Media Aides Of Gov Bello Are Confused-Austin Okai
Usman Okai Austin , the National Coordinator, PDP National Youth Frontier, has been critical of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration in Kogi State, which observers believe was responsible for his arrest by security agents sometimes ago. In this interview, he speaks on the suffering of civil servants in the state and other issues.
AUGUSTINE ADAH brings the report. Excerpts:
You have been very critical of the present administration in Kogi State, what exactly is the problem?
There are a lot of problems in the state because there is no truth in the present administration which I believe is built on deceit, lies, denials and persecution. For instance, salaries of workers and pensioners were not paid for about 18 to 20 months despite the screening exercise that lasted for a long time. It is painful because it was not like the governor had no money to pay, the governor received Bailout and Paris Club refunds which amounted to billions of naira from the federal government, yet workers and pensioners are suffering in the state. The governor started a screening exercise but the whole attempt was muddled up at the point of conclusion. Kogi is in a serious mess in this dispensation. We have a situation where human development has been sacrificed at the altar of avarice and haywire politics with poverty, starvation becoming the other of the day. Kogi State is a civil servants state and whoever tampers with the salaries of workers is directly investing in poverty. The people expected good governance but unfortunately the reverse is the case. In the area of security, Kogi State is in the hands of kidnapers and the government seems helpless and clueless on what to do to bring this unfortunate incident to a halt.
You were accused by some aides of the governor of working with some politicians and even collected money from them to help them win the next governorship election in the state.
How true is that?
The media aides of the governor have run out of idea and they are confused. I don’t have the power to make anybody a governor of Kogi State just as I am very sure by the grace of God, Bello would be only one term Governor. The desperation expressed by the media aides of the governor is clear and as am talking with you I don’t have anybody I am working for to become the next governor of the state. But we are aware of certain criteria that must be met to even think of contesting the highest office in the land. We need a man of proven integrity and outstanding precedent; we need a technocrat who can look inward to boost our IGR. The next governor will meet several challenges, let me inform you that by the end of this month, Kogi State allocation will be short by 800 million Naira as a deduction for the repayment of bailout fund that was squandered by this very government and so many were unlawfully sent into retirement.
When Bello came in, he was seen as a beacon of hope especially among the youths, should youthfulness be the criteria for electing the next governor in the state?
That idea is not negotiable as it is in vogue all over the world, even though Kogi is experiencing the other side of the coin, we will not be deterred. Providence had decided on generational shift of power to more youthful persons and due for endorsement through the ongoing constitutional amendment. In youths, a lot of potentials are been tapped, so Kogi will not be an exception going by the feelings and the choices of the masses in spite of what we are experiencing now.
PDP leadership are meeting at all levels after the Supreme Court judgment strategising on how to launch the party back into victory, what is your expectation from the ongoing consultations?
Our expectations as youths and party supporters are high in view of our quest to rescue Nigerians from the current economic recession and political logjam. As a party with grass root background, the ongoing consultations is not out of place as many crises was occasioned by the contrived crises with setbacks. The need to rebuild the party as alternative government Nigerians are yearning for is solidified in PDPs reformation.
Kogi State chapter of the party lost the last governorship election to APC, what do you think the party can do to win back power in 2019?
We lost gallantly owing to many factors, but PDP has repositioned itself to return to power basically on the ongoing maladministration in Kogi and impunity against democratic norms. Our bane in the PDP is to source and present a credible candidate to manage the already battered affairs in Kogi which may take years to recoup. Kogi electorates are anxious to do their choice and bid for PDP in 2019.
A new speaker emerged in the Kogi State House of Assembly last week after the attack of members by hoodlums suspected to be sponsored; do you think Kogi is on the right path to development?
It is unfortunate at this point in time, Kogi is passing through a serious political and governance problem. A situation were an arm of government is constantly annexed by the executive arm for a sheer opinion of not doing their bid calls for serious concern. The state lawmakers are representatives of the people voted from constituencies, but denied by the other arm and power that be from carrying out their legitimate and statutory functions. Kogi is sitting on a time bomb, ready to explode soon; I said this because the nature of government and its operation is bereft of ideas of good governance.
The present government in the state has spent over 18 months in office; in what areas do you think the administration has failed to impress you so far?
He has not impressed me in all areas. Mismanagement of fund is rampant; there is no payment of obligation and self-enrichment, aggrandizement had become the other of the day. Tribal and sectional politics reintroduced amidst instigation and setting people up against themselves in the face of denials of basic infrastructure and social services. I cannot point to any project executed so far, salaries and pensions were not paid and robust system destroyed.
You were arrested and detained by security agents last April, how do you feel over what happened?
I feel fulfilled in all spheres. If in the course of the struggle for good governance, social justice and human liberation, I was dehumanized, castigated and decapitated, it is my bane of survival. Equal rights, equal opportunities, among others are the indices of good government; Kogi should not be an exception. I will fight to finish, as long as people at the corridor of power in Lokoja sees it as an opportunity to cajole people into taking to their myopic tendencies. Let them be ready to surrender the ill gotten wealth.
What message do you have for Kogi indigenes as far as future elections are concern in the state?
The destiny of Kogites is in their hands, they made the choice of APC as a government in 2015, and they are also at liberty to revert their choice having weighed the two sides of the coin. But, obviously, the people of Kogi have learnt their bitter lessons. Their votes and PVCs remain their albatross.