Dr Tom Ohikere is the National Co-ordinator of the APC Broomplatform and currently the Secretary of the Media and Publicity Committee of the APC 2019 Kogi State Governorship Campaign Council. In the interview with Gabriel Atumeyi, the former commissioner of information in Kogi State bears his mind on his political journey so far and the imminent November 16 Governorship election in his home state.
So far how is the APC Campaign going?
The APC Campaign has been going wonderfully fine. We have our teams in the various local governments and wards of our state.We have been preaching the re-election gospel of Governor Yahaya Bello and his deputy, Chief Edward Onoja and the people across the three senatorial districts of our state have been subscribing to it, the acceptability is extraordinary. You can see the huge turn outs at our campaign rallies, so far, we have held rallies in Idah, Kabba, Ankpa, Ajaokuta and the turnout has been massive. That is to show you that the masses of Kogi state are in tune with the vision of the new direction government. This is a vindication of Governor Yahaya Bello and what he has been doing. The APC is also heavily involved in door to door grassroot mobilization and sensitization in a bid to make the governor’s re-election the grassroot people’s project, so we are good to go, with this visible signs we are hopeful and confident that that November 16 is for an APC victory.
You use to be a strong member of the PDP, even becoming a commissioner of information and now you are in APC once again leading the fight against you former party, what brought about this huge transformation?
I was a faithful and loyal member of the PDP in Kogi state about eight years ago. I was the commissioner of information to Governor Ibrahim Idris and even the chairman of the protocol committee for the PDP Campaign Council for the election of Idris Wada.
I was frustrated out of PDP haven worked to bring wada without due recognition or compensation. I was shelved aside by the incoming administration, and in politics, when you work, there is benefit or recognition of your work. I was sidelined as if I had no relevance, so I left the party because of perceived anomalies. I joined the then small ACN because I had a role to play; I left the PDP when the ovation was loudest to the ACN which later metamorphosed into the APC. I joined Prince Abubakar Audu and we formed the APC, I was in charge of the membership drive in Kogi Central, that is when I meet incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello and I thought I had met my brother. When he wanted to be the party’s candidate I worked for him and when Abubakar Audu emerged as the standard bearer of the party, I decided to work for the party.
With the demise of Audu I was not comfortable with the arrangement that brought Governor Yahaya Bello and later with his relationship with stakeholders, that is the intangible factor. Which is different from tangible factors, which are the projects and can be seen in Kogi East and other areas. But with the intervention of elders and the party leadership, it will be foolish not to agreed, being that the Governor is my brother. With our reconciliation I was privilege to go round and can testify to these laudable achievements across the state.You can see the roads in Kogi East, the agricultural development, the construction and reconstruction of hospitals in the state and the efficacious security architecture.
The PDP was once my party but I must prove the them wrong by contributing the maximum effort to ensure that APC wins the forthcoming election as I have done before. Today, i have made APC an irrestistable brand to the electorate. The party is now the biggest bride, I am now giving the sleepless night and has become their nightmare.
Why do you think Governor Yahaya Bello deserves a second term?
Definitely. Governor Yahaya Bello has done well to deserve a second term. He is the first governor in the history of our state to make equity and inclusiveness the watchword of the government, which can be seen in the manner of projects and programmes distribution in the state as well as in appointments. For the fisrt time in the history of the state, there is something of a paradigm shift, peoples across Kogi state can boast of being represented in the government, it is no longer the era of crass and nepotic appointments.
So I believe the unprecedented achievements recorded in the state in terms of infrastructure and welfare programmes will be a great boost for the governor and his new direction team. We know there have been superlative achievements in health, education and security. The Kogi sate government was awarded ny the UN agencies for being one of the best performing states in the SDGs. So it is out there for the people to adjudge and they have been doing so, we can see the torrent of endorsements from the four corners of our dear state. He has also succeeded in uniting the people of our state through his inclusive, distributive and equitable appointments and egalitarian developmental projects. That is why I think Governor Yahaya Bello deserves a second term.
Being a man from Kogi Central with a lesser population why do you think he can defeat Musa Wada who is from Kogi East with the largest population in the state?
I believe this time around the play is different. Governor Yahaya Bello and his bossom friend, Chief Edward Onoja are generally acceptable to the people around the state. their new direction government and governance style is acceptable across the three senatorial districts. And this is because the incumbent government seems to have an unprecedented scorecard up his sleeves. His incumbent Edward Onoja, popularly referred to as CEDO is well loved and admired by the people of Kogi East enough to counter any challenge coming from Kogi East. The people of Kogi East like Kogi State in general are tired of the same old names, and as such hunger for fresh ideas, hence the duo of Yahaya Bello and Edward Onoja have captivated them especially with their style of governance. You can see the coronation and endorsements by the Attah Igala and other chiefs in this area all this are testaments to the acceptability of the new direction government. On the ground we have seen the deluge of defections from the PDP to the APC especially in Kogi East so we know it is a good play for Governor Yahaya Bello. We know Kogi Central is fully supporting the Kogi Governor’s re-election and in Kogi West, there is also an overwhelming support as Kogi West is also for power shift, and Kogi East there is a good balance, so at the end of the day it will be 70-30 predictably, in favour of the APC.
The Governor has been accused of mismanaging the state, that despite the huge sum collected in bail-out fund he is owing workers’ salaries for up to 33 months?
We know the issue and issues of non-payment of salaries. We know the antecedent and the fowl cries. None or partial payment of salaries has started since the tenure of erstwhile governor Idris Wada, the brother to the incumbent candidate on the platform of the PDP. This burden was passed on to the incumbent governor and the over-bloated size of the state’s bureaucracy and the humongous sum of the recurrent expenditure leaving very small for the pursuit of programmes and execution of projects, all on the assumption that Kogi is a civil service state. And that is exactly the impression the new direction government is trying to correct, by evolving a new paradigm for development, focusing on private sector re-invigoration and rationalizing the civil service, rooting out deep rooted inconsistencies, hence the staff audit exercise.
Since the creation of Kogi state, no governor has taken a comprehensive staff screening exercise, until know, former governor Ibrahim Idris attempted through the Sally Tibbot consultancy, but the Idris Wada government failed to build on it, and save public costs. The delay in payments of workers’ salaries and gratuities is because of the conscientious job the government wanted to do, even in the middle of the process there was still sabotages and resistance here and there. We know the furore that usually greets such exercises because of the ghost workers phenomenon in Nigeria. We saw it in Kaduna, in Ogun state and several others. But the exercise has been concluded and the state has gone beyond that, the Governor is now paying salaries and other allowances as at when due, and those who are talking of 33 months are those who have failed the exercise, those that have been screened out as ghost workers for no or fraudulent certificates and other similar offences. Even the state’s labour union have attested to the success of the exercise. We know the state government has been given a clean bill of health. The so-called 50 billion naira bailout has been judiciously expended in ameliorating the welfare of the masses in the state. The state’s NLC recent rated his use of bailout funds as credible and judicious.
So, all the noises here and there are nothing but the well-crafted disseminations of the Kogi state PDP propaganda machinery still furious at their abrupt defeat in 2015.
With this violence here and there, do you think the November 16 election will be peaceful?
I have no doubt the November 16 election will be peaceful but with the vigilance of state institutions especially the security and intellince agencies. We know there have been outbreaks of violence I areas in Kogi east. The PDP have been calling for war, we have got intelligence of their plots, recruitment and arming. You can see the arrest of PDP members in the state for stockpiling and planning to wreck mayhem and foster an ambience of fear and tumult. We know all this is to set the stage for their rigging plans, but we are aware and are calling on the security agencies to act seriously and pro-actively to forestall and arrest an such situation.
We in the APC are committed to peaceful poll, our governor and our leader have instructed us to this effect, so that is how we intend to keep it. So we are urging the other side that this is election not war, and we must act as such in the spirit of sportsmanship. If they succeed in calling their supporters to order and lawful conduct then I believe this election is going to be peaceful and lawful. Bt for now that his now it, the PDP in kogi state is still the same unruly, unlawfully and unreformed bunch so we are hoping the iron fist of the law enforcement agencies will enforce the required ambience for a peaceful poll come November 16.
Do You think the Independent National Electoral Commission can conduct a fair and credible poll come November 16?
I believe that the Independent Electoral Commission has the will, capacity and capability to conduct a free and fair election in Kogi State come November 16. I was there at the round table I heard the chairman; professor Mahmud gave his word. He is a man of integrity; he has done it before. We know INEC cannot be hundred percent perfect but it can try and deliver a generally acceptable outcome. So I am sure and optimistic in INEC’S ability to deliver a free and fair election using youth corpers and synergizing with other agencies and institutions of the state. so, yes, I think INEC can deliver a credible poll.