Idoko Kingsley Ilonah is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the November 11 election in Kogi State. In this interview, he speaks on issues in the contest, his agenda and why he believes incumbency won’t be a factor in the poll, among other issues. Excerpts:
Campaigns have kicked off ahead of the November 11 governorship election in Kogi State, but there are cases of violence and security threats. Are you not worried?
Violence should not be part of our electoral process irrespective of whatever we are campaigning for. I believe that politics should be a convergence of ideas; what can you offer to the people, how can you improve the lot of the people of Kogi State. So it should not involve violence. But I am just a bit worried that the violence is tilted towards a particular section; it’s not like the entire state or entire campaign. So, we might need to investigate to know why we are experiencing that level of violence. But I appeal to the parties to spare the people of Kogi State; let’s have peace. I believe strongly that no ambition of any candidate running for the election is worth the blood of Kogi citizens. If we really want to offer service, then the election should be violence-free. But it has to be investigated why this level of violence is directed at a particular candidate. So I call for peace.
What do you make of the issue of consensus candidate for Kogi East.?
I am an Igala man but I don’t believe in ethnic politics. I detest religious, regional or sectional politics and I don’t want to be part of it. Our leaders that rushed into endorsing candidates were unfair to the people of the state because elections should not be about ethnic agenda; it should be about competence, which will turn around the fortunes of the state. See what we have experienced since the creation of the state. What were the criteria they used in arriving at a consensus candidate? I don’t want to go into that but I disassociate myself from any form of consensus arrangement. What I want to do is to build a Kogi gov’ship agenda. I don’t want to be part of the Igala consensus arrangement. What I want is to let the best person emerge and I am that best person.
There is a gale of defection to the APC ahead of the governorship poll; is this not a threat to your chances?
In politics, so many things happen. We must not run away from the fact that the majority of these people are going for stomach infrastructure. Stomach infrastructure is one of the reasons you see people cross-carpeting. If I am to move to another party, I will consider the track records of that party; what it has done in the past four years or eight years. I believe that it’s still too early. The election is November 11 and as we are getting closer, there will be decamping, recamping and all that. So what is happening now with due respect to those decamping is purely the issue of stomach infrastructure. So we are not worried. The programme we have for the people is there. They will come back when the time comes.
Do you have confidence that INEC would conduct a free, fair and credible poll in the state?
I have no option than to have confidence in INEC because as it stands today, there is no electoral body that is recognised by the law of Nigeria to conduct elections. So we will keep appealing to INEC and its chairman to conduct a free, fair and credible election in Kogi State on November 11. We know there were protests over the February 25 election, but we appeal to INEC, they have the power, the ability to conduct a free and fair election. Let them please, save the people of Kogi State.
What will you do differently if elected?
It takes a lot of courage for you to put yourself up that you are contesting an election. So for anyone to take that courage, you must have a certain level of conviction within yourself, some programmes and activities you intend to carry out for the state. So I believe that I have the best ideas to turn around Kogi State for good. Is it not absurd that you have Lokoja with water where seaports and everything can be created but we have to import things all over into Nigeria and they come through Lagos? We then transport them from Lagos to Lokoja and then you start talking about the northern parts. So, Lokoja should serve as the seaport for the northern part of Nigeria. So what we want to do basically is to harness the enormous potential of Kogi State. Kogi State alone can feed Nigeria. Look at the Ajaokuta steel, I know it’s owned by the federal government but Kogi has the potential to feed Nigeria. We have the capacity to build the largest rice mill in Africa and even the world in Kogi State because we have the land, we have the soil and our soil is one of the best in the country. So I have the best ideas to turn around the infrastructure of the state. I have just one point agenda, which covers about six-point agenda. The point is that if you don’t have funds, if you don’t generate IGR, how do you do the roads, infrastructure? We intend to build roads, all the 21 local government areas in the state should be connected to themselves and also to the capital, which is Lokoja. We want to create free healthcare service for our people, 0-18 years old shouldn’t pay a dime if they are sick, those who are 60 and above shouldn’t pay a dime when they are sick. For the indigenes, we will work it out when we get to power.
We will introduce health insurance, revamp the primary healthcare system, and create world class healthcare facilities. All the three senatorial districts should have world class health care facilities that can handle major surgeries in each of the senatorial zones. How do you do that if you don’t have IGR? Our policy for education is, primary, secondary is free and compulsory. For tertiary institutions, you can take a loan, go to school and when you are done you can pay back. It’s not that the IGR is our major agenda, but that is the bedrock of other things that we want to do in the state. We are the only state in Nigeria that is surrounded by 10 states, we have monuments, tourism sites. You have in Lokoja for instance, where River Niger and River Benue meet; the confluence state. The Dangote Cement in Obajana is a pride to Kogi, Nigeria and the entire Africa. So I have the best ideas to drive development in the state.
Some candidates are consulting others to step down for them. Will you consider stepping down if you are approached?
I am in the race because I have the best ideas to offer. So the issue of stepping down for any candidate is not on the agenda for now. For me, politics is not a do-or-die affair. It’s only God that gives power. No matter how desperate I want to be a leader or governor of a state, if God does not want, there is nothing on earth I can do; it won’t work, I will just waste my time. But I have ideas to offer and that is why I am in the race. Why I am yet to kick-off the campaign proper is because we have issues with my running mate. My running mate is Alhaji Abubakar Bawa. There were some errors or mistakes and the placeholder who was the secretary of the party, Mr. Ben Nwoke, his name was not changed after his name was substituted. So those were the issues we were trying to resolve. But God has seen us through. The Igbo population in Kogi is not that much, so going into the field with an Igbo man as running mate, for me, I see it as a pure act of desperation. But we have been doing underground work all these while and in the next few days, we will kick-off our campaigns proper.