Iyobosa Uwugiaren dialogues with Dr. Musa Wada, Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in the November 16 election in Kogi State on how he intends to restore lost values to his people
I know so many aspirants contested the primaries with you; and at the end of the day you won. What effort are you making to bring everybody on board to support you and the party in the main election?
First and foremost, the primary was very free, fair and credible. The chairman of the committee, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State made it clear from the beginning that he was there to conduct free, fair, credible election. From his action, everybody attested to the fact that the election was very free and fair — from the beginning to the end; before the gun-shot by some hooligans. As at the time of that gun shot, there were 10 ballot boxes, seven had already been sorted and counted, and it was clear, from even the calling of the names of the participants, that I was in clear lead. Fortunately, the security at the arena — because the counting and sorting was done in public at the stadium; the security was very heavy. About 2:00 am when the criminals came out with gun shots, they were able to protect the central arena, where the voting materials were kept. Everybody scampered to safety and then the following morning we thought the PDP officials who came for the election had all left. Later, we had a sudden call from one member of the committee, a legal adviser that all aspirants should come. At that time, I thought they were already in Abuja; I had a muscle sprain after the gun shot; so I didn’t find it funny to get up; but the call was so sudden, and they said we should come back to the same hotel where members of the committee were staying. It was opposite the Government House. When I arrived there I saw other aspirants and after explanation from the chairman that every material from the previous day’s activity was intact, that they were able to save it-from the votes that were counted to the remaining two and half boxes that were not counted. We all agreed that the counting should continue in the presence of INEC officials and all the security agents that were present. Of course, lots of other ballot papers, belong to most of the aspirants were retrieved from the scene; and it was counted along with the remaining two and half ballot boxes that we had. The result was that I was leading with 748 votes. The second person had about 710 votes; and I was declared winner. Definitely, even in a normal election without gunshot the chairman insisted that no election is ever 100% perfect, not even considering what happened. We commended them for being able to protect all the ballot boxes and other election materials. They had the mandate to conclude the election — because that was the last day or second to the last day for PDP to produce a candidate for the party. Fortunately, it was accepted by the other aspirants; and there was no issue. Out of 13 of us, 11 aspirants endorsed me and declared that the exercise was free and fair. Only one aspirant went to court; and of course, the party has set up a reconciliatory committee that is going around to reconcile all everybody. I think the committee is doing its job to ensure that the various parties are reconciled before the actual election on November 16. As far as I’m concerned, there is no issue; and I know the elders of the party, who are in touch with the reconciliatory process will carry out the mandate very well. I look forward to a united, stronger party to face the November 16 election.
How prepared are you and your party for the election?
We are very much prepared. Of course there is a government in power in Kogi State; we are in the opposition. You know what happens in Nigeria, it is the party in government that will blow all their trumpet, media hype and other stuff. We are very much on course. We have a lot of issues to campaign with during the election proper. This election is about issues. Our people know we can make a difference more than the people in power right now. We have a lot of issues to discuss and we are prepared. Action speaks louder than voice, we know what we are going to talk about in this coming electioneering campaign. As a party, we are prepared; we have a campaign director already — in the person of Hon. Yusuf. We are prepared; we are waiting for the flag off from INEC. During the campaign, we will talk about the issues.
Considering what happened in the last general election, lots of violence, so much so that elections were cancelled in so many polling units. Do you see that kind of a thing occurring again in the governorship election?
It is the same government that conducted those elections that are still in power. We are urging them to allow the election to be free and fair; people should be allowed to make their choice; violence is too heavy in Kogi politics, and we in PDP are saying the will of the people should be allowed to prevail. The government in Kogi State today is known for extreme violence, thuggery and ballot box snatching. I can confidently tell you that all the elections they claimed they won were not elections. People were driven out by some gun-carrying-young men. What are they doing is to buy guns and give them; shoot their way out and allow people to run away; thumb print ballot papers and announce that they have cleared all the polling units. We are shouting to the government to allow an enabling atmosphere for free, fair and credible election to take place. I can bet you, traditionally, Kogi is a PDP state. What is democracy? It is the government of the people by the people and for the people. Allow the people to make their free choice. We are appealing to the Federal Government and all the security agencies to beam their search light on Kogi State, because as far as I’m concerned, the government in power in Kogi State today has nothing to show for the last three and half years it has been in power. I want you to go to Lokoja, look around and compare Lokoja to other states in the country. No road is motorable in Lokoja, not even the one that leads to the Government House. There are issues to debate and argue about in this election. Salaries are not paid. If the state capital is looking the way it is, you can imagine what happens in other local government headquarters. So, PDP has issues to campaign about. What we have in Kogi State today reminds me of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda; you have a conquered colony of people who are afraid to come out. Because you see people, young men in buses — carrying guns, tormenting people and giving signals that in this election nobody should come out so that they can have opportunity to snatch ballot papers and thumb print them.
Apart from appealing to the federal government, what are you doing to protect your votes?
We do not want violence; we are appealing to the electorates; the will of the people is stronger than the barrel of the gun. Government is to ensure security of all citizens, the election zones should be protected. We are not going to take laws into our hands. We are appealing to the people that no gun shot should deter them from exercising their right. But nobody has monopoly of violence. Two wrongs cannot make a right. If we carry arms like government in power — against our people, is that election or war? Are we doing election when you have dead bodies everywhere? Is this election about service to the people or wanting to stay in power against the wishes of the people? We should ask ourselves those questions. We are civilised men in PDP; we are crying to the government because it has the constitutional duty of ensuring the security of lives and property. That’s why we are shouting now to the government to ensure an enabling environment where free and fair election will take place. So, we are not going to behave like government in power by using guns. Of course, if PDP wants it can follow that trail, what does it take? Are you going to kill the people that you are going to lead? That’s why we are appealing to the government. If nothing is done in Kogi State, it will be more of a war rather than election, which is not good for our democracy.
Share with us what you are bringing on board if you become the next governor of Kogi State?
I will change the narrative of governance. The government must be accountable to the people; government must be transparent. The government must have programmes, a plan of action through town hall meetings for people to know what you are doing, what you are getting; thinking out of the box to raise the IGR of the state. Kogi State is blessed with natural and mineral resources, limestone is there, that’s why Dangote Cement Factory is in Kogi; there is coal deposit in Kabba. Why don’t we drive the process of improving the state economically through private sector participation? People must be carried along; there must be an action plan. If I become the Governor of Kogi State, I will declare a state of emergency because all sectors in Kogi State are dead. From education to health to human capacity development, nothing is working in Kogi State. It is not a matter of coming to lie to people in Abuja. The real situation in the state is horrible. People are dying of hunger; civil servants are not paid; many pensioners are dead, and we have a government that’s claiming it has done everything that is possible to satisfy the people. If the PDP comes to power, we will be as transparent as possible to manage the resources that come to the state for the benefit of the people. Unlike today when the people and the government are pulled apart, nobody knows what is happening except when they are coming to intimidate people with gun shots. I don’t know whether we are in a military regime or a civilian democracy. So, the government that will come under PDP will be a total departure from what we are getting in Kogi today.
Why should the people of Kogi State trust you in this project?
I have experience. I have worked in the civil service for many years. Governance should be headed by someone who has the background, who has the experience in public service. I worked in the Nigerian Ports Authority; I rose from normal graduate officer to becoming the Chief Port Engineer to Port Manager of two leading ports in this country – Calabar and Onne, and I voluntarily left the public service as a Managing Director of Civic Property Limited, a subsidiary of the Nigerian Ports Authority. If am elected today, I know how it feels not to be paid salary at the end of the month. I know how to manage resources; I know how to think out of the box with a combination of good technocrats to drive the revival process of Kogi State. You need a good doctor to revive that state; bring her to the normal ward, that’s to stabilise and then start the process of growth. With my experience, I will gather the best brains in Kogi. The state has a lot of blessed men and women who can move her forward — beyond the near comatose state it is now.
Some of your people in Kogi have said that this election to a very large extent, would be about how much you have, arguing that money will play a role in determining who becomes the governor. Considering that the APC controls the federal structure, are you not intimidated by that? How do you intend to mobilise your people to ensure that they deemphasise the issue of money in this election?
The simple question they should ask is how did the governor makes the money they would share? The will of the people is always stronger than the barrel of the gun. You can bring money into politics, they will eat that money and do the needful. I can promise you in a free, fair, credible election, whether he deploys the whole resources of Nigeria, with the records on ground, the PDP candidate stands to defeat him. In politics they will bring the money, and eat the money and do what they want to do; we are not intimidated by that; we will tell you that the money you are getting today will put you into another four years of long suffering. The basic question we will ask them is: where did he get the money he is sharing? Is it from the long period of unpaid salary? We will preach to them not to take fish and eat today, instead vote a government that will enable you to live your life, live a productive life and be economically empowered. We cannot be intimidated. How much are you going to share? We know there is poverty in the land. Their intention is to pauperise the people — so that the hunger will be too great for them to take any peanut. The campaign machinery will enlighten the people about the disadvantage of such a process, because the money they are spending is not their money, it belongs to the whole citizens of Kogi State. If they want to take it, so be it; they should do what is on their minds. As a party, as a candidate, we will never be intimidated by the money they have to circulate because that money actually belongs to the people
What should the people look out for in determining who they should vote for in the coming election?
They should look at ability of the candidate to performance; look at the people who have ruled them for the last three and half years and ask themselves if they are ready to continue with that kind of government. They should look at how many people have died because of lack of payment of salary and general poverty in the land in the last three and half years — whether they want to continue with those set of people. They should look at the qualities of the candidates and their experience. I leave them to make a choice.