Abubakar Ibrahim, son of former Kogi State Governor Idris Ibrahim, is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant. In this interview with Assistant Editor GBADE OGUNWALE, he speaks on his ambition, chances at the primary and the push for power shift in the Northcentral State.
Why do you want to be governor of Kogi State?
It’s borne out of the passion to serve my people. You know that I come from a political family. It also dates back to yesteryears where I saw the effort of the then governments trying to solve people’s problems and at the same time to improve the quality of lives and living standard. That, coupled with the passion to serve my people and my conviction that I have what it takes to serve my people and serve them well.
What would you do differently from what the governor is doing right now?
It’s not news that Kogi has witnessed so much human and infrastructural decay. Looking at it critically, healthcare, education, infrastructure, workers welfare and pensions have almost gone comatose to the point that our one and only university has become a glorified secondary school. Our healthcare system is practically non existent. Almost all our doctors have left. Our parents, brothers and sisters in the civil service are being owed salaries and pensions of many months. Looking at all these multifaceted problems, I will be coming in to rectify and make things better than they presently are.
What measures would you put in place to address insecurity, if you eventually get elected?
All these things are being promoted by what we call a government in the state right now. The question we should ask ourselves is how did things degenerate to this level. Something must have prompted it.
What prompted it?
Imagine a situation where you are not paid your salaries for months and you have to provide for your family, pay your children’s school fees. Probably you have children in the university and secondary school that have to be taken care of. Then, you have energetic youth with a lot of energy that is not being deployed in the right direction. He suddenly finds an AK 47 rifle in his hands. Isn’t that a recipe for disaster?
But, this problem appears to have eaten deep down the fabric of the society. Would tackling it not be a daunting task for anyone?
It’s going to be a Herculean task, make no mistake about it. But the question is, will you allow the situation to continue to degenerate? No. You must find a way to check it. What are the stop blocks? Encourage small and medium scale businesses to grow. You encourage the youths to drop the firearms and pick up the hoe. You have got to encourage them to go to the farms. You have to create job opportunities and set up vocational training centres that can train the youths in technology, farming, mining and vocational trades. There will be opportunities for them to make legitimate living.
Where will the funding come from?
When you talk about resources, the idea in mind is to encourage investors to come in. Every investor wants tax benefits, tax holiday, tax reductions and incentives. You provide investors with these incentives and tell them to employ our youths in return. That’s how they will get their incentives. So, the number of youths they employ will cut down their taxes. But that does not in any way stop you from getting your internally generated revenue. The more the investors come in, the better for all. The little drops increase your internally generated revenue. You give the investors tax incentives and rather than pay you, the governor, he employs your youths. So even before the youths are employed, there is value attached. In simple terms, it’s like the NYSC scheme. The NYSC employs the youths and pays them. This takes them off the streets, they have work to do. On this side, the investor is having tax incentive. On the other side, the youths are happy because they wake up in the morning and go to work. This brings food on the table. On the other side, the government is happy because the investor has taken some of our youths off the streets and we are still getting some revenue.
You talk about investments. What sectors do you have in mind?
I am an agriculturist, a farmer. Kogi has vast arable land and numerous mineral resources. In Kogi, one of the first cash crops that comes to mind is cashew nut. It may interest you that last year, over $100 million worth of cashew nuts left the shores of this country and 70 percent of that came from Kogi State. So literally, $70 million worth of cashew came from Kogi. What obtains presently is that the middleman comes, buys off the nuts, pays the farmer and he walks away. But we intend to add value and once you add value to that crop, you have increased the price of that crop. But most importantly, you have created labour. You create a value chain and you have not only increased the revenue of the farmer but you have also increased the workforce and the value of the crop. For cashew, it may interest you to know that the washing and the sorting of the nuts are being done in Ghanan. It’s not done in Nigeria. They take the nuts from here to Ghana for washing and sorting. Washing alone creates labour, sorting the nuts alone provides labour. After sorting, the nuts are graded depending on quality. The price of premium nut is higher than others. What I would do is to bring in the investor and tell him that I don’t only want the nuts to be washed and sorted here but also to be processed here. Now bring in your processing plant and we give you tax holiday on the condition that you employ our youths. By employing our youths, he is taking them off the streets, he is processing it here and selling at higher premium.
Let me take you to past and present. Older men, including your own father, had been governor in Kogi and the state was relatively peaceful during their tenures. But now we have a youth, someone of your generation as governor and peace has continued to elude the state. Is this not an indictment on your generation or is it about the individual?
It’s more about the individual. When you look at it criticality, it was not as if he was ready for election. The unexpected happened along the line and the rest is history. You can’t blame the youth population for the shortcomings of one person. There are thousands of youths out there who can do far better, if given the opportunity. We cannot all be the same so we should not be tarred with the same brush. There is a great deal of potential in the youth waiting to be tapped.
What gives you the impression that you can defeatyour opponents?
I am a very good student and I have studied the politics of my state. I have been with foremost politicians for some years. I come from a political family so I have learnt a lot from them. I have also been in business that will be of immense advantage.
If your party, the PDP conducts a free, fair and credible primary election and another aspirant emerges the winner, would you support the winner or would you rather seek another platform to pursue your aspiration?
I will definitely support whoever wins the primaries. It’s not about me. It’s about our state. It’s about our people. If someone better picks the ticket so be it. It’s not a do or die thing. That is the misconception some people have. It’s for the best man to win.
Are you not worried by the violence in the state?
Yes, I should be worried because this is not the usual. But I am not afraid. Abducting and intimidating political opponents is to me, cowardly. If you are sure of yourself, you will not be intimidating your political opponents. You should know that the PDP is not behind these abductions. One thing most people tend to forget is that God has already chosen who is going to be the governor even before the election and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Nobody can change that. And if you know that there is nothing anyone can do to change it, then why bother yourself. You can’t change destiny because it’s God’s ruling.