Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in the 2019 Kogi State governorship elections, Musa Wada speaks to Adedayo Adejobi on a wide range of national issues, including his civil service years. Excerpts:
What really led you into politics?
I went into politics basically to serve my people. For many years after my graduation, I was in the public service and I rose through the ranks. I headed many positions in the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) though I started as civil engineer II. I later became chief port engineer in Tin Can Island Port. I became afterward, the manager of two ports, starting from the Calabar Port.
After putting many years into public service doing the same thing every day, I just felt that the better way to serve the people in this clime is through politics, because that is of course the right platform. Basically, the government in place that time was not doing well enough for the people in terms of infrastructure development.
When I looked at what was coming into the state and yet see that basic things like salaries were not being paid, I was unhappy. I mean you could literally see suffering, poverty, and frustration on the faces of the people. While I was in active service, the demand of the people in terms of welfare was just outrageous.
See, when I collect salary, a chunk of it goes to people and little comes to me to take care of my own needs and that of my household. That was an indication of the kind of poverty on the ground in the state. So, I just say to myself, look, after putting all these years to serve my country through the seaport, I must not wait for my time of retirement before I leave. One has to leave service when one is still very strong.
Because of my interaction with people all through my career years, I have been able to feel their pains, understand their basic needs and rendered help the best way I could to many people as possible. In fact, there is no holiday that I don’t go home, whether it is Christmas, Easter, Sallah or any major break.
And I use those periods to interact with the people I especially, interact with the grassroots people a lot. Not that when I take leave and I will rush to travel abroad, no, I made sure I spent quality time with my people and this has been ongoing over the years starting far way back as at when I began my career. So, I knew basically that if I go into politics, I would have a great chance of being victorious. In summary, I went into politics solely to serve my people, and that is what I can say to you for now.
Your name is Wada, what is your relationship with the other Wada who was once governor of Kogi State?
He is my elder brother.
Okay. That obviously meant you consulted him before venturing into politics?
That is what many people have been saying. They say to me ‘your brother was a governor, and your father-in-law was a governor and you too want to be a governor. But, honestly, in this case, I must confess I didn’t do much consultation. I knew the feelings of the people about me. And let me tell you, the politics of consultation will not make you do what you want to do. I just felt I needed to contest on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP.
As I told you earlier, I have been interacting with the people a lot and when I began making my moves, I didn’t know that my elder brother was going to be interested at that time. I took my decision without consulting him. I was just driven by the burning desire in my heart to serve the people and the people saw obviously that I was ready and that I had better plans and ways to serve them than the government in place at that time and even the current one.
Something must have been going through your mind when you took the bold step to resign your well-paying job and go into full-blown politics and to even run for the gubernatorial seat, knowing full that it wasn’t a shoe-in. What actually spurred you into that?
To start with, it was a strong decision I had taken to go into politics and though I had a good job, I felt it was about timing; it was my time. So, I went into that race with a mindset and with an understanding that I was going to win the election.
Yes, of course no one ordinarily will go into something serious with the hope of losing but my own conviction of wining was high amidst the possible obstacles I observed that I may face in the party primaries, like facing strongmen like Senator Melaye Dino, and the rest of the contestants.
As I told you earlier, people advised me to dare not try wasting my time and resources, because there was no way I could possibly fly the PDP flag. I, however, summoned the courage to face it headlong. I told them that God was the one leading me into the race. It is important to say that I was also tired of the monotony of work in the civil service.
I wondered if I was going to do just one thing every day until I retired. I wanted to explore with the strong desire I earlier talked about, which is to give meritorious service to Kogi people whom I felt deserved something better than what they were and are still having.
Many Nigerians out there believe that the PDP and the APC are merely two sides of a coin with no ideological difference. Do you agree?
You see, I must tell you that you can’t compare our politics in the third world and especially Nigeria’s with that of civilised nations. Let me give you an example, in the United States of America, it is difficult to switch parties the way we do here in Nigeria. For them, the party is basically about the ideology they believe in.
The Democrats are different from the Republicans and you can see from their history that if a grandfather chooses to be a Republican, most likely the sons will follow in that path down to the grandchildren from generation to generation. But in Nigeria, the case is different; they take selfish interest above national service!
Look at it closely, what is PDP; what is APC? Who are those in APC today? They are the very people that were in PDP yesterday! Rotimi Amaechi was a governor under the PDP regime but all of a sudden he is an APC chieftain today. Many of them like that.
You see how funny it is that these same fellows left PDP and are now shouting 60 years of PDP reign when they were the persons actually at the helm of affairs in the said time! So the people are not wrong when they say that there is no difference between PDP and APC as parties because if you truly look at it, there is no ideological path these two parties are toeing.
I just hope we will one day come up with an amendment in our constitution that will forbid or restrain candidates from switching from one party to another after losing tickets. Carefully look at the situation in the country right now and judge for yourself.
In fairness between APC and PDP, who has performed better? APC has been in power for the past five years; they came on the mantra of change with the promise to curb insecurity and corruption but let me ask you, what is the state of our nation’s security right now? I will leave you to answer that question.
Transparency International came out with a report on the current terrible corruption rate in Nigeria, are we not going down? I am not trying to defend PDP but I leave it to you. Just compare the two. Ask yourself where were we in 2015 and where are we now? However, to answer your question, I make bold to say that there is no difference between the two parties.
If you became Kogi’s governor, what would you do differently to make your people enjoy the dividends of democracy?
Just as I have promised during my campaigns, I am simply out to serve our people – to change the narratives in Kogi politics. I am out to bring good governance to our good people of Kogi State. I am not mincing words; Kogi is the worst state in Nigeria today. In terms of development, in terms of human empowerment, in terms of the economy, virtually in terms of everything!
Go to Kogi State capital, Lokoja, you will be very ashamed of yourself if you are an indigene of Kogi State. One will ask, what is happening to the allocations meant for the state? Check it, the Federal Allocations from 2017 – 2019 vis-a-viz what is on the ground, you will know that the government did just nothing for the teeming good people of Kogi State.
I am not just talking, go and confirm it yourself. When you travel to Kogi, the state capital welcomes you with the worst roads in this country. The capital’s outlook tells you a situation of an unplanned city – as though there are no professionals in the ministry of works or urban planning department, who should be responsible for planning the entire capital city and how it should look meeting with current modern way of planning cities.
Whether you approach Lokoja from Abuja or the Southeast, I tell you, you will see that it is truly the worst state capital in Nigeria. The Kogi woes continue with payment of workers’ monthly salaries in percentages since the inception of the current administration in 2015.
If I come in as governor, honestly, I am going to immediately declare a state of emergency in all sectors: education, health, agriculture, I mean every sector! As a matter of priority, since Kogi is a civil service state, I will ensure prompt payment of salaries to workers, because it is connected to other economic activities. If you don’t pay salaries, the man selling in his shop will not get business, the market woman too may not be able to sell anything reasonably well, neither will children school fees be paid as at when due.
I will create a level ground for the private sector to thrive. Lokoja was supposedly Nigeria’s first capital. We cannot throw away that history and, ordinarily, Lokoja is supposed to be a place people will want to visit. So, if I get in, the city of Lokoja will experience unprecedented transformation in terms of infrastructure. Kogi roads as I have said earlier are too bad, I mean too bad!
Anyway, I have been thinking outside the box and I have come up with a plan to raise funds without using the Federal Allocation to work on the major roads in and around Lokoja since the South-south, Southeast and Southwest Nigeria seem to have Kogi as the entry point to the Federal Capital Territory. We would develop a toll system and use that income to fix the roads.
Let me tell you, people will be happy if we extract extra fees but deliver the expected projects. Here we are, having a governor who doesn’t think well within or without the box. It is very unfortunate where we the Kogi people found ourselves at the moment. When the almighty allows me to come in as Governor of Kogi State, I will empower people; we call it human capital development. I will encourage agriculture, which Kogi is known for. We have zones like Koto, Ibaji, which are swampy areas and good for rice farming.
I remember Governor Wada started rice production project there that was almost going on a commercial scale, but today, that project is dead, because there was no encouragement to the farmers in terms of provisions of the basic implement for large-scale rice farming. We will look out for the needs of the farmers and ensure they are supported with modern farming machines and seedlings that can give us the desired output whether rice, yam or whatever.
Nigeria’s debt profile keeps increasing by the day. Is this sustainable?
Even economists will tell you that when you live your life borrowing, then you are going to be in a lot of trouble. Just look at it from the layman point of view; if you are living in a community and everybody gets to know that you are a perpetual borrower, how will you feel? Let me tell you, Nigeria is in a sorry state. Look at the debt profile. The next generations are to be greatly pitied, because they are in serious trouble.
We are not even talking about offsetting the principal; servicing the debts alone takes a chunk of our budget right now. Let me take you back to Kogi State. They have taken bailout fund of 50.8 billion and I learned they have started deducting from source, what does that mean? It means the money coming to the state from the Federal Allocation will always decrease and the greater implication is that there will be no enough money to carry out real capital projects that will benefit the good people of Kogi State.
I think there must be a radical departure from the syndrome of borrowing money from international communities. There is something we need to understand; lenders are usually happy when they keep lending. The implication is that you will continue to be their slave. Just imagine us borrowing from the Peoples Republic of China!
Only God knows the kind of conditions attached to such loans. They say they want to use the borrowed money for infrastructure – roads, rail lines and that’s fine! You have to borrow when you need to borrow but I believe we can come out of this situation if we are willing to.
Lately, the government of the federation banned the importation of rice and later said it has closed the borders. That is a good move in the right direction. But when you look closely, you will discover that we are hypocritical about it. We go about living fake or artificial lifestyles. We must be deliberate about promoting local contents from the consumable goods to automobiles and services. If we ban the importation of rice and not ban the importation of foreign furniture or electronics, then, we are deceiving who?
I bet you, go to government houses and offices, you will see them using foreign pieces of furniture. All I am saying is that we should be straight with policies. There should be no exception. When it is rotten at the top, remember it will be rotten at the bottom too.
Let us just make our economy work viably and all these insecurities, killings, kidnapping, and social vices will cease. They are simply the products of bad economy. We should also reduce our dependence on crude oil and revitalise the agricultural sector. If we diversify the economy and eventually keep experiencing a fall in the prices of crude oil, we will still be moving without having to borrow anywhere.
The Southwest has finally settled for Amotekun with the hope of curbing all forms of criminal activities in the region. But the North Central region, where you come from has suffered a lot of security challenges. Don’t you think that the region needs a regional security outfit, too?
Definitely! I am fully in support of every region having its security outfit. I believe that it will complement the great effort of the Nigeria Police Force in her bid to maintain law and order and to checkmate the activities of criminals in the society. It is a welcome development so long as the outfit is not hijacked and misused.
You know in this country, it is easy for uniformed personnel to abuse their privileges of carrying riffles. We have seen them unleash terror on ordinary citizens of this great country just because they are wearing uniforms. I seriously encourage the establishment of a regional security outfit.
Still on the matter of regional security outfit, do you subscribe to the idea of recruiting members from outside the region?
No! I am going to be very personal about this, and my take is a capital no. Membership to a regional security should be exclusively reserved for indigenes of that region. Let’s not bring confusion into this matter. The Miyetti Allah people would do better in their place.
You can’t say the Yoruba people should go to the Igbos and help them with their security challenge in the South East, neither will it be proper for the Igbos to go to the North West or North East in the name of helping them with their security challenges there.
Please everyone will do better in their regions since the recruitment is going to be done locally at the villages and LGAs or wards. I also believe that recruiting people from the area will go a long way in curtailing crime since these people know the nooks and crannies of their land. I don’t think perpetrators of crime will be hard to be detected. This is my own opinion on the matter.
Over time, there have been calls for restructuring of the nation and whenever it is raised, tension rises. What’s your take on restructuring?
That is a very difficult question. When you say restructuring, what the average Nigerian is thinking immediately is dividing the country. And we panic, when the topic is brought to the table for discussion as though it is a bad thing to talk about. There is a kind of threat like some people or regions will not survive on their own without the other.
For now, Nigeria has only one major product that brings it money, which is crude oil. The Niger Delta people feel they are not seeing the benefit of the resources that is coming from their region hence they want control of their resources. I think because the federal government is too far from the people, they don’t feel they belong.
There is too much power in the hand of the federal government. Look, for example, when we were operating regional government, there was unprecedented development, because of the great initiatives of leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was in charge of the Southeast, Sardauna of the North, and Awolowo in the South West.
Awolowo, for example, did so much in the Southwest region in terms of education; the first television station in West Africa, etc. So, I advise that we go back to regional systems, where the regions manage resources but are accurately reporting to the federal government. Regionalising our governance will breed soft competition among regions and states – a healthy competition in terms of development.
Regional governments will want to outdo one another and increase their influence in the national economy. Not this one that all eyes are on the federal allocation and the issue of equity in sharing it.
Let the North revive its cotton and groundnut and the textile mills; let the southeast revive the oil palm production; the southwest cocoa, and the rubbers we know it for. Oil will not remain forever, we better revisit what we had and used to sustain this nation before we got spoiled and are refusing to farm or do anything productive again. All waiting for oil to sell!
There is a high level of insecurity in the nation, some quarters are even calling on the President to sack the serving chiefs, what do you think needs to be done to have relative peace in the country?
Let me ask you a simple question, when our economy was booming, were all these mess in place? This is a direct result of abject poverty! The last report from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria has over 23 million unemployed persons. Some countries are not up to that number but here we are having this large number of unemployed people, in point of fact, the youths.
That is why I fully support his Highness, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. How can you marry wives and have children you cannot take care of or even know their whereabouts per time? Look at the poverty ratings recently. 78% to the North and barely 22% to the South. Check the rate of polygamy in the north and numbers of children. That is why Boko Haram will easily have recruits!
Our borders are very porous, as you can see people freely entering Nigeria from Niger, Chad and these neighbouring countries. These elements come in and venture into armed robbery, kidnapping, Boko haram and what not. I advise that there should be birth control, our borders should be protected, jobs should be created, people, basically our youths and women, should be empowered, education should be properly financed and we hope that better days are ahead.
What with the service chiefs?
Whether they should be removed or remain there, I don’t know if that is the way out. However, there are laws guiding every appointment in this country, so, if they have served the stipulated years, please they should give way for other people to come in for career growth and development of new strategies.
They have been there for five years! I am even surprised that these ones have stayed for this long. I have never heard or known any service chief that served for long like that. I think when we were growing up it used to be two or three years that they were serving as military chiefs.