A year into the administration of Captain Idris Wada as Kogi State governor, the story has been that of mixed feelings, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Last Sunday, January 27, marked the first year anniversary of the Captain Idris Wada and Mr. Yomi Awoniyi administration in Kogi State. This followed the termination of the tenure of erstwhile governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, which was at the instance of the judgment of the Supreme Court on the tenure of five state governors. As a result, the duo of Wada and Awoniyi assumed office as the ninth chief executive of the 21 year-old state with the last 365 days recording memorable events of mixed feelings.
Wada, a professional pilot, credited to have trained some of the best pilots ever produced in Nigeria, won the governorship election on December 3rd, 2011 and he took the oath of office on 27 January, 2012 alongside Awoniyi, scion of the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi as deputy.
During their electioneering, both the governor and his deputy presented convincing credentials such that expectations were high amongst the people that the state was ready for a major turn-around. Wada for example, joined the then national carrier, Nigerian Airways as a line pilot and reached the peak of his career as Captain in Command.
He was just 29 years old when he attained the feat. He later joined the United Air Service (UAS), where he rose to the position of General Manager before he founded his own airline, Executive Aviation Service (EAS) and became one of the pioneer indigenous airline operators in Nigeria. Awoniyi too, is an accomplished architect with successful business career.
Despite the political turbulence that emanated from within and outside their party as flag bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Wada and Awoniyi curried the support of the people who were sure that given their backgrounds, the state could begin to experience the much desired gains of democracy.
Kogi ranks among the three poorest states in the country where youth unemployment was rampant and the dearth of infrastructure, a major problem. The people soon relaxed their clamour for power shift, and gave the government the needed support.
Since assuming office, Wada is seen by many as having exemplified what he is capable of. Although, he is the governor, he is said never to have undermined his deputy as he is wont to say: "Yomi and I", a phrase that connotes a promising partnership in their collective drive for good governance.
Less than three weeks in office, the administration inaugurated a Transition Committee headed by Alhaji Sule Iyaji, a former deputy governor in the old Benue State. The committee was to document the situation of things in the state in order to guide the new administration.
As a follow-up, the administration also constituted another 21-man Think-tank Committee where eminent indigenes of the state made contributions on how best to enlist the state amongst the fastest growing states in the federation. The committee was headed by renowned Professor of Agricultural Economics, Prof Francis Idachaba while Mr. Joe Makoju was his deputy. Also on the committee was Alhaji Abdulrazak Isa Kutepa.
As this went on, the administration was soon faced with a myriad of challenges- political, judicial, environmental and security. Up till date, Wada's administration still stands as one with the highest court cases in the country. It is also fresh in the memories how bombings of banks and the carting away of monies, periodic killing of security agents, attacks fashioned after the Boko Haram style, which led to the killings on 20 worshippers in a Deeper Life Bible Church at Okene and the second day killing of two military officers almost became a character of the state.
Whilst the state was yet to recover from these crises, there was a big flood- it was the worst flood disaster witnessed in the area in over a 100 years. Thousands of houses were submerged, scores were displaced, and many lives were lost. Thousands of hectares of farmlands were also swept off. The loss in total was colossal. It was beyond what the state could manage. But to contain the challenge, over a 100 resettlement centres were opened across the state to cater for families of the displaced persons.
The Power tussle that went on during the impeachment saga of the immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Abdulahi Bello and produced Hon. Mommoh Jimoh Lawal as replacement is also a characteristic feature of the past one year. The period was greeted with tension between the legislature and the executive. The state government had been accused of masterminding the impeachment but government had also maintained that it had no hand in the legislative crisis.
As the dust over the impeachment began to settle down, the governor's convoy was involved a ghastly motor accident which left Wada's aide, ASP Idris Mohammed dead. A few days after, the new Speaker's convoy was also involved in yet another accident which also led to the death of his police orderly. But none of this deterred Wada who newly returned to work after the accident. He often claims to be operating a government of continuity. "Continuity in governance is necessary in order to curb waste," he is wont to say.
The administration, according to him, has since focused on the continuation of all the projects inherited from the previous administration. These include the new Confluence Beach Hotel, the multi-million naira stadium project, the Lokoja Greater Water Scheme, the Phase II Secretariat Project, street light projects, amongst other various road projects.
Besides, on assumption of office, Wada had announced a transformation agenda that "will permeate all facets of life in the state." He said the agenda has since been set in motion and that it was being prosecuted with vigor. He alluded to one of the most noticeable changes as the sanity in the state's political landscape.
At a time, Lokoja, the state capital could easily pass as the dirtiest state capital in Nigeria. It was sitting on a mass of filthy heap. And because many of the houses had no toilet, people resorted to the bushes as their makeshift. The stench from this disturbed passersby around the Federal High Court, Kogi Park and surrounding.
Not many understood the side effect of this until the flood that ravaged Lokoja. From the outset, the state government has said the dirty nature of the state posed great risk to the health of the people of the state. Government also believed that no such environment would attract investments to the state.
Thus, in the first few weeks of assuming office, the administration embarked on a comprehensive program of sanitation and beautification of Lokoja, the state capital. This was done under the supervision of the deputy governor. Lokoja is already wearing a new look. Government has also relocated the different markets while new ones are being developed. The administration is also developing a new environmental policy in partnership with the private sector.
In the area of health which the government says remains one of its cardinal programmes, a free medical service targeted at rural people has been put in place in collaboration with CEDIO, an organization based in Lagos. Many people have benefitted from the scheme. Over 1000 out-patients have been treated in 24 centers across the state and more than 2000 surgical operations, including eye-related surgeries, had been carried out. Health centres across the three senatorial districts have been upgraded to the status of Cottage Hospitals to provide improved health care delivery.
The administration also boasts of its commitment to the payment of counterpart funding on all donor-assisted health-related and agricultural programs. For instance, the sum of N18 million was recently released as counterpart fund to the TB/Leprosy program in the state whereas, since the state signed an MoU with the donor organization on the program about two decades ago, the state was said never to have honoured its part of the agreement.
The Wada administration also takes education seriously. Shortly after assuming office, he visited Kogi State University, Anyigba, where he approved the construction of an additional hostel for the institution. He has equally provided funds to the institution to meet its accreditation needs while at the same time, approved the construction of two additional hostels in the state owned polytechnic, Lokoja.
The administration has also released fund for on-going projects at the College of Education (Technical), Kabba and also provided for the relocation of the Government Science Secondary School, Lokoja to pave the way for the newly established Federal University, Lokoja.
In the last one year, workers' welfare has been accorded priority as salaries are paid as and when due. Government has also commenced the payment of the 2012 leave bonus to workers in the state employ. Other key areas like agriculture, rural electrification, water supply, youth empowerment, women development and sports have also been given attention despite alleged paucity of resources.
Some of the major roads like Koton-karfe township road, Kabba township road, Iyara township road, Itakpe-Kuroko-Okene by-pass and some other access roads across the length and breadth of the state are said to have been earmarked for construction.
Yet, government has been faced with criticism both within and outside the ruling party- Peoples Democratic Party. Opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has been particularly troublesome to the PDP government. ACN Chairman in the state, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, once described the past one year as wasted. He believes that government has no focus and that it could have done more if it was more frugal with state funds and applied to the right needs of the people.
Perhaps, most worrisome was when some top notch members of the PDP under the auspices of Kogi PDP Elders' Forum came up with an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, David Mark and the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamaga Tukur, over alleged mismanagement of state funds. They claimed this had resulted in the under-development of the state and that it was capable of reducing the fortunes of their party in the state.
But Awoniyi has persistently said that despite the growing criticism from opposition and members of the PDP, the administration would not be deterred. He assured the people that with the state of things when the administration came onboard, it would take gradual, purposeful and determined leadership to bring about noticeable improvement.
Also noteworthy is the fact that government has always said its income is too meagre to meet all the yearnings and aspiration of the people.