The National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Yahaya Bello, on Friday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa. At the end of the meeting, the two visitors spoke with State House correspondents on the purpose of the meeting and the coming Kogi governorship election.
What did you discuss with the president?
Oshiomhole: As you are aware, last week on the 29th of August we conducted transparent primaries in Kogi State and at the end, Governor Yahaya Bello was overwhelmingly nominated. Out of a delegation of 3,300, he scored 3,012 votes.
What I have done is that, even though he is a sitting governor, is to formally inform the president and represent him to the president as our candidate in the coming election in Kogi that is scheduled for 16th of November.
I think what is remarkable is that it was free and peaceful. We also commend Governor Badiru of Jigawa State, who was the chairman of the panel that handled the election. We also decided for the governor to chair the panel because you know in Nigeria, once you lose something, people look for allegation to make.
So, this was a process that was transparent, nobody can say the governor was influenced or induced, we are very proud of the leadership he provided in the exercise and it went very smoothly.
When you compare that excise to the one done by the PDP a few days back in Kogi State, you will appreciate why we are very happy and excited that our own process went smoothly.
Like we say in a democracy, it is the process that matters more than the outcome. If the process is right, there will be a sense of ownership of the outcome.
The president was very excited that we conducted a free and fair primary in Kogi State and my dear friend and brother emerged the winner and we are now preparing for the conduct of the election in Kogi God willing on November 16th.
Q: What are you doing to reconcile those agrieved with the governor in the party?
Oshiomhole: Well, we did a lot yesterday (Thursday). We invited all those who participated in the primaries or who expressed interest, about 16 of them, including the winner, Governor Yahaya Bello. We talked on all the issues and reminded ourselves that even if you have 16 angels on parade, only one of them will win. That does not mean the rest of them are not responsible or are not capable, it just means that the system can only produce one person for the office at any point in time. They all spoke their minds and they all pledged to work for the party and to ensure that victory is ours. Because think about it, no matter your disappointment, it is still better that it is your party man that is the governor than for the opposition being the governor of your state. I was very happy with the maturity and sense of commitment exhibited by all those who participated.
We have also agreed with Mr President at a later date to bring those aspirants for him to appreciate them for showing interest in our party. I mean, even showing interest alone implies a vote of confidence in the party. They could have decided to go and contest on another platform. So for choosing to offer themselves on the platform of the APC, for me, is a vote of confidence and we also need to appreciate them.
Q: How ready are you for the election?
Oshiomhole: How ready can we be? You can see the governor, when people say not too young to run, he didn’t wait for the law to be amended before he ran and won. Part of the job has already been done. In approaching the primaries, we had to go round the state to campaign. Although that campaign is limited to party members, in truth it is actually a national campaign.
Looking at the issues he inherited in Kogi State, especially non-payment of salaries, yesterday (Thursday), he was able to announce that even the salary of August had been paid before the 29th of August. He said he had paid August salaries. Find out how many governors have done same. That I can confirm as a labour ambassador.
That means that the arrears left behind by his two predecessors, he has cleared them along with pension, even at a time of huge financial challenges. So I believe he has acquitted himself because like every first-time governor, there must be things in his heart he will like to pursue. I think for the people of Kogi State, rather than try to experiment with new hands, they say a bird at hand is worth two in the bush.
I think Governor Bello has shown that he has capacity and going forward he would have learnt a couple of lessons in his first term. I have passed through that process and I know that your second term is always the time you want to do those legacy projects you will like to be remembered for. Because the only benefits in this business is that when I leave, what would I be remembered for? The things that will drive Governor Yahaya Bello’s second term is what will be at the heart of our campaign.
We have also seen the candidate nominated by the PDP, we want to make sure when we go to the field of play, Kogi people will have no problems voting for our candidate in Kogi State as their preferred candidate.
Q: So are you saying the PDP candidate will be a walkover?
Oshiomhole: We don’t want to talk about walkover. These use of words are unhelpful. We are in a democracy, we believe we will defeat him, we are not going to walk over him. We will contest with him and we will defeat him clearly and squarely.
Yahaya Bello: I prepared for this election before the 2019 General Elections
Q: How prepared are you for the election, Governor Bello?
Bello: As regards level of preparedness, I am not just preparing now, I have been ready for this election even before the last general election that produced Mr President, the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly. So, we are well prepared for the election. As for victory, I think by the grace of God it is assured.
Like the chairman has said, we are not going to take anything for granted. Whether the candidate of the opposition party is strong or not, we will approach the election with all amount of seriousness and ensure that it is conducted freely and fairly and we will become victorious by the grace of God. On November 17th we will be announced the winner.
Q: The PDP accused you of an attempt to scuttle their primaries, how do you react to that?
Bello: If you monitor all their activity of the PDP in Kogi State, the ones I know of right from the award congresses to the local government congresses, to the state congresses, it has always been marred or characterised by violence, guns, maiming of each other and all kinds of attacks.
So the outcome of that of the last primaries they conducted shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. We have a larger number of delegates in Kogi State. We started our exercise early enough and finished early enough in peace. I am not a member of PDP, I wouldn’t go in there and conduct it for them.
So it is their character, it is their stock in trade and that is what they are known for and so they should rather look inward rather than pointing accusing fingers outside. You see, when you have cancer and you don’t treat it but rather you are treating malaria, you will never get rid of cancer. So that the problem the PDP has, they have cancer and should treat the cancer and shouldn’t look outside.
Q: What message are you taking to the Kogi electorate for the next four years?
Bello: The citizens of Kogi State have actually seen my performance against the performance of previous PDP governors. In less than three and a half years, they have seen all my wonderful performances. In fact, starting with even the issue of salaries, it’s just that all along, I have chosen not to speak about the issue of salary because it is a problem I inherited. And in any case, governance is continuum, you inherit both assets and liabilities. When you inherit assets, you make use of it, when you inherit liabilities or trouble you try to solve it, you don’t complain about it. So I refused to make comment about the issue of salaries.
As a matter of fact, the issues of salaries arrears I have already accepted by my immediate predecessor he inherited from Ibro’s administration. These past two PDP governors couldn’t solve it, I have come to solve it. That already is a kudos to this administration that the people of Kogi State should vote for us.
On infrastructure, every local government in Kogi is dotted with various infrastructural development. The people of Kogi State have spoken before in the last general election, they will speak again.
Lastly, if you look at Kogi State in the past, if you are a traveller you will hold your breath. The inhabitants as early as 6:30 a.m they will only manage to pray their morning prayer and in the evening they will manage to pray their evening prayer and go to bed. But today, even along the streets of Kogi you will see people jogging, exercise, nightlife is back as a result of improved security situation in the state today.
Kogi State is the second safest state in Nigeria today, I didn’t say it. We have various bodies that rate the performance of various government and administration, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the rest of them, they said it. So if you look at it, we have performed so wonderfully that the people of Kogi State are eager that 16th November should come and let them speak with their votes and I know they will speak very well and re-elect me, the APC and we shall become victorious.
Q: Are you going to carry along the labour leaders, especially the union leaders you proscribed before now?
Bello: Well, it is not a battle we are going into, we are going into a contest, one I know is going to be free and fair and I am going to win that election by the grace of God. The APC under the leadership of the national chairman, we are going to campaign vigorously well and we shall become victorious.
The people who had decided to become rebellious to bring down the institution of higher learning at a certain point in time have today seen the benefits of telling them to please give peace a chance. They have given peace a chance and you can see the last strike, Kogi State didn’t go on strike, we have very stable educational calendar in Kogi State.
As per all the labour leaders in Kogi State, we are moving on harmoniously, you can confirm from the various chapters. If not because they are not politicians, labour leaders would have taken the forefront to campaign for my re-election.
Every local government area in Kogi State is dotted with various infrastructural developments.