‘It is Time Have a Nigerian President from Kogi State’

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Ibrahim Oyewale interrogates the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mathew Kolawole on the controversial decision of the state legislators to persuade Governor Yahaya Bello to contest for President in 2023

Sometimes ago, members of Kogi House of Assembly endorsed Governor Yahaya Bello to contest for President in 2023. What efforts are you putting in place to support the governor to come out for presidential election and have you received any response so far ?

Governor Yahaya Bello did not want to contest for president, we, the 25 members of Kogi State House of Assembly looked into history. If there is no history, there is no future
We looked at history Nigeria and we started looking at the North Central and know very well that the North Central has not produced president and has not produced Vice President , we felt that there is no cause for anybody to have ambition or aspiration to became any thing in life , what we are doing here is that we are only urging Governor Yahaya Bello which I believe in 2023 he will rule this country.

The issue is that if you look at the antecedents of the governor of the state , our governor has what we call the lion heart , you are all journalists you know what he passed through to bring the state to stability in area of security or talking about women empowerement , education , agriculture .What we are saying here is that we in the Assembly look at him as our own, even in the Assembly we called him 26 members of Kogi State House of Assembly he is our own.He is our political leader , everybody wants his leader to go higher , nobody will want his leader to sit down because many followers will suffer. That is why we are calling him to move forward so what we too can benefit from the national.cake in the nearest future . We have been calling him to contest , yet he has not spoken out whether he will or he will not , but we know he must surely consult necessary quarters because this is not Kogi State election .

We are talking about Nigeria election and as governor he knows what it takes to become a governor .We are not talking about Kogi State , we are talking about the Nigeria where you are going to rule over 200 million people . A lot of consultations must go on. We are not the only one calling him to contest others are calling him too, a lot of youth organisations , women organisations , so many associtaions are calling him to.contest. The truth is that we are still urging him and even till today I still put it in prayer in the church to let my governor agree to contest . Let me tell you if Governor Yahaya Bello contests the presidential election , he will win. Look at Ajaokuta Steel Company which has been there over the years since 1981 .If you go to Ajaokuta Steel Company you will weep for Nigeria. If you go to Itakpe you will weep for Nigeria and equally weep for Kogi State .

When President Jonathan was there , they started the dredging of our waterways , but because of the one in Bayelsa , Rivers they stopped and said it must continue from from his area because he was the President then .If we have the Nigerian President from Kogi State, are you saying that the person will not revive Ajaokuta Steel Company? Having spent billions of Naira there , millions of dollars have gone into that place . Kogi State is supposed to be economic hub of Africa . Look at Obajana and see what Dangote is getting there today. To have a president from Kogi State, I am sure Kogi will be in the limelight. Kogi was the capital of Nigeria .

You people should join us in our prayers to have president . The Government of Nigeria was formed here in 1901.Why not let us join hands to pray that power must come back to us? Is there anything showing this is where Nigeria started from? There is nothing , expect the Lugard House here. Our persistent call on Governor Yahaya Bello to contest is for the betterment of all of us in Kogi State and betterment of everbody in Nigeria .If Governor Bello wins, you have won, I have won and Kogi has won. We urge the Governor to contest. We are going to mobilize.

We are going to move round to our colleagues in legislative houses across Nigeria .When we are talking about automatic delegates, definitely if you put us together we are over 2000 . I can use my position as a Speaker to lobby our colleagues from other states and also talk to our All Progressive Congress members and before you know it , it might be like a child play to become.reality . We are not just telling him go and contest we will move round to talk to delegates that will vote in 2022 and by the grace of God I assure you that Governor Yahaya Bello will win .

How would you react to the insinuations that Kogi State House Assembly is a rubber stamp that everything that comes to the House from the executive scales through and how do you rate the Assembly in which you are the speaker, would you say the house has the bite?

The thinking of a man is not the thinking of God and sincerely speaking Kogi State House of Assembly is not a toothless bull dog or we are not rubber stamp as people may speculate .What we try to do in the House of Assembly is that basically we have good relatonship with the executive , there is nothing you gain in having an impasse. There is nothing you gain in bringing crisis to the house. I can tell you that if there is a crisis in the House of Assembly or crisis against the executive the State can not move forward , we will remain where we are.You said that requests that comes to the table of House of Assembly always scale through .

For example if the State needs a loan and approaches the House of Assembly we have no reason not to approve it and basically we look at how it will affect the citizenry of the state in terms of development. Government will always send a letter of request to the House of Assembly for counterpart funding for example SUBEB we have no reason not to approve. Because it is counterpart funding when this money comes it is used for repairs of schools and provides fund for some secondary schools that are owned by the state government .If we deny them the opportunity of accessing the loan , the money is counterpart funding is you bring 50 percent and Federal Government pays 50 percent, the state government will not be able to access the money there and the money will just be there and Federal Government does not care whether you access your money or not .So we in the House of Assembly can not hold the state back .All we need to do is to encourage the state government to do things meaningfully.

By and large I think the relationship which I call legislative/executive relation is really helping this state to move forward to where we are .If you look at National Assembly at times there is this kind relationship. For example in the 8th Assembly when there was crisis between the Senate led by Senator Bukola Saraki and Presidency , we knew what happened. Nigeria did not move forward the way we wanted to move. Any state that decides that the legislature should make trouble with the executive, both arms of government would lose and there is nothing to gain and that is why are doing our thing peacefully . I do not care about what people say wheher we rubber stamp or not , what is important is that what we doing is justified by what i have done .For example the executive sent us bills which we call executive bill , we have to pass . We have to do our own job by first reading, second reading , public hearing before we approve .Will you call that a rubber stamp? We are doing our job .It is just people outside that are looking for trouble , I don’t want a situation where people will say that the Kolawole-led House of Assembly is against Governor Yahaya Bello led government.This not good , it would not give us anything .That is the more reason why we are doing exactly what we are doing.

Some of the House of Assembly members have a mindset .What is your relationship with them? Is it a servant leader or boss?

I can never be bossy to anybody. The truth of the matter is that we have a 25-member House of Assembly from different backgrund and mind set of everybody while coming to the house differ some with aim that I want to be this or that , some are in the house to become honourable , some are in the house to use the pedestal to move to another level. I have never seen myself being bossy .we are one among equal I can never be bossy You know my people could have removed me long time ago.if the house or a member said they want this or that and you say no no, you can not even be bossy to your colleagues because we are bird of the same feathers .I just have the opportunity to lead them , if you tell them you know more than them you are runing yourself into trouble .If somebody tells you I am bossy you should be able to say no.

What is your reaction to the financial autonomy granted to state Houses of Assembly ?

The presidency has granted us finacial autonomy. The implementation committee has been set up. In Kogi State, the executive arm of government is operating what we call finacial autonomy because the allocation they give us at end of the month is coming , but it is not like it is a total autonomy that you will say this is what we have in the account for projects and you look at the money on pro rata basis .The truth of the matter is that it is a collective issue in the nation. The President has approved by signing it into law , the finacial autonomy came and went ahead to issue executive order , but the executive order iasued by the President did not go down well with governors and governors went to court to challenge aubsection of the executive order that directed them to do certain things for the judiciary .

The finacial autonomy is for both legislature and Judiciary .So indirectly what is affecting Judiciary is inadvertently affecting the legislature. But however the basic requirent in the bill is to kick start financial autonomy has been met by the state governments . The State government has signed into law the Kogi State House of Assembly Service Commission this is one of the requirement. To be finacially autonomous you must have a your State Assembly Commission . The members of this commission have been working in the last one year .Another thing is that of management bill which the second leg the governor has equally signed into law. Any moment from now we pray that the court issues would soon be adjudicated upon and we will know exactly where we are going. That is position of finacial autonomy for now

The road leading to Kogi State House of Assembly is in bad shape .What is the Assembly doing to ensure this road is fixed appropriately?

On the issue of road , the appropriation of fund is done by the House of Assembly while fund appropriated is left in the hands of the executive arm of government. The House of Assembly members do not have the power to go and help executive
to approptiate fund for projects It is not only me or other members that pass through the road , I believe that the priority of the state government now is to start rehabilitation Lokoja township roads . What we can do is to ensure that the road is in the budget , but if you say since five years ago, I was not in office then, that means my predeccessor could not do exactly what I can not do .No legisture will tell the executive that this is what you must do , we can only lobby them to do it , but you know that after approving, the budget is passed into law to execute the budget it is purely in the hands of the executive .On the issue of mobility , in the last one year we have been facing a lot of troubles particularly in the area of COVID-19 pandemic which really bastadized the Nigerian economy . That must have affected us .But I want to assure you that we are going to have our cars this year by God’s grace.

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The presidency has granted us finacial autonomy. The implementation committee has been set up. In Kogi State, the executive arm of government is operating what we call finacial autonomy because the allocation they give us at end of the month is coming , but it is not like it is a total autonomy that you will say this is what we have in the account for projects and you look at the money on pro rata basis .The truth of the matter is that it is a collective issue in the nation. The President has approved by signing it into law , the finacial autonomy came and went ahead to issue executive order , but the executive order iasued by the President did not go down well with governors and governors went to court to challenge aubsection of the executive order that directed them to do certain things