Professor Seidu Mohammed is the director general of National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) and a frontline governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the November 12 governorship election in Kogi State. He spoke with reporters on his ambition, his agenda for the state, his chances and other issues. EKELE PETER AGBO was there for LEADERSHIP.
The news of your declaration of interest to seek the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the upcoming governorship election in Kogi State has been received with mixed feelings. While some have expressed joy over the development, others wonder why a two-term director general of NASRDA, with all the national recognition and some international clout, would be seeking to be governor. Why do you want to be Governor of Kogi State?
First of all, let me say that I am eminently qualified to be governor of Kogi State. But beyond being qualified, let me state that I am offering myself for election into the office of Governor of Kogi State because of the desire to serve the people of my state. My ambition is borne out of my love for the state and its people and the desire to transform it into a model for other states to copy. In other words, I am running for governor because I believe I can add value to the governance of a state I love so much. My love for the state and its people knows no limit. I love the diversity, the can-do spirit, the communal ( neighbour-helping-neighbour) life of the people; and I believe in what Kogi state can be. And my passion to serve compels me once again to stand for what is right for all Kogites, to make Kogi state what it can be. I offer myself as a Kogite who is concerned about the widespread unemployment that is destroying the very fabric of our society.
How would you assess your chances, given the fact that you are considered a greenhorn in partisan politics?
Well, you may be right to say that I have never personally contested any election but I have participated in governance and I have watched at close quarters and indeed played key roles during elections. Don’t forget, I served as ……….during the administration of former Governor Ibrahim Idris. But that is beside the point. The fact that I have not run for an elective position before does not in any way diminish the contacts and connections that I have been blessed with. Also, if you consider the various exposure that I have garnered over the years both in the academia and in the nation’s national life, you will not call me a greenhorn.
Secondly, the job of providing leadership for a state like ours requires someone who possesses the experience, humility, integrity and all what it takes to do the job. By and large, I am a team player. I believe I represent these values. That is another reason I am presenting myself as a candidate for the office of governor.
Thirdly, our party, the APC is lucky to be the party in power at the national level, where President Muhammadu Buhari is touching the lives of the people in all the sectors of the economy. At the national level, the APC led administration has delivered in all sphere of human endeavor. This is the kind of feat I want to replicate in Kogi State. If voted into power, I will work wonders in all the key sectors of the economy: Agriculture, Education, Infrastructure, Health, Security, you name it..
You are the latest entrant into the race, a development that has sparked insinuations that your ambition is an afterthought. Do you agree with this suggestion?
No! Not at all. It might interest you to know that the position of the governor of a state is not beans cake. It is a serious business that requires a lot of consultations. That is what we have been doing in the last few years. We consulted widely, beginning from the youths who form a good chunk of my support base to elders who have held positions of responsibility and therefore have some experience to share. I can assure you that I didn’t just wake up one day and decided to run for the office of the governor. My supporters urged me to run and then I began to hold consultations. So, my desire to offer myself for the service of the state was reinforced by the conviction of a large segment of our people that I should run for the most coveted position in the state. Majority of the people are convinced about our sincerity of purpose and the need to arrest the current drift in the affairs of our state, would require someone like me who has the education, exposure and sincerity of purpose to take Kogi State to the Next Level.
How do you intend to defeat other gladiators who have also positioned themselves for the (APC) ticket including the incumbent governor?
I have made this point before but suffice it to repeat that the race will be based on various factors. I have said before that good track records, experience, record of selfless service, humility and grassroots support are some of the issues that will shape the upcoming governorship primary election of our party and I have no doubt in my mind that I will emerge victorious since these are the qualities that I am bringing to the table. I am very optimistic that I will emerge victorious at the primary election and go on to win the gubernatorial election Insha Allah.
You sound very passionate about tackling the problem of unemployment, which has been identified as the key problem confronting Kogi State. How do you intend to deal with the issue of youth unemployment, since Kogi is practically a civil service state?
During the course of my consultation, I met with and heard from tens of thousands of Kogites from across the three senatorial districts about how we can continue to build the Kogi state of our dream, with jobs and opportunities for every resident in every community. What I have heard over and over is that it doesn’t matter to the majority of our people where the person who provides these jobs and opportunities come from or the language he or she speaks. What matters to them is that there should be jobs and business opportunities for all. Kogi State is blessed with abundant human and natural resources; such as solid minerals, vast farm lands, vast water resources, intelligent, hardworking and talented people. For all of our state’s wealth, there should be no suffering in the land. But I bet that in every family there is a loved one who has no job, many for years after graduation. And there are some others who are underemployed. I hear of university graduates who are working with school certificate because these are the jobs they could get. Others are riding o’kada’ and ‘keke’ to offer transport services just to make ends meet and hold their lives together. It doesn’t have to be so.
Many watchers of the developments in Kogi State have pointed to division across ethnic lines as a major challenge to growth and development. How do you intend to unite the people of the state for inclusive growth and development?
My dream for Kogi State is a state where those who want to work will find appropriate jobs and those who want to set up businesses can do so without bothering about the infrastructure that will enable them to succeed. I dream of a Kogi state where our youths can look at us with hope and we see them as worthy future leaders. I dream of a Kogi state where our tomorrow will always be better than yesterday. I dream of a Kogi state where, where you come from and the languages you speak do not matter. I dream of a Kogi state where the interest of all is paramount and not those of the few. I dream of a Kogi state where you do not have to know a big man before you get what you deserve. I dream of a Kogi state of equal opportunity and no discrimination.
I believe that, through collaborative and inclusive efforts and participatory governance, all Kogites, working together as a statewide team can make this dream a reality in our life time.
It would have been criminal of me to look the other way when I know I can do something about these problems. I promise to close all our familiar fissures of religion and ethnicity.
Dependence on federal allocation has continued to be problem to many states, including Kogi. How do you intend to diversify the economy to make Kogi State self sustaining?
Our dependence on the Federal allocation which has crude oil as the main source of revenue not only exposes our economy to foreseeable shocks, it endangers our security because unemployment is presently our greatest security risk. The petrol dollar made us to unwisely ignore every other sector particularly agriculture with its huge job creation potential, thereby robbing us of a source of massive employment for our teeming youths.
In my blueprint for Kogi State, I plan to embark on restructuring the economy of our state through massive investment in agriculture and rural economies, modernizing and expanding our infrastructure including affordable housing, promoting tourism, entertainment and sports, assisting existing and moribund industries and encouraging new ones to set up agro-based industries, we can jump start job creation and achieve greater, more sustainable economic prosperity.
As we recreate our economy, it is also imperative that we secure and strengthen our society and protect the environment, and by so doing create the enabling environment to attract local and foreign investment.
Peace is a key factor for development. So under my stewardship, residents and visitors will live in peace and safety, free from harassment, intimidation, vandalism and fear at home or on the streets of Kogi State.
We shall also transform our State and strengthen our society by providing better schools and better hospitals for our people. We believe that education and health care should be affordable, accessible and qualitative. I will work to deliver improvements in quality and capacity in our health care and educational sectors.
I believe in our youths. They are worthy future leaders. We must give them genuine hope that the future can be better. As Governor, I will create the necessary environment for the full realization of their immense innate endowments in entrepreneurship, sports, entertainment or as part of the working class.
In recognition of the silent roles women play in our society as the solid rock of families, I will work tirelessly to enhance women’s rights, insist on 35 percent of women representation in our government and give them the responsibility for all development schemes relating to women affairs. We will up-grade and expand markets across the State because they are the traditional strongholds for women.
As the next Governor Kogi state, I won’t kick the can down the road. I will confront every challenge that come our way because I understand the urgent need to diversify our economy, secure and strengthen our society and protect the environment to help create sustained economic growth and new jobs for our people. Doing all these will not be easy. But I believe it is do-able. That is why I have decided to join the race to seek the governorship ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
What will be your final word?
The current Governor and a few others are in the race. We are all qualified. We are all good men and women who mean well for our state. But I can do a better job of transforming our state and taking it to the next level of development. I need the support of everyone in the party to make this happen. I implore everyone to support me in the primary election because my candidacy will ensure easy victory for our party in the governorship election and thereafter, transform our state to the level many people thought was impossible and through this living example make the opposition completely irrelevant in Kogi State.So join me. Together, we can make the new Kogi possible!