The Kogi State governor-elect, Alhaji Yahaya Bello had declared Dr Yakubu Ugwolawo, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as his political mentor. In this interview with some journalists, Ugwolawo says his political son has the experience needed to deal with the complex political realities in Kogi, and that James Faleke, remains deputy governor-elect.
Why did you chose Yahaya Bello as your preferred candidate against others in the governorship race?
I am a Kogi State Indigene to the core in as much as I am an Igala person. It was Yahaya Bello that approached me for political support on his governorship ambition, having seen me as a de-tribalised individual. Maybe if any other Igala person had approached me I would have thought of giving him my support but out of all that contested for the APC primary election it was only Yahaya Bello that approached me for my support.
The governor-elect while receiving his certificate of return, referred to you as his political godfather, what does that mean for you?
I was highly elated. That was an indication that he can recall his background as a successful individual, that he can remember those that contributed towards his progress and I thank him for acknowledging my contributions. All that has happened and still happening is according to the dictates of the Almighty God and not any other. I actually gave a guide along with others with my whole heart to ensure that the project succeeded in addition to the divine intervention leading to his emergence as Governor elect.
At a point he was to dump the APC for another party?
I think Yahaya Bello should be regarded as a unique individual. Within the one year of our working together I had the privilege of actually getting really close to him. The man believes in doing whatever he is set to do rightly because before he ventures into anything at all he must have studied it and convinced that it is the route to follow, that is my personal assessment of him. Even when he lost the primary election he confided in me that there was no reason to leave having come second in his first attempt with 709 votes while the winner Prince Abubakar Audu had 1109 votes. The next person to him who had been in politics a little longer than him scored 400 votes. The next runner up Gamji scored 302 votes. So he was patient and patience gives honor to an individual. It was only speculation that he wanted to dump APC, he did not at any time make any attempt to defect to another political party. Out of the 709 votes he got, 407 good votes came from Kogi East delegates which showed that he was basically accepted all over the place particularly among the Igalas that people would fear may not give him their votes and he continued to serve the party and he was actually in the party before the unfortunate demise of our former candidate which gave him the opportunity to serve the state as he intended to do. I believe that with this kind of serious determination to use God as means of achieving his goal, certainly he will do well as governor of the state as he takes oath of office and allegiance.
Would you say it was the APC syndrome that gave him an edge over the incumbent during the supplementary election?
From the word go, even before I got to him at all, as the President of the Igala National Solidarity Association, we had set up a committee to look at individuals that were in the contest particularly from the other side of the river that would come out and be acceptable to the generality of Kogi people. They endorsed this young man because they knew that everybody in Kogi State has the right to gun for the Governorship position irrespective of his religion and tribe. To buttress the fact that the Igalas were in support of his candidature, they gave him 407 votes out of 709 in the primary election and at the supplementary election he did not only defeat the incumbent Governor in his Local Government of Dekina he also defeated him in Kogi East entirely. So what is happening now should not be seen as an uprising against the emergence of Bello, I think people are really exuding the shock over the demise of the late candidate of the Party Prince Abubakar Audu. Infact many of them believed that the relationship that existed between them and Audu could not be reinvented with Yahaya Bello even on personal ground. So most of those that were aggrieved were feeling so because of that but with time they would understand and allow God’s intervention to prevail. So it is not that every Igala person is unhappy with the emergence of Bello, it was that initial shock and you know they are human beings so all we have to do is to appeal to ourselves to accept the reality as it has presented itself. So the Igalas are happy with Yahaya Bello.
But Faleke is still flying Audu’s flag, what is your take?
This issue is in court at the tribunal, what I will like to say is that based on what is on ground Bello has been declared governor-elect after the supplementary election and even for the supplementary election Faleke was the deputy governorship candidate. We have been reading between lines on the position of the party even in the electoral act it was clearly stated that a person must contest or run in all the processes including the primary election including screening and so forth. If the party heirachy felt that they have an option that will help it survive the legal hurdles and so decided to make reference to the primary then I think so be it. As for Faleke, being a Nigerian he has a right to complain and he is complaining so we leave everything for the tribunal to decide. In my personal view I think the man came not to contest for governorship but was appointed by late Audu as his running mate not until the process of election was completed he could not say that he is the governor-elect. The constitution that allows deputy governor-elect to be sworn in at the disappearance or death of the governor-elect is there; it did not say the governorship deputy candidate. If Audu were alive would he have refused to participate in the supplementary election. When it was declared by the returning officer that election was inconclusive, would late Prince Audu, having scored over 40, 000 votes over and above the PDP candidate, refused to participate in the supplementary election? The answer is no. Then who is now talking of supplementary election not being necessary.
Expectations are high from the young man can he meet up ?
Yahaya Bello celebrated his 40th birthday last year that means he is yet to be 41 years that means there is a generational change from the old brigade that have been ruling the state to the new generation which is more concerned about universality, education, youthfulfulness; involvement of the youth in Governance.
Now what are the signs that there will be a paradigm shift ?
While he was campaigning, he refused to attend the meetings for power shift because he does not believe in power shift as in those who will always say that the Igalas have dominated the leadership of the state, the political space. He never believed in that power shift agenda but he came on board as a man who is qualified to lead the state and to provide the essential ingredients of democracy to the people because he is aware that hunger does not know tribe, bad road, unemployment and even sickness; they don’t spare any tribe. This is universal. When he leads with that on his mind certainly the people would be encouraged to unite together, beside that you know what has happened for the Igalas to give him 407 votes out of 709. They must have studied him and wanted to key in to his vision for the state and must have perceived him as a bridge builder in the provision of infrastructural amenities plus his good will from the generality of the people. He is also a humble gentleman even from his physical appearance. Who will border to tell the entire world about one’s mentor in my person at a very crucial moment. When he said Dr. Yakubu Ugwolawo has been my political mentor not everybody would like to do that. He is ready and willing to carry along everybody that is within the state for the good of the state.
The state is in comatose over salary, how would he manage the state?
Most people that have governed the state came from the private sector. He is also having that background but look at the difference; first executive Governor late Prince Abubakar Audu, Former Governor Ibrahim Idris and the outgoing Governor Idris Wada, all came in from all private sector but Yahaya Bello had a 15years working experience in government and not in any ordinary sector but at the Revenue and Fiscal Mobilisation and Allocation Commission where he worked at the Federal level. He is coming with unquestionable integrity. For that he is well placed to know how to use the resources available to get what he wants to get. Lean purse, yes, but if not squandered on frivolity but judiciously utilized then positive results would be achieved. His wealth of experience in his own successful private business in transport and other engagements. So we know that he has a background that traverse along what to do to manage the economy of the state.