The forthcoming Okun summit is aimed at preparing the groundwork for the re-positioning of the Okun speaking area of Kogi State, Chairman of the planning committee, Prof. Mike Ikupolati has said.
Ikupolati told reporters in Abuja that the six Yoruba-speaking local government areas of the state had since the creation of the state suffered criminal neglect in the hands of the various administrations in the state.
The result of that, he said, was the virtual collapse of basic infrastructure, decay in the health and educational systems, acute insecurity and growing youth unemployment. Ikupolati said the poor state of roads in Okunland, including the ones linking the state with its neighbours, paint a graphic picture of the sordid state of affairs in the area. Worried by that situation, he said the leaders of the Okun people in 2014 took their case to the then Governor of the state, Capt. Idris Wada but that their cry was treated with ignominy.
He said the political marginalisation of the people reached new heights with the way Hon. Abiodun Faleke, who should have been inaugurated as governor of the state at the demise of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in last November’s election in the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, was edged out.
In spite of all the adversity, Ikupolati said the people would not allow themselves to be defeated, adding that it was in the light of that determination that the summit was being jointly organised by the Okun Development Association (ODA) and the Okun Development Initiative (ODI) to enable leaders of Okunland to map out strategies for sustainable development in the area.
He said the various representatives of the people at the National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaiye, Hon. T. J. Yusuf and Hon. Sunday Karimi were expected to address the summit.
Other speakers including former Industry Minister, Chief Kola Jamodu, retired Ambassador J. I. Lewu, former Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Justina Abanida and former Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Prince Olusola Akanmode he said, were carefully chosen based on their demonstrable patriotism, knowledge, passion and experience.
Ikupolati, a former Director-General of the West African Insurance Institute (WAII) in Banjul, The Gambia, said the leaders at the summit would set the Okun agenda for overall development, women empowerment, security and youth development among others.
He warned that the parlous state of infrastructure in the area was a time bomb, adding that it required the contributions of all to find lasting solutions to the problem.
The Okun people, he noted were resourceful and resilient, adding that the enthusiastic reactions that had greeted the proposed summit among the people was an indication that they were poised to take their fate in their hands.
The summit, with the theme: ‘Breaking the bonds of underdevelopment in Okunland’ holds in Kabba, Kogi State from November 24 to 26, according to a release issued by Tunde Ipinmisho.