Abubakar Ibrahim is the son of the former governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. He is a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship aspirant in the November, 2019 gubernatorial election in the state. In an interactive session with journalists in Lokoja, the state capital, Ibrahim said he has all it takes to govern the Confluence State despite its enormous challenges.
Can you give us your background?
My name is Abubarka Ibrahim. I am an Igala man. I come from a big political family of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, the former governor of Kogi State. I started my early and secondary education in Sokoto. Proceeded to Advanced College in Kaduna, now the Kaduna Polytechnic where I had my A’levels. I attended the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria. I had my first degree in Agriculture and obtained a Post Graduate Diploma, PGD, in Management. I also bagged my Masters degree from the same institution. I know that people will be wondering why everything is Zaria. I was once admitted at the University of California to study Aeronautical Engineering. But at that time, President Muhammadu Buhari was the military Head of State. Getting funds from home to pay my school fees became a problem and I later returned home. However, I thank God for coming back home. I am married with kids. I am married to an Ebira woman. That is my background in education. I ventured into hospitality, oil and gas businesses.
There is no doubt that as an indigene of the state, you are very conversant with the complexity of Kogi State coupled with ethnic dichotomy and other challenges, how prepared are you to govern the state in view of these challenges?
First and foremost, I will like to tell you that I am very prepared educationally and emotionally and I have the background, coming from a political family. The educational background had prepared me more than enough to be able to tackle the problems of the state. As I said earlier, I am an Igala man by birth, not resident in Kogi. But Kogi State is for all of us. It might interest you to know that as an Igala, my wife is an Ebira woman and I have business interest in the west. So, I have good knowledge of Kogi State .When you look at the history, we have many educated people from the state. We just need the basics to keep us going. What I mean by basics are education, agriculture and social welfare. These are the things everybody wants. It is not good to start thinking when your salary will come. How do you intend to pay school fees? Or how do I pay medical bills. These are the basic things. Being a Kogite, I know what the people want. About being ready to govern the state? Yes, I am, with the experience and the educational background that I have. You will agree with me that ruling a state is not about how many certificates you have. It is about experience. I will say I have one ex-governor of the state to guide me. I am very ready to rule Kogi. And about the complexity of Kogi; tell me which of the states that does not have its complexity. It is your ability to manage these complexities that will make the state to work. But in our own state like any other state, it is about harnessing our people as a team to keep our goals. As complex as our state might be, I do not know that anything is complex in the state that I will not be able to handle well. As far as I am concerned, it is about team work. It is about coming together, about working together. It is about finding people to move our state forward because that is my opinion and should be our vision to be able to take our state to the next level.
The task in Kogi State now is very enormous and requires someone who can deliver. But the news making the round is that you are fronting for someone else or that it’s not your personal ambition to rule the state. What is your take and do you have the capacity to take the state out of the present doldrums?
If I get your question right, it is that I am aspiring to be governor not on my own will but for someone else. This sounds ridiculous, that at this age, I will not be able to decide for myself. Am I not a Kogite? And constitutionally I can vote and be voted for, that I will be doing it for somebody. This does not make sense anyway. These are the questions I am going to ask myself; am I not a Kogite? Do I possess the requirement or the pre-requisite to run for governorship election? Am I constitutionally allowed to run? Do I have enough educational background to run? Am I old enough to run? If the answers to all these questions are yes, can someone else call me to do this for him? It is really insulting. What I can only pick here is that you can’t find me wanting. My major sin here is that I am my father’s son. That is the way I looked at it. If at this age I cannot make a decision for myself, then when will I be able to do that?
Kogi is an agrarian state and I am happy to know that your background is agriculture. How do you want to harness all the potentials that cut across the nooks and crannies of the state, including other resources waiting to be tapped?
You are absolutely right; Kogi is an agrarian state, blessed with arable land and other mineral resources, educated, dynamic and smart youths. It is not about the youths alone, it is about men and women. We have arable land. Let us take Kogi East, for example; what readily comes to mind is cashew. It may interest you to know that over $100 million worth of cashew left the shores of Nigeria last year. Out of this amount, 70 per cent came from Kogi State. Basically, we are talking about $70 million. What will happen here is that we will just take out the nuts and sell to the middleman, who in turn sells them. As a professional agriculturist and consultant, we plan to achieve the potential of indigenous and mechanised farming through irrigation scheme across the state; particularly, we intend to take full and not politically motivated advantage of the surrounding Rivers Niger and Benue to turn the state into another food basket of the nation. All year round, with our determination, experience and expertise as well as wherewithal, Kogi should be able to produce large tonnes of rice, millet, yam, cowpea, guinea corn, cassava, tomato and other farm products that can sustain the entire state, North-central and attract the entire country, as the gateway both to the South-west and northern states, not only in terms of transportation, but abundant food that will generate bumper harvest and jobs for our people. My intention is to revitalise the moribund and abandoned palm fruits plantation and its factories scattered round Kogi East, Western and Central Senatorial Districts. There will be provision of more model seeds and seedling of palm fruits through CRIN and other agricultural research centres. We will return the factories to their lost glories, as the best palm oil is usually found from Kogi East. I’ve been wondering why the policy of government in Private, Public Partnership, PPP, has refused to work in Kogi State, to pave way for more revenue generation, bumper palm fruits harvest and employment opportunities for our teeming youths. For instance, in Edo and some parts of south eastern states, foreign investors in conjunction with various state governments had agreed on robust arrangement to set up private palm farms and oil mill factories with large employment of labour in local and expatriates that attract chunk of revenue to the state. It will not be out of place to revitalise the government establishments, attract foreign agricultural investors and if need be, partner with them to sustain the mills into profitable ventures. The Okomu Oil is being managed by expatriates and remained the stable cooking oil in Nigeria as well as being exported out of the country. So also is the grand cereal in Jos, made out of large concentration of maize and other ingredients. Agriculture will be used to industrialise the state within the first one year in office. Efforts would be geared towards reviving the moribund Okura sawmill and Idah sanitary ware company, with a view to bringing the age-long companies back to life.
Efforts will be redoubled when elected in November to attract investors and industrialists, who are ready to come into Kogi State to set up milk factory and cargo airport. We will use Kogi State as their base of operation to reach to other states with their products through the airport, placing us on dual advantage that will gradually attract importation and return Kogi to a hub of tourist and business centres.
Kogi does not generate much internally as revenue. What plans do you have to get the needed funds to ignite the desired development?
Like I said earlier, I will attract more investors to the state. We will reduce taxes, as incentive to bring more businesses to Kogi State. By doing this, more investors will come to the state and there will be an increase in Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. This is going to be a win-win situation for all, as the youths would be gainfully employed, the investors business will be protected and have enough youths to work with and government would be getting its monthly revenue coming in.
You talked about Kogi being a complex state. What credential or political antecedent do you possess to show that you have what it takes to govern the state?
Well, I have lots of experiences, which I will not disclose to you. Be that as it may, I have tremendous experience and enough credentials. I am in the race to rescue the state from the present state of hopelessness and put it back in right pedestal. I do not want to let the cat out of the bag for now. Let me tell you, we have a lot of resources in this state that are waiting to be tapped. We have a lot of things to build upon. We also have the blessings of the vibrant youths that will make things work for us. All these things are doable.
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Kogi comprises highly educated men and women. When you emerge as governor, what role are you giving to women?
No man is complete without a woman. Women occupy important roles in government and businesses. When you assign women to responsibility, they always deliver 100 per cent. Women will form an integral part of our government. While I will not massage their ego by saying this is what I will do for them, they should bear it in mind that women will occupy very important positions in government when we are voted to power. We do not have a choice than to work with women in Kogi State.
Kogi State is hugely indebted to civil servants, ranging from 7- 30 months’ salary. Are you not worried that as governor, you will be facing daunting challenges and infrastructure deficit?
I am aware that Kogi State is hugely indebted to the civil servants. This is a very sad situation. I really feel concerned when it comes to the issue of salaries and welfare. It is not a burden. It is not good for workers to be thinking about their salaries for efficiencies and goal getting agenda. The issue of salaries is supposed to be an automatic thing. It is not something to be worried about because it is their dues. It is their right, even from spiritual point of view. So, the issue of payment of salaries is very important. The government needs to be responsible by paying salaries promptly. Now the government owes workers and this has to be cleared. I know this cannot be done overnight. It has to be a gradual thing. The government should be transparent enough so as to let the workers understand the plight of the government. The workers should know how the government is being run.
How do you intend to work with other aspirants?
I will work with other aspirants. As I have said earlier that I believe in team work. It is not about Abubarka Ibrahim. It is all about Kogi State. I am not saying I know it all. And like the old adage that says that two heads are better than one, it is best to have a team and work like a team for the progress of our state. I am not coming here to be an emperor of any sort. No, it is about Kogi working together. It is our collective responsibility to move Kogi to greater height. We do not have any other state than Kogi. If we fail to come together and put our state back on the map, who will do it for us? It is not about party affiliation or where you come from, but just coming together and move Kogi State forward. If I am given the mandate, I will work with other political parties for the betterment of Kogi State.