Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
Alhaji Mohammed Shaibu, an entrepreneur, is one of the aspirants who has signified intention to contest the Kogi State governorship on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The election is slated for November 2.
He speaks on his aspiration and the myriad of challenges in the state.
Why do you want to be the governor of Kogi State?
I want to be the governor of Kogi State because of the precarious situation in which the state has found itself in the recent past. Things have completely fallen apart as a result of leadership failure; otherwise the state is naturally endowed in human capital and other resources. Besides that, the state is endowed with good topography whose fertility is second to none in the country. In terms of mineral resources, as at the last count, not less than 36 were identified in commercial quantities. Beside all these, the state is strategically located within nine other states. This is supposed to be a greater advantage in terms of commerce, which makes it a gateway to many parts of the country. Unfortunately, no one seems to realise these opportunities that are lying unleveraged. Therefore, when I realised that I have the capacity to put thing together and move the state forward, I decided to throw my hat into the ring.
What in your opinion is the reason the state has failed to takes its place among other states in Nigeria in terms of development?
Like I said earlier, it is simply failed leadership. We had prominent leaders like the late Prince Abubakar Audu who tried in terms of developing the new state he inherited. Ibrahim Idris came and did what he could do with the resources available to him, so also was Captain Ibrahim Wada. You can agree that despite their efforts, there are still inadequacies here and there in terms of development and a viable future for the state. This is because there is no blueprint that can systematically be followed to grow the state. The time has come for the state to have a blueprint that will project into the future and make out a new Kogi. For instance, there has not been any economic summit in the last four years, so what blueprint is the government following to develop the state? In Kaduna for instance, they have had four already and are about having the fifth one. Presently, we don’t have that in Kogi and it’s a major set- back.
To what extent are the tourism potentials of Kogi State unharnessed despite its proximity to Abuja?
The opportunities nature presents to Kogi State are not harnessed at all, for example, the state has the advantage of location like I said before but no one looks in that direction. Besides that, the popular Mount Patti in Lokoja is under-utilised. That mountain is even higher than the one in Edo State that Oshiomhole developed into a tourism site for the state. In Cross River State, the Obudu Cattle Ranch is also equivalent of Mount Patti but ours is unharnessed. At best, Mount Patti is only used for aerobics by people on weekends. No foresight to turn it into a tourist site. Many thanks to the late Audu who opened up the place many years ago, unfortunately nothing has been done there again since he left. Do we need to talk about the abandoned Confluence Beach that was cynosure when it was functional? Today, it is overgrown with weeds. The point of convergence of the two big rivers in Nigeria is another tourism spot, unfortunately successive leaders have not realised that. If all of these and many more are considered, Kogi would be a one stop shop for every tourism activity outside Abuja in terms of relaxation and recreation. But because the government does not have this blueprint, no one even talks about the possibility of an airport in the state.
What do you think should be done to curb the menace of thuggery and kidnapping in the state?
Many of our youths are restless because of unemployment even though many of them are educated. They sponsored themselves through schools and expect to be gainfully employed thereafter, but there are no jobs anywhere for them. Many years after leaving schools, some of them don’t have the opportunity to creatively use their knowledge for sustenance. And because there is a saying that ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,’ some of them turn to criminalities just to survive. This is, however, not a justification for any form of crime anyway. There is a need to create job opportunities for them. This can be done through what I call commercial communities development initiatives with a population of about 5,000 people. Here, you allow commercial activities to move seamlessly through the enablers. These are in terms of the necessary infrastructure that can aid businesses. Through that, all these menace would be eliminated, at least minimally.
To what extent are you on ground in Kogi State?
To start with, I was born in Kogi State and grew up in the state. Apart from that, in the last few years of my work with the Nigeria Brewery Limited as regional manager in charge of Abuja and parts of the North, I have traversed the length and breadth of the state. As it is, there is no part of the state I have not visited. To that extent, I know much of the state. More importantly, when I made up my mind to submit myself for the leadership position of the state, I took special study of the strength of the various parts of the state in terms of their weaknesses and strengths. I know exactly what to do in each local government when elected. It’s something that should not be disclosed right now but the blueprint is already set.
Have you taken into consideration the fact that people from your ethnic group had ruled the state since its creation, and as such others may want to oppose your aspiration?
I have always believed that what is required is good leadership. And good leadership is not domiciled in any particular ethnic group. Any part of the state where we can get leaders genuinely committed to the development of the state should be encouraged to do so. If the present scenario in the state is much better, I and others would not have thrown our hats into the ring. The present crop of leadership has not done anything to guarantee confidence in the people. On a daily basis, we witness deterioration in every sector. That is not good for the state.
My appeal for the people of the state is that they should jettison sectional agenda and put the overall interest of the state at heart. The ultimate for us should be a credible leader that understands that the entire Kogi State is his constituency.