At 21, has Kogi State fared well in terms of development? In Kogi, answers to this question are varied. While some say the state is lagging behind with little or no achievements, others say that the indigenes have reasons to celebrate.
KOGI State is one of the nine states created on August 27, 1991 by the retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida regime. And just like other states created at the same time, it has witnessed a lot of ups and downs. Christened as the Confluence State, its creation, to some was a dream come true for a people who once formed the Kabba Province and with huge human and material resources, Kogi came with a lot of promise.
Huge resources: Today, the boundaries of the state are roughly coterminous with those of the old Kabba Province. It lies to the South of Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory - Abuja and shares boundaries with Nasarawa, Kwara, Ondo, Ekiti, Benue, Edo, Enugu, Niger and Anambra states. This is a unique feature, which no other state in Nigeria has.
Lokoja, the state capital is located on the confluence of Nigeria's two largest rivers - Niger and Benue. The ancient and historic capital city of Lokoja is two hours drive to Abuja. It once served as the administrative headquarters of Nigeria before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria by the British Colonial Government under Sir Fredrick Lugard in1914.
Kogi State has a total land area of 28,313.53 square kilometers and a population of over four million people. It lies on latitude 7.49 and Longitude 6.45 degree East with geological features depicting young sedimentary rocks and alluvium along the river beds, which promote agricultural activities, which are the main stay of the state's economy. About 70 per cent of the populations of the state are engaged in one form of agricultural activity or another.
Kogi state has a wide stretch of arable land for farming, good grazing ground for livestock and large bodies of water for fishing. Food and cash crops commonly grown in commercial quantities include yam, cassava, rice, maize, guinea corn, cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm, beni-seed, melon, soya beans and sugar cane.
The forest resources of Kogi state are equally of very high economic values. At present, about 85 per cent of the total land area is covered by untapped forest reservation containing important economic trees that can support paper mills, sawmill and veneer and plywood mills.
Lokoja and stands at above 1,500 metres above sea level, which is a tourist delight. With an observable average maximum temperature of 22 - 35 C, annual rainfall ranges from 1016mm to 1524mm. The vegetation of the state ranges from mixed leguminous (guinea) woodlands to forest Savannah.
The state plays host to one of Africa's largest steel companies - Ajaokuta Steel Company and the National Iron Ore Mining Company at Itakpe. Because of its richness in raw materials, Kogi has great potential for industrial activities and also plays host to Africa's largest cement factory - the Obajana Cement Industry.
The state is also the home of solid mineral deposits and they are found in almost every part of the state. These minerals include cassiterite (tin ore), clay, coal, columbite, dolomite, feldspar, Gemstones, Granite, Iron ore, Kaolin, marble (limestone), mica, Quartz, sandstone, Talc, Tantalite and other such minerals. They are found in great commercial quantities in the state.
In the spheres of tourism, Kogi State can safely be referred to as one of Nigeria's major tourist destinations. A very significant landmark in the state is the Confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue.
Other tourist attractions include relics of colonial history such as the Royal Niger Company flag stand, the World War Cenotaph, European Colonial Cemeteries, and the Iron of Liberty, which marks the spot slaves were freed in the late 19th century. Tombs of some deposed Northern Emirs, Lord Fredrick Lugard's first residence in Nigeria, the first prison in Northern Nigeria, and the first Club House in Nigeria are also places of interest.
Divided opinion: However, 21 years after, opinions are divided over whether or not these resources have been harnessed to develop Kogi State.
It's been motion without movement - critics
A Human Rights activist and Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), Comrade Abdul Miliki, says there is little or nothing celebrate because 21 years after, Kogi is "without state Television, the state newspapers - Graphic Newspaper is still being printed in Ibadan subjecting the citizens to loss and boasting the economy of other states. All laws passed by the State House of Assembly cannot be cited in any court of law due to lack of printing press to gazette such laws.
Even major resolution and decision by state executive councils are not gazetted. The last nine years have witnessed the worst form governance as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has rated the state as the second poorest in the country. Since the creation of the state there is no blue print for development that will cover all areas such as industries, education, tourism, housing, entertainment, youth and women development. Abandoned and substandard projects are witnessed in all parts of the state due to corruption, incompetent contractors and consultant".
The state chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Alhaji Hardy Ametuo, also shared Miliki's views. He criticized the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led administration for allegedly devastating Kogi in the last nine years.
Ametuo alleged that the state had been worse off since the PDP took over, claiming that the only meaningful developments recorded within the past 21 years were carried out by Prince Abubakar Audu before he was swept out of office in 2003.
"The present Olympic size stadium was started by Audu; the state university in Ayingba was constructed by Audu; the state Library, by him. Also, look at the Confluence Beach Hotel; it was also constructed by him. There is absolutely nothing you can ascribe to the state since PDP took over power in 2003. Their nine years of reign put the state in a total ruin"
Cause for celebration: Amid these complaints, there is a school of thought, which insists that the state has made progress, noting that government is continuums and that all past governors either civil or military had contributed their quota to the development of the state.
To this set of people, Kogi has witnessed tremendous changes in its features, politics and economy in the last 21 years. For instance, they said that Lokoja and other towns have witnessed improvements as "architectural master pieces are gradually replacing old, dusty and nasty roofs that once dot the face of Lokoja.
Business activities have picked up in the various towns and the hospitality industry is now a booming business in Lokoja and some neighbouring towns. Indeed, Governor Idris Wada said Kogites have reasons to be happy, even though there was need for sober reflection.
His words: " I recall that the agitation for the creation of the State was long-drawn and tenaciously prosecuted. We must all give thanks to Almighty God who has enabled us to live together peacefully in the last 21 years as a people bounded by a long history of socio-cultural affinities, as well as geo-political expressions under Kabba Province and Kwara State, before being separated temporarily between 1976 and 1991 as part of Benue State before Kogi State was created. Our togetherness has no doubt yielded for us a lot of dividends in terms of better mutual understanding and inter-relationships.
"However, I will like to believe that given our enormous human and natural resources, our present socio-economic situation could have been much better. And this fact should be the concern of all of us.
"Although we have witnessed some growth in terms of amenities such as electrification of towns and villages, new road networks and water schemes, tertiary educational facilities, among others, that were non-existent at our beginning; nonetheless, poverty and unemployment are still prevalent. Most of our infrastructure are in decay and grossly inadequate. It is certainly an irony that whereas, the wherewithal for us to be great are available, yet this greatness has eluded us for so long.
"This anniversary, therefore, calls for sober reflection by each and every one of us. At its present age, Kogi State could be said to have attained adulthood. While we can congratulate ourselves on the progress we have made so far, we also need to ponder on how robust our growth has been. This is not a time to apportion blames, but a time to rise to the challenge of turning our potentials into actual benefits; a time to move our State to where it ought to be.
I urge you all to use this occasion to reflect individually and collectively on how we can do better in playing our individual and collective roles and discharging our obligations in the building of the State.
According to Mr Abu Michael, chief press secretary to the Deputy Governor of the state, Lokoja, which was a town with one major road in 1991, now has large expanse of well-laid roads fitted with street lights and some of its roads, have been dualised. "From a ghost town prior to August 27, 1991, Lokoja has gradually assumed its rightful place as it was in 1900 when it was the administrative headquarters of the colonial government when its had all attention shifted to it".
Mr. Jacob Edi, Special Adviser on Media to the Governor, Capt Idris Wada, concurred, saying that the achievements recorded by the state since its creation could not be pushed aside because Kogi had gone through thick and thin
"For instance, Kogi State can now boost of a state-owned University located at Anyigba, a Federal Government owned-University sited in Lokoja, a private University, and Salem University sited at Jimgbe near Lokoja, a state and Federal Polytechnic, three colleges of Education located in Okene, Ankpa and Kabba. These are beside other tertiary institutions located in different parts of the state.