Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in this interview, vows not to allow vested interests to hamper the development of the state. Bello, who described Kogi as a sick state, also reveals what his administration is doing differently to develop it. Gov Bello insists that he inherited a sick state
•N1.5 billion diverted monthly through ghost workers
•Past administration had more than 400 political appointees compared to less than 60 now
•Educated leaders behave like illiterates when it comes to sharing resources
HOW has it been governing Kogi in the past one year?
I met a state that was hopeless and today, Kogi State is hopeful because of the things we are doing. Of course, I know there are challenges ahead but I am looking up to God and I have confidence in my people, who have supported us so far to deliver our mandate. I prefer to be seen as a silent achiever. I want our achievements to speak for me. That is why sometimes, I downplay publicity. We are focused on taking Kogi out of the sick state we met it. Governance is about making life better for the people. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State Whether people agree or not, Kogi State is sick. I am not pursuing populist policies but we want to revive this state. Every governor that comes is only concerned about having a second term without developing the state. For me, it is important to use the entire four-year tenure for the development of the state instead of politicking. When that is done, it is the people, who will want the person to continue as governor. We are doing our best to ensure good governance. The last administration had over 400 appointees and that was a burden on the state. We decided to have a lean administration by ensuring that we have less than 60 appointees including commissioners, special advisers and chairmen of boards and parastatals. To ensure that governance is closer to the people, we made it mandatory that our appointees go back to their constituencies monthly to discuss with them. That afforded us the opportunity of knowing what the people need and it enabled us to have a blueprint which we are now implementing. Managing public affairs is not strange to me because I was in public service. I am well prepared because I know the challenges that come with leadership and governance. I have been managing human beings and resources. Even as a private investor, I have excelled. It is that experience that is helping me in this project of turning Kogi around. I don’t usually see myself as a governor, I consider myself a servant of people because that is the primary responsibility of a leader. We will remain undeterred in delivering our mandate. Critical infrastructure I will not allow praises to slow us down, I will rather urge people to criticise us constructively so that we will do better for the people of Kogi State. The story of the state is changing because we have a proactive administration in the state.
What are your plans to retool the industrial base of the state?
Kogi State was lacking in critical infrastructure and we are trying to get that right so that industrialisation can commence. On security, we are doing the best we can to ensure that there is security in the state. Since we want our state industrialised, we are providing the enabling environment for investors to invest in the power sector in our state because we have the resources. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with investors who will generate power. And before the energy will be evacuated to the national grid, Kogi State will be self-sufficient in that area. We have designated certain sections of the state as industrial areas. That tells how serious we are and I am sure that so many things will happen before the end of the first quarter of the year. All we are doing is to ensure that the environment is enabling. Rules guiding investment We met several laws that are not friendly to investors and we are amending them to ensure that investors are not challenged by such laws. I am talking about tax laws that will encourage investors. We have also reached out to the Federal Government so that certain rules can be relaxed for the investors. By the time all the rules guiding investment are made friendly, investors will not be scared of investing in our state. Kogi is so blessed with natural resources and we have resolved to harness them. The verification exercise your administration embarked on is seen as an attempt to reduce the workforce in the state. Can you shed light on that? I inherited a very sick state. It is evident that Kogi is now safe. We applied our ingenuity and common sense. And I can tell you that the verification of the civil servants that we are doing will save Kogi State over N1.5 billion monthly. Before, that money was going into private hands, but I said we will not allow corruption in this government. The Labour Congress was carried along in all the things we have done regarding the verification exercise. That was done to ensure that our activities are open. Ghost workers are faceless, yet, they are on our payroll. That is why we want to send them to the grave. We inherited a civil service that is unproductive and it is one of the five thematic areas that we want to reform. The civil service is the engine room of every government. Whatever policy and idea that we come up with, without a dedicated civil service, it will be difficult to get good results. It is very important that we reform it. Ours is a workforce that is redundant and we will not encourage that. I resigned from the civil service and that gives me an idea of what the service is about. That is why I am overhauling the civil service in the state. Kogi has a bloated civil service; so to ensure efficiency, we are reforming the system. In an exercise of this magnitude, there would be complaints and we are listening to genuine claims through the appeal committee which we set up. Currently, the committee is attending to cases of complaints. Credible process To make the process credible, we expanded the membership of the committee which is being headed by an officer from Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON. This is a civil service that has not promoted workers for many years because of the questionable names on the payroll. We will publish the final report of the committee. Since 2002, I am not sure that the state civil service has employed people. Most of the people we have in our workforce are those we inherited from Benue and Kogi. That makes the top echelon heavy while the bottom is lean. It is unsustainable. Hence, the reforms we are doing. When we are done, the system will operate efficiently. The issue of civil service reforms is a task that so many administrations shy away from but it affects their performance at the end of the day. It is a big problem for every state. In a sick state like Kogi, what is needed is a surgical operation. And there is no surgical operation that is done without pains. I feel the pains of genuine workers but these are the necessary sacrifices to be experienced for a better tomorrow.
Do you agree that some of our leaders are self-serving?
I discovered that some leaders I thought were serving the state were self-serving. As you are trying to salvage the state, the same set of people are apparently not happy and would want to frustrate you. Salvaging the state Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State Then I also discovered that a few people, who I assume are educated are behaving like people who never had education. And these people are the reasons Kogi State was in the state I inherited it. They are still concerned about having their way at the expense of the state. These are shocking things I found.
What is your relationship with the state chapter of APC?
APC in Kogi is in peace and has confidence in me. The party is happy with what I am doing. If anybody is at variance with me, probably that person is not a member of our party because my party sponsored me. When the opportunity came, APC sponsored me. I paid my dues and we are at peace. Surely, there may be some persons, who may have differences because of individual ideologies. I will never allow the resources of the state to be shared by a few people. The resources of this state must be used for the state. It cannot be the old way of doing things. This is change and this is a new direction.
What are your plans for agriculture?
Agriculture is one of the thematic areas where we want to create employment in the state. That was why we visited Omi Dam. It was the first visit by any governor to the dam. We are declaring a state of emergency on agriculture. In the next one year, we are confident that we will excel in the agricultural sector. At the first three state executive council meetings we had, more than 80 percent of the memos we considered were agriculture-based. Apart from that, a lot of programmes are ongoing in that sector. Before the declaration of the state of emergency, a programme had been initiated that makes it mandatory for every public servant in the state to own a demonstration farm. There are policies now that are going to revolutionise agriculture in the state. The visit to Omi Dam speaks directly to questions on what we are doing on agriculture. There are great potentials in Omi Dam. A team from the state government has gone to the Lower Niger River Basin Authority in Ilorin to discuss with the management on how to make Omi Dam productive. Self-sufficiency in food production When Omi Dam is used for the purpose which it was built, Kogi State will become self-sufficient in food production.
You have flagged off many road construction projects across the three senatorial districts in Kogi, Where are you getting the resources from considering the paucity of funds in the country?
Our state was allowed to sink, but when we came on board, we wore our thinking cap and applied common sense. That is why things are getting better today in Kogi. When we don’t waste resources, tolerate corruption, and boost internally generated revenue base, there will be resources. That is what we are doing.
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