Ebiras, Okuns and power shift in Kogi
By Paul Ado Suberu
Tuesday, May 08 , 2012
Politicians are unwittingly making Kogi State a political flashpoint. Incidentally, the state borders eight others including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. States from the South of Nigeria all pass through the state to reach Abuja, which is the administrative capital of the nation. Thus, peace is not only very essential but a reality for lives and prosperity.
The controversy that engulfed the state in January, 2012 after the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s verdict on the elongation of tenure of five governors need not have arisen had the state had a human manager of crises with a sense of logical responsibility.
The Supreme Court could not have isolated ex-governor Ibrahim Idris in a collective legal matter as it were with other states. The Independent National Electoral Commission is not a court unto itself. It raised the matter of elongation of tenure in the first instance and took the case for adjudication and still went ahead to conduct governorship election in Kogi State on December 3, last year.
INEC did not exempt Kogi State. The court cannot grant what had not been asked for in any litigation. The Supreme Court gave a general judgment as it was related to the five state governors involved: “The speaker of each of the states so affected should be sworn in.” Therefore, the Attorney –General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, Muhammed Adoke, approved that the speakers comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Incidentally, Kogi State where the Minister comes from was inclusive. Rightly, he directed the Chief Judge of Kogi, Justice Nasir Ajanah, to swear in the Speaker, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello, who happens to be an Ebira man. Incidentally again, the trio of Adoke, Bello and Ajanah are Ebira speaking citizens of the state. It was not an Ebira conspiracy as the former governor Ibrahim Idris will want the world to believe. Idris made Kogi State a family matter. Now, Governor Idris Wada is harvesting from what his in-law has laid down.
Ex-governor Idris can only be judged as tribalistic and nepotic. It is a pity that the PDP portrayed Ebiras in Kogi State as political enemies who could not be trusted. This writer will not commit contempt of court outside the court since cases are still being contested against the election of Captain Idris Wada. Good enough the INEC conducted a peaceful governorship election in the state. In all awareness, only the Igalas had a field day.
The Daily Sun editorial on Kogi State of Wednesday, December 14, 2011 is commendable. It says: “We commend INEC for conducting a peaceful election in Kogi State and urge it to correct the observed anomalies in future elections. Good enough, the body admitted some lapses in the poll even though it was largely transparent.”
In this election, over one million Kogites registered to vote. Only 600,000 turned out to exercise their civic rights. Apathy kept the others away. However, certain mischief had been made against my people. How can a writer say: “Kogi State is not a very enlightened state. This may explain why the ethnic groups in the state have not appreciated the paradoxes of their past current positions” as written by Kunle Fagbemi; Courtesy of The Nation on Sunday, February 5, 2012. This is quite unfair to the ‘brainbaskets’ of the defunct Northern Nigeria under the indefatigable political leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the only ex-premier of the Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto.
Kogi State has 21 local government areas. The Igalas have nine; Ebiras have five while the Okuns and others in West Senatorial District have seven local government areas. The last census showed that Igalas in the East-Senatorial District have 1,471,144; the Ebiras in the Central Senatorial Zone have 1,152,229 as against the West Senatorial District with 906,244.
Where is the “numerical strength”? It is arrogance of ex-governor Ibrahim Idris that made him to be always boastful with figures of population of Igalas over others. All the same, Idris had the State House of Assembly as a rubberstamp under him.
Sincerely speaking, neither the Ebiras, Igalas nor the Okuns and other tribes could win the governorship of that state without wooing others. With the figures above, are Ebiras in the minority? What is lacking is political diplomacy. Were Ebiras in majority when they won the governorship election in old Kwara State in 1979? In 1999 elections in Kogi State, the Ebiras committed what I call political suicide.
They refused to support Architect Stephen Olorunfemi in his governorship ambition. Ebiras voted again for ex-Gov Abubakar Audu. Ebiras drew the first blood, Okuns in the West Senatorial Zone had their pound of flesh in the PDP’s primaries in 2003 and overwhelmingly voted for Ibrahim Idris in “Audu-Must-Go.” There and then was the political suspicion between the Okuns and Ebiras for Igalas to reign supreme in any governorship elections in the state. If I were a politician, I would ask Ebiras to show their strength by what I call political sacrifice in the state. Support an Okun candidate solidly and they will pull the “numerical strength” off the feet of our brother Igalas. Then, there comes the much-sought power shift.
The man to support within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is Senator Smart Adeyemi. He is presently the Senate Committee Chairman of the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja in the Senate. Adeyemi has shown himself as a representative of Kogi State and Nigeria in general. He challenged former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, why he must consider only the Okuns and Igalas for any political appointments at the federal level?
How about the federal university for Kogi and the Greenfield Refinery for Lokoja?
Nobody ever relinquishes power to any other person or region voluntarily. Igalas’ political shrewdness is indeed the sword of divide amongst the other senatorial zones. Kogi is a miniature Nigeria, but 21 years after its creation, what can the state boast of? It has giant industries, yet, the youths are roaming the streets. What do we do with Ajaokuta Steel Complex? Limestone lies everywhere in the state, must it be only Dangote Cement Industry? Big as Dangote is, the largest in Africa, Kogites need more industries to make us be the most developed state in Nigeria. We have the men and women. We have the brains; let not nepotism and tribalism kill us.
Adeyemi should come up with a shadow cabinet and a blueprint for Kogi’s development; it is no question of sentiment. One is happy that he has a capable colleague in Senator Nurudeen Usman Abatemi who is trying his best to unite Ebiras. There is much to achieve in unity than in arson, killing and maiming of brothers and sisters in evil politics. Dirty clannishness breeds poverty and destruction – no progress.
Kogi State’s proximity to Abuja, as the administrative capital of Nigeria, opens each tribe to progress. See what Ogun State, created in 1976, has become. This writer has lost counts of the universities and other tertiary institutions in the state. How do you reach Lagos State, the economic nerve centre of Nigeria without passing through Ogun? Come in by air, Ogun beckons you to her tourism potential – Olumo Rock. How many rocks are there in Kogi State – too numerous to count. How about the caves and other welcoming scenery untapped towards Ajaokuta town and other areas?
Only a peaceful atmosphere can encourage industrialists and tourists to come rushing. Kudos to Sen Abatemi for his peace moves in Ebiraland.
Suberu writes from Iwaya – Yaba