Dr Joseph Erico Ameh, a security expert and seasoned politician, is the gubernatorial aspirant of People’s Democracy Party (PDP) in the Kogi State governorship Election coming up in November. In this interview with CYRIACUS NNAJI in Lagos he spoke on the recently held general elections, even as he unfolded his plans for Kogi State. Excerpt:
The 2019 general elections have come and gone. Could you give us your impression on the elections?
The 2019 election was supposed to be a continuity of the progress we have made in the areas of electioneering in Nigeria. You realise that in 2015 people thought there would be electoral violence. Even my organisation, Real Strikers Security Services, hosted a nationwide seminar on violent-free elections that tried to forge a way for Nigerians to avoid violence during elections. A lot of youths and several organisations attended. Even heads of security agencies presented papers during that seminar. You saw that the 2015 elections were violent-free and people’s votes counted. When the results were being announced, the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan did not intrude. There were less manipulations and malpractices. Jonathan avoided introducing violence in our democracy. He conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent, now President Muhammadu Buhari.
We thought we have achieved and that we are going to take it up from there, and democracy had been enshrined, people rejoiced, and we were happy.
As we approached the 2019 elections, we started seeing a lot of tricks and intrigues. There were removal and redeploying of officers. Even some of the service chiefs who should have retired were allowed to continue. It was only the popular opinion that forced the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) to retire. All these were to ensure that the election was rigged. Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Onnoghen was removed. The result is what we have seen now in the just concluded general elections. All these were unnecessary because in every contest there must be a loser, there must be a winner.
If a government has impacted on the lives of the people, the government has no reason to rig, or sponsor violence, or use arms against the armless people, or using the police against defenceless people as was witnessed in the general elections. The 2019 elections were engulfed with great violence, gross misconduct on the part of INEC.
Would you blame the government for all these? Yes. The APC government grossly set aside the rule of law. It had been partial in handling corruption cases, with those who embrace the party like former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu and Godswill Akpabio embraced and treated as saints. Such a government that has not been fair also manipulate elections to remain in power. That was what happened during the elections.
What is your view on the use of the military during the elections?
Democracy is a civil thing. It has nothing to do with the Armed Forces. It is a choice of the people. If democracy is the choice of the people, then they should allow the people to make their choice, you don’t have to involve the military in this. If you put the right machinery in place for people to make their choice, quietly and gently, the people will walk up to the polling booths and they will vote and leave the place.
Could you assess the quality governance in Kogi State under Governor Yaya Bello?
I am not a machinery set to assess Yaya Bello. But, I attest to what I hear and see. What I hear from people, especially the civil servants, is that salaries are not paid. Everybody is crying. Institutions are not working in Kogi. There is no respect for the people he is leading. There is no adherence to laws, structures and other things. I have heard a lot of cries in the state, a lot of negative voices, and I saw a lot of things happening, like the training of vigilantes, buying of Army uniforms and all that. We have set up an audit team to audit the account of the state, where money goes, how it was used. We don’t know who is lying between the civil servants and the governor.
Why are you presenting yourself as a governorship aspirant in Kogi governorship election in November this year?
Every party has to have aspirants through whom a candidate will emerge during a primary. So, my, the PDP, like every other party, will have a candidate. I will be presenting myself as an aspirant in the PDP, my party.
What are your plans for Kogi people?
I will make my people to feel the impact of democracy. If I win, my administration will run an all-inclusive administration. I will not discriminate along party lines. My consideration is for Kogites. Everyone that lives in Kogi State will be seen as an indigene no matter where he comes from and the ethnic group he belongs. If an Igbo man living in Kogi, working in Kogi, paying his tax in Kogi, he should also succeed in Kogi. For the Igbo man, Hausa man or Yoruba man, everyone in Kogi to succeed, I must create an enabling environment for them. I will open structures and create institutions that will protect the people. We have the education, health, tourism, agricultural sectors. I will make all the sectors work. Our people’s lives will be touched and dividends of democracy will go down to the grassroots.
Within two years of my administration, Kogi State will be far better than what it is now. I will make Kogi work and a lot will be achieved within four years of my administration. I will build people so that there will be a government of continuity. There will be a succession plan and no section of the state will be shortchanged again.
How will you do this?
We have a lot of natural resources in Kogi State. For example, we have a lot of medicinal herbs in the state. I will set up a team of medical scientists to work with the trado-medics to bring out all these things to the help my people. This we will do in collaboration with NAFDAC and if certified, we use it as our own product. We have a lot of money around us. The fact is that our politicians are not hard working. They are waiting for allocation. When it comes, all they do is to fight the people, so that people would not even talk about it. The trick is: ‘Don’t talk there is money, money is not for you, go’. That is not what it should be. Government should create ideas for the people, plan for the people, go to war for the people, not the people going to war for somebody.
In what ways have you touched the lives of people of your state?
I thank God because whatever I am today is by the grace of God. God opened the avenue for me when I told Him one that I want something that will put food on the table of many and God gave me this business (Security Business). Now, we have over 9,400 staff across the country. We are everywhere in Nigeria. Among these staff, we have over 3,000 Kogites.
In Kogi State, our artists, musical artist, and the others, whenever they call for help, I am always there for them. Even the students always call on me for help, and I always oblige them. I have been doing these over years. I have some bursaries for indigent children. I pay their WAEC fees, school fees and NECO fees, not only for Kogi children, but for Igbos Yorubas, Hausas, etc. I cry when I see somebody on the street and cannot afford N500 for feeding or for transport fare. I don’t have an enemy. I believe in forgiveness.
What inspired you to do all these?
I am from a polygamous family, the first born in the family. My father tried as much as he could, but could not do everything. So, I took the bull by the horn and started to work from very young age. Since then, I have learnt not to depend on anybody. Even as a student, I did menial jobs to pay my school fees. A man that does not dream has no destination. At early age, I was already aiming very high. I set a goal for myself and I followed it. We also need God’s acceptance. When God accepts you, nobody can work against you and succeed