I DON'T KNOW MY SUCCESSOR
I don't know my successor -Gov Idris
From NOAH EBIJE, Kaduna
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Kogi State governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris is praying fervently for a prudent and God-fearing person to take over from him at the end of his tenure.
According to him, prayer has become necessary in view of the meager resources at the disposal of the state. He also believes that to succeed as governor of the state, one must have the twin virtues of accountability and transparency in running the state to sustain its development even long after his exit from office.
He spoke recently when he hosted a group of journalists in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. Sunday Sun was there.
Running the state
So far, my dream for Kogi state has not been fully realized for the fact that the little we have generated in the state could not meet our plans and aspirations. I wish Kogi is one of the states in Niger-Delta; I would have made Kogi state a place that will be compared to other powerful states of the world. This I could not because of limited resources though we are working hard to improve our Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) but the little we are having would be judiciously managed.
Before I became a governor, I was a successful businessman and I believe in making one Kobo to be two kobo and that has actually helped me. There are so many ways that make the administration of somebody who is a business-man different from those who are not. Though of course it is more difficult to govern unlike in my private life as a business-man because you are dealing with the public, you are in public life. If you want to be too rigid as was the case in private life, you will find it difficult. What you need to do is to be patient. You must have to tolerate one another because without that, the way you want it smooth, it might not go that way simply because of bureaucracy that will have to go with it and of course, the lifestyle of the civil servants. You have to struggle before you can make headway. I am certain and have confidence that before my tenure ends, by God's grace I should be able to execute more projects if not to achieve all my dreams and aspirations for the people of the state. Since we have a good plan for the state, by God's grace, we will get there and I promised I am going to lay a solid foundation for whoever is coming to take over from me.
In terms of poverty alleviation, we have done a lot for the people in the state. For example, we have over 300-400 un-employed youth currently on training at Salem University which is in conjunction with the state government. Besides, the state government has a programme called 'Youth Empowerment Programme' where we established centers in all the local governments across the state. Some of the additional centers were cited at Okene, Idah, Kaba etc where the un-employed youths would receive training and become self-reliant.
We are about to establish one hundred and six (106) Medium and Small Scale Industries that would create jobs for the youths. That is to say, every local government in the state will have about four Medium and Small Scale Industries. This will encourage the un-employed youths within the state to stay away from crimes as they have the idea of what to do.
Besides, we have FADAMA project which also assist our youths to get job. Here, we have different trade, there are people who are interested in fishing, snake rearing, cattle rearing, tailoring among others. As a result of this plan, in every local government we have about 100 un-employed youths to be trained in various trades.
Recently, we went into agreement with some companies in China to provide us with youth empowerment materials that will assist our un-employed youth to be self-reliant. We have the plan to make Kogi state one of the largest producers of Palm trees. We have also entered into agreement with Malaysia government which will provide us with full support and materials because they are experts in this field. In fact, they were in Kogi recently and they are about to commence business in the state.
We also went into an agreement with Australia Company that specializes in producing Palm trees. We found out that Australia has wonderful palm tree species that will start producing within two years instead of three years. We are getting their attention but in conjunction with Malaysia team. In fact, there are so many other things we are doing to ensure that un-employed youths become self-reliance.
We want to work within what we have, but if there is something important that we really need to borrow money and we have seen that such a thing is important to the development of the state, I wouldn't mind to borrow. But, I make sure any money borrowed is paid before my tenure comes to an end because I don't want to keep any liability for my successor.
Recently you took the bull by the horn when you carried out a comprehensive audit of the civil servants in the state. Now that you have succeeded in doing that, what do people expect from you?
If that exercise was left undone, Kogi would have been in serious problem today. Though the job to scrutinize the state labour force was not an easy task, we were able to do that and today we have known the number of civil servants we have in the state. What I am saying is that a new governor has to look at the labour force. It is possible that I would have managed but very little would have been achieved at the end of the day. We would have managed with little ones we met but unfortunately, the problem would have been enormous. It would have taken the whole of the state budget because we don't have a stable amount of money paid to civil servants as salary. This is because the salary keeps rising every month. If I keep quiet, it means I am dancing to the tune of the beneficiaries and they will now be praising me that I am a good man. But for me to claim that I am a good man by abandoning my responsibilities
and keep the citizens in poverty while others are dying will not make me to be a good man. So, it is better for me to say I am a bad man so that at the end of the day, people will realize that yes, Governor Idris has done something that has saved all of us. If I don't manage the state well, and problem arises, it is for all of us and not for me alone.
Right from the inception of my administration, I was paying N1.4billion, N1.5billion every month as salaries for civil servants in the state. During that time, there was nothing like HATSS, CURTSS etc. If I have allowed such huge amount of money to be paid to faceless human beings every month, it would have crippled the state.
As a governor, I don't know the number of staff I have. I don't know my wage bill and I don't know the exact amount paid monthly to my staff. All I know is that the wage bill varies from month to month. This month, it is 1.3 billion, next month they will tell you the wage bill is N1.4billion, another month they will say it is N1.5billion and this will continue to increase. Each time I called them to explain to me reasons for the increase, they give painted explanations that look beautiful and convincing. They make their explanations to be solid, supported with fake evidence.
I have seen that if urgent action is not taken, there are bound to be problems in the future. I said there is the need for me to do something to ascertain the true number of civil servants in the pay roll of the state government rather than to continue believing all fake explanations. In carrying out this exercise, I went through tough time but today I am happy it's all over. The rest is now history, and I am happy that some of you and those following the administration of the state know the truth about what happened. It is not easy for somebody to embark on such scrutiny and come out successfully. I could remember there were so many distractions by several people trying to frustrate my efforts, especially the beneficiaries. Here, the salary prepared from account office is different from the one paid to a junior staff who is probably on Grade level 04 or 06. So, many things were happening at that time and you want me to look at such unwanted and
unwarranted behavior of corrupt officers? I am sorry, that is not what I was elected for. Do you expect me to continue to be looking at them because we are in political dispensation? How will I cope with such unscrupulous character? Is that what I was voted to do? I was voted to serve the people and serve them well. I was not voted to allow things to go wrongly because of some political interests. If I do that, I am deceiving myself and people of Kogi state will not forgive me if I allow things to go wrong simply because I wanted to be called 'Mr. right.' I have decided to be called 'Mr. wicked' so that at the end of the day, all of us will smile because they know why I have decided to embark on such exercise. I am happy all of them have realized that I embarked on such exercise to save Kogi state.
Now, I should be able to give exact number of civil servants and the amount of salaries we pay at the end of every month. Today, in Kogi, we have 22,920 civil servants. I can tell you that we pay about 900million naira now. You see, whatever happens, I will be able to plan effectively. If you don't know the amount that comes in every day, every month, and the amount that goes out, how can you plan?
I told them as at the time we were managing to keep the state going that we do have sometimes, excess crude oil, yet we were managing. When these things are no more coming, how would you allow yourself to be like a local government staff that will get salary and fold his arm waiting for another month? I have decided that I will not allow that kind of behavior in the state. I vowed that this must stop. I went through serious obstacles and frustrations but I am happy we have been able to bear that. We now know where we are going.
There are rooms to employ more people but we need to be careful unlike what was obtainable in the past where you will hear replacement and attachment. There are different names the perpetrators of these dubious characters gave. So, I continue to wonder how do you get all these and how can government succeed when you allow all these holes to continue? People used these terms to get what they wanted. We are happy that we have stopped that, there is room that we will employ younger ones. In fact, we have recently advertised for employment because we wanted about 50 Medical doctors, 100 nurses, so many engineers in various fields and Architectural designers. We want to employ young graduates so that they will help us to build the state, which is what it should be.
For those who are tired or supposed to go on retirement, whether not tired, we will retire them and pay them their benefits so that the younger ones can take over from them. It was during my time that civil servants retired with their benefits paid immediately and I am proud to say that and I remain proud as people always remember me for that singular effort. Those who probably benefited and those who are to benefit, I introduced a system where by as you are retired from active service, you go with all your entitlements. You don't have to go and start suffering for months and years facing hardship. That is why some people don't want to be retired any longer. Even if they are 60 years old, they claim to be 40 years. You will not blame them because they are afraid that if they are retired from service, they have nothing to do and will face difficulty. When I introduced the new idea of retirement with benefit, they all agreed and what I need doing
is to pay them immediately while the pension continues. Every body that attained the retirement age is now happy as they retire from service to give room to younger ones.
What is your administration doing towards improving educational system in the state?
When you go round, you will see some of the developmental projects going on in the education sector and the improvement we have made to ensure quality education for our youths. When I assumed office in 2003, there were classes under a big tree, classes under a thatched roof, some zinc were blown off, yet our children received lectures under such hostile environments and conditions. If it's raining, they ran away and that was the end of the lecture for that day. I saw it and I believe some of you saw the blackboard nailed on a tree. But today, you cannot find that anywhere even in the remote villages. This has become possible because education is the best legacy one can live behind no matter how rich you are. By the time you give the children education, you have done one of the best things that is required of you. I believe in education and because of that, we have built about 1000 block of four class rooms in each of the local governments. You will see all these as you go round the local governments.
I will also remind you that immediately I came, we had Kogi state university that was termed a 'Glorified Secondary School' as there were few buildings not equipped. There were nothing inside the buildings that qualified it as a university. Unfortunately for us, about 29 courses were denied accreditation and I think all of you are aware? The university was about to be closed down. The problem is that if that was done, nobody will understand what was happening because I was the person in power at that time. Those who may not understand will shift blame on me not knowing that I am innocent of whatever was happening. That was the time I assumed newly as the governor of the state. Now I am happy that I have tackled all the problems associated with accreditation because within 19 months, we were able to accredit the 29 courses. In doing that, I went to National University Commission to find out what I should do to get the
courses accredited. They related to me what has happened and advised me how I will go about it. I told them to be patient with me for six months as I promised to meet their entire requirements within the stipulated months, but they could not believe me until when it became a reality. So, I am happy to inform you that the accreditation was successful and I want you to go there and see things for yourselves.
Now, the 29 courses were accredited while University of Lagos, Ibadan, and Nsukka were denied accreditation. Right now, we are about to start building the faculty of medicine and hopefully by next year, we will start admitting students. By God's grace, in 2011, I want to introduce College of Mechanical Engineering and in 2012, they will start admitting students. But again, I don't want to put two hands in my mouth at the same time. I want to take them one after the other to make sure I handle them properly.
There is this general observation I have made. If you ask most of our children the course they are studying in their various institutions of learning, the answer would be accountancy or business administration. Nobody is telling you I am studying pharmacy, medicine, engineering and I concluded that we will have problem if our children continue to chose art based courses. As a result of this, we have decided to establish two science secondary schools in all the Senatorial districts while plan is on going to add more science schools in future. If we don't do that, the children unborn and those presently in elementary schools will be discouraged from studying science based courses. We need to encourage them before it's too late. I also want to equip the state university with basic school learning materials and make sure students have a conducive atmosphere for learning. Go to Kogi State University today, you will be happy with the development. We are happy
because our schools and university are well equipped. In boosting science courses in the tertiary institutions, I have decided to establish College of Education (technical) Kabba. We have voted about 1billion naira for the take off of the school. The permanent site is being designed so that we are starting alongside with the temporary site. As I am talking to you, the temporary site is in progress. I believe in education and I know the value of education to human beings. So, it's a priority.
What are the preparations for 2012?
Well you see, as far as I am concerned, this state is for all of us. And I believe that anybody can rule the state. It is just an opportunity for one to rule the state and if God gives you such opportunity, make sure you use it wisely. For anybody to have a political ambition to want to be governor, you ought to have at the back of your mind that you are actually coming to serve the people not that you are coming to kill the people or to suffer them.
In answering your question, as far as I am concerned between me and my God, my heart is open to everybody. My prayer has always been that who ever will come that will have the interest of Kogi state, whoever will even perform better than I do, God should direct him. I don't care from where you come from, as long as you are a Kogite. So I don't care, even if you belong to my party or you are my enemy provided you will be able to do better, I will pray for you and I will support you. This is because whatever you are doing, you should always remember God. You are doing it not for yourself but for all of us. In real sense, if you don't do it well, we will all suffer because all of us are from Kogi, our fathers and mothers are from Kogi. Even if you have the money to live in London, you are still deceiving yourself. If you refused to understand, and to accept doing good things for the people of your state, we will all suffer. Some people may say I don't care, you must care. Such people are deceiving themselves. You must care because you are living there. Even if you live in Kaduna, Lagos, Kano whether you like it or not, three quarter of your people are still in Kogi. So what are we talking about? There is no way you can have a nonchalant attitude towards your state. We must learn how to accommodate ourselves as stake holders. What I am saying is that who ever can succeed me and perform better than I do, God should lead the person to Kogi state government house.
How have you been able to cope with your critics?
I believe all of us have the power to rule this country or state and this power is being motivated by what you have to achieve or those better things you intended to provide for the people of the state. If you make up your mind that you want to serve the people and serve them well, you will do it. Even on your own for instance, while you get up early in the morning trying to do something but become weak, the spirit in you will make sure you get up immediately because you are anxious to do something. All of us have that spirit, you will not know when you get up and your spirit will make you to start doing something because that strength is in you. Already within you, the body is willing, the heart is willing to do those good things. As for me, I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am not interested in any elective political office after my tenure any longer. I don't want to be a Senator, or hold any other political post after my tenure. I am
contended with what God has done for me. God has given me the privilege and opportunity to serve the people. My prayers have been to live a solid legacy for the people of the state and children yet unborn so that at the end of the day, I will be happy for what God has used me to do. Whether anybody likes it or not, I am telling you that between me and my God, I have done my best. There is nothing that blames me more than my conscious. When my conscious tells me I have not done well, believe me honestly, I will not be comfortable and I would not like that to happen to me. But if my conscience informed me that I have done well, I don't care about what everybody will say about me. Whatever people say about me is their own problem, because between me and my God, I have done my best. Whether you realize it or not, it's your own business. I don't bother.
For your information, some of the projects that have been completed like International market were not commissioned because we expect the President, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua to come personally and commission the projects. This is because while he was in Kogi state (then he had no dream of becoming a President of the country) I told him while taking him round the state that if I complete the International market, he will be the one to commission it. So I want to give him that honour.