Alhaji Taufiq. A. Isa is the chairman of both Ijumu Local Government, Kogi State and Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON). In this interview with Makinde Oluwarotimi, he speaks about the politics and development of Kogi State among other things.
As soon as you became the ALGON chairman of Kogi State, the attention of all the youth was diverted to you and they began seeing you as their leader. What is the secret behind it?
The secret is that they know I am not after wealth. The house you see here now, I built this house when I was in that meeting. If any youth comes to me with a complaint, either genuine or not, even though I don’t have, what they would hear from me will make them happy. I am accessible to my youths and I address them, I advise them, I sympathise with them. Sometimes when I go to a canteen, and I see them eating, I join them to eat together, even though some of them usually panic that this is a whole ALGON chairman eating with me. Sometimes, I ride on a motor bike and I do tell them that this world is vanity upon vanity, those big men carrying our money, keeping it until the tension is clear before they come down, will never escape God’s punishment and you will see. Whether we are alive or not, we will see what will happen to them because this money belongs to all of us, they are there based on opportunity. You that is there to represent somebody should be coming back to talk to us but they do not, they will be hiding, preferring to go to America. Since I became chairman, I have never visited any foreign country; my journey is just from here to Lokoja, unless we have a crucial meeting in Abuja. So I prefer this kind of life. Some of the leaders are not like that, had it been it was them, they would say because they arrested them, they want to go for medical check-up, for what? Is there no hospital in Nigeria? Is there no hospital in Kogi State?
How do you cope with all the stress in your work and still have a smooth relationship with your wife?
Immediately I became the chairman, I called my wife. I said ‘look, if you think I became a chairman to make money, sorry, all of you must struggle along with me. I will never collect people’s money, I am a Muslim and God said any leader that betrays his followers would suffer before God on judgement day.’ My wife still said so many things about going to the market to buy and sell, I said don’t see yourself ahead of other women, it is just an opportunity, we are servants, not leaders. When my boss called me Oga, I said don’t call me Oga, I am a servant, any leader is a servant, any leader that sees himself as an Oga will not perform well. So my wife understood me, they know me; they know I will never go and put my hand into dirty lives. Any time they do not see me, they know I went out to serve people and they are always happy because I tell them I am planting people so that their children will have somewhere to fall to tomorrow. My junior brother told me that anywhere he goes, some military and police men compliment him because he is my brother. You saw the crowd the day before yesterday when I was visiting all the hospitals, so my wife and children are very proud, happy that they have a good and loving father and I told them I am a child of circumstances that my mother and father are poor and I must identify with the poor physically, not by mouth. Even if I become the Obama or Trump of America, I will never change my attitude and till I die, I must identify with the poor no matter what the wicked try to do, they cannot succeed because the heads of the poor have been assisting. One woman yesterday was crying that she just had to pay N10, 000 but when I got there, I said madam you are going home now, I paid the N10, 000 and gave her another N10, 000. Somebody had a leg injury, and it had been there for long, I gave him N100, 000 and I said they should take him to any specialist hospital. Today, they said he has to be amputated, I said that whatever it would cost, I will pay. So, this is how we should touch the lives of our people.
How do you wish to improve on the people that are still struggling to get their salaries?
You see Kogi State is a complex city, it is quite unfortunate that people like us found ourselves in this kind of state, this is a state where even now at local level, if I give a directive for something to be done, they will go and do a different thing entirely. There was a time they concluded the screening arrangement and everything had been piled up but before daybreak, some unknown persons had looked for chemical, mixed it with water, thrown it on the files and everything got destroyed in other to sabotage the efforts of the government because some individuals are gaining from this fraud. So, we need to go back to the drawing board and the incumbent governor said that if this screening exercise is the only area in which he succeeds and that is what will make him to be remembered by the people, he will make sure nothing is able to stop him because Ibro started it and he was not allowed to succeed. The cabal is there, 85 percent of the work force was employed by this cabal and the governor said he will not go and bring people from outside because Ibro brought somebody from outside the state, I think his name was Sabah. They rebelled saying he brought a consultant from another place. Yahaya Bello selected people from among them and these people were corrupted by the cabal, whenever we were about to succeed, they would plan another thing. Yahaya Bello said he would not be tired so we now formed a reconciliation salary committee that will probe those committee members and to state the salary that was paid and how much it was. By the time they submit their report, so many things will change and I swear to God, no genuine worker, no good worker will be left unpaid.
Concerning the political tussle in Kogi State now, are you really interested in making peace with other people that are trying to sabotage your effort in politics?
As a peace loving man, my desire is to see how we move forward. Any politician that thinks of himself alone is not a good politician. If I want to join politics to make money to visit European countries or to buy expensive vehicles and so on and so forth, then I remain adamant and not willing to settle with anybody. My brother, I want to settle with all politicians in Okura so that we can bring our heads together and help our people. My aim is to see us come together. Oku as a nation, we are suffering; we are backward, that is why I want to neutralise some of what they thought is not possible. I want the Obas to take any step they want to make sure the matter is settled. Aside Dino Melaye, there is no politician in Oku land that I am not friendly with, I respect everybody. I am using this medium to appeal to the entire Oku politicians that this is the right time to come together. Nobody can fight the government of the day and succeed. If Oku, as a nation, would want to have their own, they should come down to the level and team up with Yahaya Bello so that we can bring dividends of democracy closer to our people. By the special grace of God, nothing can remove Yahaya Bello until after his tenure. You can quote me and put this as the headline of your newspaper, Alhaji Yahaya Adosi Bello, the executive governor of Kogi State, will spend eight years in office by the special grace of God.
We learnt that the first priority of your board is agriculture. How can the youth benefit from this?
The first agricultural program that will commence will be from here and the other one will be expanded so that the entire Kogi State would be surprised. We even want to use part of it to generate electricity, we want to use some to create so many things and very soon, by next week, this program will commence and there’s a company that has intensified its intention to come and partner with us in Kogi State. They brought charts for each local administrator to pick whatever he wants and we picked so many things. Kogi State will turn around, you can see what is happening in Lokoja now, can you see the street lights? See the grassroots stomach infrastructure we have in the state. Every month, 50 bags of rice would be taken to polling units. Some people have no access to the government but taking these things every month is something. So, at the day of election, nobody will bring rice. That is why we told them that we will teach them what politics is all about; we want to teach them how to play politics. We want to tell our people that we are not out to deceive them, but we are out to teach them how to practice. And very soon, we will be employing 300 nurses, doctors and medical personnel. We are not screening people to humiliate; we are screening people to get what we can do for our people.
In the next four years, where do you see Kogi State in terms of development?
In the next two years, Kogi State will be a new state. I have promised you Kogi will be a new state, take the pain, take the opportunity, go and meet any of the Obas and ask them what the current position with this government is, you will hear what he will tell you. By the special grace of God, I will take Kogi to a special level. Apart from that, we have been managing our economy to save things that would be used to lift my people so that we can totally eradicate poverty in this state. Prior to this, we didn’t have a system, but now, we have started sharing some money to widows at each local government but I don’t want to mention their names, because these people are not benefiting anything from the government.
What is your good will message to your people?
My good will message to my people is that, I appreciate them for what they have done during my trial period. My priority is that Ijemu is the home of peace and I will continue to work on that peace and I will never bring disgrace to Ijemu land. I thank the traditional rulers, the people and everybody for their support and prayers and God will see us through. I am still using this opportunity not to hold anybody responsible for what actually happened, it is a political fight and I believe it can be resolved politically. I promise to continue to carry everybody along and I don’t want anybody to use this opportunity to create confusion, that is why I have directed all the security agencies to protect the state and I also thank LEADERSHIP Newspaper personally for the humility, God will be with you.