Chief Joseph Erico Ameh, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is aspiring to replace Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State in the 2019 election. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he laments the sorry state of his state under the current administration and unfolds his agenda for the people.
What is your assessment of the performance of Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello since he mounted the saddle of leadership?
Kogi State is on the map of Nigeria today on a negative perspective. Today, there is no development. Roads are in pitiable condition. Nothing is moving in Kogi State. Workers’ salaries are not paid. The health sector is in bad shape. Everything about human welfare has collapsed. There is breakdown of order in Kogi and the state is in near anarchy. Even the Federal Government does not ask questions on what is happening in the state. There is total lack of infrastructure, with the people suffering. Things were bad before Yahaya Bello took over. But, people thought that as a youth, he would have put things in order and expectations were high when he took over. But, the Bello administration has created more problems instead of putting things in order. That is why people are now crying louder that they want a change and that is how I came in.
Why do you think the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party, in Kogi in 2019 elections?
It was the negative antecedents of the PDP at that time, especially in the area of corruption, that led to its electoral defeat in 2015. The then President could not take decisive actions against corruption. But, by the coming of the APC, it is like jumping from frying pan to fire. People have now seen that the APC is an embodiment of corruption it claims to be fighting. The people are suffering more in every part of the country. The APC cannot provide food which it stopped the importation. The APC has no direction in terms of policy, procedures and principles. A government that can take decisions and reverses itself has no direction. Look at the trial of the Senate President. Look at the trial of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu. Since Orji Uzor Kalu defected to APC, no one hears of his case again. APC administration is sentimental in its actions. With all these reasonable doubts on APC and the confusion in the party, the APC cannot scale through in 2019. By the time the PDP reorganises itself, it will take over power in 2019, both at the federal and state levels. I have no doubt about this. We have had a lot of failed promises of APC. Nigerians are tired of APC, both at federal and state levels. Kogi people are tired of APC. Very soon and before the elections, we shall witness serious defections from APC to PDP in almost all the states, including Kogi.
In what ways will you perform better than the incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello?
It is the people that asked me to come on board. If they vote me in, with my antecedent in business, I will do far better than what Bello is doing. I have been serving the people selflessly in my private capacity. Go to Kogi and ask. I want to put smiles on the face of the poor in Kogi. I am passionate about the condition of the poor, the condition of the professionals and I am passionate about policies. I am a policy maker. I will come up with policies that will stand the test of time. Parastatals and agencies will work according to schedule. I hate diversion of public funds. If public funds are well managed, everyone will benefit. That will give me joy.
I wish to close all the loopholes of leakages. I will build infrastructures. I will look at the education sector and take it to a high pedestal for the future of the youths. This will bring about peace. Lack of proper education leads to insecurity and anarchy. That is why there is crisis in Kogi, the whole Middle Belt and all over the nation. Because of the injustice in the society, coupled with lack of proper education, there are crises everywhere. So, I will bring a lot of change in this regard.
How would you harness the natural resources and potentials of Kogi State for its development if you are given the opportunity to rule the state?
We have a lot of resources in Kogi, including solid and liquid minerals. I will tap into this advantage to put food on the table of the people and create employment opportunities. The state now owes a lot of debts because it is not creating means of generating revenue. But, I will develop our oil ore and coal for greater revenue. We have a fertile soil. I will bring in better seedlings so that we will have several harvesting seasons. We will evolve better food processing and storage. With good roads, which we shall build, we will ensure that farmers convey their products to the markets. We will partner with other states in the area of rice production. We will have agriculture processing factories in three or four places at different zones in the state so that the products will be available for everyone.
In the area of tourism, with the investors I will bring in, tourism will boom. We shall develop our tourist attractions like the Confluence Centre, where Rivers Niger and Benue met, the Lord Lugard Centre, and many others to ensure that tourism booms in Kogi State and the state will be rich.
In what ways would you help to check the perennial herdsmen and farmers’ imbroglio as well as the ethnic killings in parts of the Middle Belt?
We have to look at the root cause of rivalries between the Fulani herdsmen and the host farmers. People have to respect the laws of their hosts. The herdsmen go against the laws of the land. They rape women. Their cattle destroy the farmers’ crops. As the herdsmen treasure their cattle, so the farmers cherish their crops. The herdsmen have to limit their cattle to where there are grasses and not veering into farms. I believe there should be a forum where farmers and the herdsmen will interface. Both farming and cattle rearing are businesses. The cattle rearer needs food, even as the farmer needs meat to eat. In the Igboland, in places like Onitsha and Aba, both the Igbo and the Hausa have shops side by side and they buy from each other. I will help to ensure that there is a reorientation of both the cattle rearers and the farmers in the region for them to agree on the basis of living together.
If I come on board, top of my priority is to ensure that the Middle Belt governors will have a forum where we will be discussing all these issues on regular basis for the security and peace of the region. As a security expert, security of Kogi people will be my priority. I will help bring my brother governors in the region together for us to discuss how to secure the whole area. We have to agree on how we shall live together in peace. If the Fulani herdsmen refuse to agree, they can look for another place they can carry their cattle to. There must be peace and order in the Middle Belt. It has nothing to do with religion, ethnicity, tribes and tongues, but the law. Apart from the Anti-Open Grazing Law, there are other laws too which must be obeyed.
Finally, I will ensure that certain destructive elements and gadgets are taken away from people. A farmer has no business with AK47, but with cutlasses and hoes. A cattle rearer has no business with machetes and guns, but with his knife and long whip. No herdsmen will enter my domain, Kogi State, with harmful weapons. It will not be possible.