KOGI STATE DEPUTY GOVERNOR, CHIEF EDWARD ONOJA IS A MAN OF MANY PARTS. PENULTIMATE SUNDAY, HE CLOCKED 46. AND HAD A SIT DOWN WITH SOME SELECTED JOURNALISTS WHERE HE BARES HIS MIND ON SUNDRY ISSUES. EXCERPT.
…SAYS GOVERNANCE IS GETTING BETTER IN KOGI
QUESTION: You have been termed as someone who shows great concerns to the poor and the needy. What actually influenced your attitude to life.
ONOJA: First and foremost, I’m been driven by an account from scripture where Christ was asking and speaking about love. And He says: ‘You cannot say you love God you don’t see when you’re unable to do good to man that you see. A man that cannot do good to his fellow man cannot claim to love God that he cannot see, knowing fully well, that the God you claimed to love is the one who created the Human being whom you can help but refused.
From our parental upbringing, we already knew that life is giving so we can be of help to others. And in helping, God naturally blessed helpers. So God will root blessing through anybody he known will not hoard it. If you observed, Bill Gates is a billionaire but also a givers to nation.
So what motivate me is my upbringing and my believe in God that when you visit the sick, orphan and widow is like visiting God, because God will not come down physically; he needs those who are available to be so use. That is why I’m selfless to the very needy in health, likelihood and education.
QUESTION: If there is anything that doesn’t sit well with you is ethnicity. You are surrounded by people from all the parts of the state and beyonds. Why do you take such stand against ethnicity.
ONOJA: Let me ask a question. Assuming I enter into an hospital and I have a tumor (God forbid) in my brain. And I meet Igala, Ogori, Lokoja and Ebira surgeons. And the Ogori surgeon has 90% success rate, the Ogori, 70, the Lokoja 65% while the Igala has just 20% success rate. And they explained all these to me. What do you think will form my choice – who is the best?
I will choose the best surgeon among them even though is not my tribe of Igala because I love myself and looking for survival.
This also apply to every sectors of live because if I made my choice based on ethnicity I have only 20% of survival against three others with higher success rate who are not from my place. This goes to power, politics and the rest, because people who get to offices have direct or indirect influences on our lives.
So ethnicity seems to reduce people from getting the best. You just need human being who loves everybody. Even God asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So if you now apply ethnicity into the equation, it means you are re-writing how God want human being to live. I see an Okunman, Igalaman, Ebiraman first as humanbeing. Language is not genetic, it depends on where you’re raised. So why do will attached so much to what comes from environment.
Most often, it is not your tribal man that got you to where you are. Help mostly comes from everywhere. Human being should just help human being based on humanity.
And that is what the governor brought to Kogi State; .core service, selflessness, character. And you have great Igara, Okun, Ebira, Bassa people with great character. Also, there are people from those areas with bad character. So, good people should flock together and let us defeat bad people irrespective of mother tongues.
Our country is not lacking in human capital, mineral resources and so on, but we are not where we are supposed to be because of mistrust due to ethnicity. Fulani believes nobody can do it except a Fulani man, and vice versa. Anybody who can overcome ethnicity will become a global leader.
QUESTION: Governance in Kogi seems to be getting better. What brought the change?
ONOJA: Kogi State now is more united than before and getting better. Our government led by Governor Yahaya Bello has transformed the health, security and all other sectors of the economy; to make it ranks as one of the best States in Nigeria.
Governor Yahaya Bello comes into power with a core values of capacity, selfless service, and of course character, and that is why governance, in Kogi is getting better. Ability comes with experience and you must makes mistakes to get experience so as not to make the mistakes again. So, four years and eight months into governance, we have seen those things that cannot and should not work. We have shed those things that cannot work and move on with those things that works.
As we move on in years naturally, we get better and not get worse. We have crossed out the limit of errors in the learning curve and government is more focus in delivering, uniting and doing the job of governance, much more than before the initial period.
Our emergence was a shock period because we came into power in a manner that was unexpected. So, people will reject it naturally; because everybody eyes was focus where the sun will set, but God in his own wisdom allowed the sun to set somewhere else. But as we get use to it, we blend. So there is now a meeting point between the people and government. That is why everything is flowing and going on well.
QUESTION: When your tenure end, where do you think Kogi state will be?
ONOJA: As at now, security wise, Kogi is one of the best state. As at now, no state can match Kogi state in youth involvement in policy making. This government has been able to put foundation policy and raised bar of governance. In term of IGR there is improvement. In terms of a united state, it is now better than before. The health sectors too. And we are not one of the worst hit of covid19 and we didn’t suffered too much from the covid19 like other state.
So when you march this government with previous one and pair it with other state, this government ranked amongst the best in dome sectors.
QUESTION: What will you want to be remembered for after this period?
ONOJA: I want to be remembered as a member of a team of young minds that change the story of Kogi state from been run like a family business than as state business.
I also will like to be remembered as a team members that unite the diverse group of Kogi state. I want to be remembered as a team member that allow all faiths to be practised with respect. I like to be remembered as a member of a team of young minds that allowed people who are referred to as nobody to be participatory in the governance of their state. And also as a man who worked with the governor to put kogi in the national limelight.
QUESTION: When you become deputy governor, you live a quite life than when you were the governor’s chief of staff. This spurned rumour that you are no longer in the good book of the governor. What is your relationship with the governor now?
ONOJA: The relationship between me and the governor is the relationship between a Siamese twins: inseparable, respect, deep love. And I can tell you, our relationship is deeper than how it used to be.
You need to understand that the function of offices differs. A Chief Of Staff open the door for the boss early in the morning and closes it at night. He is a confidant. Nothing goes in between them. And I played that role to the best of my ability, and my boss appreciated it, hence he elevated me to deputy governor. The role is a position of responsibility; which is to assist the ‘chief driver” to achieve his mission and vision. And that I’m doing by getting done the jobs he want me to do.
In the last seven month as a deputy governor, his excellency as delegated several jobs to me. Just that people don’t understand the function of offices, they expected me to be beside the governor at all time. But you don’t see the Vice President beside the President at all time, yet government is moving. Same with Kogi State.
QUESTION: At 46, how do you feel about life. What has been the challenges?
ONOJA: Sincerely, if I count my blessings and name them, I am surprised. Four years and eight months ago, I was a private citizens. I become the Chief of Staff, I have been sworn in twice as deputy governor within this four years. Only God could have done that for me.
QUESTION: What is the state of “Operation Light Up Kogi East”? And your involvement in Kogi east scholarship through Prof. Idachaba Foundation?
ONOJA: Education is key. That is why I rallied efforts from those I know to move the Education scholarship from N70 thousand to N500 thousand; so that people who are brilliant and made 1st class can go for their masters immediately. I foresee in 10 years, professors in different fields. Imagine doing this every year, you have empowered your people, because they will not be bench warmer but front setters.
Today, the south west are pace setters in education because Awolowo planted the seed years back. That is the reason for my involvement. So I encourage every part of the state to prioritise education far above other political issues.
On the Light up Kogi East project, it is ongoing. They are generating enough for Kog East. Once Kogi East is light up, the problem of the area is half solved. They said we need about 25 megawatt for Kogi East, but what is there is 15 megawatt. What we are doing is for 45megawatt; so that any extension in the future can still be accommodated with the extra 20 megawatt.
When you powered Kogi east, development is automatic.