Kingsley Femi Fanwo is the commissioner for Information and Communications, and the Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the recently concluded Governorship Campaign in Kogi State.
In this interview, he spoke about the current political crisis that erupted in the state after the gubernatorial election last month and plans of the Yahaya Bello administration in the remaining few weeks of his tenure. INIOBONG IWOK brings the excerpts:
How do you react to the accusation by SDP that your government and your governor is principally involved in all these issues of insecurity in Kogi State?
We didn’t just get to this overnight. We need to trace the beginning of the wanton criminality being perpetrated by the SDP and the supporters of the party in the state.
Let us start with the utterances of the SDP governorship candidate when he called the whole ethnic group a common enemy.
So, when you call a group a common enemy you are instigating other people to see such a person as a common enemy and probably take arms against such a common enemy. It started from all of these even when it came to the gruesome murder of Khadijat Yahaya of Kotonkarfe.
All of these were reported to security agencies to take immediate action but to our surprise, we are shocked that despite all the wanton criminality, destruction, killings, maiming by the SDP and their supporters the security agencies have not done anything substantial to restore the confidence of the people in their operations.
I am calling out the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Police and the command in Kogi State for their foot dragging attitude in ensuring that these people are prosecuted and if the murderers of Khadijat Yahaya have been prosecuted we will not be where we are today.
Your Governor is the chief security officer of the state and now you are calling out the security agencies who are supposed to be reporting to him, how does that work?
As a government we have written a lot of reports, a lot of petitions to the police command and the DSS to tell us in specific terms with empirical evidence some of the atrocious activities of the SDP candidate and his supporters. This is not an allegation on national television just for the sake of it.
This is empirical evidence where a woman in Kotonkarfe was gunned down by thugs loyal to the SDP candidate on the day they were having their rallies. This was reported to the police, the DSS, but up till now they have not done anything significant about it. This has emboldened these criminals to continue to perpetuate their criminality. It is becoming very worrisome.
Are you saying that your principal is not in total control of the security situation in Kogi State?
What I am saying is that the heads of security agencies do not only report to the governor of a state they also report to their superior in Abuja. That is why we are calling on President to call these people to order and let them act on the reports that have empirical evidence and that is what we are saying.
If the governor has not done what he has been doing in the state to ensure security we would have witnessed the worst state of anarchy in the state.
I am going to give you an example, a few days ago they came out and complained about the safety of election materials and they said that they didn’t have confidence in the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), they didn’t have confidence on INEC and they were even suggested that the INEC materials in the Commission’s custody be moved to Abuja. Less than 48 hours after that, gun men struck the house of the REC and attacked the house.
Possibly, they were there to assassinate the REC. The adage in Yoruba says that if the witch cried last night and the little child died this morning, you don’t have to trace far to know where that is coming from. Recently they also directly accused the commissioner of police of recruiting thugs to create insurgency in the state.
That was clear and the commissioner of police gave them 24 hours. It is more than 48 hours after that, but the commissioner of police has done nothing about that. The DSS despite all our reports and all our complaints hasn’t done anything about it. If there are things they need to tell us, they should come out and tell us.
If they are there to protect the criminals that are following a particular candidate of the party, killing, maiming, stopping people from voting on election day, killing some of the supporters of the other political parties, and up till now they cannot say that they are investigating. Are they going to continue to investigate and these people will continue to waste the lives of our people? We cannot continue to wait, they need to act.
This lamentation coming from the state government, you already addressed a press briefing where you called for the arrest of the candidate of the SDP, and there are those who said that what you are asking is politics being taken too far. Do you agree?
It is not so. If you have gone to a place for an unauthorised rally, you didn’t inform security agencies that you are going to have a rally, and a member of the opposition party is wearing a fez cap of that party and he was gunned down by thugs, do we need to tell the police or the DSS before they do their jobs?
Do we need to call them to arrest the perpetrators before they do their jobs? Have they come out to tell us that this is the report of their investigations? All the petitions that we have written to them have come out to tell us about them?
So, it is not about lamentations, it is about calling on them to do the right thing. Muri Ajaka is a threat to the security of Kogi State. Before others begin to think that taking arms is lawful and right, he needs to be arrested. The need to arrest him, prosecute him and let him account for the killings that have happened under his watch. They need to make him account for the wanton destruction of lives and property.
Some are saying that it is an agitation against the outcome of the election, they said that the election was skewed and rigged against them, and that is the reason this whole agitation has been happening in your state in the aftermath of the election, would you say that the election was free and fair?
I disagree with that. The agitation possibly is the outcome of the frustration of those who boasted that they were going to win the election and that they had the backings of some people, even right there in the villa. At the end of the day it was discovered to be unreal, and they lost woefully at the poll, despite the fact that they caused violence in their part of the state.
They tried to use a certain compromised security agency and drove people away who are supporters of the APC, but we were still able to win, landslide. Even in that senatorial district we were able to win a local government area and did well in some other local government areas. Did you hear of any violence in Kogi Central or Kogi West?
There was none. We witnessed some violent acts in Kogi East not by intelligent peace loving people of Kogi East but by the desperate politicians who thought that their ethnic jingoism and bigotry would make them win the governorship election, banking on one senatorial district.
Are you invariably saying that in the aftermath of the November 11 Kogi State election and all other unpleasant stories coming out from that North-Central state, are traceable to the SDP and its governorship candidate?
It is obvious that the SDP was behind the flashes of insecurity in Kogi State. They obstructed the convoy of the Governor and attempted to attack the Governor directly. During their rally in Kotonkarfe, a member of the APC was gunned down for donning the fez cap of the APC. Before the election, they attacked scores of APC supporters in Kogi East.
During the election, they waged violence on our party members and one was even killed. After the election, they have been staging dangerous demonstrations.
They complained that they did not have confidence in the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state and a few days later, the residence of the REC was under a very serious attack. It is not difficult to trace the root of violence in Kogi State. SDP is completely responsible and should be called to order.
A few days ago, a group of lawyers and activists pointed fingers at the SDP and Muri Ajaka, its gubernatorial candidate, planning to file their petition challenging the outcome of the election through the back door after the 21 days window had closed, what can you say about that allegation?
I listened to the interview and I commend the group for carrying out a very diligent investigation. Our society can only get better when the citizens begin to hold their leaders or those who aspire to lead to account. The SDP will need a lot of proof to wriggle out of the legal conundrum. The law is clear and the law won’t bend for anyone.
What do you think can be done for peace to return to Kogi State?
The evil actors behind the crisis should be arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law. The SDP governorship candidate should be called to order. He once referred to a whole ethnic group as a common enemy. This is a public declaration of war. Yet, he walks around free. Are they saying a governorship candidate has immunity? The Director of the DSS in the state and the Commissioner of Police should do the needful. The crisis in the state is political and the person behind it is Muritala Yakubu Ajaka. Simple
Back to governance, the administration of Yahaya Bello in whose cabinet you are the Commissioner for Information and Communications, will be winding down in less than two months from now, what is this government doing at the moment as it prepares to leave?
It is the desire of the present administration under the leadership of Yahaya Bello to finish strong. The GYB administration has recorded more achievements than any administration before him. But he is working every day to ensure he continues to give his best to the people.
In the areas of education, healthcare and other critical infrastructure, Kogi has been given a solid foundation that the governor-elect will build on. Recently, the Governor has also established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. It is one of the strategies to improve the living standards of the people.
As the spokesperson of the campaign organisation of the governor-elect, Usman Ododo and a member of the cabinet of Bello’s government, I would like you to speak on this next question. There is this growing concern about the issue of ‘godfatherism’ in our polity, like what is playing out in Rivers State at the moment, is there any assurance that there won’t be a repeat of that in Kogi State, when Ododo takes over the mantle of leadership?
Ahmed Usman Ododo is a special breed. He is a great personality with excellent character. He has learnt from GYB and he will no doubt surpass the achievements of GYB.
He is a man who is coming for service and was in the system for over seven years before he resigned. His leadership qualities are sterling and he will continue to see GYB as his mentor. Governor Yahaya Bello will provide guidance when needed and I am sure they will both enjoy a wonderful relationship. I have no doubt about that.