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2011 POLLS: RESPECT GOD'S ZONING — YAKOWA ADVISES POLITICIANS

By NBF News
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Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State recently spoke to a select group of journalists in Kaduna on the journey so far. ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, North West Bureau Chief of The Sun, was there. Excerpts:

You may want to share with us how it has been in this past six months as Governor of Kaduna State.

I will say to God be the glory. I am grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to serve this state and this nation in this capacity. The past months have been a period of settling down. I came in at the middle of the year and as someone who has been in government for several years, I believe in continuity. I believe that one of the banes of development as a nation has been the lack of continuity of programmes and policies.

Even along the line, as you continue, you see the need to review and revise in other to be able to get more focused. That is precisely what we are doing right now as I prepare for 2011 elections and next year's budget, which we are tagging it a budget of reality. Everything has been in line with the pronouncement that I made during my inauguration.

Very recently, I embarked on local government tour during which I inspected Federal, state and local government projects. The activities of these three tiers of government complement one another. That is what we are supposed to be doing and not operating at crosspurposes. There has to be harmony and coordination in all the three tiers of government for us to be able to have maximum effect.

Challenging moments
The expectations on the part of our people are enormous. One of my biggest challenges is to be able to generate enough resources to be able to meet substantial needs of the people. We're talking about security, much as we do a lot under 'Operation Yaki (State's security outfit), there is the need to do a little more. You go to education, health, agriculture, poverty alleviation and infrastructural development. I want to open up the new city and all these need resource mobilization to meet the needs of the people.

Paying the new minimum wage
I have no comment on that yet because the issue is being discussed at the national level. Before the debate on minimum wage, I saw the need to increase the take home pay of the civil servants in Kaduna State and that we have already done. When we were discussing the issue of the new minimum wage at the National Economic Council, I discovered that we are not the least paying state, but somewhere in the middle of the ladder.

Chances in the 2011 elections
Believe me when I say I was greatly overwhelmed beyond my own expectations about how people have taken some of the things that I have been able to do within this short period, I mean it. We have been able to come out with a few things that people feel very strongly about. One is the complete release of local government funds to them because I believe that the executives (chairmen) are a duly elected tier of government. That was the conviction with which I came and I believe they should go and showcase what they have.

I feel there is a general appreciation of that. I came in even as a Christian, but I told them to do everything possible to make sure that the 2010 hajj was successful and if possible, make it less stressful for the pilgrims. They looked at the issues that affected the past exercises and came out with an arrangement that substantially reduced the airfare by N60,000 as savings for the pilgrims. In order to reduce the burden of sallah, I directed the Ministry of Finance to ensure that salaries were paid even when it was not yet middle of the month so that our Muslim brothers could celebrate sallah with their families.

North's consensus candidate for the PDP
When we debated the issue during the 19 northern governors' meeting, we discovered that every Nigerian has the constitutional right to aspire to be anything from President to councilor. By so doing, everybody is exercising his constitutional right. In the process, you can dialogue with one another. I am sure that democracy allows for that. Even though I don't want to comment on that issue, all that I am saying is that people are exercising their democratic right and nobody can be gagged. For us here, our position is very clear. Vice President Namadi Sambo was until recently, the governor of this state. Now, he is the number two citizen and he is together with the President on the same ticket. We here are solidly in support of Jonathan/Sambo ticket. Our stand has been made very clear and I say it as my democratic right.

Coming to Kaduna, some people are of the opinion that the governorship of the state has been zoned to the central zone and you have already declared your intention to contest. I am not aware of when anybody sat down and zoned the ticket to the central zone. However, God, on His own, did His own zoning at the national level and in Kaduna. I want people to please respect the zoning of God.

Your government is planning to privatize some government owned companies and critics are of the view that such companies will be more beneficial to the people if handled by the government. During my local government tour, I visited the Kachia Ginger Factory, which has been closed now for several years. I also visited Ikara Food Company, Zaria Pharmaceutical and Kafanchan Flour Mill. The previous administration had set up a committee to privatize and it is my intention to fast track the implementation of that process of privatizing them.

Right now, none of them is in production. This is a commercial sector and this aspect is best handled by the private sector while the government concentrates on providing the enabling environment for the economy to thrive. These include security, good roads, education, health and infrastructural development. This is precisely what I want to pursue. There is so much potential for ginger in Kaduna. Ikara is one area where lots of tomatoes are produced. I am going to go ahead with that process.

Will the construction of a bridge across River Kaduna ever begin?

I want to assure the good people of Kaduna that the new bridge initiated by the current Vice President when he was governor is still going on and the need for another bridge across River Kaduna that will ease traffic is very glaring. What has slowed us down is the issue of resources. We are working round the clock to start work on that bridge before the end of the year.

Recently, your government went to the capital market for fund. When will the government start accessing this fund?

That fund was sourced for a number of projects such as the Zaria Water project for which work is going on well, the 300- bed specialist hospital and government house new office. Work is at an advanced stage and a number of roads in the southern part of the state and the Kafanchan campus of the state university. These funds were sourced specifically for some projects and the work on the projects is going on smoothly.

How do you relax?
I jog and I watch football.
Which is your favourite team?
Manchester United.