Mohammed Audu, son of the deceased former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu, is a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with JAMES AZANIA, he speaks on the proposed primary and the November 16 poll.
Why do you want to ge governor of Kogi State?
The decay in the system is very enormous. We moved from a situation where we cannot provide viable and quality infrastructure for the people, to where we cannot pay the salaries of workers. There are no more agricultural potentialities in the state and viable private sector. Everything seems very chaotic; everyday you hear of protests, killings, kidnappings and suicide attempts. All the things people now hear about our beloved state is bad news. Our people are living in squalor. I know that Prince Abubakar Audu had a very good intention for the people, but unfortunately, he died at the point where victory was knocking on the door. The people stood under the sun and in the rain, they queued up patiently to vote for him and they voted for their future, they voted for a better tomorrow, but today, what we have in the state is a reverse of that hope. So, there is no well-meaning person that will sit down and watch his people suffer and wallow in abject poverty for no reason. The state (Kogi) is meant to be the richest in the northern part of Nigeria, because we have abundant mineral resources, of different kinds. We have viable agricultural potential because we have arable land; we have a virile youth population that can be used to harness the resources. But we have the problem of technological know-how. The present government has the highest financial incentives in the history of the state. We have had governors that their highest monthly allocations was N800 million, but today, we are talking about people who get above N4 billion monthly. We are not discussing infrastructure, schools and hospitals, but we are talking about how to pay the salaries of the state and local government workers. It is very embarrassing. The state screening exercise for civil servants has been endless; the state does not have a nominal payroll. That is, the amount to be paid as salaries in a month. It is bad news after bad news. So, I have taken it upon myself, along with other well-meaning people of the state, to end the reign of terror in the state and we want to change the fortune of the people to positive tidings.
What are you going to do differently to change the situation you have painted?
We intend to increase the monthly allocation that comes to the state through a higher Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). We have perfected our plan to rake in as much as N4.5 billion extra monthly as revenue at the state level. We have also perfected our plans that within the first six to nine months of our administration we will hire about 50, 000 young men and women into different viable positions. This is not a joke, because we want to partner with the Bank of Industry (BoI), towards achieving this. We have to achieve the potential of the state; the potential for manufacturing. We will set up a lot of manufacturing outfits; food processing factories that will provide jobs for our teeming youth. With these, we would have been able to address youth restiveness, decayed infrastructure. I have been traveling to the Kogi-East Senatorial district for the past 20 years and it is the same road that we have been passing, no remodeling, and no refurbishing, no resurfacing and no modernisation. We cannot just be static. By now, we should be talking about rail lines to travel within the state from Okunland to Igalaland; from the east to the central, nothing viable is happening.
How do you intend to win the APC ticket, as you are dubbed as a novice in Kogi politics, in some quarters?
My first attempt in politics was when my father had an accident in 1998. He was injured and flown abroad for medical treatment, so when he came back, he needed someone who could help him with the process of electioneering and because I was the closest to him then, I was saddled with that responsibility. That was my first incursion into politics and I was involved in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 elections. So, I know everyone that has been involved and I know who is who in Kogi politics, by virtue of that experience. I held many sensitive positions in the Abubakar Audu Campaign Organisation, so I have the connection with most politicians in the state. The situation between the ruling party and the opposition is very fluid, because one politician may be in the PDP and tomorrow he is in the APC; the next day he is back in PDP, so I have come in contact with many of them, either when they were with us or when they were in the other party. I am the closest link to the grassroots; I have a strong connection with the grassroots people. I personally think that the present government is afraid of opening the process of selection and that is why they have chosen to go by the way of indirect primary. The indirect primary is closed, if you are a politician and a true democrat, you will want everyone to participate in the process of selecting you, and I dare the government to say they are going by the way of direct primary today, I am sure they will bid the people farewell. If they do direct primary that every Kogi person; that is a member of the APC is allowed to participate, no doubt we will come tops.
There is the insinuation that you are clamouring for direct primary because you want to use external influence to win the ticket…
Direct primary or indirect primary, it is the people of Kogi that will vote in the general election, but in the case of the indirect primary, you have a chosen few in the process of selecting the party executive positions. The governor will select his family and friends, the appointees will select their family members and friends and thereby give them an undue advantage. What we are saying is, open it up for everybody; let the man that sells kolanut vote, let the maisuya vote, and then we will know who will win.
Why the insistence on direct primary?
We are indifferent about the mode of primaries to elect the APC candidate; any mode they adopt we will win. Even though we know that for indirect primaries, (Governor) Bello, has populated the exco with his friends and relatives of friends and appointees. We still don’t have problem with that, but the fact that after defeating Bello at the primaries, the cases in court might jeopardize our victory. The case in court might bring about a Zamafara situation. In other to to avoid a situation where we will be robbed of our victory after defeating Bello, we prefer that APC adopt direct primary election.
Your father was a governor with a good record of service. Do you think you have what it takes to surpass his achievements?
It is a responsibility that I am offering myself for election as the late Prince Abubakar Audu’s son, because it will be very unfortunate if I am not able to at least beat his records. So, I must surpass his records. I understand fully well the responsibility attached to my aspiration for leadership and based on that, I sat down and came out with a very comprehensive plan. As a businessman, I know for you to succeed, you must have alternative sources of revenue. We cannot sit down and wait for federal allocations; we can see that even with the allocations, we still got bailouts twice; we got the Paris club refund two or three times; we are getting other subventions and yet, we are still crawling. We shall not wait for such allocation. The first thing we will do is to ensure that we generate an additional N4.5 billion monthly as Internally Generated Revenue, because the state has the potential.
You want to contest on the platform of the APC and you have been talking about rescuing the state, do you think it will be easy to sell the APC to the people of Kogi?
It is a simple thing. If you are traveling on the road by bus and the driver is either sleeping or inexperienced, what will you clamour for? Will you change course or will you ask that a new driver be brought into the bus. This is exactly what we are trying to do. What the state needs now is experience, what the state needs now is someone who understands the yearnings and aspirations of the people; what the state needs now is someone who understands leadership; what the state needs now is a lot of experience in dealing with everyday issues concerning the common man. Some people have constantly run the state from Wuse, Maitama, Jabi in Abuja. This is not going to work; you have to be on ground and among the people, you don’t also need to sit within the confines of the Government House all the time to run the administration of the state. You have to move from one local government to the other to see for yourself what the people desire and proffer solution to their problems. The communication should be two ways.