Frontline All Progressives Congress, APC Kogi State governorship aspirant, Alhaji Yahaya Bello made his mark in business with specific concerns in transportation, oil and gas, finance and agro-allied sectors. The Agassa Okene-born entrepreneur and politician in this interview gives his perspectives on his aspiration, challenges and hope.
Excerpts: By Fanwo Kingsley
How do you hope to surmount the challenge posed by Prince Abubakar Audu to your ambition?
I would have loved not to discuss personalities. In the political history of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu is a veteran. God gave him the opportunity to rule this state before.
But since 2003, the dynamics of politics in Kogi State has changed. People are no more intimidated by propaganda. They want to see what you can offer to better their lots. Unfortunately, those who defeated him in 2003, 2007 and 2011 didn’t lead the state into the desired prosperity.
To me, this is the right time for Prince Abubakar Audu to sit back and take leadership role to ensure things are organized properly. I see him as a father. He should play a fatherly role and allow us to deliver 21st century leadership. I am sure many of his advisers will be telling him that and I want to lend my voice too to that clarion call.
Having said that, I want to also add that he has the constitutional right to contest the election. We are all in the race to market our programs to the electorate. I have been encouraged by the electorate. They have shown concern and support.
They have shown us their enthusiasm to witness real change. I am coming into the contest with an inalienable conviction that I have the competence to work with my team to take Kogi State to higher heights.
Fear of failure is not a factor here. We have the support of our people. The people of Kogi State have been my driving force. Everywhere we have been, the people have continued to show us tremendous support. The solidarity is unbelievable. The people have given us the confidence to march forward and we shall not waver in our determination to make the state a place of pride for all.
But many are already saying that you are in the race on the moral platform of the need for power rotation as no one from the Western and Central Zones had governed the state. How true is the assumption?
I love your use of the word “assumption.” Yes, it is true that no other ethnic group apart from Igala have ever ruled the state. We cannot disparage that unimpeachable fact. But I am not in this race as an ethnic champion. The problem of the state is leadership. When we have an ineffective leadership, it will affect virtually everyone in the state. Poverty and joblessness do not recognize ethnicity. My ambition is to lead this state into prosperity through quality, dynamic and pragmatic leadership.
To me, where you come from doesn’t matter. That is why I have large followership in Igala, Bassa and Okun. They are not saying “no we can’t follow him because he is Ebira”. They have keyed into our vision. They have seen the project as a unifying ring for development and progress. I was asking someone if the Igalas are more prosperous now despite producing the governors of the state from 1991. The answer is no. We are all suffering from the brunt of bad leadership. I want to be seen as the candidate of unity. I also want our brothers and sisters from the Eastern Zone to see me as someone who is ready to lead a united Kogi State.
What are the cardinal programs you will promote as governor of Kogi State?
Our party, the All Progressives Congress is a party that looks after the welfare of the people. That is our selling point. That was what delivered the centre to us. My central focus as governor of Kogi State will be quality education, efficient medicare, jobs creation, transformational agriculture and infrastructural development.
How do you think your party can avoid the problem of imposition of candidates this time given that the problem led many party men to defect before the last general elections?
The party has a constitution. I am a man who believes in due process and constitutionalism. Let me appeal to those who abandoned the party to retrace their steps to come back to the party and work with us to liberate the state from underdevelopment. I am the face of the change they crave. We cannot afford to be divided at this critical juncture. We must work together as one body with a purpose of redemption. On whether anyone can impose himself on the party, such moves will surely be resisted by party members and leaders.
From where do you draw the confidence that the APC will upstage the ruling PDP in the forthcoming governorship election in the state?
If you check the trend of the last election in the state, you will discover a gradual departure from the past. That we were able to put up such a strong showing is no fluke. I also believe that our failure to control the state House of Assembly was down to divisions in certain parts of the state over alleged imposition of candidates. Also, the grand failure of the present State Government in Kogi is unprecedented and the people are waiting for the next opportunity to sweep them out of power.
This is the more reason why we must get our acts together and present someone that is capable of winning an election. Come to the state and look at the condition of our roads. They are like death traps. Our teachers are being starved by the government. Some were even unjustly retrenched. Even our state capital is reputed to be one of the dirtiest in the country. We cannot continue to accept underdevelopment. Now is the time for change and I am the Apostle of that change.
What is your message to the people of Kogi State?
If they want a government that will be responsible and responsive, if they want a government that will spark great development of all the sectors of the economy, if they want their children to have access to quality education and healthcare delivery, if they want a government that will enthrone an environment for business growth and consequently jobs creation, if they want to see a government that will transform the state into the tourist hub of the nation, if they want to see a government that will ensure good roads and clean water as well as ensure workers’ welfare; I urge them to join our team and rally support towards the creation of opportunities and prosperity. I urge our people to see me as the hope of a brighter Kogi