Kogi: The Clamour for Power Shift

17 Feb 2013

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Wada Idris

The Kogi West Senatorial district, the only zone in Kogi State that has never produced a governor of the state, has taken up the challenge to demand the right to produce the next governor of The Confluence State, writes Jaiyeola Andrews

Barely two years to the 2015 general election agitation for power shift from the East to WestSenatorial district in Kogi State is already on the front burner of political discourse in the state. Since the creation of Kogi State on August 27, 1991, the West has not had the opportunity of producing the governor of the state. And the people of the district have alleged gross marginalisation in the scheme of things by the successive administrations.

Checks indicate that the Central Senatorial district has joined the West in agitating that Kogi East Senatorial district should take a back seat in 2015. Kogi East boasts a larger population than any of the other districts and it has produced the two elected governors of the state since 1991 – Prince Abubakar Audu, 1992-1993 and 1999-2003, and Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, 2003-2011.

Politicians in the West senatorial zone allege an undue concentration of development in the East by successive administrations and pledge to reverse this trend and ensure even development across the senatorial zones if allowed to produces the governor of the state in 2015.

During the immediate past government, the political class in the West senatorial district had tried to persuade the governor to toe the path of equity and fair play. They argued that they contributed significantly to his election against persons like the late Senator A.T. Ahmed from the Central Senatorial district and Senator Alex Kadiri from the East, and even Audu, then in All Nigeria Peoples Party, who were widely considered more preferred choices.

Failed Promise
Idris, it is gathered, had towards the end of his administration pledged to ensure power shift from the East, owing to a deft political move by the West. But the former governor failed to keep this promise, as the East produced his successor, Idris Wada, at the 2011 governorship poll.
Idris was said to be under pressure from his kinsmen to disregard the clamour for power shift, citing their experience in Benue State. He yielded to the pressure from his people in the East by ensuring that the senatorial district maintained its grip on the governorship of Kogi State.

Beyond Agitation
Watchers of political events in the state say that for the Central and West districts to make any significant impact in the 2015 governorship poll they must fashion out a political strategy that would guarantee their acceptance in the East. This is predicated on the background that Audu and Idris made political ‘incursions’ into the Central and West Senatorial districts while contesting against candidates from these areas due to strategies employed.

The chairman of the main socio-political organisation of the Kogi West people, Okun Development Association, Lagos State chapter, Chief Akere Owoniyi, told THISDAY that power shift from the East to the West in 2015 was not negotiable. But he acknowledged that the West could not do it alone, it would need both the Central and the East to achieve their goal.

“There is no infrastructure, our roads are in a deplorable condition, there is no health care system in place and we continue to vote in elections. All the successive governments in Kogi State have failed us in the West-senatorial district. We are calling for power shift from the East to the West in the 2015 governorship election. We have qualified, intelligent and respected people who can be governor of Kogi State,” Owoniyi said.

“The West will present as governorship hopeful one who can actualise the vision for power rotation and who at the same time is widely acceptable and able to sustain a carefully planned political mobilisation programme. Very importantly, he must have an independent source of funding needed to scale through the hurdles of the primary because of other formidable candidates with immense financial wherewithal.”

Political analysts are of the view that the attempt at unity by politicians from the West and Central senatorial districts must carry along the East in order to yield the needed result. But the West and Central zones must first deal with their age-old politics of mutual suspicion and shop for a consensus candidate with the right credentials.

Geopolitical Position
Since the creation of Kogi State from the then Kwara State by the regime of military president Ibrahim Babangida, the Igalla of East senatorial district have continued to occupy the governorship position. This has fuelled speculation that the East might have seen the governorship as a birthright. The West senatorial zone, peopled mainly by the Okun, and the Central senatorial zone, which comprises the Ebira, the Ogori, and the Bassa have been playing second fiddle in Kogi politics. The two zones now appear prepared to shake off the yoke of marginalisation through power shift.

According to the publicity secretary of ODA, Mr. Odunayo Joseph, Lagos State chapter, “There is no doubt that it is high time a lasting solution was found to the boss-servant relationship between the Igalla on one hand and the rest people in the state.  Going down memory lane, it would be recalled that the old Kabba province was peopled by the Igalla, the Okun, the Igbirra, the Ogori and the Bassa and coincidentally they still remain as one in the present day Kogi State.

“It is true that the direction where the political pendulum swings in any election in the society or in a nation is largely directed by the game of numbers but it is expected that the Igalla will understand and not lose sight of the effect that power rotation among the three senatorial zones can have on the peaceful co-existence of the people of the state.

“It is, therefore, hoped that the marginalisation of non-Igallas in the state will become a thing of the past, else outsiders will be forced to see the Kogi State emblem as ‘state of marginalisation’ rather than as ‘The Confluence State’ to which it lays claim.”

The ODA chairman said all sons and daughters of the Central and West Senatorial zone must rise up and challenge their political subjugation.

To Owoniyi, “There is need for the Igalla to have a rethink over their impassiveness to calls by Okuns, the Igbirra, the Ogori and the Bassa for rotation of the Government House occupant in Lokoja so as not to continue to give the impression to outsiders who are no doubt watching the political events as they are unfolding in the state that political intransigence has taken a firm root in Kogi State forever.
“There is need to keep the age-long interrelationship that has been in existence between the Igalla and the other ethnic groups in the state, which fortunately has remained a predominant PDP state.

However, bemoaning the domineering posture of the Igalla because of their large population may not make any difference until the other groups are able to come together and present a common front on the political scene.

“It is hoped that our fellow Igallas will allow the globally acknowledged maxim, ‘What is good for the goose is also good for the gander’ to come to play in Kogi State,” said Owoniyi.
pic: Wada.JPG AND OwONIYI.jpg

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