Interview: Onoja rules Kogi, Bello not in charge – Achuba
What was it like working with Governor Bello?
Working with the governor was not bad in itself. It was as cordial as it should be. The issue is that he has a lord in person of the former Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja. Onoja lords it over the governor. He stays on his neck and the governor cannot turn around without him (Onoja). As a result, commissioner and no special adviser can function well.
Onoja overrules anything you say or do and insists on having his way. Unfortunately the governor cannot do anything about it. Things started going wrong when the implementation of government policies was not forthcoming. It was becoming quite challenging to us as a government and as the ruling political party in the state.
At a point, I insisted on the need to leave behind legacies that future generations of Kogi indigenes would remember us for. And I pointed out that we could not continue to make policies only to abandon them. It would amount to nothing.
Was there a time you made a suggestion and Onoja waved it aside?
Yes, many times. On many occasions, after I had spoken with the governor and we agreed on an issue, Onoja would walk in and overrule it. And the governor would change his mind.
For instance, there was a time when I suggested that we pick a few projects, complete and inaugurate them, just to show that we can achieve a lot in the state as a team. The Governor agreed, but when Onoja came in, the story changed.
For example, since most secondary schools in Kogi State were not functioning, I had suggested that we should select one or two schools per local government area and fix them and the governor agreed. Before then, nobody had brought up that suggestion or a better idea. But the story changed because the chief of staff had a personal interest in the contracts that would be awarded for the rehabilitation of the schools.
In view of what transpired between both of you, do you regret working with Governor Yahaya Bello?
There is no cause for regret because no action has taken place, in the first place. There was no impeachment and I am still the Deputy Governor of Kogi State. So there is nothing to regret about.
What role did your party, the All Progressives Congess, play in resolving the matter?
Individually, some persons, including the National Chairman of the APC, intervened in the matter. But the issue has not been taken up holistically.
Did Governor Bello choose you to be his deputy or did someone else suggest it to him?
Everyone knows that I am a liberal politician who believes that governorship can come from any part of the state. I supported the Ebira people when they agitated for the governorship position in the state. They saw me as a liberal person who would be able to contain all that. Secondly, my antecedent in the state gave the impression that I am fair and just. So he invited me and said he would like me to be the deputy governor and I obliged him. I will continue to be grateful for that.
Is it true that Onoja was the one who chose you to be deputy governor?
Onoja doesn’t know much about me. He only knows that I am an Igala man.
You are in court to challenge your removal from office. Are you ready to work with Bello again, if the court rules in your favour?
I have been working as the deputy governor of this state and I am still the deputy governor, whether there is a court judgment or not. I am the sitting deputy governor and I will continue to be in this position until there is another election and a winner is sworn in.
On the issue of impeachment, what stage are you now?
We are in court. We objected to the vacation of our objection to the impeachment notice. We have also filed more grounds for objection and the case will come up soon.
How do you react to the allegation that, even as deputy governor, you worked for the opposition to the extent that you lost your ward in the 2019 general elections?
I never defected to another political party and I didn’t Iose my ward in the last elections. What my detractors have been doing was to spread the rumour that I was about to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party, but it was not true. They have seen that it didn’t happen. The issue is that we have been in this situation since 1999.
I have travelled on many roads and along the line, met many people. One’s relationship with other people sometimes goes beyond politics. We are in a position to render service and service is not only meant for the APC. It does not mean that one is hobnobbing with the PDP.
As a member of the APC, will you campaign for your party during the forthcoming election?
I am not a member of the party’s campaign committee. So I will not be out there campaigning, but I have only one vote and I will exercise my voting right. However, I call on President Muhammadu Buhari to look at the issue passionately and make sure the right thing is done. If he fails to do so, there will be a bleak future for Kogi State. The level of arrogance that is on display in the state, even in a democratic setting, is amazing. And when people start to react, the end result will not be palatable.
President Buhari recently asked the National Assembly to approve the sum of N10 billion as refund to Kogi for money spent on the construction of federal roads in the state. What is your take on this?
Show me the roads that were constructed in any part of the state. You are in Kogi, have you seen any such road? What then is the refund for?
What is your next move after all these?
I will continue to be in politics. My future is in the hands of God. He alone will decide my next move. Punch