As the race for the Kogi State governorship election gathers steam, candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Kingsley Idoko Ilonah, in this interview, spoke on why he wants to govern the state. He explained why he has only one point agenda which is the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Idoko, who is an expert in outdoor advertising, detailed why he left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) despite his support over year. He said the PDP primary which produced Senator Dino Melaye was manipulated. He said he has a better chance of winning the election given the fact that he is from the majority side of the state which is Igala. The real estate mogul faulted the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello, whom he said has not been forthright in the management of the state’s resources despite its potential. He warned those planning plebiscite by unleashing mayhem, stating that nobody was a monopoly of violence.
By Juliet Akoje.
Why are you in the contest?
We have found ourselves in an unfortunate situation. The Igala are the majority. We have the voting population that represents Kogi East. We have Kogi West. We have 9 local governments. Kogi West has 7 local governments and Kogi Central has 5 local governments. Now, the complain is that the Igala has been ruling non-stop because of our voting strength and our population. And in 2015, unfortunately, after the election and the winner of the election Prince Abubakar Audu died that was how the current governor was drafted in.
One would expected that after completing eight years, because if as a minority you have cried and complained about marginalisation after completing eight years, what I would have expected the governor to have done was to move power to the west so that you take advantage and even out the power rotation. The truth is that if power was taken to the west and we had credible candidate from the West contesting someone like me would not even be in the race because I am an entrepreneur. I have always said this to people that if you put President Bola Tinubu on one side and you put Adenuga on the other side, I will always go for Dangote or Adenuga. Because I am an entrepreneur. This is my spirit, this is my blood.
The reason I came out to contest in this election, unfortunately, is because we just realized that the people contesting have not done well. You cannot have a state that is blessed with so much natural and human resources and we are where we are. This issue of half salary payment is pathetic. It is traumatising for our people. So, because of what the governor has done by taking the power to his own place where he is completing eight years and from what I heard which I cannot verify is that it is his cousin that is coming in and because of how badly the government has also performed in the past seven years plus, our people are so pained and I felt that we have the majority. We gave him an opportunity and he didn’t do well and he is trying to bring his cousin and it won’t work. So, that is why he has ethnicise the state which is an unfortunate situation.
We hope to correct this if we have the opportunity to govern the state. We will lay a very solid foundation so that going forward we will have a good template to work. From my experience, what leads to agitation is not power shift but poor leadership. Is President Buhari not from Katsina? Is he not from the north? A lot of people have been murdered in the northern part of Nigeria more than any part of the country under his eight years rule. So, when you have a government in place that provides the basic needs of the people. What are the basic needs of the people? Quality education, good roads, good hospital, human capital development, nobody will complain where you come from. That is you see that in developed countries, a brother can be a governor is one state and the other in another state as long as you are working nobody looks at where you come from. So, we pray and hope that if we are given the opportunity to serve the state for four years, we will make a remarkable difference. We will bring quality and Godly leadership to the state so that people can see and emulate us. We intend to put Kogi on the world map. We should be a yardstick to judge how people should be run.
Could it be that you left the PDP because you couldn’t clinch the ticket? I do understand that leaders are meeting to come up with a consensus candidate. If you are not chosen, will you abide by the outcome?
I was in the PDP until after the primary. That is very true. Unfortunately, the primary was not free and fair. I am sure Nigerians are aware of what happened in Kogi State where you have 717 delegates and there were 10 aspirants. And one person was allowed alter the list of 187 delegates. The names of the delegates was only released on Saturday. It has never been done in Nigeria. We had the same primary with Bayelsa and Imo States. The lists of their delegates were there even though they were unopposed may be that is why it was that way. A lot of people were not happy with what happened. We the aspirants came together and we laid our petition and we complained a lot. An appeal panel was set up. We went there and presented our case that you cannot give an undue advantage to one person. If they are 10 aspirants jostling for 717 delegates in total, if you allow one to singlehandedly manipulate the process and I have 187 delegates then it is bad. When we the 9 aspirants were waiting for the list to come out, the aspirant that eventually won already knew the list. He was apportioning and telling delegates that you your name has been removed and we have replaced you. A lot of things were happening. We were all kept in the dark. Nobody was happy. The truth is for you to be a good politician from what I have studied, you have to first and foremost, must be a good sports person. And what is the spirit of sportsmanship? If you go into a contest you might win, you might lose. If you lose , you remain in the party and help the party to grow. But when you win you give to thanks to God and you go for the general elections.
I have been a registered member of the PDP since 2008. I have participated passively from behind supporting the party and I have never contested for any election. I have never come out to do any major political activity. So I came into the race in January. I picked my form on the 31 of January and everybody knows that I won that election, If not because of the manipulation. I was just in the race for less than three months. But the list was manipulated. And when I took my decision to run for election, I did not do it alone. I have the conviction that I can govern the state; provide quality leadership for the state. I did it in consultation with my leaders. I had to run with our traditional leaders, politicians and people who have been in the game over the years.
After the primary we sat down and did a postmortem on what has happened and what we needed to do. It was a unanimous decision that the reason I came out to contest in the election has still not been achieved. So, once I remain in the party my dreams might just die away like what happened in the Yar’Adua bridge in Yar’Adua Centre where the bridge was cut halfway. The train was cut short. We all took a collective decision that I should move to another platform and contest the election and that was why I did what I did.
Because already APC had given their ticket to the governor’s brother who is from the central. PDP had given their ticket to Dino. There was also another candidate, Hon Leke Abejide from ADC. The truth is, the reason our leaders took that decision was very simple. Now, Kogi West has 7 local government. But the Dino and Hon Leke are from the same side which is the Okun speaking area of Kogi State and they have 5 local governments. If both of them are contesting and the split their votes and there is no credible person from Igala to contest what happens? Yahaya Bello might end up taking the day and end up doing a third term. That was the concern of our leaders and that was why they said we can’t allow this to happen. I looked at it I prayed and asked God for direction and I took the next step.
The second question is that the traditional leaders are trying to come up with a consensus candidate. As I have always said that I am not a traditional politician; I am an entrepreneur. I am not a politician that keeps contesting election over and over again. If not for the cries of my people I would have returned to my business. But I believe that power comes from God Almighty. I believe that it is only God that gives power. There is no man in this world that gives power. I have never seen where somebody is praying and he expects the prayers to close the door. I have never seen it happen. Power comes from God but you have to stand up and work for it. What I am doing is to put myself forward. I have the capacity. I started this business 21 years ago. And look at where we have come to. As at today, my company which I founded which introduced electronic form of advertising in Nigeria advertising landscape. This is what has been existence in the world since 1996. But almost 10 years after I brought it into the country. It was nowhere in the advertising landscape of Nigeria. In 2011, we built and installed the largest advertising board in Nigeria. In 2015 we built and installed the largest advertising board in Africa of 25 metre high on the Abuja international airport, Lugbe. Then as at last year, I have the appetite for creating world record by doing things that are extraordinary because of my mentor, Mohammed Al Amaktoum. If you go to Dubai you will see what he is doing and you will be wondering if it was not a woman that gave birth to him. How can someone go to a complete desert and create an artificial lake and install? The only 7 star hotel in the world. How can a man sit down and conceive the idea to build the tallest building in the world? When I see things like that, they inspire me. So, in 2022 after conquering Africa we decided to take it higher. And we built and installed the largest advertising structure in the world. As we speak, it is officially on record that the One Infinity Billboard is the largest advertising structure in the world. We have been officially certified by Guinness Book of Record. They are supposed to be in Nigeria to officially present the certificate to us. The structure is a 13 -storey building high. The entire landmass of the board is 9, 800 kilometer square metre.
I believe that Kogi State has a lot of potential and it is God that gives power. I know that I have the capacity to transform the economy of the state. I have the capacity to transform the lives of the people of the state. How do you imagine that in Lokoja where you have rivers surrounding the city there’s no water? How do explain that a state like Kogi State that is surrounded by 13 States lack basic amenities. Our governor tells us that he met the IGR of the state at N350 million and in 2018, he took it to N1 billion and in 2019, N1.1 billion. I think about 7 months they say they have risen to N1.7 billion. With all due respect to His Excellency, it is a blatant lie from the pit of hell. You can tell us that a state that has industries and everything is generating N1.7 billion. What about the money you get from the trucks?
So it is either it is not properly automated to get the real tax and all the rest of that is what is happening within. And then look within. Let me give you a few examples. The largest rice mill in Africa is in Imota, Lagos State. The distance from Lagos to Lokoja is about 7 to 8 hours. Whereas the distance from Lagos to Kebbi is about 18 to 19 hours by road. The padding that powers the largest rice mill in Africa comes all the way from Kebbi. It has a land mass of 33,000 kilometer square. Kogi has a land mass of 833,000 kilometer square. Just imagine the cost of transportation from Kebbi to Lagos. Imagine if we are planting enough rice in Kogi. There is a local government in Kogi called Ibaji. It has one of the best soil in the Nigeria for agriculture especially for rice, sugarcane, yam and other things. How do you have Kogi State that is just 8 hours by road from Lagos and you have 3 hours maximum by sea all you need to do is just to dredge.
For the past three years, I have put in a team of financial analysts and consultants together. I paid hundreds of millions to help us develop a blueprint for Kogi state and we can generate between N20-N25 billion within 6 months to one year. It is not a fluke. We have identified about 56 different companies to be established in Kogi State, if God gives us power. We can do these things.
When our President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was Lagos State governor, the yearly internally generated revenue of Lagos state was N13 billion. But under one year he took it to N69 billion. Now we all know what Lagos state is doing every month? That is what we are saying Kaduna too is doing the same thing. I watched an interview with El-Rufai before he became governor where he said they were generating N800 million, now they are doing N13 billion monthly. This is a state that is a war-torn state. Since El-Rufai became governor the only industry I think that has been attracted to Kaduna I think is Olams. And Olams unfortunately is because of the war they have not been able to produce anything. They did it through payee. How did el-Rufai did it, payee. They just automated the payee and started getting the right IGR.
To answer your question, I believe among the 10 contestants, I have the best plan for the state. I am the most prepared candidate to lead the state. I have transformed a company that I started about 20 years ago with less than N8 million to over N31 billion worth. I turned it around and I can do that for the state with the vast resources scattered and spread across the state.
Like I tell people my ambition to contest is on a tripod; transparency, equity and accountability. And I have just one point agenda which is the IGR. If you do not have IGR, I will just come and waste my time. The salary burden of the state is over N4 billion, but the FAAC allocation to the state is about N4.2 billion. That is part of the reasons the governor is not doing what he is supposed to do because the money is not enough.
That is why governors touch local government funds to be able to do some other personal things. It is not just to dream and say you want to be governor and you want to build roads, houses and hospitals. The question is where will the money come from? The President (Buhari) has ended eight years tenure which is one of the worst in the history of the country leaving a debt of N77 trillion and still counting. I have been tested among the 10 of us from Kogi East. I have been doing business of 20 years going to 21 years. My achievements and records are very clear and visible for everyone to see. I cannot force myself if God does not permit. I am desperate for quality leadership in Kogi State.
How prepared are you for the real election so that on that day INEC will not say your name is missing? How prepared are you for the violence?
The truth about politics in Nigeria is that unfortunately, we do not have provision for independent candidate. If we did may be I would have been running as an independent candidate. But that as it may be, a political party is a vehicle to take you to your destination. How did I end up in APGA? When the leaders sat down and met for us to take a decision on our next plan and line of work and suggestions came up that I should move to another party. Majority of the suggestion was that let us try and go to a party that has a governor, grassroots support and members at the National Assembly. As it is today, it is only 5 political parties that have those criteria; APC, PDP, LP APGA, and NNPP. PDP, APC is already a no-go area because they have done their own drama and brought in their candidates. What was left was the three other party. Labour Party, unfortunately, has their candidate. At that time, there were factions with two candidates. We saw that it was quite of a confusion. Moreover, they have a candidate. And I believe that there are 18 other political parties. Why do you want to talk to a candidate that will not step down for you? For NNPP, it has a candidate. The only party that fell under this category was APGA. APGA is also a good party. It is a party of our great leadership, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and the governors of APGA have done well. The famous Peter Obi that is making all the waves was a member of APGA. After that we had Willie Obiano that did his own bid. Now we have Chukwuma Soludo. These are people I intend to learn from especially Peter Obi.
The major thing here is the man, Kingsley Idoko. I am the candidate. I do not think the platform is the problem. Even if were to be a problem, in Kogi State, the Igala are the majority. We did not create ourselves; God put us there. We are about 60 % and more. Unfortunately, no person from Igala is in any of the major parties. The APC has picked an Ebira person to be governor. PDP picked an Okun person to be governor. There is no Igala person in the major parties. The rest of us are even. It is how best you can sell yourself as a candidate. My platform has no problem. It is the person in the vehicle that is the most important.
On the issue of violence I tell people that nobody has a monopoly of violence. But we do not preach violence. I am a Christian. I love God and I serve God. If we truly want to serve the people, we do not need violence. We encourage peaceful election.
In all my campaigns and everything I do, I tell people it must be free and fair. This is what we must do if we are truly going to serve the people. Let us not encourage violence like what happened some days ago between the SDP candidate and the Kogi governor. I was not there and do not know what actually happened. But from both sides of the story, one will take it with a pinch of salt. There is an Igala adage that says ‘even a madman knows masquerades.’ Have you seen where a madman tells himself he won’t run when he sees a masquerade coming? He will run. If you don’t run, the masquerade will flog you. So I don’t think it is possible that a governor will be coming into his own domain, like our own white lion returning to his den, and some unscrupulous people will stand by the road. I do not want to pass any judgment. It is possible that when you have a large convoy, some supporters may become unruly. But whatever it is, I think it is condemnable. We should try to do the right thing. But the warning is simple. Nobody has a monopoly on violence. Nobody can intimidate anybody in Kogi. An election must be free and fair. So we expect that the government in power, our governor the leader of the state, as well as all candidates in Kogi East and Kogi Central, will preach the same message. It is a contest.
I am coming to serve the people, not steal from them. Why will you want to kill people because of the election? I am totally against it and won’t support it. Only God Almighty already knows what’s going to happen on November 11. The division among the opposition, for me, is a wake-up call for us to sit up and put our heads together.