– Turning Kogi into an Investment DestinationTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers
By tackling insecurity, as well as bridging the education, infrastructural, health and agricultural deficit in Kogi, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that Governor Yahaya Bello is bent on making the state a safe haven for settlers and investors, while connecting a bridge between the North and Southern regions
It would be safe to say that in line with his New Direction Blueprint for Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello is bent on charting the roadmap for proportional and accelerated development of the state. This blueprint was mapped out upon assumption of office to chart the business of the day and drive holistic reformation and regeneration of all sectors of the state.
This blueprint cuts across sectors like education, security, infrastructure, health, agriculture, youth and women empowerment, environment, civil service and even the economy.
According to Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Femi Fanwo, this blueprint has recorded giant strides for the Yahaya Bello Administration, the development plans of the state and has boosted the state as the investment destination of Nigeria.
Quality over Quantity
Known in many quarters as a man of standards, the governor has on many occasions asked for an upgrade from contractors given his non-satisfaction with works done. For him, it’s quality over quantity any day.
Recently, a video surfaced on Instagram, a microblogging platform, where the governor was livid at the substandard job done by a Chinese firm at the State Specialist Hospital. The governor kept reiterating that he is a man of standards so would not accept any shoddy job. As shocking it might seem to Nigerians that a governor would condemn a contract done, for the Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Femi Fanwo, it was not surprising to them as the governor has made it a lifestyle you accept nothing but the best.
Bringing THISDAY up to speed on what happened Fanwo said: “Elected Chief Executives should check their projects. It is dangerous to wait until contractors foist death traps on them. Governance is about presence. It is about mobility, both physically and mentally. No contractor will want to toy with the will of the Governor to give quality projects to the state.
“Also, there is what we call the GYB Signature in the state. When you look at the Revenue House, Ministry of Transport, our roads in Olamaboro, Omala, Ankpa, Okene, Kabba and other places; our Rice Mill which is the best in the country and many other projects, you will agree with me that GYB is a man of standards. He is building a monumental legacy in the state.
“You saw a governor who openly challenged a contractor to a transparency test in public. He doesn’t bring contractors and would never condone corruption. He is also always putting all of us on our toes. This is what 21st century leadership is all about. I can also inform you that the governor set up a committee to look into the project and work with the contractor to deliver a project that will match the GYB Signature. This is how to protect the interest of the people you lead. This is the state GYB is building.”
On infrastructural development, Fanwo noted that “It is on record that no administration in the history of the state has done anything close to what Governor Yahaya Bello has done in Kogi State. From roads to electricity and water, he has sparked a revolution never heard of in the history Kogi State. He concentrated on fixing roads in the rural areas and for the first time, the rural people felt the impact of good governance.
“If you check his results in the 2019 election, you will discover that he won over 80 per cent of rural areas. It is not just an election, but a vote of confidence from the rural people who were hitherto neglected by the previous administrations. Yahaya Bello chose to avoid the temptation of concentrating on the capital city and other major towns in the State.
“But we are not running a Government of sycophantic ideology. It is not just about showing the beautiful roads we have done in the rural areas. We still go to them to see those that need attention. My job as the Chief Information Officer of government is not just to tell the people what the government is doing, but also to go round to feel the pulse of the people and report same to government.
“He told me when he appointed me to inform him about what is good and what is bad. He wants to know how his people are faring. That is the strength of his administration. That is why he has done so much. He has the right information. You could see the enthusiasm of the people yesterday. It means they trust their governor. No government has been more attached to the grassroots in the history of Kogi like that of Yahaya Bello. He is doing more already and will continue to do more.”
On the state of the flyover in the capital city Lokoja, Fanwo went down memory lane. “I remember when the Governor announced he would be doing it and many people on some very funny social media platforms started expressing pessimism. They never believed it was possible because a previous administration had toyed with their intelligence.
“But as states were in the economic mess of COVID-19, the magical GYB released billions for the project. Even when they started the project, some opposition elements said we were digging borehole on the road. Today, our results have silenced the doubts. The project is going steady and fantastically. I was there to see it last week and was so impressed by the quality and pace of the work. When completed, it will be the first by any administration in the state. Our people are very happy that we are doing such a massive project. It will solve the traffic problem in one of the fastest growing city in the world.”
Touting Lokoja as one of the fasted growing cities in the world, Fanwo said a lot of factors are responsible. “We are the safest state in Nigeria today. Many are migrating to that nodal city to be safe. We are also bordering 10 states. So we are the centre of the nation. Three, our policies and opportunities have enticed many investors into the state with big industries springing up. Such population explosion has its positives and negatives. We are dealing with the challenges that come with it by expanding our infrastructure to cope with the explosion”.
Carving a Niche in Rice Milling
Fanwo further posited that in terms of agriculture, the governor had lived up to billing with many achievements to show for it like the Kogi Rice Mill, which he said is the best in the country.
He said: “You can only call what is the best the best. The technology we have there can not be matched by any in the country. And the Confluence Rice produced there is the cleanest and most nutritious in Nigeria today. It is also worthy of note to inform the public that the Mill is generating its own power. This is a historic achievement. I know of a PDP leader who is a major distributor of the rice and smiling to the bank. Development affects all, irrespective of political or social leaning.”
Health is Wealth
Ask a sick person the value of health and the cliche ‘Health is Wealth’ becomes clearer. As regards the health sector, Fanwo described the governor as a promise keeper. “While campaigning in 2015, he promised a revolution in the education and health sectors specifically. When he became Governor, the two immediately became parts of his five thematic areas. We don’t want to talk too much about the ongoing projects in the health sector. We want to shock the nation. But as much as we want to keep it low, our people are talking about these projects. It is understandable. They are excited. See what we have turned the Idah Zonal Hospital to? Someone got there and was asking if it was the same hospital he visited some years back. The hospital has received the GYB Signature.
“The Reference Hospital, Okene is being built to take the front seat in healthcare delivery in Nigeria. We are bringing facilities that are not in any hospital in this country. Some of those facilities are already in the state. We are also building hospitals in other places such as Kogi LGA and Yagba East LGA, among others. I am proud to say Health is one area this administration has done very well. The projects will be completed in the next couple of months. We are also remodelling the State Specialist Hospital to bring it to the level of the GYB Signature. By the time all of the projects are completed, Kogi will become the Healthcare Centre of Nigeria”, he disclosed.
Bridging Education Deficit
While many states battle education deficit, Governor Bello seems to have waved a magic wand over the sector. For Fanwo, this is no brainer given that the governor understands the place of acquiring and applying education.
The commissioner added that “It is number one on our thematic area and we are spending a quarter of our entire budget on education. It is already yielding massive fruits as we now have the lowest rate of out-of-school children in the entire Northern Nigeria. It means we are doing something right. GYB initiated the Blue-Roof Revolution, constructing modern primary school blocks that will return the glory of public schools. We have also excellently implemented the home school feeding program as well as remodelled our secondary and tertiary citadel of learning in the state. Apart from this revolution, we also established a University of Science and Technology in record time. We have never had it so good in our education. Kogi is currently tailoring her technical education to producing graduates who will create jobs rather than seek for jobs. Red collar and blue collar job’s are key to our economic renaissance.”
On the need for another university given that the Prince Abubakar Audu University, Anyigba, already exists, the commissioner said: “The Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara is not just another University, but a specialized University. When you look at Kogi State, we are solid minerals capital of Nigeria. Recently, the federal government decided to establish the Gold Processing Hub for North-Central in Kogi State. We also have the potentially largest Iron and Steel Company in Africa situated in Kogi State.
“The biggest Cement Company in Africa is in Kogi State. We have Unicane and other high profile companies in the State. You need a University that should specialize in providing manpower for all of these companies. It was a smart move by the GYB administration to do that. And the speed of completion is historic. They are already in the second semester of their first year. We are poised to produce the best Engineers and Scientists from that university.”
Notwithstanding all these achievements, they would have all been for nothing if the state was insecure. This is because security is an important and critical element to the progress of any government as any valuable development cannot be achieved without adequate security. For Kogi, this is one ethos they hold dear as the state boasts of being the most secure state despite being bordered by 10 states.
But it wasn’t always like this as the state was once plagued with a host of insecurity challenges which were inherited, prominent among these includes terrorism, kidnapping, assassination, political agitation, pipeline vandalism, herders/host community clashes, communal clashes and high rate of cultism.
To tackle this, government found the need to restore peace and confidence to the people by embarking on programs and policies as immediate priority and strategic solutions.
But recently, the security of the state was recently breached when the Correctional Centre was attacked, a breach the commissioner said they have put measures in place to prevent any reoccurrence.
According to him, Governor Yahaya Bello might have been a soldier if he didn’t chose Accounting as he has a passion for security and so much knowledge about that field. In light of that passion, he said the governor has committed humongous resources in building an excellent security architecture and a watertight security network for the state.
“A lot of crimes that would have been bloody had been prevented. And many had been fought. We are the safest state in Nigeria. The breach was unfortunate. But the Governor has personally coordinated efforts at ensuring the perpetrators are apprehended. We won’t make noise about security operations. But we are satisfied with our response to the incident and how we have rejigged our security architecture to remain the most peaceful state in Nigeria. We as Nigerians must stop thinking insecurity is ethno-colored. Every society has criminals. It is the responsibility of all of us to deal with them,” he stressed.
On any possible plans by the governor to contested for the 2023 presidency, Fanwo said: ” I don’t know if he has made up his mind or when he will communicate his response to the massive calls on him to come and lead our nation. What I know is that he loves Nigeria and will do anything good to make our nation the pride of Africa. He is a man who has shown capacity in security, unity, cohesion and development.
“He is a man who is currently spending a quarter of the resources of his state to educate his people. He is a man who can bring Ajaokuta Steel to reality and stop the billions of dollars we spend annually in importing steel. He is a man who has shown capacity to rebound our agriculture and feed the nation. So we are not surprised that Nigerians are now calling on him to come and be President.
“They are convinced he will do a good job. Those of us that have worked with him over the years know how much he loves Nigeria and his capacity to make Nigeria great. He also belongs to the demographic bracket that is staking a huge claim on the Presidency in 2023. When he declares, the whole atmosphere will change because he is a serial winner. I am sure Yahaya Bello is a man PDP will never want to engage in a Presidential contest.”
Also speaking on allegations about a smear campaign launched against the governor, he said: “Some elements are uncomfortable with the rising profile of the Governor and are bent on fighting dirty. We wont be drawn into their roforofo fight but we found it expedient to let the public know their plans. They started with the failed EFCC allegation. They later went to fabricate figures and were begging bloggers to help them publish the falsehood to tarnish the image of the governor. That has also failed.
“We know their plans to the 12th stage. Falsehood cannot stop the Governor. Anyone who wants to compete with him should go and build the kind of schools, hospitals, roads, water projects that he is building. The Governor wasn’t responsible for the political failure of his foes. And the GYB I know won’t be distracted. Kogi is blessed to have such a leader.”