Understanding Kogi’s Phantom Gifts

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SATURDAY COUNTERPOINT

By Femi Akitunde-Johnson

Apparently, the possibility that his action may be seen as “poisoned chalice” has not crossed the mind of incumbent Kogi governor, Yahaya Adoza Bello, 44. About three weeks to the November 16 governorship election in the state, a royal white Rolls Royce Phantom was presented to the paramount ruler of the largest ethnic Bloc in Kogi State, the Attah of Igala, Dr. Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni II. The stately vehicle (whether brand new or UK-faily-used, we know not) is probably priced anywhere between 160m and 300m! 

  Ostensibly, it was a “joint project” of Igala sons (they didn’t mention daughters?) in government house and other political structures, led by the hard-working, tough-talking newly installed deputy governor, Edward Onoja. We were not told what the venerable Attah was celebrating, or if he complained about the lowliness of his serviceable cars. Nonetheless, it was no great surprise that in response to the hefty Phantom gift, the Attah retaliated with a special chieftaincy “coronation” of his valiant Igala subjects, and their thoughtful friends. No one will bet against the “sure-banker” recipient of the most colourful traditional plumage. Of course, the governor’s head was adorned with the mouthful title of Oga-Onu-Ogu-Attah last Saturday.

 While we cannot tell politicians how to run their business (scratch that to find campaigns), and it’s perhaps beyond us to suggest to royal fathers how to dispense with privileges, it is however important we remind ourselves that whatsoever we do today in positions we find ourselves will inevitably form part of the legacies (glorious or forgettable) we bury in shallow grounds of life. Our children and generations unborn will easily and surely dig them up to perpetuate their realities. 

  The clear and loud sentiment echoed by the lovey-dovey give-and-take romance between state and royalty in a politically charged atmosphere where the seat of power, the most viciously contested in the Confluence State, is simply this: the APC candidate in the election coming up in a fortnight is of Ebira stock (Kogi Central senatorial district), whose running mate has just been shoved up from being a Chief of Staff to the governor, to the deputy governor’s office, and he happens to be an Igala (Kogi East), the largest ethnic nationality in Kogi (in fact, they proudly claim the 9th position country-wide). Thus, making the two-pronged ceremonies in Idah a little tinged with political desperation and preemptively strategic penetration into the hearts and souls of the rustic demographics of Igalaland.

  Of course, opponents and detractors of the flamboyant governor and his charismatic deputy will have a field day pointing to the duplicity and desperation of a governor who needed a N30.8b federal bailout in July to somehow pay workers salaries dating back to 2016! In fact, with the cries of “hosannas” and “crucify him” coming from both sides of the divide on the issue of salary payments, no one is hundred per cent certain of the true status of owed workers salaries, allowances, pensions and gratuities…even the unceremoniously impeached former deputy governor, Simon Achuba, lamented publicly that he was owed allowances and other perks of office from 2017… his lawyer, Femi Falana, once quoted a sum of N819.7m.

 So, what do we learn from this Kogi’s demonstration of expensive love? That politicians have no regard for the sensibilities of their people: if a Rolls Royce (which can hardly run a steady 70km per hour on any Igala roads) will bring votes from the largest ethnic bloc, what is N300m (even if it could easily pay 10,000 workers on minimum wage) to argue over? 

 Again, we are told by the love song churned out of Lugard House (governor’s office) that traditional rulers are still vital in political calculations of electoral penetration and destabilisation. This is a thesis that gives birth to tension, acrimony and suspicion between unexpected victor in the governor’s office and a miscalculated royal tumbling in partisan politicking.

  My advice: It will serve the nation of Igala, her monarchy and political elites well for the Attah Igala to urgently speak of his gratitude for the Phantom gift, his readiness to conduct another chieftaincy “coronation” of leading opposition figures, among other “statements” highlighting his desire and wisdom of being a father to all sons and daughters of Igala, and their meritorious friends… irrespective of their political affiliations. And that, before November 16… even if no new gifts surface. 

 By such manoeuvre, our revered father, is how you maintain and nourish the reverence and adulation of your kins, across politics and blocs.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Secret National Budget?

Well, I suspect many of us are as bemused as Senator Jibrin Barau, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Appropriation, at the news that the 2020 budget defence before committees of the National Assembly are mostly conducted in secret or closed-door sessions. We agree with Barau that salient issues of the national budget, except perhaps portions bothering on national security imperatives, should be held before the media, as representatives of the people in an open, transparent and urgent atmosphere. 

 There is no reason under the sun that should excuse the failings and frailties of unprepared and poor managers of government ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, in providing answers and justification for every item on the appropriation bill.  After 20 attempts at fabricating and panel-beating (not padding o) national budgets, should we not outgrow the cultish, cabalistic narrow-mindedness which has delineated this fiscal ritual, and open up the process to great scrutiny, and robust interventions beyond social media sensationalism and such mundane hysteria.

Help, Salamatu Needs Her Closure

I stand in support of the aspirations of the Nigerian girl-child. I queue behind the incredibly bold and inspiring agitation of Ms Salamatu Bello. She is a former student of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, who was reported recently to have staged a one-woman protest around Kaduna streets, highlighting the plight of female students in Nigeria. Bello alleged she was sexually abused while an ABU student in 2010. As it is usual in this confused, male-obsessed society, the alleged molester is still walking free and smug. In fact, the suspected lecturer has moved on to another university in same state.

  In a volatile and patriarchal environment, Salamatu Bello has done her bit. The society in all its fragments and awareness should rise to uplift her campaign for closure and justice. Her claim and her alleged molester should be diligently investigated, and promptly prosecuted. 

  The young woman should not be doubly victimised, or discriminated against on any level, nor should her indignation be swept under the carpet – her voice, protest and closure will open the gates for other traumatised voices to break out, and allow the nation deal appropriately with its perverts and abusers. Health is wealth, they say.

Pix: Governor Bello.jpg