Senator Yakubu Oseni, Senator representing Kogi Central and Governorship aspirant under the ruling All Progressives Congress speaks to Nigerian NewsDirect Deputy Business Editor, Mr Mathew Ibiyemi on his plans to transform the state into an economic hub. Excerpts:
The Kogi state elections are forthcoming. Do you think your party would be able to retain power in the state and do you think APC has done well in Kogi state to retain power?
Yes, I think my party deserves to retain power. We have worked assiduously towards the progress of Kogi state. In the just concluded elections, we won all the senatorial and house of representatives seat indicating that the people are pleased with us.
What are your antecedents and achievements that make you think you stand out amongst every other aspirant vying for the seat of Governor?
I have a lot of achievements and if I am to name them all, we won’t leave here.
We have been working and people can testify to it. As the representative of my constituents in the National Assembly, I am working with the people in the grassroots and all that belongs to them has been given to them in terms of physical infrastructure and various empowerment programmes which we have done that and they are happy with it. Now they are supporting me and want me to step up to represent them in the state as Governor.
If you eventually get the ticket of your party and you are elected as Governor, what will be the focal points of your administration?
We all know what is happening in Nigeria today. There is a lot of poverty, insecurity and other social vices, and of course, the cause of it is just one, unemployment. If God permits me and I am elected as Governor, I will tackle unemployment. This doesn’t mean then that Government will employ everyone. No! We will provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and make sure that foreign and even local investors can come in so that everybody in one way or the other, either directly or indirectly will be gainfully engaged doing one thing or the other to make ends meet. With that, there won’t be insecurity again because as it is popularly quoted, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. There won’t be any idle mind anymore and we will be able to move the state forward.
In terms of infrastructure, of course some people will say they have seven point, ten point agendas but as far as I am concerned, those are old methods of campaigning which I don’t really believe in. All sectors are important and once you touch the real sector, every other thing will take shape.
We are also going to reset our brain in terms of ICT because ICT is the order of the day. I have always said in my position as the Chairman of the Senate ICT and Cybercrime committee that what we have witnessed within four years of the current administration is a feat. ICT has really contributed tremendously to the GDP of the country and if go into it you will notice that ICT is a limitless sector that Nigerians can tap into. If you take a look at our population size in Nigeria, it is tilted largely towards the youths so it means that if we really go into ICT very well, we have young, talented youths that can make a lot of ends meet positively from ICT because the knowledge many are using to commit fraud in ICT can also be used to earn money legitimately. So we will look at this area too which is something I already have a knowledge on and make sure all our youths are engaged. We will reset their brain and make sure everybody is thinking of what tomorrow will look like. With all this, we will be able to get Kogi state running seamlessly.
Taking cognizance of your previous role as the Chairman of the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service, what will be your strategy to increase the revenue of Kogi state and position it as one of the highest revenue generating state in the country?
Revenue is derivative and revenue generation is subject to economic activities. The elasticity of revenue generation can only be elastic to a certain extent when it becomes inelastic because it is derivative.
When I occupied the position previously, I did a lot to make sure we tapped the untapped source of revenue and the current chairman is also doing his best to make sure he improves the revenue generation in the state but he has some little limitations and challenges. The limitations are that he cannot spill water out of stone. There are certain limits you can go where cannot overtax the tax payers. As a revenue administrator, you balance the generations. As you are trying to generate revenue, you also have to look at the survival of the business first. You don’t tax businesses unnecessarily because you want to improve your generation.
What we will do is to ensure that businesses are thriving in the state. More foreign and local investors will be attracted into the state.
As we speak, the current administration we are trying to succeed has done a lot in terms of security and for any business looking to setup, they look at the security aspect. The current Governor has done a lot in that sector so it means that Kogi state is now fertile for any business to come into the state to set up. These are the areas we will explore first to make sure we attract business to the state. So when this is done, more revenue will come in and we can now start to think of improving revenue generation. That’s why we haven’t gone beyond where we are now. Once there are new entrants, we will begin to witness expansion and more employment of course will also come in.
Many people will disagree with you on the state of insecurity in Kogi state. What would you do differently to tackle insecurity in Kogi State especially since you wish to create an enabling environment to attract investors?
If there is anybody today that says that Kogi State has not tried in terms of curbing insecurity, the person is not being fair to the current administration. Kogi is meant to be the most vulnerable state being a state bordering over nine states including FCT. Kogi is meant to be a battlefield for insecurity going by the terrain, demography, location and all that making it vulnerable. Today, we are having it different in Kogi. Make no mistake, you can’t get it 100 per cent because it is not possible even in advanced countries. There are still insecurity issues in the so-called advanced countries so you can’t take it away completely. If we are to talk about significant achievements in this area of security, we will give it to the present administration. When you mention states today where you have peace, you have to mention Kogi because the Governor has over time received all the necessary awards for the best Governor in terms of security both within and outside the country so it means he is doing well. Even the Inspector General of Police has given him an award for helping the police in the state curb insecurity. So, if there is anybody today in this country that is saying there is insecurity in Kogi state which can’t be 100 per cent secured as I earlier said, but compared to other states, I think we will give it to this present administration of Governor Yahaya Bello.
Would you say you have faith in the current electoral process as Kogi State prepares for the Gubernatorial election?
There is no perfect system except God. So far so good we can’t say what we have in 1999 is what we are still having today. There have been little improvements and I would say tremendous improvements because we are deviating from the usual norm.
Personally, I have faith in the electoral process but there is still room for improvement of course. As human beings, we can make errors here and there because there is no system that is perfect not even in the so-called advanced countries. Even elections have been held in countries like America with decades of democracy and they are contesting it, talkless of our own that just started yesterday, so you can see that by the time you do comparative analysis we will give ourselves credit. Let’s tell ourselves that we are doing well because if we don’t do that, nobody will tell you. So if you are condemning yourself always, then you will be condemned. So we should strive to improve in the areas we know we are not too good. We are human beings and it is human beings that man the electoral process. I listened to an analyst recently who mentioned how in some places BVAS worked well but the people who manned the device were compromised. So is that the chairman of INEC doing that? No! So every individual should key into the system and help build the system. With our character especially, we have a long way to go. Everybody has to change, our attitude also has to change so that the system can be perfect. Nigeria is our home and we don’t have any other home so we must all come together and see what we can do to make sure the system works well.
We have seen in time past that primary elections conducted by political parties have been marred by violence. What would be your advice to other aspirants vying for the same seat in Kogi state?
My advice will be that election is not do or die. Election is all about manifestos. Election is all about what you have been doing, what you have done and what you intend to do. It is all about you. It’s not even too much about party. It’s all about the individual. So to me those that perpetuate violence in electoral process is a sign of defeat, a sign of weakness because if you believe in yourself, you don’t need to harm your neighbour to get his vote, you don’t need to harm your co-contestant. Tell the people what you can do and if they believe in you based on you antecedent, fine! They will vote you. If you don’t do well, you can’t force them to vote you. Election is not all about force. It is all about convincing the electorates. Convince them with empirical data, with physical achievements, with your attitude, with who you are, with your person and not the capacity to train thugs. We have gone past that and that is barbaric. So my advice to them is for them to go into debate, into the field, meet the electorates and tell them why they should vote for them.