Former Kogi State House of Assembly Speaker and Acting Governor Clarence Olafemi was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Committee during the last general elections. In this interview with the The Nation, he speaks on his governorship ambition, concerns about power shift and other issues.
What is your assessment of governance in Kogi State in the last 12 years?
The problem that is even on ground is even greater than asking me to assess the performance administrations. Basically, they lack focus. Do you know that in Lokoja here, we have no five-star hotel? Yes, the federal government own the riverbank, but you can get permit from them to construct tourist centres along the riverbank or to encourage investors, because I know there were about two foreign entities, groups, that came to discuss tourism with me when I was governor.
They promised to build tourisn centres along the riverbank, like those in Israel, Kenya and Senegal. There will be yatchesthat will attract foreigners. All these things are untapped here. It will create job for the people and enhance economic viability of the state.We have riverbank in Lokoja, we have riverbank in Idah. We have a great limestone deposit in Mopa.
But mineral exploitation is in the exclusive list. How would you go about it?
We can apply for the licence. That’s why if you look at my manifesto, there will be a very powerful mineral resources department under the office of the governor. What you cannot do is that you cannot perform exclusive duty with the federal government. But, as a state, you can bring in investors, help them facilitate the licensing by the federal
government. You can provide infrastructure for them, because the land belongs to the state, it’s the minerals that belong to the federal government. You liaise with the community so that they are given the land and the C of O.
What motivated you in joining the governorship race?
The main reason why I decided to join the race is that you will carefully observe that I had the opportunity of serving under some of the founding fathers of Kogi State, like late Chief Sunday Awoniyi and I was equally very close to the likes of late Adamu Attah. The dream of the founding fathers of Kogi State is completely different from what is happening. If they are still alive today, some of them will be weeping. They would have left the old Kabba in Kwara and allowed the East to remain in Benue. They had a dream and the dream was we could capitalize on the strategic location of the state. It can become an economic hub of the trans-North-South trading route. You can see what is happening in Dubai. Dubai was built out of nothing, and today, it has become an economic hub. Kogi was lucky to be located at the centre of Nigeria; people coming from South East, people coming from South West, people coming from North, will pass through Lokoja, the state capital. The economic benefits would have been enormous but we did not capitalize on it.
You find out that we are sitting on over twenty commercially viable mineral resources, that could have transformed the entire state. Minus the Obajana Cement Company, Kogi State has remained a trading merchandise business. We have a lot of challenges that has turned the potentials of this state to enormous waste. Part of the reason that has been responsible is that since the advent of democracy, most of the people that have governed this state, if not all, are strangers to the conditions and happenings in the state.
What did you achieve during your short tenure as acting governor?
Within 60 days I spent in office, I established five special science schools, I awarded contract for the construction of Shintako-Mosu road’, and perhaps the only capital intensive project that has been done in Bassa land since inception of this state in 1991. I also awarded contracts for Odo koro-Yara road, and Ageva-Ogori road. I provided 120 motorized borehole and supplied 200 transformers. My administration provided 25 Hilux vans to confront the security challenges of the state’.
As Speaker, I knew precisely what are the challenges; the problems of the state, so when people are saying, ‘oh, this man has performed wonderfully well, we love him, we want him to continue’, it was because I was familiar with the problems of the state. The state was handed over to me mid-afternoon; I did not go for any tutorials; I did not go to any class, before I took over the leadership of the state, because there can’t be any vacuum, so I think those are the type of people the state needs as their governor and this is what propelled me to now decide. I have observed those that are coming out; they are good; they are educated; they are rich; they have made their own mark, but they will not fit into the leadership of the state that we are anticipating, particularly for a state that has drifted so much, and at the verge of being called a failed state.
The local governments owe 16 or 17 months salaries, the state government also owe. During my stay in government for eight years, we never owed any workers’ salary. The IGR is not growing, and so we need a knowledgeable man, and the state cannot afford to be gambling with who becomes the governor, so these are the reasons why I decided to join the race
The pressure on me cut across the ethnic groupsin the state.The Igbira the Igala,the Okun Development Association; all of them have sent delegation asking me to contest the governorship election.
Don’t you think coming from Kogi West will affect your political fortune?
No, let me tell you one basic truth today. No single senatorial district can go it alone. The East, if they don’t have the support of the West or the Central, they cannot win the governorship. That is the truth. The West, they cannot win the governor if they don’t have the support of the East and the Central. What has happened is a political situation in which the Central and the West had always play to the hands of the East senatorial zone. When 10 or 12 aspirants come from the East, they unite, and present onlyone candidate. But the West, where I come from will present eight,and the Central presenting two or three, of course you know what the result will be. But now, the awareness is so strong, that no senatorial district can cling to power to the detriment of others again. It is even in the interest of any senatorial district not to monopolise power, because you might even be surprised that somebody from the other senatorial district may develop your area more than your brother.
When I was acting governor, I did not sack the commissioners, I relieved them and re-appointed them, because the rule demands that I should sack them as the tenure of the government that appoited them had expired. I can work with anybody; my driver here today, is an Igala man, my office secretary is an Igala lady, so also some of my other staff.
If we have a detribalized person as governor I don’t think any tribe will want to monopolise power. The North tried it, but at the end, they conceded power to the South West. The Kogi East should learn from this experience and cocede governorship seat to either the west or east this time around.