In this interview with SALIHU OYIBO, the speaker of Kogi state House of Assembly, Rt Hon Matthew Kolawole, who is now the House of Representatives candidate on the platform of APC for Kabba-Bunnu/Ijumu federal constituency, says openness made him to attain the status of being the longest serving speaker in the history of the state assembly.
You are the longest serving speaker in the history of Kogi state, what is the secret?
There is no magic in my being the longest serving speaker other than the fact that I operated and still operate open door policy. I also imbibed the spirit of team player and do everything together with my colleagues, like carrying them along in everything I do in the House. All of these have enormously brought me this far and I believe by the grace of God, I would complete the tenure successfully.
What are your achievements since you became speaker?
As a legislator, we are elected to make laws for the good people of Kogi state. I can authoritatively say without fear of contraction that in my first term, we were able to pass over 50 bills that were economic-driven for the good governance of Kogi state. This has really helped to improve on revenue generation effort and other sundry areas of needs. I can also say that so far, both in the sixth and seventh assembly, we were able to pass over 200 bills (private members bills and executive bills). Also our motions of over 700 are uncountable and substantive.
You are already a House of Representatives candidate for Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency under APC. What would stand you out over and above other contestants?
I started in the House of Assembly as a majority leader even though I was a first timer. I thank God for such rare privilege and I subsequently became speaker within the first term and this opportunity created avenue for me to contribute immensely to the well-being of my people. I have executed a lot of projects in my constituency. In fact, I have one or two projects to my credit in every ward. For instance, I sank motorised boreholes and facilitated many employments for my people. I also facilitated the construction and renovation of both primary and secondary schools in my constituency. Aside all these, I organised skills acquisition programme for youth and women where many of them graduated and were empowered with starter packs and cash to kick-start trade.
Also, by my position, as speaker, I am entitled to 12 aides as approved by the state government, but on my own, I personally employed over 60 whom I pay from my salary just to extend hands of fellowship to my people. I carry traditional institutions along and do widows and widowers empowernment. Students’ support is one of our cardinal points and we are able to offer scholarships to many indigent students, paid WAEC, NECO and JAMB fees in Kabba and Bunu that formed my constituency, just to assist parents. I also single-handedly facilitated electricity from Oke-Ofin down to Oke-Oyebo, a community that has never enjoyed electricity before. We graded many community roads within my constituency. If I have the opportunity to represent Kabba-Bunu/Ijumu at the National Assembly, I would deliver more dividends of democracy to my people better than I have done.
How would you asses the performance of Governor Yahaya Bello in the last six years?
First and foremost, Governor Yahaya Bello is God-sent. I am extremely happy to have come across him. He is a leader with a large heart. The governor believes in human development and provision of projects that have direct impact to the lives of the people. The governor has achieved a lot, too numerous to mention. The unique area he has achieved which surprised many people is making the sons and daughters of ‘nobody to become somebody’ in the state.
The governor would not ask you where you come from or which religion you practice, but what is important to him is your capability and capacity to deliver; that is why there are young people both men and women in his government which of course has never happened before in the past. We are all aware that in the past, you must have a ‘god- father’ before you can be given a political appointment, but when he came on board, there was a complete departure from god- fatherism, nepotism, religious bigotry, sectionalism and tribalism. Also before the coming of the present administration, the state government can only generate revenue between 250 to 300 million naira monthly, but since Governor Bello came on board and with his tireless effort, Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KGIRS) can now generate over 1.3 to 1.4 billion naira monthly.
This is a significant achievement and kudos must be given to him. The only overhead bridge in Lokoja the state capital was constructed by Governor Bello. In the past after closure of work and schools, if you resident along Ganaja and Barrack axis, you would spent hours before getting to your house due to gridlock, but now, the challenge is already a thing of the past. Today, Governor Bello has constructed and rehabilitated over 50 kilometres of township roads with solar street lights. In the eastern senatorial district, the governor started and completed a project tagged ‘Operation Light the East’ where over 100 communities and villages that had never seen electricity before now enjoy power. In the area of health, the governor introduced healthcare plus which has assisted expectant mothers and children below five years.
He remodeled the State Specialist Hospital and built administrative offices for doctors which is now ready for commissioning. The Zonal Hospitals at Idah and Isanlu have been rehabilitated too to serve the people better. The College of Nursing and Midwifery Obangede and Health Technology Idah received facelift to boost production of health personnels. The state government also embarked on construction of two new general hospitals in Adavi and Ajaokuta local government areas which previously had none. The governor established a Central Reference Hospital in Okene with state of art equipment to provide tertiary health services to the people of Kogi state and other states.
He introduced Kogi State Health Insurance Agency to cater for the healthcare of workers and pensioners in the state. All these are geared towards giving quality healthcare to the people. In education sector, the governor performed creditably well. He established GYB model primary and secondary schools in the three Senatorial Districts and GYB Science Model School in Lokoja, the state capital. He established Kogi State University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH) Osara to train youth in Science and Technology. Today, the pioneer students are in their 200 levels.
The governor has also completed the construction of 50-bed capacity hostels at College of Nursing and Midwifery, Obangede as well as construction of Library extension at Kogi State College of Education (Technical), Kabba which are among the effort of the governor to leave education far better than he met it. Still in education sector, Gov Bello took a bold steps to tackle the problems of dilapidated lecture theatres, security office, clinic and library at the Kogi State Polytechnic. As part of effort to revolutionalise agriculture, Gov Bello established five units of garri processing mills in Osara, Agassa, Achoze, Aiyetoro-Gbede and Ogbadu in Dekina to provide food for the people as well as create jobs for teeming unemployed youths.
The governor also established 50 tonnes per day Omi Dam Rice mill at Ejiba in Yagba-west local government area which has been completed and operational. In infrastructure, our governor His Excellency, who was mindful of developing the state embarked on massive construction of roads across the three senatorial districts. Among the roads completed or ongoing are Ibana-Ikeje-Ette road and the Idah-Umomi-Anyigba road both in the eastern axis of the state, Ekirin-Ade/Ohun Iffe-Olukotun road and Poyan-Jege-Ejuku-Ijowa (Isanlu) road. Others are Eika-Kuroko-Inoziomi about 10km road, Okene-Agassa-Upogoro- checkpoint, among others numerous to mention in the last six years. In the area of security, Gov Bello in his first tenure prioritised security of life and property. On assumption of office, he ordered the clearing of bushes 40 metres on both sides of all highways to enable motorists see far distance and ensure that criminals have no hiding place. He also provided over 200 utility vehicles equipped with gadgets for all security agencies in the state to enhance their operational capabilities, aside the over 5,000 vigilante recruited to boost local government security. The effort is what the state is still enjoying till date where people can sleep with their two eyes closed. All of these are the few of the projects Governor Bello did.
What is the chance of APC in the 2023 presidential election?
2023 presidential election is in the hand of Almighty God. We pray that APC reclaim the seat despite the challenges the country is passing through now. I am optimistic that Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu would win overwhelmingly because he is a great politician who had sow seeds in every state and this is the time for him.