Editor's note: The chief of staff to the Kogi state governor and director-general of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigns in Kogi state, Chief Edward Onoja, in this piece, dismisses talks of ethnic agenda in the state, especially as it relates to the majority Igala tribe.
Every 4 years in the Kogi East political space, those who live by holding onto power at the detriment of our people unfailingly come up with ethnic sentiments in order to garner political support and sway electoral outcomes to their advantage.
It is in those times that you hear them throwing around infamous epithets like Igala agenda, Dekina agenda, Idah genda and so on as if they truly have an agenda for our tribe, or any of those places mentioned.
After the political battles are won and lost, the promises are thrown aside along with those who were deceived by them and therefore cheated out of their franchise. Every agenda becomes strictly personalised as the gladiators and their nearest and dearest compete with each other to see who can su*k the most blood from the veins of our citizens by looting our common heritage.
Understanding the 'Ethnic Agenda'
In politics, ethnicity plays a major role in these parts. People tend to believe that victory for their ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ means automatic development for their area and better lives for themselves.
For instance, in Kogi state where we have over 10 different ethnic groups, the Igala is the majority. Our people have jostled as hard as all the other tribes for ethnic superiority in the state via control of the apparatus of state power. Which begs the question: Has ethnic agenda been of help to the Igala people of Kogi state?
The Limits of Ethnic Agenda
Kogi state is 27 years, 4 months now. The Igala has governed the state for 20 of those years. We have always done whatever it takes to make assure our people win all elections. Despite 20 years of Igala domination, 90% of the entire Igala kingdom remains in total darkness. Most of our communities had never been connected to the national grid.
Since I was born over 40 years ago, my community of Odidoko-Emonyoku in Ogugu (Olamaboro LGA) has never witnessed electricity, and the same sorry story is repeated all over Igala land. If I take a poll, many of the Igala people reading this post will come from communities with no electricity.
Using the example of electricity again, though the same is applicable to all infrastructure and utilities, what then is the benefit of ethnic agenda to our people and place?
Why is Kogi East senatorial district which is geographically closest to a major source of power in Kogi state, the Geregu Power Plant, still in utter darkness today despite our monopoly on power from 1991 to 2016?
Why has the constant residency of our people in Government House, Lokoja for nearly 2 decades failed to change our story?
The answers are not far-fetched. It is clear that ethnic agenda is empty without love and compassion for the people by those in power, whether or not they hail from the same place and speak the same language.
In terms of electricity, Igala land occupied the most disadvantaged position with 90% of it in darkness compared to Kogi West and Central which has achieved over 70% connection.
This is the singular reason our region is underdeveloped because power which is lacking in the area is the catalyst for development.
Apart from the sitting governors who in view of present realities, had more power and money during their tenures than they knew what to do with, we have also had a senator who was chairman, House of Representatives committee on the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) yet today his ancestral home remains benighted.
During a period when funds were available due to booming crude oil sales, an Igala man was the national chairman of the then ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria. He signed and submitted nomination forms of not less that 25 governors and the president to the INEC. They were all at his beck and call, practically at his mercy and ready to do anything to pacify him. Such a man, whose party produced governors and presidents should be able to influence the needed infrastructure such as power to his people, yet here we are. Where such love is at work, ethnic agenda would be mere icing on the cake.
A man who loves his people does not need ethnic agenda to favour them with everything he has. Enter Governor Yahaya Bello, an Ebira from Okene. Under 3 years, he has brought electricity to scores of communities in Kogi East and other parts of the state. This includes the ancestral homes of at least 2 former governors of Igala extraction.
In 2019, he has again committed N1.5b in addition to counterpart funding from the local government councils to accelerate the connection of vast swathes of Kogi East to the national power lines. He has tagged this visionary project, 'Operation Power Kogi East' to show his focus and his intent.
It is estimated that 10% of the money looted by previous Igala governors is enough to fund Governor Yahaya Bello's Operation Power Kogi East 10 times over.
It is an open secret known to all of us that children of former Igala governors own more than 15 three-star hotels in Abuja, in addition to other multibillion naira assets, both known and unknown. These are kids without any known businesses before their fathers became governors in Kogi and they continue to sell us Igala Agenda.
In the Bible book of Luke, chapter 10 and verses 30 to 37, the master told the story of the Good Samaritan who helped a distressed Jew after two of his own ethnic men bypassed him wallowing in his troubles. Jesus forever destroyed the ethnic agenda with that story and replaced it with the ‘neighbour/brother principle.’
A man's neighbour or brother is the person who comes to help him out of a misfortune, and not necessarily the one who shares geographical affinity, ethnic extraction or even family and consanguinity with him.
Yahaya Bello has proved a good Samaritan/brother/neighbour, to me personally and to Kogi East in general - whether some acknowledge it or not. All my life I have looked for anyone who will bring light and development to my community and I have followed some of my brothers and served them. It did not happen. I followed Governor Bello and it is happening.mAll we need is development and whoever brings development to us is our brother.
Rehabilitation of Umomi-Akpagidigbo-Ugwolawo-Ajaka-Idah road was held in abeyance under three Igala governors. This road connects most parts of Igalaland to the capital city of Igala Kingdom, Idah. Proponents of Igala agenda did not deem it fit to fix it. A non Igala governor, an Ebira man is rehabilitating the road today.
What of Ibana-Okpo-Ikeje-Ogugu-Ette road? And Ankpa township roads which the immediate past governor Idris Wada flagged off then abandoned? An Ebira governor is at work, fixing critical infrastructure in Igalaland today without thinking of Ebira agenda, and we should still be swayed by ethnic agenda? No!
I traversed at least 15 rural communities deep in Igala land this yuletide season. Amaka, Akpanya, Angba I, Angba II, Angba III, Onitsha-Igo, Ofabo, Ogalaja, Lagos-Ochi, Okura Ofante and so on. All of them possessed one common denominator. One is welcomed by a palpable air of despair from poverty made worse by underdevelopment.
In spite of the 20 years Igala like them governed the state, there is no single government presence in these communities and hundreds more like them. Yet you can hardly find any community in our neighbouring Anambra and Enugu states which has not been enjoying electricity for years now despite the notorious marginalisation.
The federal government did not do that for them. Their state governments did. In Kogi East, ethnic agenda only shows up in these abandoned communities during elections to stuff ballot boxes and write results. May God bring such unfavorable and stagnating agenda to nullity.
We have a serving lawmaker who has spent 16 years in the National Assembly but it took a non-Igala governor to provide water for his people. The people of Ugbamaka will remain grateful to Yahaya Bello because they no longer trek 4 kilometer to Chechele stream in search of water.
Nobody is more Igala than the other, and I will call Governor Bello my brother, indeed my twin. If our blood brother refuses to help us, should we not accept help from the ‘stranger’?
Few weeks from now we shall gather in Anyigba to commission one of the best cultural cathedral pieces in Nigeria. It is the ‘Igala Unity House’ which is being built by Igala sons and daughters, mainly those who belong to Governor Yahaya Bello's New Direction family.
We are believers in Igala unity and we are inspired and supported in this project by Governor Yahaya Bello who has himself made a hefty personal donation. This is the universal brotherhood of persons of goodwill everywhere, and it beats ethnic agenda any day.
Igala people are known for fairness and equity. They will not take the weight of gratitude due to another man for a job well done and give it to another who abandoned them simply to satisfy ethnic agenda.
We remember today the one and only Igala leader who was not sectional and left behind a legacy of development across Kogi state which cannot be erased in a hurry. Prince Abubakar Audu, may your soul continue to rest in peace. Amin.
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