Alhaji Jibrin Isah Echocho is a leading aspirant in the forthcoming PDP gubernatorial primaries in Kogi State. In this interview with journalists, he speaks on the socio-economic challenges confronting the state and how he intends to tackle them, if given the opportunity to govern the state.
How prepared are you to clinch the Kogi state governorship in the event that you emerge the standard bearer of the PDP?
I have stated previously that I am in this race to win and considering the fact that the will to win is worthless without the will to prepare, I can tell you without hesitation that I am prepared.
I strongly believe that the best preparation for success is to be more strategic and that is what I have been doing since 2011 when I first signified my intent to vie for the governorship of Kogi State. I realised very early in the race that a winning strategy that is based on issues and the realities on ground is essential for a successful campaign. I thereafter constituted a very vibrant team that understood that whoever will emerge as the flag bearer of the PDP must be one who can demonstrate to the party that he can easily win the governorship for the party. This understanding and the simple message of ours which has resonated with the leadership; and likewise supporters will see us through at the primaries because at the end of the day it is the interest of the party, not the interest of a few that matters. This is especially important because as it stands, Kogi is the last man standing in the North Central.
But you are contesting against an incumbent governor who has not only signified intent to recontest, but has told all that he needs four more years to complete some of the laudable projects he has started.
Well, the incumbent governor is a friend and a brother. He is someone I have tremendous respect for and a fine gentleman that respect the views and aspiration of others. I want to believe that my aspiration didn’t just come out of the woods. There was a history, and a history that every well- meaning kogities and friends of Kogi State understands and respects, including the incumbent governor. And mind you times have changed.
The issue of power shift is another burning issue. What is your take on that?
I strongly believe that everybody regardless of ethnic or religious coloration has an inalienable right to aspire for anything including power shift. And Kogi state can’t be an exception. The call for power shift is legitimate and it must be respected. But who am I to say no to the legitimate agitation of my brothers and sisters from the West and Central? I believe when the time is right it will come to fruition.
So what is it that is propelling you to want to govern the state?
I am in the race because I strongly believe that I can add more value to governance in Kogi State at this particular time in our history than anyone else. Governor Wada has done well in my estimation, but I believe more can be done and a lot still needs to be done to actualise the Kogi of our dream. We need a new spirit of self-assurance, hope and optimism. We urgently need a revitalised economy that is diversified and less dependent on the monthly allocation. There Is need for new vigour. I believe it’s time for new ideas to accelerate the process of diversification because time is running out. Oil prices are already falling due to the development of shale oil technology that has opened up new sources of energy supplies. We need a new security arrangement to secure our society and provide the enabling environment for the growth of the private sector especially the small and medium scale enterprises. We need to restore people’s faith in governance by running a more open, accountable and ethical government; and strengthen institutions of government such the civil service and local government administration.
Back to 2011, what really happened?
A. 2011 was a fantastic year for our party because we won the elections. In my opinion, what happened was simply a breakdown in communication and nothing more. And all the parties involved have moved on to the glory of God and we are one strong, happy and an indivisible family.
But in some quarters it’s believed that former governor Ibrahim Idris was responsible for you being denied the ticket of the party.
That isn’t correct. There was a breakdown in communication along the line. There was nothing personal or untoward about what happened. Things happen and our ability to move on stands us out of the crowd.
What’s your relationship with the former governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris?
A very cordial relationship I have with him.
It’s said in some quarters that since you are in-laws with the candidate of the APC candidate Prince Abubakar Audu, he might be the one sponsoring your candidature. What do you have to say?
This isn’t a question but rather an insult in my estimation. How can the candidate of the APC sponsor or influence me? Let me clear the air on this. For the fact that my daughter is married to his son does not mean that we agree politically or share same political ideology. I also believe that our kids have their lives to live and we parents shouldn’t interfere unnecessarily. They saw themselves; they liked themselves and decided they want to be husband and wife. So you expect me to say no because the husband is the son of Prince Abubakar Audu? That would have been quite unfair.
It’s their life and they have a right to freedom of choices. But to say because my daughter is married to Audu’s son and therefore he is behind my candidature is an insult. There is no such thing and there won’t be any such thing.
Do you think you still have that state-wide acceptance that you had in 2011?
Without trying to sound immodest, I think that acceptance is still there, that is if it hasn’t tripled because four years is a long period.
If you fail to get the party nomination what should your supporters expect?
I am a loyal party man. My conduct since 2011 suffices as an example. My ambition is not premised on personal reasons. It’s not about me, but about the state. I am in the race to add value, to serve humanity and to bring to fruition a new Kogi. So if I don’t get the party nomination, God forbid, the world won’t come to an end.