Barrister Kabir Usman is a former zonal Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former member of Senator Ahmed Markarfi led Caretaker Committee of PDP.
An astute lawyer who is based in Abuja. In an exclusive interview with the Editorial team of CAPITAL POST, he bare his mind on issues of protracted underdevelopment in Kogi State, revealing that the State government doesn’t have capacity to construct Idah-Aganabode bridge. Speaking on the conflict of interest rocking the Igala Cultural and Development Association (ICDA), he said the crisis is not in the interest of anybody. Excerpts:
Question: Sir, you are quite aware of the leadership crisis rocking the Igala apex socio-cultural group, Igala Cultural and Development Association (ICDA). What is your perspective of it?
Answer: First and foremost, let me thank you for coming to seek clarification. I believe that the Igala Cultural and Development Association (ICDA) is the brain child of Attah Igala. He should have absolute control over how the affairs of ICDA is run or being managed. As far as I am concerned as Igala, his say is final. He should have the final say over ICDA. From that perspective, I am under the impression that the authorised appointment of the Board of Trustees as constituted presently that if Attah has no hand, or is not happy about it as it is presently, I cannot be part of it. That is my position.
Like I say, we are living in a very trying moment in the history of our people. Everything that our senior ones and elders worked for is gone under because of political ambition. The political ambition tend to divide us along religious line and we as a people have never been divided along religious ambition before. There is no family in Igala land that does not have a Christian or Muslim brother, be it, uncle, aunty. For me, let’s go back to where we came from. Let’s have respect for our elders and there is need for us to put away greed; there is need for us to respect those who are empowered to manage our tradition. When this appointment came, I believed and still believe it came through a normal process.
Immediately, there were controversies as to whether Attah Igala approved of the appointment or not. Those controversies as far as I am concerned is not in the interest of any of us. I think, there is need for us whose names were mentioned as members of Board of Trustees to see Attah Igala and know his stand before we do anything.
Question: There are disturbing behaviours of our people in that we have no respect for Igala tradition again. I am an adult and I have seen the likes of late Stephen Omakoji Achema and Jibrin Urah, and the passion they have for Igala land, but these days, the political and culture value of the people have been destroyed. What is your perspective?
Answer: When I was talking to you earlier, I said for us to make progress as a people, we must put away greed. No more! No less! Every challenges we have bugs down to greed. The choice of who and who should go for one political office should not base on how much money you have. It should be on competence; your service to the society; your relationship with the people, but all those things have changed and has resorted to politics of money; politics of anything goes. Even a criminal makes money and he presents himself as a criminal, that is the one we are going to vote for. The service of honest people in the society has become inconsequential because people are looking for money.
If you look at that, it’s also a failure of governance because people now believed if one gets into government, he is going to serve himself and his family. So what they get is the immediate thing they are going to think about. It’s the immediate benefit they get that the people are after. They don’t scrutinize people who are looking for political offices, they don’t look at their records, they don’t look at their past. They don’t look at services and the kind of behaviour they put for and on behalf of the society. This is greed on part of those running for political offices; this is greed on part of those voting them into offices also. They leave sincere people, they leave honest people who have served them to go after those who have made money through criminality. So this problem is on both sides that we need to properly educate our people.
We need to sit down and think properly because when you elect people who have no record of honesty and sincerity, is the reason we are getting it wrong. So we need proper orientation of our people that this greed is not taking us anywhere. What we are going to do is that all of us have a serious work to do. Where we are now is a very delicate political history of Igala land. We have lost everything practically that people before us fought for our sustenance. Now everyone fights for himself and family. Nobody thinks about the society. Any tribe or nation that operates that kind of system is bound to fail because honesty, sincerity and service to the society is not longer appreciated. Any how I get money through crook and I came back home, people will appreciate.
When I was growing, I had an experience of somebody who’s money was rejected because people believed, his money is not clean. But today these are the kind of people who are celebrated because they are looking for money. So, hardly can we get out of this, but this ICDA should have been a forum for us to reorganize ourselves and educate the people that we are the ninth largest tribe in terms of political appointment, in terms office, in terms of Privileges, but it’s not so now.
Question: The very essence of politics is interest. Unfortunately, in Kogi East, there seems to be conspiracy of silence even among the Igala elite, particularly the Idah – Aganabode bridge which was flagged off by Yahaya Bello. Nine months after, a single cement was not mobilised to the site and there is nothing to show that construction will start. Though, you are a chieftain of PDP, what is your standpoint?
Answer: It’s not about political party. When talking about dividends of democracy, it’s not about party. We are talking about Idah to Aganabode bridge, both APC, PDP, even those who are not interested about political party will use it. So how will politics come in when we talk about development.
You see, what I want to do is to tell you frankly that, fortunately, I was privileged to meet somebody who made a proposal to Edo and Kogi and the Federal Government that he was going to bring a private investor and he had cost everything and the fund was going to come from a consortium of five banks. He is a retired Army General who is not even from our State. But the politics of the two States putting up how much, just 15%. He has gotten approval from the Federal Government and has mobilised the banks which is going to be a private investment. The private investor was going to provide 85%, while Edo and Kogi States would provide 15% and this arrangement started as far back as 2015. The way it is now is very difficult for any State government to construct that bridge. The bridge that as at 2015 was already about N150 billion and the banks were ready because they saw the potential in the investor going into partnership with the government to generate revenue.
That would have changed the landscape of Igala land entirely because of vehicles coming from Edo, Delta to Abuja. The road would have been dualised from Idah to Ajegwu for heavy traffic for buses and trucks. On part of Edo, they will dualise their road from Auchi to Aganabode. That project is on the table of that man. He is nursing it and very passionate about it.
I don’t want to go to the area of flagging off because the State does not have the capacity to construct that bridge. Let’s not deceive ourselves.
Question: Going forward, what is your call on the issue as a citizen of Kogi State?
Answer: My call is for government to sit down with the person who is ready to invest that money to discuss so that that project can start and that is the biggest guarantee because a private arrangement cannot be abandoned half way. Even if there are frustrations, they will make sure that the project is completed so that they can recoup their money. Three to four weeks ago, I had a meeting with that man.
Question: If you were the governor of Kogi State, is it the way you would have approached the issue?
Answer: Of course! Because the resources is not there for the State to spend that kind of money now. Somebody is coming to take the responsibility off you and empower your government because when they generate the money, you are actually going to collect taxes also. Then the entire Idah axis would have opened up economically and will go a long way to empower the people.
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