Umar Mohammed Nasko is the Chief of Staff to Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and the youngest governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for next year’s general elections. The governorship aspirant spoke with reporters in Abuja on his ambition, agenda for the state, his party’s governorship primaries, his chances and other partisan issues. BODE OLAGOKE reports
Why do you want to be governor of Niger State?
First of all, let me say that I am eminently qualified to be governor of Niger State. But beyond being qualified, let me state that I am offering myself for election into the office of Governor of Niger State because of the desire to serve the people of my state. My ambition is borne out of my love for the state and its people and the desire to transform it into a model for other states to copy. Essentially, I intend to tackle the socio-economic challenges that are currently facing my people, especially the poor. I am sure you recall how we started this journey in 2007 and the challenges we had to face but thanks be to Allah that seven and a half years down the line, we have left developmental imprints that are difficult to ignore. Between 2007 when the current administration came on board and now, we have achievements to show in all the critical sectors of the state’s economy. So, I will ensure that we continue to impact positively on the lives of our people if I am elected governor.
How would you assess your chances, given the fact that you are considered a greenhorn?
Well, you may be right to say that I have never personally contested any election but I have participated in all elections in from 2007 to date. But that does not in any way diminish the contacts and connections that I have been blessed with. Also, if you consider the various roles that I have played in the current government from 2007 to date, you won’t call me a greenhorn.
Secondly, the job of providing leadership for a state like ours requires someone who possesses the experience, humility, integrity and all what it takes to do the job. By and large, I am a team player. I believe I represent these values. That is another reason I am presenting myself as a candidate for the office of governor.
Thirdly, our party, the PDP is lucky because we have been in power since 1999 and as such we have had the opportunity to touch people’s lives positively. The party has a lot to show in all the critical sectors of the economy. The Peoples Democratic Party led government in Niger State has delivered in all sphere of human endeavor. We have done wonderfully well in the areas of Agriculture, Education, Infrastructure, Health, Security, you name it…Some are intangible and impactful to the socio-economic well being of the people of Niger State.
Fourthly, I am a young man, so I represent the youths in this race and will not betray the confidence of elders as a veritable bridge. And I am sure you know that no sensible person will underestimate the capacity of youth when it comes to elections. So, I am good to go!
You are the latest entrant into the race, a development that has sparked insinuations that your ambition is an afterthought. Do you agree with this suggestion?
No! Not at all. It might interest you to know that the position of the governor of a state is not beans cake. It is a serious business that requires a lot of consultations. That is what we have been doing in the last few years. We consulted widely, beginning from the youths who form a good chunk of my support base to elders who have held positions of responsibility and therefore have some experience to share. I can assure you that I didn’t just wake up one day and decided to run for the office of the governor. My supporters urged me to run and then I began to hold consultations. So, my desire to offer myself for the service of the state was reinforced by the conviction of a large segment of our people that I should run for the most coveted position in the state. Majority of the people are convinced about our sincerity of purpose and the need to consolidate what the present administration has achieved so far. Don’t forget that the state has a vision of becoming one of the top three most developed state economies by the year 2020 and a development action plan that provides a guide towards the actualization of our set goals. So continuity is required to actualize these set goals.
How do you intend to defeat other gladiators who have also lined up for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket?
I have made this point before but suffice it to repeat that the race will be based on various factors. I have said before that good track records, experience, record of selfless service, humility and grassroots support are some of the issues that will shape the PDP Governorship primary election slated for November 29th, 2014 and I have no doubt in my mind that I will emerge victorious since these are the qualities that I am bringing to the table. I am very optimistic that I will emerge victorious at the primary election and go on to win the gubernatorial election come February, 2015 Insha Allah.
Also, I am very confident that I will be chosen as my party’s standard bearer because party faithful who will have a say in who emerges PDP candidate know pretty well where we are coming from and where we are going to. They are aware of the need to support someone who will sustain the development initiatives of the current administration, complete all on-going projects of the administration while still executing our own new initiatives. We are a PDP state, so all we need is someone who will not distort the course of progress already designed for the state. And to do this, we need an insider. We don’t need to go and hire people from outside. But like I said earlier, it is going to be survival of the fittest. It is going to be based on various factors that the delegates will determine like experience, background, exposure and the rest. But, I believe that at the end of it, I will carry the day.
So, what are the challenges that will confront the next governor of Niger State?
You mean the challenges that await us or the things we want to achieve…
Well, we will continue to develop all the critical sectors of the state’s economy but I have a soft spot for Agriculture. Our focus will be on investing in Agriculture which is our competitive advantage. As you are aware, Niger State represents almost 10% of Nigeria’s entire land mass, 80% of which is arable. Our landmark achievements in the area of rice production, for instance, is the establishment of the Niger Rice Investment Consortium (NSRIC) Project to boost rice production and position Niger State as the major producer of high quality rice globally. This and other agriculture related endeavours will enjoy priority attention. But let me point out that the incumbent governor has made a great impact on the development needs of this state. It is important to say that the Vision 3-2020 document has remained our guiding principle and a standard by which performance of the various ministries, departments and agencies is bench-marked. And I am happy to say that we have recorded successes in all our priority sectors of education, agriculture, health and infrastructural development. We have also done well in the areas of tourism and culture, urban and rural transformation, water supply, environmental sanitation and housing, among others. Even though funding may be a huge challenge, I am sure we will get by through prudent and judicious application of resources. This is because we believe that lack of funds should not be an excuse for non performance. Finally, you have my word that no sector will be left unattended to. However we shall approach the game with humility, doggedness and indeed consolidation on the gains recorded by the current administration of Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and fast track all his laudable initiatives and complete all ongoing projects in the interest of all the people of Niger State and humanity as a whole.