24th October, 2013
By Odunayo Joseph
The endless journey of marginalization in Kogi State since its creation in 1991 (22 years ago) began with the people of the Central and the West Senatorial Districts occupying all the available seats in the train being driven by a winner-takes-all sole driver. People in the Central Senatorial District have decided to collectively disembark from the train, leaving only the Okun people of the West Senatorial District in the aura of helplessness occasioned by our inability to speak with one voice amidst the divide and rule tactics in governance that has unfortunately been achieving the desired result to the disadvantage of our people.
Today, the people of the Central Senatorial District are in the position to sing a different tune about the political terrain of Kogi State if their upward movement in state appointments today is anything to go. This is happening right under our eyes and as opposed to the backward movement of our people in the scheme of things fuelled by self-centredness to which we have myopically remained glued. The contentment of the people of the Central Senatorial District in the incontrovertible lopsided distribution of appointments to the disadvantage of the West Senatorial District can be summed up in the expression of contentment, in Abuja, by the leaders from Kogi Central who, in a newspaper report published in The Nation newspaper of Monday, January 14, 2013 maintained that their occupying the positions of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly and the Kogi State Deputy Governor was good enough for them in spite of their claim of what they term “political neglect of the zone since the creation of the state 21 years ago”.
Without mincing words, the problem now confronting all the predominant Yoruba-speaking Okun people in Kogi West lies in how we can alight from this trainwe should not have been travelling in due to the avalanche of eggheads and the who is who in all fields of endeavour known to man in and outside the shores of Nigeria. Are we in this train because of our seeming contentment with eating of falling crumbs from the state’s political table?
Here is the distribution of political appointments in the state as at October 2013: Whereas the Igalas have 19 commissioners and the Ebira 10, the Okuns have only four commissioners! As for Special Advisers, the Igalas have 57, Ebiras 33 and the Okuns eight. The Igalas also take the big chunk of Senior Special Advisers with 32, followed by the Ebiras 24 and four for the Okuns. The same picture of lopsidedness is reflected in the number of permanent secretaries where the Igalas have 32, Ebiras 24 and the Okuns four while for Board Chairmen, where the Igalas have 25 , Ebiras 14 and the Okuns eight.
It is unbelievable that although Kogi East represents only 45 per cent of the 3.3 million Kogi State population in the 2006 national census, with Kogi West and Kogi Central accounting for 55 per cent of the population, successive governments from Abubakar Audu through Ibrahim Idris to Idris Wada, have always used a sharing formula that varies between 70-30 and 80:20 ratio of state resources and political offices between the East and the remaining two senatorial districts and in view of the fact the Kogi East contributes the least internally generated revenue (IGR) of seven per cent, compared to 72 per cent from Kogi Central and 21 per cent from Kogi West, as much as 80 per cent of all capital projects go to Kogi East while Kogi West gets 15 per cent and Kogi Central gets a paltry five per cent. The imbalance in the civil service which saw the Igalas taking 26,000 (84 per cent) out of 31,000 state’s workforce with the combined West and Central Senatorial Districts’ 5,000 (16 per cent) was reported on page 16 the Nigerian Tribune edition of Friday, 9 July, 2010. Rather than address tis glaring imbalance for the sake of equity and fairness, it is increasing exponentially and assuming a worsening and frightening dimension.
How long will this trend of endless marginalization of Kogi West continue in spite of the efforts of the likes of Alhaji Abdulrazak Isa Kutepa, Senator Smart Adeyemi, Dino Meseko and Dino Melaye, who had been at the forefront of the clamour for power shift in the state? It is doubtful if there is any state in Nigeria where the position of the state governor had remained the exclusive right of only one out of three senatorial districts since the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999 as it has been the case in Kogi State. If there were to be a competition on marginalization at the state level in Nigeria today, Kogi State would outclass the remaining 35 states and emerge the proud winner of all the available medals. A heterogenous state such as Edo would come last in the competition because there is no imbalance in the spread of political appointments in the state. It is doubtful if there is any of state that can withstand Edo state when it comes to even distribution of state appointments and it is hoped that Kogi State will borrow a leaf from the state. There is no doubt that Kogi state is a complete opposite of Edo state when it comes to even distribution of state appointments or better still, dividends of democracy.
The call for a conference of ethnic nationalities which is already gathering momentum in the polity as a preference to the National Dialogue being proposed by the Goodluck Jonathan administration may be the only hope where the cries of the people of the Kogi West mainly peopled by the Yoruba-speaking Okuns will be heard. The bare fact today is that Kogi State has been in full support of the federal character where all the nationalities in Nigeria would be given a sense of belonging and where Kogi East has no doubt been having the upper hand against the West and the Central Senatorial Districts but ironically the state that has remained under the firm grip of Kogi East since creation in 1991 has continued to double as an apostle of dominance and marginalisation as is evident in the distribution of appointments in the state. Democracy is defined worldwide as the government of the people, by the people and for the people but in Kogi State of Nigeria, the apt definition of democracy is government of the winner-takes-all, by the collective votes of the people of the state and for the winner-takes-all alone. Time will tell!
•Joseph wrote from Kogi state. e-mail: odunayo_ [email protected]