GUBER ELECTIONS: PDP IS IN FOR A SHOCKER IN KOGI - OCHOLI
In this interview with Vanguard, Ocholi bared his mind on Kogi politics, saying that the CPC was poised to salvage the state from the grips of bad governance unleashed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Excerpts: YOU are Igala, is it only Igala that can govern Kogi?
I am a proponent of power rotation. But you know politics is a game of numbers. If you have a segment that does not have the number to win, what they need to do in my view is to build bridges across their tribal enclave and go out of it to make friends and convince the other side.
They may not be able to convince everybody, but at least break into them to be able to have people from amongst them who will say we know this man, we trust him, if we give him this mandate, he will run this state very well. He won't jeopardise our interests.
Once that confidence is built, the easiest thing to do is to have the people of the East believe in you from the West or Central and speak to their people to market you. If you do not do that, you stay within the West and you know the disadvantage you have in terms of number, and you insist that you will make it, it will be difficult no matter how the elders come to speak.
But if you get yourself sowed into their hearts, although it takes time; it is a politics of working over a period of time getting yourself sowed into the hearts of the people. And I believed it will come.
How would you confront the ruling party?
The PDP, I can assure you will be in for a shocker. The ruling party is approaching this election in the belief that they have always won and so they will win again. That is the assumption. But things have changed. It is not the Kogi State of 2007.
The voting pattern then was, vote for the party, but the 2011 election of April changed from party to personality. That impacted on even the victory of President Goodluck.
There were some states like Lagos which ordinarily in the olden days of sentimental attachment to party, will give their votes to any other person. But look at Lagos; they gave it in bulk to PDP. Not necessarily because Lagos is PDP state, but because of Goodluck.
But when it came to governorship, almost the same quantum of votes went to Fashola which is ACN. In Kogi, a sitting member of the House of Reps, for instance Aro, Yagba Federal Constituency was on the platform of PDP, he had the support of the governor, but his people overturned him and brought in a novice who did not have money, clout or the structure on ground.
ACN did not win any seat in Kogi prior to that time, but they returned Bamusa Kamidi and he is currently in the House. In the same constituency within the same period, when they had another election, they threw away the same PDP man who was an incumbent House of Assembly member, brought in ANPP, Barrister Ojuola from the same constituency within a period of few weeks.
So they were not looking at the party, they were looking at the personality. That was the trend in Kogi West and Kogi Central. Buba Jibril who won on the platform of CPC from Kogi and Lokoja constituency was a PDP person. He left PDP primaries, in fact he did not contest the primaries because he saw what was coming.
He left and went to CPC and contested. PDP took the incumbent Chairman of Kogi local government at that time to contest with him. This same chairman had the local government money with him; his elder brother was the secretary to the state government of Kogi State.
With all the paraphernalia of government around them, they lost because of the personality of Buba. I am delighted to note that the trend of voting in Kogi State is shifting from party to personality and I believe that in the next two months, you will see the turn of events.
How do you plan to handle the problem of ethnicity in Kogi?
As it is, we are three Igalas that are from the three strongest parties in the state. The PDP guy is from Igala, Audu and I are also from Igala. The voting pattern like I told you before, in the last primaries of the PDP, they had about 700 to 800 delegates. See the way the voting pattern went.
The incumbent deputy governor had two votes. Somebody else had one vote and the winner of the race had 500 plus votes. The sensitivity of the people to election this time around makes me more comfortable than ever before. For me, I am comfortable going against the candidates of ACN and PDP.
Even ACN that claimed to have the benefit of ANPP merging with her earlier on, today from the news I am hearing, thet ANPP has a candidate. The hitherto total bulk votes from ANPP and ACN is now a myth because ANPP has insisted that they do not stand with the merger.
They have interim Exco running the state and they did their primaries and they have a candidate, according to them, which is going to run for the governorship election.
So for me, I am comfortable that Kogi West and Central will most likely decide this election assuming that I clear my side, in Kogi East where we have three constituencies.
These three constituencies are the ancient local governments we have always had. That is the Ida, Dekina and Ankpa. Our local politics has it that two of the constituencies have produced a governor before in the person of Audu Abubakar, and the current one in the person of Idris Ibrahim.
The only segment that has not yet produced is Dekina, my local government. The sentiments of our people I believe will go a long way to determine the voting pattern because even people from Ankpa that are very politically active, by that I mean Ankpa, Omala and Olamaboro, have endorsed the fact that the next governor should be from Dekina axis.
So if Dekina and Ankpa axes give me their bulk votes, I can assure you that I am going to pull votes from Ida. Do you have the financial muscles and structures to compete against the PDP and money bags like Prince Audu?
I have what the PDP and ACN candidates Prince Abubakar does not have. They may leverage on money but you will be shocked that some people can take the money and still vote against them. Why did Prince Abubakar lose in 2003? He had money, he was the sitting governor, and he had state apparatus in his hands.
In 2007, he had money, he brought all the money, he contested with Ibro, and he lost. In the rerun, he still did the same thing, he ran and he still lost. And I have told you a new dimension that has been added into Kogi politics.
In the last election, if you like find out, the gentle man in the House of Reps now from Iyagba Federal Constituency did not have a dime. Yet the PDP guy who was in the House and was seeking to return was loaded and the governor supported him with money, he still lost.
Look at Senator Smart, the governor did not want him to come. They fought against him from the primaries, did everything to make him lose, they sponsored a commissioner in Ibro's cabinet against him, but Smart won. Kogi is suffering bad administration and the people have resolved for a credible change. If you visit Kogi, you will feel it.
What is your vision for Kogi? I will bring accountability, honesty and integrity on board. These are virtues a man can possess and may not possess. Number two, I will bring on board vision of where Kogi is. There are some leaders who get to the office before they begin to think of what to do.
But we will come on board knowing what we want to do. And we will hit the ground running. Number three, Kogi is deficient in infrastructure. Majority of the road networks today are the ones we had in the days of Kwara State. Apart from Lokoja-Ajaokuta road which was newly done, in fact it was contracted for about seven years and was completed a few months ago; doing a 15- kilometre road took about seven years.
What road do we have in Lokoja that is the state capital that is nylon tarred? None! Some of the roads being constructed now, while the contractors are still on it and going for a few kilometres, the part they did two to three months ago will go bad. So we have zero infrastructures.
We have little or no tourism at all and yet Kogi is one of the states that are naturally endowed with tourist attractions. With a conscious effort from the government to position those attractions, tourism will spin money for the state.
We have the confluence beach, the Lugard house, the grave yards of ancient missionaries and all the white men that came from different parts of the world to work in Lokoja. So we have relics that we can showcase and create attractions that will pull the world to Kogi.
I intend to build tourism in Kogi State. Education is at it lowest ebb in Kogi. We are battling with people who have graduated from secondary schools not knowing how to write simple English. Sometimes even the teachers themselves cannot do the job.
So they all failed together, we need to go through retraining, change the standard, give attention and I plan by the grace God to build attachment in each school and bring in computer class and a library. In my view based on the little experience I have from my wife, if a child is able to read and write in class one to four, the child will make a success in life.
Give us three years, the quality of the students will be sharper, and it will change this failure syndrome that we are having now. I will not only concentrate on the primary level which is very crucial, at the tertiary level, we will do things that will instil competition in quality of learning.
Those who could not learn will be asked to repeat the class. But here we are today with students rushing to finish school with nothing to show. Industries, we have zero. Apart from Dangote and the cement, we have nothing. So many things are decaying, yet Kogi has the second largest natural resources deposit in Nigeria.
Apart from Nasarawa, no other state has up to what we have. As at today, the IGR of Kogi is the poorest in the nation. Kogi generates sometimes, N100 million per month and this cannot even maintain the overhead cost of fueling official vehicles of commissioners and special advisers.