Kogi election: Equity Not Domination grows Democracy, fuels development., Kogi State in my mind – ADC Nat’l Chair, Okey Nwosu
Many may not have heard of Mrs Salomey Abu or may have forgotten her. She was one of many casualties of the dangerous, crooked and murderous twist that Kogi politics has become. She was a politically active Igala woman from Ochadamu town in Ofu local government area of the state. For daring to campaign and work for candidates of her choice in the 2019 general election, the power-mongers of the state, including those from Igala, eliminated her in a gruesome manner ostensibly to silence voices of dissent. Mrs Abu was burnt alive in her home. Political tugs raided her family house to carry out the carnage. To make it more horrifying, and to send a sadistic message across the land, the assassins cordoned the family house and poured petrol all over the building and made sure she burnt to death. Even though the elections were over the day she was murdered, it was rumored that the treatment was meant to keep those who dare in check. Many more of Mrs Abu genre are still being sacrificed. This has come to be the way of democracy in Kogi state, to dominate the seat of power. Another governorship election is here and many predict another circus of bloodletting. I pray that Mrs Abu will in due course be the martyred expression of conviction, justice and equity in Kogi state.
Last month, some of the governorship candidates for the 11th November 2023 election gathered in Lokoja to decry the spate of violence and the imperial ways of the man called the white Lion of Lugard’s house. Truly, Governor Bello who took control of the government following the demise of former governor Abubakar Audu, has dominated the state wielding the big stick. Governor Bello’s second term is running out in a few months and he is determined to keep the seat not just in his Igbira tribal region, but within his village ward and family. How this represent the Igbira interest remains a wonder.
Due to conflicting interests, the center could no longer hold within Governor Bello’s domineering power structure, and old allies parted ways. Some of those shouting loudest today were involved in the circus of evil. The irony is that a good number of today’s candidates were allies of the governor until he ditched them for his cousin, Ododo. The new allies of the governor will not spare anyone considered a threat to their hegemony. These fixers of the moment appear willing to sing the lion’s song until the circus threatens their personal ambitions. Until then the lion remains the king of the jungle.
In Nigeria’s dysfunctional democracy, power of incumbency, money, terror, tribal and religious bigotry have become the means to winning elections. Power of incumbency and terror are the most vicious. The elites of the majority tribes who are castrated or ostracized from the power structures now, weep up sentiment to mobilize their tribal people to support their ambitions. The governors men argue that if it was right for the Igalas to have dominated because of their sheer size, the Igbiras can do the same with whatever advantage they have (for now). They aver that the governor can as well keep the seat of power in his bedroom as the king of the jungle and the present custodian of the state treasury. Until good sense prevails, the circus orgy continues.
In the guise of practicing liberal democracy, absurdities happen in Nigeria’s states. The constitution which confers authority and power is abused. The citizens whose votes legitimize the process and accord the mandate have their rights violated, and are forsaken. Justice, law and order that should lubricate and provide the suiting balm of the process are thrown to the dogs. The Presidents, governors, Local council Chairmen and the various legislators since 1999 are all culprits. The ‘elected’ persons desecrate the constitution, undermine and impoverish the people. They corrupt the systems and authoritarianism reigns. The state governors are the worst offenders; with so much repulsive power, their imperial majesties have their empires (states) in a stranglehold that imperils the high ideals of democracy, separation of power and nation building.
The macabre dance will go on, until discerning elites intervene to help the men of the moment interrogate their actions and learn from their failures and from history. For the first 16 years the Igala people felt it was proper to occupy the Lugard’s house, at the exclusion of the other two senatorial areas, the Okuns and the Igbiras. They felt a sense of entitlement, invincibility and hubris, and because they have the dominant population, they thought it was right and proper. God’s dominion played, nature took its course, in 2015 Governor Abubakar Audu suddenly passed. Without much struggle, the Igbiras fronting the youthful Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello took over power and have managed to keep it and even succeeded in clinching a second term using power of incumbency as it is known in Nigeria. The Igbiras of the Kogi central senatorial zones were once calling for equity, but now, the two terms of eight years for Governor Bello are not enough. They seem not to have learnt from the past and the Lion is intent on keeping power in Igbira land for God knows how long. To these two power blocks the Okun people of Kogi West senatorial area seem irrelevant and do not matter.
Governor Bello is from the minority Igbira tribe of the central senatorial zone of Kogi; his handlers fearful that they may not muster enough votes even with the entire treasury of the state, designed their own pathway to keeping power by recruiting gangsters of terror from within and outside the state and building alliances with hitmen since his enthronement. This changed the power dynamics in Kogi state politics, and it has had adverse consequences. The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner of Kogi state, Dr Gabriel Haley Longpet, warned that Kogi state has acquired a bad reputation for electoral violence, he cautioned that election is not a do-or-die affair, not a battle of guns neither, and avers that it is about campaign for ballots. Headlines of most newspapers tell the story; The Guardian of 10th June – Kogi guber poll: Another season of ethnic politics, endorsements; the Punch of July 30th – Kogi poll: Taking familiar road of electoral violence, Vanguard of 26th June – Gov election: Elders council raises alarm over Kogi’s political violence, Business Day, July 17th- Worrying signs as pre-election violence threatens Kogi guber poll. The Daily Trust of June 27th had as its editorial, “Kogi State: Stop the violence”. Gov Bello’s men argue that they are not to be blamed, that the Igalas started the perpetuation of power. But two wrongs do not cancel the pain, rather worsens the situation.
The Kogi conundrum is beyond partisanship. The state has become a malaise to itself and the country. The state is central to the development and economic vitality of Nigeria because of its critical location; further deterioration in Kogi jeopardizes movement between the 17 states of the south and the rest of Nigeria. Peace, security, good governance and infrastructural development of Kogi state will not only privilege the state and its people, it will leverage Nigeria in every conceivable manner. The solution requires all hands, but Kogi state elders, civil society and patriots and political and business stakeholders must show willingness and take take the lead.
Justice and equity are assured values that promote harmony in any system and certain to restore conviviality, peace, good governance and development in Kogi State. The traditional stools of Igalaland, Igbiraland and Okuns should take custody of peace in the land. Eminent sons and daughters of Kogi state; Cardinal Onaiyekan, Prof Eyitayo Lambo, Dr Senator Ahmadu Ali and others should have all Kogi talks. Lord Lugard, the British Monarchy, colonial government of the United Kingdom and their top business forerunners of the Royal Niger Company, found Kogi most suitable as the business and governance capital of amalgamated Southern and Northern protectorates (Nigeria), the state still holds a great promise if it finds its radar. With over 30 mineral deposits, large expanses of arable land and lush vegetation, climate, scenic landscape and aquatic splendor, Kogi state stands to be the richest state in Africa if not the world. Early intervention to break the debauchery and mundane thinking of self-serving politicians will boost the fortunes of the state.
The government at the federal level on its part have the mandate to ensure security and hold its institutions accountable to deliver free and fair election for the 2023 governorship election. System credibility and institutional integrity are needed for states and for the entire nation to make progress. President Bola Tinubu, this is time to test your leadership of the country and not APC party.
The Igalas have had 16 years, and I am sure that the elders have seen the futility of anyone or group playing god. It is in the interest of Kogi East and Kogi central to champion sustainable peace and make all Kogians embrace Equity, not domination to grow democracy, fuel development and create a harmonious and secure environment for economic enlargement and global reckoning. For Equity, peace and Progress, Kogi west deserves consideration and support of all.
To conclude, being Machiavellian and unmindful of the inherent great values of diversity is not a Kogi state thing. The cavalier antics and mindless gangsterism in chase for state power and domination play in most states across the country. In Imo state, the Orlu senatorial zone has had the governorship for 20 years yet Governor Hope Uzodinma despite being imposed on the state through yet a questionable judgment, will stop at nothing to take another four years and possibly domesticate the seat as an imperial majesty. Imo state has become a war region, with the same Orlu zone as worse hit. The Tivs of Benue with their two senatorial zones feel entitled to keeping the governor’s posts while undermining the Idomas and Egedes etc. In Kaduna, it is like a taboo to have a Governor from Kaduna south.
The fact that Nigeria has diversity of people and cultures has provided resiliency in spite of our country’s failures. Continuously undermining each other because of ethnicity, tribe, religion and language affects quality of governance, leadership culture and development with adverse impacts on the character, psychology and socialization of our people. The elites who hide under whatever guise to perpetuate or watch such indiscretions will be victims of the opportunism of the quicksand on which they have taken refuge. Deliberately inculcating diversity principles in our institutions, leadership, learning and being will privilege our national transformation and global standing. Chief Nwosu is the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress ADC and Leadership and Change consultant.
-Our task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery