By:Abubakar S. H
Dr. Tom Ohikere is the head of the APC NewsOnline, a former information commissioner in Kogi state and recently appointed as the Chairman of TAEEIAI media company. In this interview with our reporter, he speaks on his political antecedent, the Nigerian Project and his hopes for the future of his beloved Kogi state, particularly as it has to do with power rotation among the ethnic groups in the state.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Dr Tom Ohikere and currently the Managing Director of the APC NewsOnline, www.apcnewsonline.ng and TV.. I am not a novice to politics, I have been in politics for as long as I can remember. During the immediate past general election I was the director general of Good Governance for Tinubu/ Shettima, and I played my own part in the mobilization and strategic planning and execution for the electoral success of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket and for other APC candidates at various levels, particularly in my home state of Kogi.
Before my current national political engagements I was a dominant player in the politics of Kogi state, being twice commissioner of information and four times governorship campaign spokesperson, from Abubakar Audu to Ibrahim Idris to Idris Wada to incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello.
On the national level I was also a member of the Buhari Support Organization (BSO) and deputy national chairman of Coalition of APC Support Group
Can you tell us what the APC NewsOnline is about?
The idea of starting APC NewsOnline came from our commitment to our great party, the APC. We want to be frontline conveyers of the APC to the citizens of Nigeria and the world at large.
The APC NewsOnline is an online media and television platform that disseminates news and media contents as well as creating strategies, models and templates of developments in Nigeria that can fused into the grassroot aspiration of our people. It also brings to the frontline the genuine needs of the people at the grassroots.
The APC NewsOnline platform has two sections; An online Newspaper and online broadcasting station, and we have changed the the media space in Nigeria and make it about truth, not just entertainment, not about profit making but the truth. And while we are doing it, our platform is going be astute about it when there is a need to balance and when we don’t, because sometimes seeking balance gets in the way of telling the truth. It is championed by my humble self, Dr Tom Ohikere and other media inclined members. of APC.
Perception plays an important role in politics particularly as competing ideas and parties jostle for predominance giving out information carefully designed to influence public opinion, for or against. In the ensuing informational melee so much can be down played, misunderstood or lost especially in this era of deliberate disinformation. That is where the APC NewsOnline has found its purpose.
The APC NewsOnline has been unwavering in its defense and propagation of the vision, ideas and achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, acting as a bridge between the government and citizens, while providing information that serves as an impetus to social, economic and political growth and development of the Nigerian society.
It’s not about the narrative or perceptions that the anti system elements and detractors are presently propagating but the realities on the ground.
The massive investments of the APC led administration in both human and basic infrastructures since 2015 under the leadership of president Muhammadu Buhari must be commended and documented for posterity.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don’t get it, or don’t want to do anything about it; there are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it; and there are people who move, people who make things happen.” And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that’s, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.”
That’s is to say the great APC Movement and revolution that changed the narrative of Nigeria’s democracy in 2015 marches on and we the APC NewsOnline platform are glad to be instrumental in the historic election that ushered in, Nigeria’s next president. We have no doubt succeeded in our work, Tinubu’s victory is our victory. Not only did we use our platform to good use for propagating pro – APC and Pro – Tinubu contents but i was also the director – general of Tinubu – Shettima for good governance directing a sector of the entire campaign machine.
How would you rate the 2023 general election?
The 2023 general election has come and gone and all praise belong to God, we have proven the nay sayers and doubting thomases wrong. Our country is still standing and is still stable. You know around every general election cycle in this country there are those who are fond of peddling doubts, skepticism and hysteria, especially from foreign powers and on the other hand by partisans as a weapon to goad the electorate into aligning with their preferred candidates or choices. Being a veteran of Nigerian politics I expect the election to be successful particularly with the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to leave a legacy of credible elections which precipitated the signing of the 2022 electoral act and the subsequent deployment of the BVAS. And from the actual outcomes on the ground, the commitment of INEC and the security agencies and other stakeholders, I can say without a second thought that the 2023 general election is generally free, fair and satisfactory. While no election is absolutely perfect whether here or abroad but our elections are witnessing progressive improvements. We have gone from the card readers to the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System in our quest for a more perfect electoral system. While no doubt there were pockets of violence here and there but security apparatus and the patriotic sentiment was sufficient to contain the situation. All these calls for cancellation of the election and interim national government are the cries of the losing parties, and it is normal and expected but I think and believe that the 2023 general election is a success and a platform for building on and consolidating the conduct on future elections. We will continue to call for calm and the spirit of sportsmanship.
How would you assess the past eight years of APC rule?
The past eight years has been one of chequered development. It has not been easy for the APC, for Nigerians but our country seems on the right path. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done so much especially in terms of human development, natural resources exploitation, and infrastructure development. You have seen the completion of the second Niger Bridge. What about the fight against insecurity as well as the anti graft war. This government has recorded conspicuous successes. We have seen the decimation of the Boko Haram terrorists, back then under the PDP Nigeria was in the tight grip of an insurgency extending from Borno to Adamawa to Yobe states respectively. While it persisted into this current administration, with the added phenomenon of banditry, and the farmers/herders crisis but they have all receded under the overwhelming firepower of the Nigerian security apparatus. This has further being fought and supported by the government’s social security and investment programmes such as school feeding programme, the cash transfer programmes among other designed to alleviate poverty and extend inclusivity in the Nigerian body politics.
Also the war on corruption has yielded benefits, we see the successes, the convictions, and the forfeiture of stolen funds. So this are achievements, even though the president’s public relations handlers are not doing a good job in communicating with the president’s constituency properly. The President has played his historical role and we are grateful to him as a party and as a people, he has laid the foundation for a prosperous Nigerian future. So I see the President – elect enjoying an easy ride consolidating on the achievements of the incumbent.
How would you assess the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello and the state of the APC in Kogi?
Yahaya Bello has done his best, his modest achievements are there for all to see. Especially his infrastructure projects, they are signature achievements, they are landmarks that Kogi state and society will continue to benefit from for a long time. But one thing that has incredibly affect his government is his poor public engagement. He is using unpopular personalities, he is not recruiting the most intelligent elements or popular personalities, with the right political clout and grassroot tentacles to run his cabinet, instead he is using people that are not reaching the grassroot, who don’t know the problems of the people. They don’t know how and when to engage the people, so that the distance between the governor’s representatives and the people is shorten. This their non acceptability or non popularity is even affecting their politicking and electoral value. Yahaya Bello himself is a good man, a renowned philanthropist and good administrator. But this particular drawback has occasioned the resurgence of the PDP and even the ADC. The PDP in Kogi central especially seems to be rallying and waxing stronger.
There are many stakeholders who have been sidelined in the Kogi state APC, by the incumbent administration, he has failed to carry those who have the popularity along and they are all members of the APC, some of them are founders of the party who were there before he joined the party. While no doubt Yahaya Bello played a good role in the electoral showing of Senator Bola Ahmed Asiwaju in Kogi state presidential vote, he cannot be said to be the lone man who delivered for the APC in Kogi state, many of the people sidelined by his government in the party still continue to enjoy good relationship with the presidency and the leadership of the party.
You cannot be issuing suspensions, causing strife, suspicion and acrimony at such a time when the party is going to an election. In politics while everyone is pursuing there interest there is bound to be a conflict of interest, where here or on a global level but it is the duty of a capable leader to identify and reconcile these interests leading to realignment and a new progressive equilibrium in the fold. For eight years Governor Bello had the chance to do so but he has not done so. So his relationship with the stakeholders, with the people is quite poor. As Governor you are the leader and father of the party in the state and should be able to carry everyone along. So such posture puts the APC in Kogi in a precarious position. So, it is high time we come together to think through on what we want, with oneness and sincerity of purpose, as an ideological and progressive party, particularly as it borders on the necessity of power rotation in Kogi state to Kogi West.
Tell us about your group’s stand on power rotation agenda for 2023 in Kogi state?
We the Coalition of Kogi State Patriots as you know is a group of accomplished and veteran politicians and Professionals committed to the agenda of a modern, equitable and progressive Kogi state. This esteemed body which has for long being an influential voice in the governance equation of the state has once again found it imperative to oversee the peaceful and progressive change and transfer of power particularly as one constitutional term limit gradually rolls to an end. We are leading the charge for this most fundamental discussion. Kogi state like many other state has always have its power rotation movement. So this is just an extension. But it is still the same movement looking for its feet at this most fundamental time.
How would you assess the political developments in Kogi state, where you are a critical stakeholder in the light of the agitations for power rotation?
Kogi state is at a crossroad as the 2023 standalone governorship election looms on the horizon, just almost eight years since Governor Yahaya Bello fortuitously succeeded former governor Idris Wada, after the demise of the candidate of the APC for the 2015 election. It was the first time the governorship against all odds went to Kogi central, one of the other three senatorial district making up the state. While the Igala East senatorial district have always held sway, the other two, central and West senatorial district have always groaned and even conspired. That is why i say, we are at a crossroad, because potential factors that have always given Kogi east electoral preponderance still exist. That is why we at the coalition of Kogi state Patriots are demanding power rotation to pass the batten of fraternity around an usher in a new vista in our political history.
Kogi State was created in 1991, Kogi East has governed the state at different times for 20 years uninterrupted, which includes; Abubakar Audu (NRC) 1992-1993, Abubakar Audu (APP) 1999-2003, Ibrahim Idris 2003-2012. (PDP), Idris Wada (PDP) 2012-2016 amid fierce call and politicking by other districts. Such emanating sentiments have always caused division and insidiously affect social – political relationships. The political direction of Nigerian politics in recent times have focused on the principle of power shift and rotation in a bid to balance development and inculcate greater feelings of inclusiveness and equity in the body politics which is quickly becoming the trend. Many states in the country have stroved and are striving in that direction and the peculiar tripod or tripartite nature of ethnic composition in Kogi state, divided into three equal senatorial disticts, makes it an inevitable necessary experiment. And now seems like the divine timing, particularly giving the circumstances of the past eight years, whether at the national or state levels, and new realities are emerging. Kogi state has a chance to be a shining example, especial rising from a general election that has witnessed the triump of principle as the south negotiated and fought for powers after eight years in the north. States that have taken this path and are reaping the benefits include states like Kwara, Delta, Edo, Imo, Enugu, Abia, Kwara, Nassarawa, Ekiti, Niger, Anambra state, among others. While Kogi state in general is gifted with brilliant and excellent potential at this juncture in our political history Kogi West have the caliber and personalities that have been tested and proven, in both political dexterity and administrative competence. It will be selfish stupidity to forget the excellent roles that the people and representatives of this district have played in important national and even state assignments, with their passion and brilliance, the likes of Sunday Awoniyi, who at one time was the chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the likes of Chief Silas Bamidele Daniyan, Dr Stephen Olorunfemi, Maj Gen. David Jemibewon, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, Chief Bayo Ojo, Hon. James Faleke, Senator Smart Adeyemi among others.
Within the parlance of the 2023 general election contest, one can safely say Kogi Lokan, properly interpreted in this circumstance of power negotiation in kogi Guber 2023 race means it is the turn of Kogi State to replicate the now nationally embraced power rotation mantra. So this is why the Coalition of Kogi state Patriots are on the move again. Because critical issues needed for the stability and political survival of the state is needs to be addressed as we approach the 2023 governorship election.
The quest for power rotation amongst the three senatorial districts in kogi state is as old as the formation of the state as a national sub-unit has always being there. The relative mutual respect, socioeconomic equilibrium and socio-cultural stability the power shift injected into our idiosyncrasies within the last seven years made it crystal clear to every deep discerning Kogi citizens that complete and continuous rotation of political power at every level in the governance of the state is possible and even necessary. That the third and only remaining senatorial district should have the necessary fair share of that most esteemed office.
We wish to specifically in the spirit of what is morally expedient call on their Excellencies, the President elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the National Chairman of our gear party the APC, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State and a host of other God fearing leaders and elders of APC all over Nigeria being champions of power rotation to assist this quest and also persuade the party to urge the very patriotic APC members from kogi East and Central senatorial districts who had picked the Governorship nomination form to align with this quest. As Kogi is a stand alone, it is in the eye of the world that wants to know if we are worthy of the perception and expectation as a great and friendly state of abundance and benevolence.
We are appealing to our youthful Governor Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello to approach the quest for power rotation to kogi west come January 2024 from the new generation point of view of extraordinary possibilities of the Kogi spirit, hospitality and brotherliness. The world today is governed by the principle of fairness which is the bedrock of rule of law to enhance peace, stability and economic development. His excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello should carve his name in history by allowing power to rotation to Kogi west this time. As a member of the APC family, Kogi West have proven itself a noble comrade, not only by deliverimg a senator – elect but also maintaining the seat in the APC. This is further boosted with their recent commitment to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the presidential election where the district put up a very commendable performance by pulling 78,796 votes, while kogi central had 55,858 and Kogi east with 107,358.
Our resolve and commitment to push through this system that would embrace all is total. We are hopeful to sail through without bitterness to those who do not believe in power rotation across the three districts. Politics is a dynamic process and we shall continue to engage our stakeholders, constituencies and the leadership of the party both nationally and on a state wide basis. We will hope, strive and pray that the labour of our heroes past across the three Senatorial Districts do not go in vain.