6th September, 2010
The atmosphere is calm with lots of underground scheming and nocturnal meetings at oddÂ hours. The dateline is drawing closer and closer that a visitor can smell palpable tensionÂ in the air.
Power shift is a very sensitive issue in Kogi State. Its origin can be traced back to whenÂ meaningful development eluded us. When those saddled with leadership positions milked ourÂ coffers dry, and when ethnic abhorrence was institutionalised by political big wigs toÂ achieve selfish motives.
Power shift to me is an expression of present realities in a triangular format that placesÂ the Igalas at the top (the haves) and the Okuns at the bottom ( the have-nots), but hearÂ Karl Marx â€œThe History of all hitherto existing society is the history of class and powerÂ strugglesâ€.
This piece was conceived after an encounter with the 1995 Draft Constitution. I was amazedÂ as to the content and how it would have saved us many troubles in Kogi State and Nigeria atÂ large. Section 229 (2) of the 1995 draft constitution states that, â€œThe Office of Governor,Â Deputy Governor and Speaker of the House of Assembly shall rotate among the three SenatorialÂ districts in the state.â€
This is explicit and common sense. The Draft recognised the salient complexity of theÂ Nigerian nation. It envisaged that somewhere along the line â€˜majorityâ€™ and â€˜minorityâ€™ willÂ flex muscles over the issue of governance and subsequently it made provision by advocatingÂ power rotation amongst the three senatorial districts in Kogi State.
It was calculated to foster a stable polity within which all â€˜Kogitiesâ€ could truly feel aÂ sense of belonging and which would elicit the collaborative efforts of Kogities to move theÂ state forward.
The referral to Kogi State centres on our ambivalent brand of politics and its relevance inÂ the contemporary Nigerian society. The Eastern flank (Igala) plays politics by number. TheÂ Central (Ebira) play politics by proxy and the West (Okun) plays politics by tide. Number,Â Proxy and Tide are intertwined as far as politicking is concerned in the state.
They all need one another, i.e., an Igala candidate needs the support and vote of hisÂ closest ally the Okuns, going by political history. The Okun man prefers to cast his voteÂ for an Igala man on the strength of their â€˜numbersâ€™. Either way the Okuns are sure ofÂ victory. This is tide.
The Ebira man hides under the shadow of the Igalas to remain relevant (Deputy). It is a factÂ that during elections, Ebiras do not vote for Igalas. They rather cast their votes for aÂ shadowy candidate of their extraction, regardless of the fact that the Igala candidateÂ always has an Ebira as his deputy. This is proxy.
The Igala man (east) does play the number game perfectly. He reveres the votes from the westÂ (Okun) and he has judiciously used it to his benefit. The Okuns have been a part of theirÂ political success and it is naturally expected that the Igalas should reciprocate byÂ supporting their quest this time around. The Igala candidate will always pick an EbiraÂ deputy to cut a share from their cake and indirectly pacify them due to their restiveÂ nature.
Opinion polls suggest that there will be a slight change in the political structure barringÂ all unforeseen circumstances.
Politics will always remain politics. They suggested two possible scenarios: An OkunÂ Governor and Igala Deputy or an Okun Governor and Ebira Deputy. This is contentious andÂ relative to the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) arrangement. Either way it will be dicey forÂ the Igalas. The Igalas will lose the votes of the Okuns if they are denied the ticket of theÂ PDP. If the Okuns clinch the PDP ticket, there is a tendency for the Igalas to shift base toÂ another party and expect to win. This is also contentious.
Ebiras will not give 100% votes to the Igalas. From antecedent, they are the spoilers, andÂ the Igalas need 100% votes in the event of the Okuns clinching the PDP ticket. In the eventÂ of the Okuns losing the PDP ticket, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, is a ready home forÂ them. The ACN has a stronghold in the central and to some extent in the west. This is whereÂ the Igalas have to tread carefully and the Okuns have to act smart. Either way I know thereÂ will be a change. A solution is reverting to section 229 (2) of the 1995 draft constitution;Â another solution is coming to a consensus. I foresee an interesting scenario.
â€¢Joshua Ocheja could be reached at [email protected]