By George Oyedepo
Kogi is on everybody’s mind. Mine own too. Since Presidential elections ended, the news has been awash with the failures and corruption of the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello and the anguish and sufferings of the people of Kogi. There is always news about the pain and poverty inflicted by not paying salaries of most for over three years, and some for between seven and 20 months in a state where nothing but civil service and local government employment are the sole and only industry.
In Kogi, everything is now comatose whether it is buka, school, food selling, clothes and every single stream of commerce. Only recharge card for data and reading or posting the pains of the state is a viable business. But GYB affected that one too when draconically he shut down MTN base stations to harass them to pay money. Who does that? In a government where the centre is doing Ease of Doing Business and trying to attract investors, one governor just shuts down base stations of the largest GSM company. What is supposed to be good and joyful news also causes death in Kogi. Anyone looking should see that there is a spiritual dimension to this. There is a governor whose only preoccupation is running from pillar to post, looking for a second term not minding what people are going through. There is fear of him all over the land. For a nonperforming and dismal failure of a governor the only declared opposition is from a former military man who was Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Jibrin Usman because he believes he can match him gun-for-gun, fire-for-fire. The saddest part is that many Kogites are cheering the candidate because he can match GYB’s violence. That is how bad Kogi has become. How dehumanizing. That qualification for support to run as governor is whether you have capacity and audacity for violence. Never mind that this can mean replacing an acclaimed corrupt governor with a worse person. What is Kogi’s offence? Can Nigeria ever be delivered?
A recent viral clip of news showed an Edward Onoja, GYB’s Chief of Staff upbraiding one of the candidates who has shown interest in Kogi governorship, Seidu Ogar, DG NASDRA for corrupt practices and selling employment for One Million Naira each to Kogites, He detailed how Jibrin Usman is currently an accused person in the dock standing criminal charges. He went after Ahmadu Ali for long-standing corruption allegation even though he is an elder states man. He challenged the Audu sons Mohammed Abubakar Audu and Mona Abubakar Audu for benefitting from the corrupt wealth of their late father who was under EFCC investigation and trial till he sadly passed away on the eve of announcing his victory in the governorship elections. He said they have no single item on their CVs for anything they have ever achieved apart from being Prince Abubakar Audu’s children and lots of sleaze about their morality and how they treat and sexually and physically abuse women. GYB’s own Ganajagate is no more news and what is news now is a hacking of Onoja’s Facebook account and discovery of sexually explicit sleazy conversations, images and videos of several women including young girls of as little as 17 years. In a sane clime, this is called pedophilia and the person will be in jail as a sex offender. There are also chats with his acolytes on how to set people up including taking nude photos or photo-shopping other pictures to blackmail and intimidate. This is the story of a governor and his Chief of Staff who are using the enormous powers of their office to victimize, abuse and exploit the citizens whether by stealing, not paying salaries or sexually. What a dirty but vicious circle of unending hopelessness and victimization. Things have fallen apart and the center can no longer hold. This sad story of Kogi should make us all weep as a country.
Kogi is a state of more than five million people and over one million registered voters. Can it be that there are no decent people there? How can it be that the line-up of those warming up and those in incumbency are so morally bankrupt or established as corrupt or at least questionably corrupt? There is a problem. We are not even talking about the competence of any of the people yet, we are still talking about their reputation.
For people looking from outside and feeling sorry for Kogi, we should be afraid for ourselves. The problem is next door. Ironically, Kogi uniquely shares borders with 10 other states. Whatever is happening in Kogi can, happen everywhere. Leadership should have standards. The lowest standard anywhere is potentially the acceptable standard everywhere. We should all be very afraid of how low and below sea level Kogi has taken qualification for leadership because as the lawyers say, it will become the generally applicable standard. The weakest link of any chain is the test of the full strength of the chain.
In all of their problems, Kogites are still talking about what they don’t want and what has failed them as a people. But is that enough? If we replace a bad egg with another bad egg, our options are for things to remain bad or get worse. With their desperation and how they are going, Kogites are not thinking or planning the standard for replacement. Some are not even considering it. They are united against is to chase their Greatest Yoke and Burden (GYB) away. They want their torment to end so they want the tormentor to go. I remember the story in the Bible where the people wanted a new king without caring who it will be because their king was bad and wicked. It did not matter who came, they just wanted the incumbent out. They got another one and celebrated the exit of the old one. The new one told them the old king chastised them with whips but he will chastise them with scorpions. Their story became bad to worse, frying pan to fire.
Kogi is in deep despair and cannot help herself. Who can save Kogi? The father of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari and APC NWC can save Kogi. Kogites are Nigerians too. They can help Kogi find and enthrone a leader that will assuage their pains by taking them out of doldrums. Since Kogites are not even able to think of the leadership that is correct for them, the President and APC can give them choices that can work for them so that they don’t remain under the GYB affliction or move from that affliction to another affliction. For the President, it sounds like assistance but truly it is a duty and responsibility. The President can direct the party to ensure that their screening process only produce good candidates who meet standards and even raise standards. That is all. Democracy will work well like that and the people will get what is good. If the President and APC remain silent and don’t do this, they would fail to rescue Kogi and that cancer of pain and failure of leadership in Kogi will spread to the rest of the body, Nigeria.
I have read a little about Kogi’s history and people and about their geopolitics. The East who are Igalas have voting power because they are majority. The West mostly Okuns is next and the Central, the Ebiras is the smallest. The West and Central together can barely match East. From 1999 to 2015 the East under different parties held sway, ruling the state. From 2015 to now, the smallest Central has held sway. The West has never had opportunity. This is like Nigeria. The only difference in Kogi and Nigeria is that one is called Central and not North. Somehow, power has rotated in Nigeria inspite of the higher voting power of the North. This happened because of patriotic action to ensure fairness and justice by rotation. If leaders of the country in different generations did not agree and enforce, it is possible that there will be a major zone of this country that has never ruled. If the leaders didn’t make sure that fairness happens, one zone can continue perpetually or a permanent partnership between two zones will keep one out permanently. Since the East of Kogi is strongly pushing for power shift because they want power back, why can the power not shift for the first time to the West for fairness and justice? The President and father of the nation and leadership of the political parties can help and follow the example of our forefathers who have etched their names in our history for what they have done.
I do not support any particular candidate but I will use one as an example. It does not have to be him but some of the things that are in the public domain about him can be a pointer to what we all can use to find the right group that Kogi can choose from. If they get a correct group and decision they make will be a correct decision. I don’t know him personally, I have never met him, but I hear and read much and see on TV. He is Babatunde Irukera, the Director General of the Consumer Protection Council. I don’t recommend him but acting like a class teacher in the class there are things about him that can be example. He can never be the only one but he is the one whose name has come up in may write ups I have read in papers and online and sometime ago I saw his profile on some social media platforms.
If the push for power shift will be actualized, Irukera is from the West of Kogi, the place that has never ruled. If it is fairness that has kept Nigeria going, Irukera as governor of Kogi State is for fairness and justice.
If it is talk about competence and fit, Irukera’s profile shows what he has achieved as a lawyer. When I read his profile, he reminded me of a mini clone of our most respected and revered Vice President only to find out that he has worked for him before. Apart from that, two years ago I did not know that there was an agency in Nigeria called Consumer Protection Council and many people too didn’t know. After his short time, CPC is a household name where you can go when you have not been treated well. The agency has a reputation that it will fight for people’s rights and is professionally managed and very responsive not like most government agencies. The agency was where Kogi is now which is in coma and almost dead. His achievement of bringing it to life and making it strong and effective is what Kogi needs, a competent hand with experience and public show of how they have done it before.
In everything I have read, what I am seeing is a competent professional technocrat with deep political understanding and network. The previously unknown CPC that was at war with other agencies and not able to operate maximally, has experienced a positive turn-around but under Irukera. There is collaboration in joint investigation with NCC, joint enforcement with NAFDAC, joint advisory with SEC, joint meeting with NCAA, joint banking regulations with CBN, joint town hall meetings on electricity with NERC, joint launch of Patients Bill of Rights with Ministry of Health. To think that this is happening in a country where regulators are always fighting each other, while citizens suffer. This shows teamwork and collaborative effort. Rescuing Kogi needs someone who can bring a team together and lead them and can also heal the ethnic division and bitterness. Central and East are worst enemies in Kogi now. A right personality from the West can be the magic the state needs.
I have also read of his achievement of getting a new law for the CPC that has brought competition work into CPC. One can read that getting this law was against heavy opposition because it had been attempted and not successful and ongoing for over 18 years because big companies didn’t want it, other regulators didn’t want it and National Assembly was fighting with Executive. This shows someone who has temperamental balance and focus for achieving objectives and knows how to navigate to that purpose. He achieved this in less than two years which is less than half of one term of a governor. The last thing Kogi needs now is a politician or another politician. A competent professional achiever who understands politics is what is needed because the person can sue their professional knowledge and network to proffer solutions for Kogi and at the same build political unity and cooperation.
Very importantly, many of what is available about him describe him as urbane, compassionate exposed, listening, humble and transparent. If these truly describes any singular person, then they are the virtues Kogi and any other state needs. There is no corruption allegation or moral bankruptcy allegations against him unlike the names we are reading and he does not seem to have been part of the political bitterness that has caused serious infighting in Kogi. These are the standards we should be putting forward and this can be the beginning of many with right virtues coming in. People who have something at stake and have no choice but to deliver. This is a process Lagos has perfected and we can all see the difference.
Irukera can be an example not even necessarily to be the person or the solution. I know that there are some who can do a great job, but, even for the states that have worked and positions in government that have succeeded, not many have come to the job with what he has achieved so far. Kogi and Nigeria has many qualified persons in the persona of Irukera. That is what we should be looking for and I strongly believe this is where President Buhari and the APC leaderships can help.