ADC government ‘ll tackle infrastructure deficit, boost revenue – Governorship candidate Manzuma

Barrister Issah Manzuma, is the former chairman Ilorin branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and currently the gubernatorial candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) for the 2023 governorship elections in Kwara state. In this interview with KEHINDE OSASONA, he speaks of party’s chances and what he intends to do differently if elected 

Could you give us an insight into what prompted you to drag a party member to court after the primary?

I have been a lawyer in private practice and have successfully managed the bar for three decades now. I am also a professional manager with vast experiences in leadership positions. Well, after the primaries which I won, there were challenges. Ayo Joel, who contested the primary with me, took the ticket and had his name announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) . That singular move prompted me to drag him to court. In the court, I challenged the fact that under normal circumstances, I was supposed to be the candidate of ADC, the party agreed with me and we settled out of court and I was handed the ticket again. Today, I am the ADC candidate in Kwara state and we have quality people around us who are poised to bring victory to our party ADC. After putting the court issue behind us, we are now working seriously to clinch all positions and then change the narrative in Kwara state for the betterment of our people in the state of harmony because we cannot continue like this.

Considering the age-long advocacy for power shift to the northern part of the state, how did the people of the area receive the news of your emergence?

I must tell you that our people were very excited and based on the feedback we are getting; our people are of the view that they now have somebody who they can vouch for in terms of transparency and integrity. Somebody whose pedigree they are quite conversant with. They believe I am somebody who can actually deliver the dividends of democracy and someone that will not put Kwara north to shame. So, I am happy about that and now we are set for victory and I tell you we are set to redefine governance too. Go round and check for yourself, the awareness is high and there are contestants for various positions in Baruten, Kaiama, Edu and Patigi.

What is the level of acceptance of your party in the state?

Yes, ADC is well rooted in virtually all the sixteen local governments in the state. We also have big fish and eminent political personalities in the political parlance that are also contesting for different positions.

What do you want to do differently as governor?

To be candid with you, we have vacuums in our leadership and it has been majorly transparency and integrity. We are going to work assiduously to achieve that because for us it is the basis of quality in governance. For instance, the resources are available, but we have suffered from fair and equitable distribution and allocation of resources and in order to achieve this, we must inject an element of discipline into our public service. I will also bring quality people both at home and abroad on board to reset Kwara and put it on the world map in terms of achievement. On my part, I will dispense quality leadership for the betterment of the citizenry. We need to change the trend and I tell you the elites and the average people in the villages and our rural settings in the State are waiting for a desired turn-around and I will be the driver of that mission Insha Allah. We have convinced the people what we can do differently and we are people that can be trusted. We only need to be in power to consolidate and deliver on our promises to the people. I make bold to say that we can wrestle power from the incumbent Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of the APC. It is not impossible because we have done it before. Don’t also forget that PDP with all its boasting that it would rule for 60 years was eventually dislodged. This is politics for you.

What are the chances of your party in Kwara, I mean your strength; are you rooted politically?

Thank you. Currently we have platforms here and there across the 16 local governments and eminent personalities contesting for one position or another. These contestants’ are our strength because many of them have been tested and have weathered the storm. They are not a push over and together we are set to rewrite the history once again. We have done it before and we will do it again.

Cuts in… who are the eminent candidates in question and how strong are they?

We have for instance Senator Ajadi contesting from Kwara South constituency, Hon Gbenga Power contesting for the House of Representatives and Hon Ekundayo Afolaogun and some others from the northern part of the state. Our opponents as we speak are jittery and are still finding it difficult to fathom how we are gaining grounds. At community levels, we have committed and both our ordinary and strategic plan which I cannot let out here is working for us. We are going to put an end to any form of revenge between the NNPP, APC, PDP, YPP, LP and all that. We see all these parties jostling for power in the State as one and an appendage of APC.

That said, we are democrats and for this reason, but then we are not ruling out them coming to merge with us. Our doors are open and Kwarans should brace up for a new regime with ADC in the race.

Kwara is adjudged to be a civil service state with poor revenue drive, how do you want to boost it to meet challenges at hand?

First and foremost, you need to bring integrity into the revenue collection to succeed. People must have confidence in your ability to collect tax and deploy it appropriately. Let me also add that it is not difficult to carry out proper revenue collection. For instance, if you collected N10million revenue from Ilorin West and you make sure the money collected reflected in the physical development in the area excluding the collection fee, I tell you people would be ready to pay tax and we will no longer experience tax evasion. Let the tax come back to the people in the form of development and not into private pockets. Those are the types of drives we are going to introduce. So, tax collection should not be a difficult thing if we as a government do the right thing. There is what is called dynamism in human management. Going forward, we will also rejig the KWIRs and see how it can bring different results and serve the people well via good management. We will overhaul it to serve the purpose for which it is meant to do.

What interventional plans are in the offing to aid youth employment and empowerment?

I want you to know that the government cannot employ everybody. Our government will therefore look at how public expenditure is targeted and directed at areas where it could stimulate the economy and have a multiplier effect. It would in the long run attract investments. There will also be a skill acquisitions center alongside the one we have at Ajasse, and in doing this, we are going to patronize local contractors who will help in employing youth from within. By doing so, we will also be doing away with what we called ‘Capital Flight’. We don’t need to bring a contractor from Lagos. The state does not need foreign contractors who will take our money to buy luxurious houses in Ikoyi and all that when we have arrays of qualified local contractors.

No doubt, there are infrastructural deficits across the state and it is well pronounced in Kwara South and North, are you not worried?

Yes, this requires innovation because of our poor financial state and long period of decay. However, there is a way out. People in the rural area by our estimation at ADC need intervention and want to get their farm produce to market. They do not want your multi-billion asphalt overlay or what have you or promise upon promises of a 50 kilometer road that may never come. What our party will do is to partner local governments to acquire graders, bulldozers, tippers and other earth equipment to construct rural roads for our people. They need access roads, feeder roads; get rid of erosion, construct embankments using less expensive overlays.

With the low annual budgetary allocation, how can we then service some of these projects?

I have plans. Let me tell you a little about it. I think we should begin to look at Kwara like Israel, which is in the desert and today exports food to other countries of the world. We need huge investment in agriculture because Kwara is a food basket in Nigeria. Successive administrations have not stimulated needed investments to harness. Look at Kaiama, Asa, Baruten. These are places that should be opened up to be able to tap our revenue from there. Our neglected tourism potentials would be revived and Kwara will begin to generate revenue from it too.

From a legal perspective now, how would you use the instrumentality of the law to enhance legal procedures in Kwara state?

We are lucky to have a fantastic legal system in the State and we intend to build on it to make the legal sector envious of all. Going forward, we shall ensure that ACJA, VAAP, Child Acts rights are well implemented and domesticated if they have not. Don’t forget that we have had many legal giants who have passed through this state and have helped in shaping the quality of judiciary in the state. Eminent among them Chief Awomolo, Yussuf Ali, Lateef Fagbemi, Wole Olanipekun, Bayo Ojo all Senior advocates and several others.