Marginalisation Of Okun People

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If there is any problem that is facing Okun people in Kogi State today there is none other than the continued marginalisation of the entire Okunland by their fellow Igalla brothers who have been occupying the Lugard House in Lokoja with no end in sight to their political scheming that is largely hinged on their claim of ‘large’ population. Appeals by concerned Okun people for even development among all ethnic groups in the state have continued to be misconstrued as a craving for political power just to subtly justify the perceived marginalisation of non-Igallas in the state especially the Okun people.

There is no point going into the issue of ‘large’ population as it is glaring that in our country this has become a veritable tool for subversion of people’s political direction for people who want to cling to power by all means. The main issue for discussion is marginalisation, pronto!

In a report that was published on page 5 of the Graphic newspaper edition for the period May 19 to May 25, Hon. David Adejo, an Igalla man indeed spoke the minds of his people when he called on them during the 2009 Annual Get-together organised by Igala Welfare Association, Otokiti village, a suburb of Lokoja “to work as a team to ensure the development of Igalaland” and he postulated that “before any society could witness development, people have to come together”. The outcome of the coming together of the Igalla people in Kogi State is no doubt the main problem facing non-Igallas in the state – marginalisation.

Anyone that is not conversant with the age-long Kogi politics which hallmark is lopsidedness in the location of the tertiary institutions and infrastructure in Kogi State will readily erroneously take sides with Hon. Adejo. The fact remains that the Igallas, by virtue of the perpetuation of their own people at the helm of affairs in the state have cornered all the tertiary institutions of learning such as the Kogi State University, the College of Education and the Federal Polytechnic located at Anyigba, Ankpa and Idah respectively, while the whole of Okunland cannot boast of any tertiary institution.

To worsen the matter, the campus of Ahmadu Bello University in Kabba, which had been in existence long before the creation of Kogi State was envisaged, was neither upgraded nor converted to the status of a full fledged state university. Rather, the Kogi State government decided to establish a state university in the heartland of Igallaland with no consideration for even a campus in the whole of Okunland despite many years of the existence of the university.

Marginalisation in Nigerian politics is no doubt not peculiar to Kogi State alone but the fact is that while other states invoke the “Doctrine of Necessity” for promotion of sense of belonging among diverse ethnic groups, the reverse is the case in Kogi State where our fellow Igalla brothers collectively believe that the position of deputy governor is the cup of tea of non-Igallas in the state.

Legal luminary, Tunde Oyesina, in his article on “Doctrine of Necessity” published on page 30 in the Nigerian Tribune of Monday, 15 February 2010, brilliantly defined the doctrine of necessity as “a problem-solving mechanism devised by common law to get a legal system or political process out of a difficult situation, which threatens the survival of the system because it was not envisaged.”

When the Igallas and the other people from the West and the Central Senatorial Districts agreed to come together to form Kogi State, no one ever imagined that the joy at the time of the creation of the state would eventually turn into sadness for non-Igallas due to marginalisation. It is therefore ironical that the Igallas who opted out of Benue because of the use of population by the Tivs to marginalise the Idomas and the Igallas to join the people are now the same people hiding under the canopy of ‘large’ population to marginalise the people in the Western and Central senatorial zones of Kogi State.

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It is rather unfortunate that a veteran journalist of Igalla origin who is gunning for the governorship under PDP, Alhaji Yakubu Mohammed, while commenting on the obsessesion of the people from Kogi West and Central Senatorial Districts in an interview published on page 15 of Daily Trust of Friday, June 18, 2010 said that ‘power agitation in Kogi politics is undemocratic, ungodly and will soon die down.’ Had the interviewer asked the journalist the main cause of the 3-year old Biafran that ended in 1970 and which unfortunately claimed the lives of millions of Nigerians, what answer would he have given? It is on record that the remote cause of that war was nothing else but marginalisation of the Igbos by Northerners as claimed by the leader of the then Biafran Republic, Odumegwu Ojukwu, in his maiden broadcast before the war broke out.

Alhaji Mohammed also claimed that “only two Igala people in persons of Prince Abubakar Audu and the incumbent Governor Ibrahim Idris, have ruled the state both of whom came through a democratic process.” Yes the Alhaji is right but had the interviewer asked whether there is another state in the country that could be used as a reference to Kogi State, what answer would he have given? When one ethnic group continues to lord it over other groups in the same state can that situation be said to be democratic?

On the question asked the interviewer by the Alhaji on whether the agitators of power shift are doing so in order to provide employment and development for their community at the expense of other communities, the veteran journalist is no doubt in a better position to give an answer to the question based on the experience of his people in the hands of the Tivs while they were in Benue State before their coming to Kogi State.

Ethnic-based marginalisation in politics is not peculiar to Kogi State alone. Same problem is being experienced by the Yewa people in Ogun State but the state governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, in order to create a sense of belonging among the various ethnic groups in his state unequivocally said the governorship position come 2011 election has been zoned to the Yewas of the Western Senatorial District despite the fact that they belong to the minority in the state. It is therefore advised that our state governor, Idris Ibrahim borrows a leaf from his Ogun State counterpart in making a categorical statement on marginalisation, which has continued to stare non-Igallas in the state in the face.

It is high time our fellow Igalla brothers saw the monopolization of the governorship seat in Kogi State as an act of injustice and be guided by the maxim: ANY ACT OF INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO PEACE EVERYWHERE. They are also advised to also borrow a leaf from the stance of the Middle Belt minorities who, because of their age-long marginalisation by their fellow Northerners, decided to call it quits with the Arewa Consultative Forum, the strong political umbrella that was formed to protect the political interest of the entire northern states.

The reality on ground is that the Igallas are hiding under the pretext of governing Kogi State to fasttrack the development of the East Senatorial District peopled by them while ignoring the underdevelopment and utter neglect of the West and the Central Senatorial Districts in all ramifications. This scenario no doubt explains the flexibility of the Igallas in switching over to other political parties where the casting of the votes enbloc by Igallas is sure to bring forth their own people as state governor.

If the marginalisation of the West and the Central Senatorial Districts in Kogi State is not checked, the name given to the state may as well be renamed Igalla State to reflect the true state of Kogi politics of marginalisation.

•Odunayo Joseph wrote in from Lagos. Tel.: +2348053488121