29 June 2014

Nigeria: Examining Issue of Marginalisation in Kogi

Lagos — One problem that has been rearing its ugly head in Kogi State since its creation in 1991 is the alleged marginalization of some ethnic groups by one section of the state. Based on the 2006 population census, the state has a figure of about 3.3 million people. The breakdown of the figures showed that the people of the East Senatorial District are about 1.4 million people, while the people of Central and West made up the remaining figure of about 1.9 million people.

But the people of both central and west senatorial districts could not believe why the governorship position does not rotate among the three senatorial districts 23 years after the creation of the state on August 27, 1991. Since the creation of the state it is only the Igala's who are majorly in east senatorial districts that has been governors of the state. Prince Abubakar Audu, the first executive governor of the state elected in 1991 hails from Ofu local government area of east senatorial zone Ibrahim Idris that took over from Audu in 2003 is an indigene of Omala local government of the same zone.

The people of west and central were surprised during the preparation for the 2011 governorship elections how the then governor Ibrahim Idris could again endorsed his in- law, Idris Wada to succeed him considering the assurance he gave them that he will support rotation of power in 2011. In the same election Abubakar Audu who was the governorship candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria ACN now All Progressives Congress APC promised the people of the two zones that he will ensure that power rotate among the three senatorial districts if given the mandate to be the governor in 2011.

But many people did not take the promise of Audu serious because they claimed that when he was the governor between January 1992 to November 1993, he promised to locate the state university now in Anyigba at Kabba the heartland of Kogi west senatorial zone, but when he won the governorship election for second term in 1999 he changed his mind and named Anyigba the centre of Kogi-east as the location for the university. Many prominent indigenes of the two areas doubted Audu's sincerity, saying that his promise does not go beyond political gimmicks aimed at getting the support of the people at election.

As 2015 general elections is drawing closer, the Okun community in west senatorial district has petitioned Governor Wada over the marginalization of the people in the state. This is not the first time such petition has been written in the state. In 1992, the people of central did the same thing. They protested against the government of Abubakar Audu and even threatened to make the state ungovernable for him at that time.

Moved by the petition of the people, Governor Idris Wada last month inaugurated a nine-man committee headed by his deputy, to look into the marginalisation allegation by the Okun Development Association. Inaugurating the committee, Governor Wada assured of his administration's commitment towards promotion of justice, equity and fair play in the distribution of state resources and appointments into political offices and the civil service. The committee, according to the governor, is expected to examine, review and articulate the distribution of amenities and infrastructure in the three senatorial districts of the state and look into the distribution of appointments among others.

The committee which has two weeks to complete its assignment has the state deputy governor as chairman while the Permanent Secretary, Administration, in the office of the state deputy governor will serve as secretary.

Other members of the committee are; Yahaya Agbenyo, Dr. Moses Atakpa, Joseph Daniel, Taliban Rajiv, Steven Olorunfemi, Steven Yakubu, Tunde Aroso yan and Esikiel Obayemi, Responding, chairman of the committee, Arch Yomi Awoniyi, assured that they will live above board in the discharge of the assignment. Though every thing appears quiet over what happened to the committee which has only two weeks to submit its report after one month,many people are skeptical on the ability of the committee to address the age long claim of marginalization in the state. But the governor's prompt response and choice of personalities to serve in the committee speak volume of how prepared he is to listen to people's complaint.

But the Igala's who have been accused of continuously holding unto governorship position has also claimed that apart from the governorship position in the state, other ethnic groups have marginalized them at the centre. For instance, apart from the brief time that Arch. Gabriel Aduku was made a Minister of State for Health, all ministers appointed from the state, both present and past, are from either Central or West. People like Bayo Ojo, David Jemibewon, and Eyitayo Lambo were all from the West. The present Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, is an Ebira man from the Central. The East is also complaining of marginalization in delineation of federal Constituencies. They claimed that with the highest population of about 1.4 million in the state it is an act of injustice to be given the same federal constituency with both the west and central that has less than a million populations each. They are hoping that the imbalances will be addressed by INEC during the next delineation exercise to be conducted in the country.

Every election year bring into focus the agitation by the Okun and Ebiras in West and Central senatorial districts the agitation for power shift to either the west or central that has been given opportunity to lead the state in the capacity as governor. As usual, 2015 is going to an exception even though the tradition in Nigeria politics always indicate that elected political officers will not want to stop at a single term. As situation stand at the moment, the quest for power shift in 2015 may be a difficult challenge because of the desire of the incumbent governor to go for second term.

It may be difficult for PDP to push aside Wada and give the ticket to another aspirant unless the governor decides not to re-contest for another term. APC will have been another alternative platform but the just concluded state congress of the party ceded the position of state chairman of the party to the central a situation analysts described as difficult for them to produce a governorship at the same time. The west appears to be comfortable remaining in PDP even though the four members of APC in the state House of Assembly are from the area. Many political leaders and stakeholders from the area did not show interest in joining the merger party as seen in central and east apart from the former speaker of the state House of Assembly and acting governor, Clarence Olafemi. Apart from the mentioned scenario, internal squabble within the people of both west and central has made it difficult for them to wrestle power from the the people of east.

A prominent son of Ebira stated in 2011 that it would amount to one deceiving himself if the Ebiras would insist they would produce the next governor of the state because clannish war that pervaded the area for a long time. Lack of trust between the two senatorial zones has also made it difficulty for them to cooperate and work together. The people of the east who believe that politics is a game and therefore with their population advantage the position of governor is they birth right are not ready to change.

Opinion leaders in the state want Kogi Elders who have been on the throat of the governor over his inability to move at a fast pace to take their campaign further and ensure that the people of the three senatorial zones live amicably without sentiments in order to ensure accelerated development.

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