Why i am biased – Atayi Babs

Atayi Babs

My Dear Brother,

I must commend you for your response to the information i posted on the igalanet entitled “VERY VERY LUCRATIVE VACANCIES IN NIGERIA on the 19th of April 2007. I also wish to thank you and others who contributed for their brotherly advice and comments. Your response did not come to me as a surprise as I have been inundated in the past, with similar responses (especially to my column in the dailies) that I am biased against a party. Some say I’m too critical of the Government, some wonder why I seem to continually see issues from ‘a half-empty position and not a half-full position’ while some other persons find it difficult to understand why I fling invectives at visionless rulers, or better still, why I excoriate Nigerian rulers, from local Government Councillors to the President. Most times, I am advised to take things easy, loosen up, join ‘them’ or take the opium and wake up on the other side better. The call or advice to treat public issues with detached aloofness is not new anymore. These days, it comes in different linguistic guises. Some dub it objectivity. Others invite me to see ‘the other side’ or better still, ‘get on the bandwagon.’

On the whole sir, I beg to respectfully demur. In the light of my school of public commentary and especially given the circumstances of igala land, detachment to me is a costly luxury. I make bold to state in very certain terms that I choose to be biased against all those who, placed in favourable positions of authority in igala land, Kogi State and Nigeria, refused/failed to hold aloft the banner of prosperity and progress. I have chosen to be biased against all those who have failed to show the light so that my people may find their way. Also not excluded from my list are those who, possessing the requisite intellectual capacity, failed to hold a mirror wherein we, the igala people, can see true reflections and make necessary changes for the better.

In a geographical entity like igala land, with its misfortune in leadership and its deep, deepening malaise, it has been said that the solution lies not in being biased but in ‘joining the bandwagon to salvage what is left.’ Sorry, but I’m not versed in the tradition of massaging evil, of euphemizing treachery, or dishing barbs and darts with one hand and with the other flowers and garlands. The igala nation today lives on an ever-thinning hope, ravaged, pillaged and sold down the river by too many of its sons, especially those who presume to be its leaders and the way out lies not in hero-worshipping, sycophancy and infectious passivity or joining hands with a set of visionless impostors through appointments and juicy contracts all in a bid to salvage what is left. Methinks the solution lies in holding our leaders accountable to us through constitutionally guaranteed means (and not calling a spade an agricultural tool), educating and enlightening our people on actions and inactions of our modern day rulers so they (igala people) can make informed choices in future, brainstorm and engender ideas and workable strategies aimed attracting development to the land through our individual and collective vocations, evolve sustainable political and intellectual structures that will train and equip the generation-next to take over from the fading generation, and many more.

The absence of a strong, virile opposition in the state and in our land shouldn’t convert all of us to Apologists and Well-wishers who, for the fear of jeopardising the chummy relationships we enjoy with our rulers (especially the public and private visits they pay us and our associations) hail every move of our rulers. Rather it should propel us into instituting alternative checks and balance mechanisms aimed at ensuring that we keep our rulers on their toes so they can serve us better.

What surprises me is the fact that many of my brothers and sisters seem incapable of mustering, and expressing, the same depth of moral outrage against impunity. In the face of the treachery and evil going on in our land, why, I often worry, aren’t more igalas fuming? Why isn’t everybody furious as hell? An election (so it seems) just took place in our state on the 14th of April 2007 and about 17 of my brothers and sisters who woke up that Saturday in their homes ended up in the mortuary that night just because some people feel that they must continue aimlessly in the sanctum sanctorum of power and everybody must reason along with them. Why shouldn’t I be biased when some of these people, sent to their early graves by the firepower of a party that prides itself as the ruling party in my state, were breadwinners of their families? Please tell me why I shouldn’t be biased against a party that prevented my people from exercising their legitimate right to vote in idah, Ayangba and even Omala by using its rag-tag army of bloodletting thugs popularly known as “Ibro Boys” to cart all ballot boxes to their cocoon in order to vote on my peoples’ behalf? Why such an action that led to the untimely death of a high-rising Nigerian Police Officer of igala extraction, DCO Abimaje who tried to retrieve ballot seized boxes in idah shouldn’t elicit uproarious outrage from my people still beats me hollow.

I have every right to be biased against any party that is ostensibly hell-bent on multiplying misery for my people in return for their support. A party that takes delight not in harnessing and developing the potentials of youths, who according to Benjamin Disreali, are “the trustees of posterity”, but in forming them in to violent gangs with unflattering sobriquets like “Ibro Na’Allah” Kogi Youth Coalition, “Ibro Family” “Ega Boys United”, “Ibro Vanguard”, and using same to perpetrate wanton destruction of lives and property on my people deserves nothing but bias from me. Suffice it to add that this despicable party sponsors these groups through its phony Youth Empowerment programme which includes dishing of motorcycles, tricycles, pilgrimage sponsorship and mouth-watering contracts to supply maggi, sugar, salt, toothpicks, e.t.c to the Government House. This same set of boys using their official designation as Ibro Na’Allah wrecked untold terror on several people in idah especially during festive occasions. A banker of Igala extraction and a member of this group, OGACHEKO OPALUWA was brazenly attacked and dispossessed of his handsets and other valuables by these boys at broad daylight in idah during 2005 yuletide celebrations. Of course Ogacheko’s offence obviously was his decision to spend the yuletide with his kith and kin in Igala land, his fatherland!

If I respond viscerally to the travails facing igala land, it is because they affect me in a direct, personal way. Some examples should illustrate the point. From 1999 to 2003, Abubakar Audu, an Ogbonicha Prince held the office of Governor of Kogi State. He was a metaphor for fiasco and a study in impish haughtiness. During his misrule, civil servants and pensioners were not paid their entitlements for upwards of ten months. It was a time when misery stalked the state. Hunger laid siege on the state, reducing human beings to the level of scrounging animals. For upward five months, pupils stayed home because their unpaid teachers went on strike. Meanwhile the insouciant Governor kept on commissioning whitewashed projects, naming them after himself and family, and mouthing his facile dictum: “I condescended to be Governor of Kogi State.” How could one behold such gubernatorial folly on that inhuman scale and not be biased? Unable to stomach the stench that Audu had become, Kogi people rose up and replaced him promptly with Ibrahim Idris, a barely exposed Furniture maker turned Hotelier in 2003.

Sadly, one commentary about our democratic experience since Ibro’s assumption of power is the wanton glorification of responsibility and irresponsibility as dividends of democracy. In saner climes, the performance of a Leader’s statutory obligations and constitutional functions such as Staff welfare, Community welfare and Institutional strengthening do not constitute achievements (or giant strides as we say here). It is a Leader’s capacity to craft and fashion out a vision that will manifestly translate into the total liberation of his subjects from the interlocking clutches of poverty, socio-economic exploitation, geo-political domination, ethno-cultural dislocation as well as a neo-fascist enslavement implanted by past years of myopic and tyrannical leadership (the kogi story for the past sixteen years) that constitute what is known as achievements in office. It is in line with this intellectual wavelength of reasoning that Plato posited “our object in the establishment of the State is the greatest happiness of the whole and not that of any class.” But sadly here, a Governor will gladly tell the whole world that some of his numerous achievements are payment of salaries, donation of vehicles to all industrial unions and payment of medical allowances in arrears. It is tragic, indeed lamentably tragic that we are blessed with a Governor who has turned Igalas and Kogites in general into the Willing, led by the Unknowing and are doing the impossible for the Ungrateful and have done so much for so long, with so little that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

It is my considered opinion that anyone who has ever plied the now-dangerous Umomi-Idah road would have no option than to be biased against a party whose National Chairman, Senator and State Governor ply the same road almost every fortnight and even stand on the eroded part of the road to wave IBRO 2007 and PDP-Power insignias to the hapless villagers who are looking for nothing other than a swift arrest of the deadly erosion that has taken monstrous dimensions and is already ravaging a sizeable part of the community. The party’s conception of governance is to read budgets that allocate hundreds of millions supposedly for road construction and repair. But, as many igalas have found out, such monies are often ploughed into private pockets who strut around igala land, buying exotic cars, forcefully taking over peoples land, establishing myopic economic empires through the acquisition of 911 trucks and petrol stations, and marrying more wives. As one who has lost several friends and relations to accidents on the Umomi-Idah road, why should one not be biased? I shudder when I remember the likes of Uncle Jimmy Etubi, Safiya Alhassan, Adukwu, Arome, Aku, to mention a few who travelled along that way and never came back home to our loving arms!

I must be biased against the party that has ensured that my beloved state tops the list of every national index of misery and social underdevelopment. Worth recounting is the latest research by Central Bank of Nigeria which revealed Kogi as the 3rd poorest state in Nigeria, beating other impoverished states like Gombe, Adamawa and even Zamfara to a 3rd position. As for imploring me to join the bandwagon to salvage what is left in igala land, I beg to ask, which bandwagon? This has become too instructive to ask as our recent history is replete with Leaders that have moved us forward into ineptitude, misery and unimaginable self-enrichment. The age-long aphorism of “moving the State (or igala land) forward” should be denounced for what it has become, an empty, stultifying clause that oozes deception. Owing precisely to the beguiling attractiveness of the spoils of office, our rulers usually fixate on the metaphor of propulsion, mistaking the image of motion with the idea of progress. Moving the State forward into what? Crises, chaos or crass corruption? Of course, a State can be moved forward into crises, chaos and crass corruption when a ruling party elects to sponsor to shoot-at-sight the very people it wants to rule over.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a fan of Audu. I don’t see him as any better than Ibro in terms of his philosophy of statecraft. He is, after all, an integral precursor of the unexampled venality that the incumbent rulers epitomise. Neither do I see any of our current power players, who are implacably besotted with their proximity to the perks of office, as better alternatives. I’m not sounding different for its sakes either. For years, I have written in my name or in corporate pieces, in news or features or commentary about what is wrong with us so we can change for the better. Actually life would be much easier were I to decide to stop. I stand to benefit more from this ruling party in the state as an integral member of my immediate family is in its echelon. I could be a millionaire or a Special Assistant/Adviser in a matter of days. But I would become that wealthy or powerful man in shame and without respect.

That is not how I was raised.

To me, therefore, every igala, who has not stolen something or compromised something, ought to be taking this shame personally. He ought to be incensed at our failures. He ought to be seeking the highest branch on the tree from which to scream to make a change. I can’t seem to learn the trick of maintaining tact when evil is rubbed on my nose. I choose to be on the side of my people. I choose to suffer reprobation on the side of the people for the sake of a tomorrow that will be brighter and more rewarding for us all.

All I am out for is the evolution of effective political and economic mechanisms that will birth a vision for a new igala land. These mechanisms will appraise our past and present with a view to putting on the front burner of national and international discourse, THE IGALA AGENDA. I don’t think igala advancement can be stalled when we are bogged down by the dirt of the past and present. It is a universally acknowledged truth that the past is instrumental to the shaping of the future and for us to chart a new, enduring and beneficial course for the future, there is need for us to dig into and learn from our past, understand our present and proffer workable strategies aimed at insuring and assuring a better future for our children’s children. Obafemi Awolowo once reinforced this line of thinking when he stated that “the past is settled and is beyond repair, the present is fleeing but can be moulded. The future is uncertain but it is an inexorable effect of the sum of the causes generated by the combined forces of the past and the present.”

If the foregoing is tantamount to being biased, then so be it.


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