Onogwu Muhammed
Onogwu Muhammed

Kogi State is more secured under Yahaya Bello – CPS Muhammed

NEWS DIGEST – Mr Onogwu Muhammed is the charismatic, brilliant and articulate Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi. In this exclusive interview with the News Digest, Onogwu spoke on issues bordering on the 2019 elections, challenges of governance and controversies surrounding the APC-led administration in the ‘Confluence State’.

News Digest: How has the journey been for your Principal as Kogi Governor in the past four years?

CPS: Indeed, it has been tough for the Governor and good for the people of Kogi State.

The governor has been able to make sacrifices to ensure that the people of the state get the benefit they deserve from the government.

Let me start from security angle; before the advent of this government, Kogi state was known as the hotbed for the crisis, crime and criminalities. Before the coming of this Administration precisely 2014, Boko Haram migrated from the North-Eastern part of the nation down to Okene to establish an academy where they were producing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

This same Okene, the Central part of Kogi state in 2014, some Christians who dressed up to go to church to worship their God fell into the hands of the criminals/armed men who invaded the church and killed not 10, 15 but 19 of innocent worshipers and injured over 50 persons. Under the last administration, There was no day the state did not record cases of kidnapping, it became worse that a serving commissioner under the PDP administration was kidnapped in his farm at Osara in Adavi Local Government Area of the State. Honourable Stephen Mayaki was the commissioner for urban development as at then.

In the same 2014, there was one paramount ruler; Chief Isah Edime, a prominent Igala son who has mentored hundreds of journalists in broadcast journalism then Edime attracted development to Kogi State and Igalaland in particular notably, he brought radio station to the entire Igala Kingdom. Chie Isah Edime was the paramount ruler of Ojikpadala in Dekina Local Government Area, he was gruesomely murdered in his palace in the presence of his wife and children. on the same day, a vigilante head in a nearby community Egume was also murdered and just other incidences of killing in the state then, no arrest was made. So, criminalities became common where no one irrespective his/her status was not safe under the PDP administration in the state.

If people are free to choose they will choose peace. so the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello has been able to ensure that every citizen and residents in Kogi state should be able to sleep with his 2 eyes closed because the government in power is the government of the people and one of the basic eudemonia of democratic government is to provide security of life and property and that is what the government of the day is doing.

This government has done a lot in that area and he has gotten accolades for it even from the top hierarchy of security agencies in the country. For example, the former Inspector General of Police gave conferred an award of excellence on Governor Bello as best performing governor in terms of security. Are talking about the ones he has received from the Navy, Army, Civil Defence and even the Road safety who knew the security situation of the state before his coming on board as governor?.

Today, Kogi is the second safest states in Nigeria. The government of Yahaya Bello has reduced kidnapping cases from the staggering 20-25 per month before his emergence to an infinitesimal level today with months without any case of kidnapping. Bank robbery was recurrent decimal in the past, from the commercial city of Anyigba to Ankpa, Dekina, Okene, Kabba, Egbe, and even Lokoja, the state capital, it was tails of bank robbery at one time or the other but since the coming of this administration, we have heard of such ugly incidence again. If you want to believe what I am saying as an ordinary person and you want to take a tour around the nation from Abuja here, take a car and travel to Kogi state or take your car and travel up to the far North and to pass through the Abuja-Kaduna road, so, the government has done a lot to ensure that the people of Kogi state are safe and this cost a lot of money.

It cost a lot of money that has to go beyond the security vote accrue to the governor. A large amount of state’s fund has been used in providing needed security for the people. The government has been consistent in maintaining security in Kogi through perfect and workable synergy with security agencies in the state through the provision of logistics, improved allowances for security personnel and so on. This administration has procured over 155 Patrol vehicles and distributed to various security agencies in the state to aid their operations, over four thousand motorcycles were also provided for six thousand vigilante members recruited to provide information for the mainstream security agencies in the state. in addition to these, the allowances of the security personnel that are serving in the state have been constantly maintained by the administration. In other to boost information coverage and Intelligence gathering, the administration of His Excellency, Yahaya Bello went as far as putting in place what we called whistleblowing police on criminal elements in the state for people who have information about criminals or kidnappers/thugs or know their hideouts to give useful information to the police and get paid. This policy has helped the government in stamping criminal elements in the state.

The governor’s security approach has yielded a huge result. In 2017 for example, the governor took the fight against criminals to his home town; Okene, where kidnapping kingpins and armed robbers were arrested with proceeds from their ill-gotten businesses including houses and vehicles, were destroyed in broad daylight.

He took the same battle against the men of the underworld to the Eastern senatorial districts where criminals were also smoked out from their aboard and their property destroyed. So, no administration restored peace to the people of Kogi State as the current administration of Yahaya Bello. The people are testifying. The traditional rulers can stay at their palaces and administer their constituencies without fear of kidnap or assassination today.

In Agriculture for example; in the history of Kogi state, no administration had to exploit our agricultural potentials, harnessing our arable land like the current administration. But today as I am talking to you the state governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello keyed into the agricultural revolution of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari and has turned the state to a food basket. Kogi is the leading producer of cashew nut, second largest producer of cassava and one of the leading rice producers in Nigeria. This administration has encouraged young men and women to embrace agriculture through the allocation of agricultural land, provision of farm inputs, improved seedlings and cassava stems, and incentives to young farmers. Over 86 tractors, harvesters, planters and other farm implements have been procured and made available to farmers in the state.

The state government, under the leadership of his Excellency Yahaya Bello has built a brand new Rice Processing mill that has the capacity of recruiting 6,000 workers at Ejiba, Yagba West Local Government Area today.

The rice milling plant is a 50 ton per day capacity with an 80 tons parboiling capacity. However, the 50-ton process can be completed in 8 hours, which means when put to maximum capacity the plant can easily run 3000 tons per month and 36,000 tons per year. This is equivalent to the production of 720,00 50kg rice bags per year.

The rice milling process will not only produce finished international standard quality rice but also the following by-products.

Rice bran is part of the products used in making fish feed. We plan to set up a mini fish feed processing plant for community empowerment, which will generate up to 100 direct and indirect jobs.

Rice husk which will be used as 100% fuel to power the 500 kWh biomass generation plant. This will drastically reduce operation cost as the factory will not be buying fuel to power the plant.

We have 800 hectares nucleus rice farm that feeds the processing plant is also there, the 800 hectares produces around 3200 tons of paddy yearly, the processing plant will consume the 3,200 tons in just a month. The company will purchase paddy from local farmers and also increase the capacity of its nucleus farm to meet up with the rice milling plant production capacity per year. This will not only increase rice cultivation in the state, but farmers will also make more money because there is the existence of the market already.

Through the out-grower empowerment, the Rice Mill can generate over 5000 indirect jobs last year alone, the Rice Mill empowered 150 local farmers through the office of Her Excellency the Wife of the Executive Governor of Kogi State. So, this is what any government thinking of food sustainability and curbing unemployment should be doing.

If you go to other sectors like infrastructure, as I am talking to you we have nothing less than 10 roads that are going on in Kogi state and have completed not less than 6 roads. These roads are very strategic to the economic and social development including the image of our state.

There is a very long road that cut across Igala land Umomi-Akpagidigbo-Ugwolawo-Ajaka_Idah road. That road is the longest in Kogi East but had been in deplorable condition. In 2012, when the late Ata Igala, Dr Aliyu Obaje died, the Obi of Onitsha pass through that road to Idah to honour invitation for the burial of Igala most revered monarch. At the burial, he sounded it that the people and leadership of Kogi state must do everything humanly possible to give this road a facelift but nothing was done until Yahaya Bello came on board. As I am talking to you now, work is ongoing on that road.

Ankpa is one of the largest communities in Kogi state. On 15th July 2014, the former governor of the state Captain Idris Wada went for the flag-off of Ankpa-Okpo Express Junction road and nothing was done on that road before the end of his administration. When Yahaya Bello visited Ankpa during the 3 days prayer for the repose of the late Ejeh of Ankpa, the people cried to him to consider rehabilitation of that road and being a man who keeps his word, that road has been rehabilitated today.

NewsDigest: Being the youngest governor in Nigeria, has the work been made easier or harder?

CPS: I can tell you categorically that my work has been easy for me because I have a principal who has a listening ear. If you understand his Excellency Alh yahaya Bello you don’t need anything to access him. He has an open-door policy and always on top of his game.

To be the CPS to the youngest governor in Nigeria is also historic on my side so, working with him has been very easy because I have been getting all assistance from him and he is there to assist me time after time day after day. It has been very easy for me.

Newsdigest: What has been your biggest challenge?

CPS: What I thought was my challenge in the past is not even a challenge because I have learnt a lot from my boss H. E Yahaya Bello who time after time gives me advice on the need to concentrate on how to push out our own stories and to listen to genuine complains of our people. The challenge was on how to manage the negative effect of social media on the kind of job that we are doing. It has been a challenge and I try to fine-tune my ways through which i push out government programs and activities devoid of any rancour.

When you go to social media, you read all sorts of stories which in many cases are fake and unfounded. People will want you to react to such stories as governor’s Chief Press Secretary but doing that in many cases will be like legitimizing fake news and social media nuisance. So, combating fake news and the negative effect of social media had been my challenge.

How are we going to defend fake news that is why we in Kogi state do not dwell on social media. The government concentrates on reaching out to the people in the grassroots and let the people feel the impact of the government. These are the people who his Excellency is working for and over 80% of them are in the social media.

NewsDigest: Many commentators believe that Kogi State, under GYB, should have performed better in terms of governance do you agree with them?

CPS: As far as I am concern the present administration has surpassed all the previous administration in terms of leadership and governance. Governance is all about providing security, providing infrastructure and I can assure you that this government has done excellently as far as the state is concerned.

No government can say this government has not performed based on fair judgment.

NewsDigest: Primary elections are over now with the governor securing the ticket. Was there any fear before that the governor might not get the ticket?

CPS: Not at all, we were not perturbed from the beginning to the day of election when HE Yahaya Bello came on board there was about 200,000 membership of APC he consolidated on that and build on it to over 500,000 membership apart from that, he has been able to sustain the leadership of the party till now.

In the history of Kogi state, every Chairman of the party in the 21 local government areas was motivated and given mobility a brand new car to enhance their movement and communication with the party members at their local government down to Ward levels. PROs of the party have mobility. There exist a perfect synergy between the leadership of the party and Alh. Yahaya Bello.

You cannot come and break in if you have been Diaspora just like those who came in to contest for the party ticket, they were not members of Kogi APC, many of them do not even know who are the Chairmen of their party in their various Wards. There was no iota of doubt that Yahaya was not going to win the ticket

NewsDigest: How are you preparing for the November election?

CPS: We have done our preparations perfectly and we will continue to do so because there are two (2) things you need to win election as a sitting governor or government in power 1. Strength of the party and 2 is the Leadership you have provided; are people in agreement with what you have done in the first term? Yes, in the case of his Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello

In the case of Yahaya Bello, he has achieved 100%. Prior to 2019 general elections, there was an outcry from people who never meant well for the state saying Yahaya Bello cannot deliver Kogi state for the President but what happened at the end of the day, he delivered Mr President, he delivered 3 senatorial districts one was stolen and we are reclaiming it in court.

He delivered 7 members of the house of representative lost 1 to PDP and 1 to Accord Party. He delivered 25 over 25 houses of Assembly members. In all these elections we have participated, opposition parties were also involved. When talking about structure/ party politics he has done excellently well. The people that came out to vote for our candidates in the last election are eagerly waiting to elect his Excellency Alh. Yahaya Bello

NewsDigest: How confident are you on winning the epic election?

CPS: I am 100% confident of victory in the forthcoming election. Who are we going to contest the election with?, is it the people who don’t know what Kogi politics entails or candidates who are not known to the people, or political party that doesn’t have a good antecedent. The people have jettisoned the idea of a party called PDP for example as far back as 2015.

NewsDigest: What should Kogi citizens expect in the next 4 years if Governor Bello is eventually re-elected?

CPS: His re-election is to consolidate on what he has achieved and I know Governor Yahaya Bello has a fantastic plan for the people of Kogi. Kogi people should expect bumper democratic harvest because we are going to do a lot. Our major challenge in the past was the issue of salary and with the help of the Federal Government, he has been able to secure bailout funds and has defrayed salary arrears so, we are good to go. For example, Salary was paid between 25-28 of August and the Governor has given a standing order that salary of Kogi Civil servants should be paid between that period every month.

When we can make more money we will open Kogi state to the world, the Industrial Revolution is already happening in Kogi because we have been able to make the state investors-friendly by tackling insecurity to a standstill. Different companies are coming to invest in Kogi as we speak, a lot of the citizens will be employed/engaged and series of things will happen in the state. IGR will increase and that is how to govern a state when the government is focused and futuristic.

NewsDigest : Can you say the governor has represented the youth constituency well, knowing that he is the youngest governor at the moment?

CPS: This is fantastic; it is a known fact even to the global community that Bello has represented the people well under his four years administration in terms of performance and youth inclusiveness. He is 44 years old and his cabinet is filled with people between ages 30-35. We have commissioners, S. A, Local Government administrators who are within this age brackets and are doing very well.

In terms of Youth inclusiveness, Gov. Bello has A1 and he is building on that. In the past in our state it is either you are a son of former political office holders or relations of former governors, you can be part of governance. Yahaya Bello has demystified such archaic and anachronistic practices and says no; sons of nobody who knows nobody in government but can contribute to the development of Kogi state should have a place to contribute to the development of our state.

NewsDigest: Gov. Bello was seen throwing money on the highway what do you have to say about this?

CPS: I trailed that story to the managerial level of the newspaper that carries that story and spoke to them that the story was very wrong. The incident happened at wazobia park Gwagwalada. What happened was caused by three things 1. Major motor park 2. The road along this axis is bad and 3 there is a U-turn at that point which contributes to gridlock. He did not throw money we have a large number of Kogi settlers around that area who always wave at the governor whenever he is passing across and you cannot stop the people from cheering their governor if they were pleased with him.

NewsDigest: How prepared is Kogi state to withstand the shock of bailout refund by FG?

CPS: We appreciate the FG for given bailout fund to us which had enabled us to defray salary arrears. There are a process and procedure of re-payment that was agreed upon before given out the bailout funds to states in the first instance and I know that the states and Federal governments will work the best way of re-payment.

NewsDigest: What is the reason behind GYB picking the Chief of Staff, Mr Edward Onoja, as his running mate?

CPS: Kogi is a mini Nigeria we are not against one family ruling the state what the people were against is the performance of the people at the helm of affairs of the state. They didn’t do well. Picking his Chief of Staff to be his running mate was a fantastic idea in the sense that in Kogi East it has never happened before in the history of the state that the governor will pick his Chief of Staff outside of his tribe.

He picked him because he has seen the passion in him, he has seen the commitment in him, desire to alleviate the suffering of his people and the genuineness to ensure that Kogi is on par with other leading state of the nation. He is a partner in progress. He is the most popular politician in that area today not because he is wielding power but because he is ideologically connected with the people there. He is constantly in touch with the people. He understands the plight of the masses.

NewsDigest: How ready is the governor to reconcile with aggrieved party members?

CPS: There is no ripple in Kogi APC today. The party’s leadership has called a round table meeting to discuss the way forward for the party and there have been meetings upon meetings to iron this out. So, the issue of Kogi APC been divided is a fictitious tale and baseless.