorship elections result of 2011, which he won, but the victory was awarded, among controversies, to the incumbent Governor, Yahaya Bello, just because he came second during the APC Governorship primary election.

Ibro ruled the State from 2003 to 2012 by some stroke of luck. His tenure actually spanned almost nine years.  Ibro was incapacitated in his performance as Governor due to his low education, which became a subject of controversy during his tenure.  His first tenure was almost a waste, as he trotted and fumbled.  In his extended second tenure, he was able to make his marks in infrastructure development but most of his projects were said to be substandard.  Major projects that he executed include Lokoja Greater water scheme, Confluence Stadium, a number of roads and State Secretariat Phase II.

However, those who are in the know are aware that Ibro left very huge debts, particularly on the Greater Lokoja Water Project, the Secretariat Complex and Confluence Stadium.  Considering what had been paid out on these projects before the coming of Wada, the high figures of the debts were questionable. Nonetheless, Wada settled them.

Capt Wada took over the Lugard House on 27th January, 2012.  Wada, an accomplished Pilot, was not really a politician, in the sense of the Nigeria’s political parlance, but fate brought him into politics. A gentleman and a very sound technocrat, Wada discovered very late the intricate ropes of Nigerian politics, which entails a lot of “chua chua” moves and decisions.

In the process, Wada made some sincere but costly political mistakes, both in government and governance. He soon fell out with his predecessor and some other “professional” politicians in the state. Both men are still in denial of the rift. Ibrahim Ibrahim Idris’ son, Abubakar is in the race, a development that has brought the former governor into disrepute.

Looking at the tenure of Wada, vis-à-vis his performance, an objective observer will agree that he ran an administration that scored high in core sectors of human development, security, agriculture, infrastructure and economy. And unlike all his predecessors and his immediate successor, Wada is the first governor of the state to develop a blue print for the state.

Wada’s government was a victim of difficult economic circumstances and man-made challenges, which he successfully surmounted, nevertheless. Not many men could have managed the very trying socio-political and economic situation commendably the way Wada did. It is on record that he had an accident that nearly took his life because he drove a car with expired tires just because he felt there were more urgent needs on high to spend the states’ very lean resources on.

With the baggage of a hurriedly approved National Minimum Wage for state workers, Wada’s tenure was set for a tumult. But he withered the storm. In reality, Ibro approved the salary increase only for Wada to implement. The was no commensurate increase in federal allocation.

To compound the situation, no sooner had Wada come into office than the price of oil in the international market began a downward movement.  The oil price that hovered around $100 – $110 per barrel in 2011 came down to its lowest ebb of $34 during the tenure of Capt Wada.  Yet, Wada paid the minimum wage to all the state workers consistently, leaving only two months, October – December, 2015.

Interestingly, despite this tight situation, Wada made strenuous efforts to deliver on some projects that are germane to the growth and development of the state.

He sought a very favorable facility in the capital market through a N20 billion Bond Agreement purely for infrastructure development, including roads, housing, water and health projects.  Wada was only able to access Eight billion Naira from the Bond. The Otokiti – Ganaja multi-lane carriage bypass to create a route for interstate travellers who criss-cross Lokoja, sanitizing vehicular movement in the gateway state capital were part of the projects the bond was meant to attend to.

Similarly, the Murtala Mohammed – Barrack – Kabba Junction Road, which is the main axial highway that stretches through the length of Lokoja, was undergoing expansion, standardization and asphalt overlay.  Also embarked upon were a 500 units housing estate, Lokoja, among other projects. These projects were abandoned by the succeeding administration.

Other notable programmes of Wada Administration include a cutting edge integrated youth empowerment programme, code-named YAD4KOGI, under which thousands of youths were trained at the NYSC orientation camp in Kabba, to make them self-employed or gainfully employed.

Before leaving office, Wada Government signed over 20 Memoranda of Understanding, MOU, with different development partners and investors mainly on agricultural production and processing as well as tourism, capable of transforming the entire economic landscape.  Among these are the very promising Cassava Staple Crop Processing Zone, embarked upon in Alape communities in Kabba-Bunu LGA, with an American company, CARGILL International, as the core investors.  All these programs, have been jettisoned by the present government in the state.

Approximated figure of 90% of the opinions expressed by public commentators and citizens of the state are saying that the present government has not recorded any tangible achievement, not even the payment of salaries, which will be the least, if it’s termed an achievement. Infrastructural development is said to be nil, while the state government workers are owed arrears of salaries ranging between four and 38 months in spite of the various bail outs and Paris Club refunds obtained by the administration.

Considering all the parameters, including the fact that Capt Wada provided a balanced development agenda for the state, ran a very prudent and transparent Administration, one can justifiably conclude that he is the most acceptable man for the job among all the contestants. That Wada is not coming to begin to learn the ropes of governance is an added advantage.  He also has only one term to go like the incumbent Bello, which means the people will soon have the opportunity to elect a new man, who can spend his full tenure.

Time will tell.

 

Ihima Adeiza Otaru wrote from Lokoja.

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