House of Representatives member from Ikeja Constituency Hon. James Faleke was Prince Abubakar Audu’s running mate during the Kogi State governorship election. He spoke with AMUDA DAN SULAIMAN FAB of Kogiwatcth Newsmagazine in Lagos on Governor Yahaya Bello’s style of governance and the future of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Confluence State.
What’s your assessment of the political situation in Kogi State?
The political situation in Kogi State is very dicey for our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) because of the various happenings; the claim by civil servants about the non-payment of salaries, the counter-claim of the governor that he has paid all. As at today, tertiary institutions are closed, according to their workers, for non-payment of salaries and arrears. As at today, health institutions are in comatose for lack of salaries to the workers. Unfortunately, Kogi is a civil service state. There are no industries. So, the moment the salaries of those civil servants are not paid, the economy of the state will be in comatose. So, I can clearly tell you that our party has a problem in the state.
What are the party leaders doing about the Kogi scenario?
I don’t know. I think that, realising the situation, the national secretariat called a meeting of stakeholders to investigate the true position and make recommendations. So, we have presented a position paper on the way forward. A situation where you work and somebody is taking an advantage of your efforts is a very bad situation for our people. I am not even talking about the governor. He won in the court. There is no problem with that. The governor is the governor, but he has refused to be father of all. If you win in court; I was the one that took him to court, it wasn’t the party members that took him to court. I expected him to take over the party and carry every member along; give them opportunity to serve. They are all well-educated. This governor has appointed as at last count over 200 aides, from commissioners to SSAs and out of the 286, only 43 are original APC members. You can just imagine that the rest are PDP. That’s is the crux of the matter. You engage sole administrators and virtually all your sole administrators, except very few, are original APC members. If our people and party members went to the poll against the PDP members and you now engage those PDP members we opposed at each polling unit, they are now the ones dictating the affairs of the state, you know psychologically, the APC members will not be happy and that’s what exactly is happening. It is not about hatred for the governor. No. I think he needs to do the right thing.
How do you juxtapose a situation where workers are not paid and Kogi legislators are now on their way for Ghana for training?
When I saw it, I was surprised. That was because it was least expected. I expected the House of Assembly to be people-sensitive. If your civil servants, the people at home, are not happy, and you are travelling to Ghana, what is there in Ghana that does not exist in Nigeria? One would have expected them to defer such a training in the interest of the people. They had received many resolutions against the non-payment and technical retrenchment of workers. They had passed so many resolutions. The governor has not obeyed one. They are insensitive. I am surprised. I am shocked. Not at this material time that they will go for a jamboree in Ghana. Train about what? We have the legislative training institute in Abuja. They can get trained anywhere within Nigeria. They can even bring in professors, experts to Kogi. When they bring them to Lokoja, those people will lodge in one hotel or the other and the economy will be oiled somehow. But, I think they know better. The people know best.
Has the governor made any personal overture to you to, at least, effect what can be described as reconciliation?
Not at all. But, honestly, I am not expecting any personal overture. Since he became governor, he has not called me. I am not expecting any personal overtures from him because I am a democrat. I felt that the decision of the party was wrong. I challenged it. I went to the court to challenge it and so, we move on. That’s part of democracy. It is constitutional. Now, the Supreme Court has said that, if you want to be a running mate, you must participate in the primary, which was not part of our law before. It will be very difficult for our electoral system in this country if you are asking that a governorship candidate must choose someone that competed with him as running mate. That means you are causing chaos from the outset. There will be conflict of interest. I was not expecting any personal overture. What I was expecting from him was that, while I was in court, the governor would have taken over the party from the Audu/Faleke family. I expected him to have given them a lot of privileges so that by the time I finished at the court, I will be the one struggling to be relevant among party members. But, he is the one struggling to be relevant with the party members. Governor Idris Wada owed just three months salaries. We went for elections. We used that three months arrears to campaign against him. Today, civil servants say our governor is owing them over 14 months , some six months. Some have not been paid because of the screening method or other things. If that is the case, our party in a nutshell has a long way to go. It will find it hard to crack in the next elections. No amount of money that can be stolen and used to bribe the people that they will obey. Our people are ordinarily republican. This is the first time they are coming to resist because of the campaign strategy we deployed. Unfortunately, we have not managed our success very well.
If the governor cannot work with Faleke, Alex Kadiri, Clarence Olafemi and Dino Melaye, who was supporting him before, how would you now describe the style of the governor?
I think the style of the governor lacks maturity. He lacks maturity in his handling of state affairs. He was not prepared. It was a gift given to him. Unfortunately, because he didn’t work for the gift, he does not know how to go about it. He can’t do it well. We have three senatorial districts. This is the first time I am seeing a sitting governor in Nigeria with less than 10 per cent support from three senatorial districts. We conducted a poll, less than 10 per cent of respondents liked the governor. I want to use this opportunity to ask him to send credible people to go and conduct a poll for him so that he will see whether people like his style or not. He must know that Kogi is a civil service state. At the moment, the civil servants are not happy with him. It is very serious. Unlike Lagos State, which is industrialised, ours is a state where people benefit from the local government system. As at now, the salaries are being owed. You have sole administrators you give N10 million or N5 million per month. The rest is managed by Edward. Edward is the Chief of Staff. Local government administrators and their staff cannot withdraw any money without the approval of the Chief of Staff. That is the situation. All the accounts of each local government have the correspondence domiciled with the Chief of Staff. If a withdrawal is made, the alert goes straight to the Chief of Staff’s phone. And the Chief of Staff will then call you, Mr. Sole Administrator, what’s that money for? That is the type of system that is being run in the state. The governor must wake up to his responsibility. This is the first time you will have a young man as governor. As a young man, I expect him to run the affairs of the state better than this. This is the first time a governor will come in and demolish an entire roundabout. Lokoja is the first capital of Nigeria. We had that roundabout built by the previous government. The present governor got in there and demolished it. He believed that the roundabout had some black power, fetish power in it. And what has he replaced it with? Drums, empty drums. You now use empty drums and put sand and used it for a roundabout in a modern Nigeria. To me, the governor needs to sit down and take responsibility for whatever happens. Nigeria is more enlightened than what he thinks. There were some arguments going on in a certain medium. The number of professor in a particular village in Okunland is more than 30. So, if you have these caliber of men and women scattered all over Nigeria and the world, the governor should have called a summit and say, okay, let’s think about how to develop our state. He should call a summit of intellectuals to discuss the economy, to discuss the way forward. By virtue of the location of our state, we have no reason to be poor. We are the gateway to everywhere. You can’t come to the South without passing through Kogi. You cannot go to the North without passing through Kogi State. This is the unique advantage. Apart from the roads, we have the sea. If you could go out and sign an agreement with NEWAL or the Federal Government and attract World Bank funding, you can develop the seaport. That was part of our programmes. Develop the seaport and Kogi will open up. Every cargo going to the North, going to the East will be diverted to the Lokoja seaport. Onitsha is less than one or two hours to Lokoja. So, you can imagine the opportunities that we have. If we have a very good governor, he should know that Lokoja is so close to Abuja, two hours drive. There is nothing stopping him from seeking an intervention fund from the World Bank or other sources to develop a fast rail system from Lokoja to Abuja and develop a massive housing project whereby people living in Lokoja and working in Abuja will leave by rail and it opens up our economy. Oh my God, what do we have? I want to talk less. I am not happy about it.
How can insecurity be tackled in Kogi?
Let me say this. One way or the other, he has put security as one of his key areas. So far, he has provided mobility to the police. But, when the people are hungry, when there is no work, when you are laying off staff technically, you should expect that that fight against insecurity will come back to haunt you. Boko Haram or no Boko Haram, history shows that it started in Kogi. I am not talking about Borno. But, majority of those who had been arrested found their roots to Kogi. So, one will expect him to find a better way of handling it. When you arrest somebody or kidnappers and you go ahead to dismantle their houses and mosques, you are causing more troubles. I think that as good as his intentions, people are hungry. You cannot achieved a totally secured environment when people are hungry. I will advise him to seek more knowledge and work with the people rather than alienating the people. This is the first time we are having a government of a young guy in the state and the best he has achieved is to put gates, barricades all across the GRA and fence off the Government House from the people. Throughout the campaigns, we drove along the GRA. We passed through the fence of the Government House. Today, you dare not do that. Even, those living in the GRA may now have to be taking permission to go in and out because he has fenced everybody off. If you do that, what about those constituents who do no have fences around their houses? You must give this psychology thing to the people, to say that I am with you. This idea of fencing off people is not the best.
In the light of what you have said, what does the future portends for Kogi and your party?
The future will be bright. God has a purpose for what has happened. For me, the death of Prince Abubakar Audu is a lesson to me and to everybody. I believe strongly that he will wake up one day and touch the mind of the people. Some people hated him till he died. I am shocked that, up till today, that there is no condolence letter from the Federal Government to the family of the late Prince Abubakar Audu. I am shocked. I think whatever happened in the past in their relationship should not be carried up to the death. That is politics today. nobody knows tomorrow. I want to say to our people at home to believe that God has time for everything.