In Kogi State, the people’s cry has shifted from power rotation as a burning issue to marginalisation, writes Shola Oyeyipo
In the twilight of the administration of former governor Ibrahim Idris of Kogi State, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state was at the threshold of losing its grip on the state over the clamour for power shift. Party loyalists and watchers of events decried the continued dominance of the governorship position by the East senatorial district, dominated by Igalas since the state was created in 1991. Some had even toyed with the idea of crossing to other political parties.
The likes of Alhaji Abdulrazak Isa Kutepa, Senator Smart Adeyemi, Hon. Duro Meseko and Hon. Dino Melaye, who are from the West, were at the forefront of the clamour for power shift to the West– the Yoruba speaking part of the state. Suddenly, some dissenting voices from the central came out and said “power shift could not be attained by force but rather, by political negotiation” and that the fact that the central had the Attorney-General, the Speaker and deputy governor, as at then, was good enough for the district.
It was, however, incomprehensible how the former governor quelled the agitation which many had thought would kill the PDP, such that a former Special Adviser to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Chief Olusola Akanmode, became the campaign manager for the Idris Wada/Yomi Awoniyi ticket.
While many may have concluded that issues pertaining to power rotation and allegations of marginalisation may have been put to rest through ‘political solution’, as often the case, the clamour for a better deal reverberated recently when leaders of Kogi Central Senatorial District alleged “wicked and ungodly” economic and political marginalisation of the zone since its creation some 21 years ago.
The group of elders, which included former senators, House of Representatives members, commissioners, community leaders and others drawn from the five local councils in the district had gathered under the umbrella of Kogi Central Peace, Unity & Progress Forum to protest the perceived inequality.
Spokesman of the group, Alhaji Salawu Mohammed, said they could “no longer tolerate the internal colonialism in the state and vowed to use peaceful means to enthrone equity, fairness and justice in Kogi State.
Reeling out statistics to buttress their claims, he said though Kogi East contributes the least internally generated revenue of 7 percent compared to 72 percent from Kogi Central and 21 percent from Kogi West; as much as 80 percent of all capital projects go to Kogi East while Kogi West gets 15 percent and Kogi Central gets a paltry 5 percent.
“Of the 28,000 civil service Kogi East alone has 24,621 as at November 2012 while Kogi West has 6,519 and Kogi Central has 4,069. The Idris Wada administration has been totally unapologetic about sustaining the internal colonialism in the state with political appointments thus far skewed against Kogi West and Central. Of his 19 commissioners, Kogi East has 10, Kogi West has five and Kogi Central has four. Wada has also appointed 57 Special Advisers in addition to the commissioners with Kogi East getting 33 while Kogi West has 16 and Kogi Central has 8.
“Of the governor’s 74 Senior Special Assistants, Kogi East has a whopping 60 while Kogi West has 10 and Kogi Central has four. There are 32 permanent secretaries out of which Kogi East has 24 while Kogi West and Kogi Central have four each. Of the 25 board chairmen recently appointed by the Wada administration, Kogi East has 14 while Kogi West has eight and Kogi Central has three. In addition, there are over 300 board directors with Kogi East getting more than 200 and Kogi West and Kogi Central having less than 100,” he said.
The leaders, therefore, condemned the injustice against Kogi West and Kogi Central and called for equity, fairness and justice in the allocation of resources and in the distribution of political offices in the state and within Kogi Central. They also resolved to promote peace and reconciliation among the people of Kogi Central and endeavour to bring on board, those currently being used against the interest of the zone.
But a former Commissioner for Information in the state, Dr. Tom Ohikere, who is also from the district, disagreed with the group. He believed that the so-called ‘marginalisation’ was self-inflicted. He held the opinion that if the Ebiras who are the dominant tribe in the district present their best hands for political appointments as others districts do, the story would not be the same.
Dr. Armstrong Idachaba, from the East senatorial district, said the logic behind the sharing formula is the political mathematics where majority carry the day. “Politics is about numbers. The Igala believe that they are the most populous single tribe and that this should reflect on the distribution of power and resources in the state. They easily make reference to Benue State where they sojourned before coming to Kogi State and where the Tiv marginalised them on account of population.”
However, Special Adviser to Wada on Media and Publicity, Mr. Jacob Edi, dismissed the allegations. “It is very clear that these leaders are just out to fan the embers of discord among the good and peace-loving people of Kogi State. For the benefit of doubt, I like to state categorically that all appointments made by His Excellency, Capt. Idris Wada, was done in consultation with party leaders, stakeholders in the state as well as the real and genuine leaders of the Central Senatorial District,” he stated.