Alhaji Yakubu Mohammed, veteran journalist and former pro-Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria is a leading contender in the governorship race in Kogi State in the election scheduled for November this year under the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, Alhaji Mohammed gives an insight into what he plans to do if elected. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: People see you more of an activist and writer, what gives you the courage to join the race for Kogi governorship?
Yakubu Mohammed: Apart from the credible academic background and the exposure of more than forty years in media practice that stand to my credit, I have also served this country in such a critical and strategic position of being a pro-Chancellor and chairman of Governing Council of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 2005 to 2007. During this period the council under my leadership carried out major reforms that helped to reshape the fortunes of the university as a citadel of academic excellence. We cleared backlog of promotions, pensions and salary arrears and completed the ICT programme of the university. The financial management the council introduced can be said to be a forerunner of the Federal Government’s Single Treasury Account. Perhaps the experience that I acquired from Zaria informed the decision to appoint me as the pioneer pro-Chancellor of the Federal University, Birnin Kebbi where we helped to establish the protocol and guidelines for the successful administration of the new university. This is a requisite background and experience that can be deployed to turn around the fortunes of Kogi State.
DT: There are many contenders under the platform of APC, what confidence do you have in getting the ticket?
Mohammed: I know that there are many credible contenders for the position of governor. Ultimately what the people are looking for is somebody that they can trust, somebody they can relate with, somebody with vision and passion for greater heights, somebody who can champion the cause of the down-trodden and promote capacity-building and self-actualization. I am convinced that I am that person.
DT: What experience do you have that will give you mileage if you eventually win the APC ticket in confronting candidates of other parties?
Mohammed: I know the state very well. I know the problems of the state. I can relate very well with all the diverse ethnic groups in the state. The immediate problems they would want any leader to solve is to address the trauma they have suffered as a result of lack of good governance, corruption, insensitivity and juvenile delinquency in governance. A simple pronouncement in the form of policy statements as to the direction and focus of administration will inspire confidence in the people. It is only with such confidence that you can mobilize the people to support whatever development programme you introduce. I intend to be the leader that will lead from the front with empathy and understanding.
DT: Don’t you think it will be difficult to defeat Governor Yahaya Bello in the contest?
Mohammed: The issue is not the ability to defeat the incumbent governor. What we’re confronted with is how to campaign for this office without providing a potent weapon to the opposition. If you harp on the weakness of the incumbent governor you must do so tactically so that you don’t rubbish the party on which platform he came to the office. The issue now is how to separate him from the party, how to make the distinction between his style of governance and the position of the party. Ordinarily as a party man, I should say a sitting governor deserves a second term. But we’re faced with a serious dilemma and the party must resolve this dilemma in favour of the people.
DT: Every governor in Kogi blames past administration over failure to deliver, are you also going to join the bandwagon?
Mohammed: It is not only in Kogi State that every new governor blames the past leadership. It is the Nigerian habit that one must be careful not to indulge in. But where there is a glaring case of misdeeds or lack of probity, you have a duty to point it out. But you must quickly draw the line and move on with your own programme so you can make the difference. The answer lies with what the incoming administration is confronted with.
DT: What would be your priority areas and how would you raise the funds to actualize them?
Mohammed: My priority is to rebuild the state by going back to the dreams of the founding fathers of the state. Create a sense of belonging and run an inclusive administration. It is on this basis that one can then plan for the socio- economic development of the state. Long term plan is to make the state self-sufficient especially in food. We must put an end to the current state of insecurity to get farmers back to the farm and create an atmosphere conducive to investment both foreign and local. It will not be easy but with a vibrant and educated populace, mobilisation for development will not be an impossible task. The government cannot pretend to have the Wisdom of Solomon. It will set up state economic development council that will serve as a think-tank to advise the governor on how to turn the economy around. Kogi State has enough potentials in human and material resources and it has no business with poverty.