Prior to the 2011 governorship election in Kogi State, many were of the opinion that in that period of our democratic experiment, what the state needed was a man with sound vision, especially one that could drive the state on a sustained path of socio-economic growth.
The state needed somebody that was transparent and committed to good governance-simply put, one that was passionate about all-round good governance.
The consensus of opinion was that the state had suffered enough and was desirous of a man whose actions would be motivated by public good, and not a man who will stretch the purse of the state, not for public good, but rather to satisfy selfish desires.
In other words, the state was desirous of a man who would prudently manage its meager resources to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the electorates.
Tall order, you would say but even in these days when public morality has been sold to the dogs and corruption seems to be the order of the day, there are still a handful that place premium on integrity and good name.
Oh yes, they are not easy to come by; not even in these days that corruption has eaten deep into our national fabric and almost every public office holder is eager to have a bite of the proverbial ‘national cake’.
In the midst of the scarcity of this type of people, the state was lucky, extremely lucky to have Captain Idris Wada, who in January, 2012-2016, stood for and ruled on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Prior to the election, he wasn’t a much known face in the political circle, but when he was unveiled; his credentials were too tempting to be ignored,hence his rare achievement in his first tenure .
Looking at his pedigree, Captain Wada was considered a marketable product for the PDP. His strongest point remains his humility, couple with the fact that he has proven to be reliable and dependable-a man of doubtless integrity-indeed, he is an unusual politician; not the conventional politician who would do anything, including telling bare-face lies to sway people their way,a feat he displayed during his first term .
Captain Wada had in four years as Kogi Governor , proved his openness. He doesn’t shy away from putting his cards on the table even if the odds would be against him.
In spite of the continuous slide in what accrued to the state from the federation account, the governor has continued to resist the temptation to pay workers and pensioners a fraction of their salary. He has been particularly very consistent in the payment of pensions and gratuity to state and local government workers .
The administration accorded workers’ salaries and allowances, including the payment of leave bonuses priority attention, even when many other states with much higher allocations could hardly meet salary obligations to their workforce.
Never in the history of the state, had a leader given so much priority to the well-being of retirees as Governor Wada had done. Not even the steady drop in the allocation would deter him from according the retirees premium attention.
He had said it times without number, that he would not stand by and watch elder statesmen being treated as rags. He has no doubt, dignified retirees.
Immediate governor Wada, in four years, had placed service to the people far above the allure and comfort of the office of the governor. Each day, what was of topmost concern to him was seeking the greatest good of the electorate,civil servants and pensioners .
For Former Governor Wada, governance was not a comfort zone; it was an opportunity to serve and make a difference. Making a difference in the case of retirees had been a sure test case for him .
Not one given to double-speak, Governor Wada was an uncommon Nigerian politician. He does not promise what he cannot fulfill.
In other words, he wasn’t the kind of politician who would look at people on their faces and tell them what he thinks they want to hear. That, for him, was dubious.
Little wonder, he had kept to his promise to make life better for the state retirees. Over three years into his adminstration running in his first term, he remained faithful to this pledge and uptill the end of his term.
When he assumed office in January, 2012, he made it abundantly clear that he would give the electorate a reason to smile; a reason to trust and believe in him and his administration.
Of course, the initial reaction of the people was ‘we have heard this being said before’.
Four years into his administration, the people of the state have seen a new kind of leadership; a leadership devoid of flamboyance, deceit, and all the negative things that had held the state down in its over two decades of existence as a state and now a norm in the present order of misapplication .
Prior to his coming into office in 2012, successive governments were often quick to threaten the state workforce with sack, knowing full well that pensions and gratuity were seldom paid.
Little wonder, many retirees die almost as soon as they retire from service out of hunger and inability to meet family needs,worsened by the current dispensation .
No one trusted them enough to sell on credit to them because you could not actually tell when their next pay day would come.
All of these, the immediate governor was prepared and overturn, did his best .
Senior citizens, who had labored for years to contribute to the development of the state, must not be treated like lepers; they deserve better deal and not even the leanness of the state’s coffers, would detered him from giving them their well-deserved dues.
At inception, the administration met over 14 billion naira backlog of pensions and gratuity dating back to 1990 and cleared it through gradual process .
He had hardly settled down as governor, when he started to address the lingering problem of pensions and gratuities.
The backlogs are being serviced with about 450 million naira monthly, while gratuity payments were doubled to 50 million naira monthly. Clearing all pension backlogs before he left office
Governor Wada ensured the regular payment of pensions and gratuity to all categories of pensioners .
Interestingly, he continued to do this without inflicting any pain on the retirees, who hitherto and now, are made to undergo endless screening exercises with out payment .
Only one biometric data capturing exercise was embarked upon by the administration. Planned and harmonised all pensions.
One recalled with nostalgia how in the past, retirees are screened repeatedly and, sometimes, in the process, lives are lost,up till now. An inhuman conducts and traits on the part of our leaders
Governor Wada does not want hardship for anyone, more so to the elderly. Like their counterparts still in service, retirees in the state get their bank credit alerts, confirming payment of their pensions promptly and as at when due between 2012 -2016.
In a year, no fewer than 200 retirees in the 1994 set, in one fell swoop, got paid their gratuities that had been outstanding for almost 20 years and ever since then, the government earmarked substantial amount of money to pay outstanding gratuities. The intention of his government was to liquidate all the outstanding,and the target was met .
Before he left in 2016, pensioners in Kogi State are no longer being treated as second-rated citizens.
As a matter of fact, there was a special committee in place headed by the secretary to the state government that looked into special cases that may required urgent attention.
When such cases came up, they are given expeditiously treatment. This was to ensure that retirees do not go through unnecessary pain, not when their entitlements are outstanding.
During his first term,between 2012-2016, Governor Wada had left no one in doubt that his, was a divine mandate that was responsible to the welfare of the people, especially the aged.
Not even the poor finances of the state then, made him shy away from this chosen path. It was indeed a new beginning for retirees who get their benefits as and when due.
There was no doubt that the governor had given the God-given mandate his best shot.
From the policy thrust of his administration and programmes, his commitment to the people, the ordinary man on the street, was unwavering.
This was borne out of his belief that government must not be for one section of the society, but for all of the society. This had been the driving force behind the attention given to retirees in the state in four years of his stint .
This philosophy of his, clearly defined the vision and mission behind his leadership during his first term .
Governor Wada was clearly on a mission and served the people of the state with humility and rendered transparent and accountable stewardship anchored on high level integrity and good governance.
Indeed since he came on board of the state and left the scene in 2016, the pensioners sang new songs-songs of fresh hope and fulfilment.
That, they were obviously happy, that they have a man who understood their language and felt their pain, but, are now relegated to the background, waiting all day long and years for arears of pensions running into billions and over 30 months.
Capt Wada not only kept the pact of pension payment to state and local government pensioners, he implemented the harmonised pension scheme for state retirees and elders, that jerked up their monthly and regular entitlements.
No wonder the loudest ovation for call to service and return of Capt Wada to the leadership of Kogi state, is loudest from the angle of pensioners,workers and on the whole,the electorates in Kogi state.
– Abubakar Yusuf writes from Lokoja.