By Samson Ameh Opaluwah
The four-yearly ritual of electing a governor for our state has come again with the usual campaign of acrimony, divisiveness and violence.
It is an irony that a people who once coexisted as one one family devoid of ranchor and ethnic division have come to a state of chronic stagnancy due to some perceived inequities and injustice in the system.
Regrettably, this perception of being short-changed is held strongly by every section of the state.
It is even more ironic to find that no section of the state has gained from this state of anomie, rather some individuals have used the gullibility of our people, especially the young ones, to hold the state to ransom.
Kogi state is not an accidental creation but a political entity that had existed from colonial times. Kabba province which is the present day Kogi State was the most educated and self-sustaining province in the then Northern Region.
For that area to have degenerated in almost all aspects of development to its present status of a beggarly state that is incapable of meeting its obligations to its own workforce and people is pathetic.
Origin of the present debacle
The present debacle being experienced in the state is traceable to its creation. The General Ibrahim Babangida administration that created the state sowed the seed of discord, fear and divisiveness in the new state by creating local governments simultaneously with the state at creation which ensured that a political imbalance not backed by population emerged.
This development whittled down the political influence of Kogi East in favour of Kogi West and Kogi Central in terms of local government areas and representation. The concomitant quest to overturn this injustice or maintain the advantage depending on which side of the divide you find yourself has resulted in the atomistic existence of kogi State presently being experienced.
The quest to redress this seeming injustice by using population as an instrument of retaining the topmost position in the state (the governor), by Kogi East has resulted in some ill-equipped and ill-prepared persons finding themselves as chief executives of the state to the detriment of an orderly and progressive development of the state.
The state has been pauperised, and the people seem helpless. Meanwhile, the political class are busy cornering our common wealth, recycling themselves and propping their children up to take over from them. What is the essence of democracy if we jettisoned the traditional monarchical system of governance which thrives on power acquired by circumstances of birth only to embrace same under a so-called democratic arrangement?
Of all the civilian governors, only late Prince Abubakar Audu, could be said to have made some significant development in the state. Unfortunately, nature denied him a return to Lugard house for a second tenure. Be that as it may, it was his excesses in power that denied him a second term ab initio.
This unfortunately did not allow him to complete the laying of a solid foundation for the newly created State which he had started. Perhaps, if he had continued, the state would have been different from what it is presently. Perhaps and just perhaps. No one can really say now.
Nigeria politics at play in Kogi state
Many indigenes of Kogi state are ignorant of the fact that politics in the state is a mirror image of the nation’s politics. The state, being a confluence state and the closest to the south among the northern states, attracts the interest of those who fear an incursion of Southern Nigerian influence and control over the geographical entity called Kogi State. Thus, the ascendancy to political positions especially the governor is not decided by local factors in kogi state alone but largely by interests beyond the state.
Even though at no time was Kogi East a conquered territory by any of the local and foreign imperialists, a deliberate effort to subdue, subjugate and deny Kogi people their rightful place in Nigeria is an ongoing agenda which is easily visible to the discerning.
The huge resources abandoned in Ajaokuta Steel Plant with no political will by succeeding administrations to bring the plant to reality even after ninety percent of the plant has been completed is an evidence of the deliberate underdevelopment of Kogi State and its people. This could never have been tolerated in the turf of the big three ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The elite from the state have also not helped matters. There has never been a deliberate a strategic move to address the developmental challenge of the state and put it on the course of rapid development.
Whenever an opportunity arises for election, the plethora of candidates is amazing. The criteria for seeking the highest political office in the state seem to start from how much one has stolen from the state or from the organization. The resources of the State are being used by the leaders to hold the state to ransom thus making free choice impracticable. The routes to political power in the state appear to be clear only for those who have acquired ill-gotten wealth and are also willing to form and maintain an army of thugs at least for electioneering purposes.
The people are left helpless and exasperated
A tour of Idah, Dekina, Ankpa, Koton Karfi, Kabba and Okene, the major towns in the state, will reveal that no part of the state can claim to have benefited from the situation we have found ourselves. There is therefore an imperative to rethink the state.
We need to reorder our appreciation of the challenges facing the state. Kogi State must not be compared to some failed northern states for the state was never in the same class with them.
Kogi State is highly endowed with human and material resources which can be tapped to the benefit of every indigene of the state. Furthermore, the people are hardworking and easy to administer. Therefore, a new direction is imperative for the state.
The new direction must eschew politics of exclusivism. Politics and political parties should only be seen as vehicles for the development of the state. This forward movement is therefore recommended to the government of the day. Consequently, I wish to propose the following: –
The issue of non-payment of salaries, verification etc. has dragged on for too long and by many administrations in the state. Why is it so difficult to know the exact number of workers in the state? In this digital age, where biometrics is the order of the day, the exact population of workers can be known easily and their locations identified.
However, government must come to terms with the size of the civil service and its function. The civil service is not a social security system for a few as such it should not harbour those who are redundant. The state should ensure operational efficiency by maintaining a civil service that can be remunerated from its own internally generated resources.
There is a need to right size for operational efficiency. The ministries should be few in number and limited to those focused on major Infrastucture and service delivery aspects of governance. All revenue generation agencies of the state, should be self sustaining. In other words, they pay their salaries from the revenue generated from their service to the people.
The ministries in charge of infrastructure, Roads & Bridges, Power, Water Supply should be deployed to the rural areas to embark on direct labour projects with our teaming unemployed youths. These projects should be costed at normal contract rates but awarded to these ministries at seventy percent of the cost. Professionals in government and Consultants should be deployed to handle these projects.
The state is an agrarian state and at such the bulk of resources accruable to the state should be directed at opening up the rural areas. This will boost the rural economy thus increasing revenue accruable to the government and the same time ensure better life for the people.
Kogi State which had been at the forefront in education among the northern states from the nineteen forties up to the eighties has fallen terribly behind.
There is a need for a drastic action on education in the state. I have encountered secondary school students in the state who can neither read nor write. This is a tragedy!
The state has to as a matter of urgency create at least four mega secondary schools with intake of up to one thousand each. The object by this is to pull resources together especially good teachers from all over the state to these mega schools to jump-start quality education and feed the tertiary institutions and universities in the state with quality students.
There is an urgent need to create at least three Technical/Vocational Training Centres in each of the three senatorial districts. Artisanal training has come to a halt in yet the state is saddled with unemployment. The state should make artisanal skill acquisition a priority to we quickly address youth unemployment. With proper planning certain levels of artisans can be trained and licensed in twelve months.
Furthermore, the state should endeavour to make tertiary education tuition free for Kogi indigenes while scholarship and financial support be extended to those pursuing professional courses.
Health is wealth is a popular cliché.
No government should therefore preside over an unhealthy population. However, healthcare is also getting expensive. A quick win is for the state to commence a Kogi Health Insurance Scheme immediately. This will ensure that the vulnerable are protected in our society by paying a paltry amount. This scheme will relieve the poor and vulnerable from paying for drugs and medication while the privileged will also be appropriately covered.
This pooling of resources will also enable the scheme to go into partnership with private hospitals and clinics all over the state to ensure an even spread of their services to all parts of the State with special incentives for those located in the rural areas.
Kogi is a confluence state and a gateway to the Federal Capital Territory. The State government has to get close to the Federal Government to ensure the rehabilitation of the dilapidated Federal Roads in the state.
A refund arrangement is presently in place for critical maintenance works in the states. Furthermore, the state should explore creating new tolled shortcuts within the state that will generate income and ease better communication. Vehicles traversing the state will gladly pay for well maintained and motorable roads.
The abandonment and non-development of the trading potentials of the state is alarming. Even markets that were well-known all-over Nigeria in the sixties have become a shadow of themselves.
A Kogi Markets Management Company to handle market development and maintenance is a prime necessity. The state needs to establish an international market by Public Private Partnership on the border with the Federal Capital Territory and another one in Itobe as a matter of urgent necessity.
The state government need to embark on an industrial revolution based on the agriculture produce and mineral deposits in the state. To achieve this, the focus should be on small scale industries.
These industries should be jointly owned by the state, local government and co-operatives in the communities. The Governor’s office should take the responsibility of coordination and provision of technical expertise until full maturity of these industries.
These industries shall be based in every district of the state.
Kogi Marketing Board Ltd
A boom in agricultural production is to be expected from some of the initiatives above. When that happens, the marketing, processing and even exportation of these products will be necessary.
A Kogi Marketing Board which will run strictly as a Private Sector concern but established by the government (minority shareholding) will step into the gap. This board should be a limited liability company and managed as a both profit-making company and a price stabilising agency to incentivise the farmers in the state.
Any government that will ensure the development of Kogi State must work very hard on the fractured relationship among the ethnic groups of the state. The Governor must lead in the campaign for unity both in words and in actions.
A return to Kabba Province days of sending students to schools other than their areas of origin will be helpful. The creation of Kogi Youths Vanguard as a volunteer organization to serve in other parts of the state for at least one year with stipends for upkeep will be helpful.
A real Kogi Elders Forum should be constituted of men of integrity not necessarily politicians but opinion leaders of Kogi origin from all over the country who will meet to advise the governor and also help the governor in advocacy on government positions should be constituted.
Changing the paradigm in Kogi
Kogi has a long way to go in order to realise its potentials. But, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Kogi can still be the intellectual and economic power house of the North and the jewel of Nigeria.
To change the paradigm in kogi is not rocket science. We have the capacity and the reason to do it. It will however take honourable men and women of goodwill to stand to be counted. We must not allow politics and politicking to take us backwards. It should take us forward. We must return to the days of common sense and progressive thinking.
Let us make Kogi the greatest turn around in Nigeria in this generation!
18th October, 2019
Engr. Opaluwah can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org