Honorable James Faleke, the running mate to late APC governorship aspirant Prince Abubakar Audu, has been advised to embrace peace and put the state first ahead of his political aspiration in the interest of development.
In an exclusive interview with SavidNews’ managing Editor Samuel Ahmadu, the director general on media to the governor of the state, Kingsley Fanwo said this while responding to sundry issues including governance, post election crisis and inter-party wranglings as well as sports.
SavidNews: Kogi State has been in the news of recent for the wrong reasons and most recently issues pertaining to the food poisoning brewing tribal war. What is the cause and intervention taken to stem the erupting crisis?
KINGSLEY FANWO: The food poisoning incident is quite unfortunate and pathetic. It could happen anywhere. Our hearts go to the bereaved families. The Governor has sent his condolences and the Ministry of Health has swung into action to find out the cause as well as avert future occurrence. The State Government is on top of the situation.
SavidNews: Any latest situation report from the ministry?
KINGSLEY FANWO: The [Health] Ministry is still investigating the incident. The [Health] Commissioner led a team of experts to Adavi yesterday [Wednesday]. Samples of the flour have been collected and I want to assure that we shall get to the root of it.
SavidNews: How will you describe the current blurring relationship between the executive and legislative in the state, especially with suggestions that the governor is trying manipulate the House of Assembly with reference to the handling of the suspension of administrators?
FANWO: The Governor is having a wonderful relationship with members of the State House of Assembly. The legislature is independent of the executive and Governor Yahaya Bello is a man who has iron-cast respect for the rule of law and separation of powers. He didn’t interfere. The affected Administrators appeared before the respected House of Assembly after which resolutions were passed.
SavidNews: Several quarters still feel the quick response of his media team over the Assembly decision was totally unnecessary and undermines legislative autonomy in a new direction, how will you react?
FANWO: Media has many faces. The role of government media apparatus is quite different from that of the reporting media houses. Immediately the suspension was announced, the Governor’s Media Team got wind of a clandestine plan by some youth to stage a protest against the House in Lokoja. That wouldn’t have been too good for our image and could even be hijacked by hoodlums to disrupt the peace we enjoy in the State. We needed to react to douse the rising tension and calm nerves. We didn’t do that to undermine the independence of the legislature or to impede their functions. The Governor respects the State House of Assembly.
SavidNews: Eight months on, can you say Governor Yahaya Bello is performing well, if yes share with us some visible untold reasons?
FANWO: Governor Yahaya Bello has blazed the trail of governance in Kogi State. The Staff Verification Exercise may turn out to become one of the highlands of his era. He has been able to cut our waste on ghost workers and unintended beneficiaries. Two, we now have water everywhere in Lokoja due to his intervention. Three, more than 40 water projects are ongoing across the state. This is epochal. Also, we have massive road projects going on across the three Senatorial Districts in the State. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has brought sanity to our environment, we have a cleaner Lokoja and sustainable environmental sanitation programs. The State Government has granted autonomy to the Local Government Councils and the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs has been able to resolve quite a number of high profile limitations on Chieftaincy affairs out of court. This has ensured peace. In the area of agriculture, massive investments are ongoing in the sector in order for it to be the pathfinder for economic renaissance. Before the advent of this administration, insecurity was rife. But today, the Governor invested massively on ensuring security through the Operation Total Freedom and Kogi State is becoming free gradually. We successfully hosted The Chief Justice Games in Lokoja and our Kogi United and Confluence Queens Football Clubs are having the best of times with sign on fees cleared, allowances paid and new buses donated. Lokoja street lights are coming back gradually and our zero-pothole program on Lokoja roads is gradually yielding fruits. The Governor has approved the Fair Health Scheme that will make healthcare affordable to the poor. The Board of Internal Revenue has been granted a corporate status for more efficiency. Today, we are generating more revenue. We can go on and on. Meanwhile, we are still within our first year in office.
SavidNews: How will you react to insinuations that the governor is mismanaging the state funds and struggling to meet basic obligations, especially on salary payment?
FANWO: I won’t blame those who say that. Ignorance is the reason for their action. No Governor has been as transparent as Governor Yahaya Bello in the history of Kogi State. He ensures that due process is followed strictly. Financial discipline is the hallmark of his administration. Frivolous foreign trips have been banned because the Governor said the resources of the State is meant for the people and not for a few in Government. The verification exercise has been responsible for the slight delay in salary payment. The Governor wants to be sure he is paying genuine workers. The issue of economic recession is also there. But by and large, Governor Bello is transparent. Contracts are not influenced. Allegations of corruption are thoroughly investigated. Programs are thoroughly debated in State Executive Council meetings. He is a standard for good governance and transparency.
SavidNews: Don’t you think the growing worries that several workers still failing to access their entitlement for months under governor Yahaya Bello is a bad publicity for his administration?
FANWO: I do not think so. The people know the facts. They know what 1.4 billion wasted on ghost workers and unintended beneficiaries can do to give them water and roads. They know they have been shortchanged in the past. Even the workers know that when the weeds are removed, they will blossom. That is not to say government is not aware of the hardship. We do. We appreciate the patience of the workers. We will be there soon. But generally, the people of Kogi State are happy with this administration.
SavidNews: What effort is the state governor putting in place to engage and make peace with the State leadership of the APC to mend fence seeing recent foist relations greeting the fallout of the governorship election and supreme court verdict?
FANWO: Governor Yahaya Bello has no problem with the leadership of the APC in the State. Maybe some of them are not comfortable with the fact that he is Governor. That is a complex one. He won’t stop being Governor to make them happy. Efforts are ongoing to work with the party leaders that are in tandem with the dream of the Governor to develop Kogi State. The litigations have been determined. It is time they accepted the reality and join hands with the Governor if they truly want the State to move forward. I learnt some of them said their loyalty is to Audu/Faleke. Today, the State is not under the leadership of Audu/Faleke but Alh Yahaya Bello. Faleke is representing Ikeja Constituency in the House of Representatives. I just cannot put all of these together. I think they need to rethink and come back home. We want everyone to support the administration to succeed.
SavidNews: Seeing the recent political development in the state, many are of the view that a minor cabinet reshuffle is needed to accommodate the aggrieved parties and also bring on board technocrats in replacing those found wanting so far?
FANWO: The Governor has the prerogative of taking such decisions. So far, he has not said anyone is found wanting. I also know we have a lot of technocrats in this cabinet. Governance has been smooth sailing in the State. Are the aggrieved parties looking for accommodation? We need to know first. Faleke took Governor Bello to court, up to Supreme Court. He should also be the one to step forward, embrace reality and show his love for Kogi State. Carpeting party leaders and inciting his supporters to stand against the government will not help the peace we all crave in our dear State. He went to court because he believes in the rule of law, not because he wants the law to gift him victory. All the judges from the lower tribunal to Supreme Court told him the same thing. It is time to think Kogi.
SavidNews: How much impact is the governor making in other sectors with his new direction policies, especially with improving the state IGR, building infrastructures and improving healthcare delivery?
FANWO: I have said it before that the Governor is currently rehabilitating roads across the State. He is also addressing the infrastructural deficit in the State. Approval has been given for the rehabilitation of many health institutions in the State and also, health training institutes. The Fair Health Scheme has also been approved to drastically drag down the cost of healthcare in the State. Governor Yahaya Bello wants the poor to have access to quality healthcare. On IGR, government is making a big impact. We now generate more revenue because of the way the new BIR Board has injected dynamism and transparency in the process of revenue generation. This government is striving hard to make Kogi one of the best in the country.
SavidNews: What are his strategies and programs to efficiently and industrially engage, empower and promote the potentials of our youth in the state?
FANWO: The Governor is committed to youth empowerment. He has said it several times that his administration will be pro-youth and he has lived up to his promise. He is exploring agriculture, mining and tourism as the keys to unlocking the potentials of the youth for the development of the State. Also, industrialization has been a major part of the present administration’s New Direction Agenda. We are already leaping into becoming an industrial giant. Many investors are coming into the State. This will create jobs for our teeming youth across the State. The present administration is also investing heavily on education as the best empowerment of human mind. Governor Bello will make the youth proud of his achievements as their ambassador in governance.
SavidNews: Despite the inactivity of the sports ministry, how can you convince the stakeholders that governor Bello have the interest of sports and talent development at heart?
FANWO: I do not agree that the Ministry is weak. The Commissioner For Youth and Sports, Hon. Adoji Arome is one of the shinning hopes of this administration. Under his leadership, the sporting clubs of the State has been excelling. Under his leadership, we hosted the CJN GAMES successfully. Under his watch, we have won many national and international tournaments. We are on track. The present administration is greatly committed to sports development.
SavidNews: Finally, their are suggestions for the reconvening of a sports summit which was last held in 2004 to chat a way forward for sports development in the state, your view?
FANWO: I am aware the Ministry of Youth and Sports is already working along those lines. However, stakeholders in sports are enjoined to collaborate with the Ministry to make the programs see the light of the day. We are a big sporting goldmine and we should be a major player in the sporting world. Together, we shall make the New Direction Blueprint on sports a huge success.
SavidNews: Thanks very much for your time, Sir.
FANWO: You are welcome.