The race to Kogi Government House has a record number of aspirants, both within the PDP and among the opposition parties. This has brougt about this exclusive inter view with Alhaji Abdulrazaq Isa Kutepa, a contestant for Kogi gubernatorial seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In Kogi presently, I have lots of friends in the central and western parts of the state. I went to school in Government Secondary School (GSS) Dekina, which is also in the eastern part of the state. I have no fears in competing against the larger tribes that is the aspirants from Igala, Ebira and the Okuns. The concern of the Igalas is that if they let power go, they are not sure of what will happen to them, so they are looking for a partner they can trust. This is what politics is all about. People need mutual confidence and trust.
I come from the minority and we don’t have the population and the size to dominate any one. But I am getting the best hands from all the big ethnic groups to support me. I believe that I will be the best unifying force in the state. In me again, power will shift from the east to the west. And I will ensure that the interest of the people ceding the power is protected and other large and small ethnic groups.
What is your motivation in politics?
I believe that our country deserves to move on to the next level. I look at our various accomplishments in the private sector. If you look at Nigeria today, the private sector is performing better than the public sector. For me I have spent the last 28 years in the private sector-banking for instance. When I joined the banking sector, I was there when deregulation of the sector began. I was part of the team that transformed the banking sector. I also moved on in the transformation of the telecommunication sector.
I was right there. So I saw transformation processes in the Nigerian economy, which really exposed me. Even though the private sector controls just 20 per cent of the Nigerian economy, it is that professional experience and exposure and background that I am bringing to bear on governance of my state. I believe our public sector does require injection of new ideas and therefore needs people with the kind of my background. It can’t be business as usual. We must move Nigeria to the next level.
As a successful businessman, in what ways have you contributed to improving the lives of people in your state?
Even before joining politics, as far back as 1996, I have been involved in humanitarian and philanthropic services in my state. We used the Isa Kutepa Foundation to provide these services. I started building boreholes to provide safe drinking water for people. We did like 12 boreholes in collaboration with UNICEF. Subsequent to that, I started granting scholarships across the state. I also arranged with some doctors from the United States who came and treated about 3,000 people free of charge.
The other one is my Alma Mata-the GSS Dekina. Through the platform of the old boys’ association, I went there. That is after leaving the school since 1977. This was last year when I went there and I saw that it had become a shadow of itself. We started renovation of the laboratory and later we realised that that won’t work and that it will be better to construct a new one. The new laboratory we constructed is a world class laboratory. Our students can stand and compete with anybody in terms of basic knowledge of science. We spent about N150million on the new laboratory complex.
What is your economic agenda?
Kogi State is a highly blessed state. I am not sure there is any state in Northern Nigeria that has received the level of investment in non-oil sector like Kogi. In the last 20 years, the state has received about $8billion. The Ajaokuta Steel Company has been valued at $6billion. The new Obajana Cement plant is about $1billion.
Kogi State is bounded by nine states. So it has a natural advantage. If you are going to the South or Northern Nigeria, you have to go through Kogi State. It is also a tourist state with colonial legacies, cemetery of deposed emirs in the North, first primary school in Northern Nigeria. These are historic monuments that we shall turn to tourist sites. It also means that we must build first class infrastructure. For the river Niger, we must rebuild the waterfronts and provide first class infrastructure, hotels, shopping where people come and want to stay. Tourism is a big employer of labour. We want to be a major destination point.
Do you have a plan for the moribund Ajaokuta Steel?
We must engage the Federal Government because some of the youth unemployment we have in the state is largely because Ajaokuta is not functioning. Ajaokuta plant ideally is supposed to form the bedrock for the industrialization of this nation. We need to bring the private sector spirit into it, but we need to engage the Federal Government.
There are some things we need to start doing with the infrastructure there. We need to start making money with it. It has the capacity to generate up to a hundred mega watts of electricity. Most importantly, the reason for establishing Ajaokuta plant is the production of steel from iron ore, which God gave us for free. The world needs steel iron ore. The largest deposit of iron ore found in Nigeria is in Kogi State.
The Ajaokuta is a key element of my economic agenda. But we shall engage the federal government and see how the state government can be the driver of that project. Apart from all these, Kogi has a huge coal deposit; this is a good source of electricity. Another area is fishing and agriculture. Traditionally, our people are fishermen. We should be able to provide the fish need of Nigeria. We also have a huge arable land which is not being developed. From the western side of Okun, Cocoa is being produced. We also have huge land for sugar plantation.
But agriculture cannot be done in the current way they are doing it. It can only be done in a commercial way. There are countries that are looking for farmlands to cultivate in order to feed their citizens, we can liaise with them. They key thing in our economic agenda is job creation. So all I have said boils down to job creation. In all these I have not spoken about allocation from the Federal Government, because I am coming from a different background of having to create things. We shall not depend on allocation. We must bake the cake ourselves.
What is your political background?
I have a private sector background and serve on the boards of many companies in Nigeria and abroad as chairman and director. In terms of politics, I have been involved in virtually all the activities of the PDP in Kogi State. I grew up in a politically active family. My father was a councillor in the defunct Kwara Local Government Authority in the First Republic. I grew up to know my father as a politician. When the PDP was being formed in 1999, I was part of this process especially within my Local Government Area and Kogi State as a whole and I have continued to contribute to its growth.
I was also involved in the election campaigns and we took power from the ANPP. The campaign gave me the opportunity to travel round the state and today I have adequate knowledge of the entire state.Also, I interacted very closely with politicians from every part of the state and I can appreciate their aspirations for their various communities. I have also been very interested in the cohesion of our party within the state. I have always initiated reconciliation processes wherever we have conflict of interests.
When our party formed the government in 2003 there were disagreements among our party leaders, so I was involved in the reconciliation process. Some people left the party and through this process we brought them back into the party. I think this process we have started within the party can be extended to the whole state.
We need to create an atmosphere of peace and confidence in the state so that our people can live and work together for accelerated development. That is the difference we want to make in the politics of the state. Engaging our people constructively in the development process within a very united entity.