Musings on Kogi State By Joshua Ocheja
Kogi is indeed a dynamic state. It’s a state where unbelievable tales are never in short supply in politics, culture, ethnicity, religion and governance. It’s never a dull moment in Kogi state. We ‘belong to everybody and we belong to nobody’. The state was created on 27 August 1991 from parts of Kwara State and Benue State with three senatorial districts to represent the three ethnic tribes in the state. The Igalas to the East, the Okuns to the West and the Ebiras to the Central. And since then these three ethnic groupings have never hidden their dislike for one another. And the reason isn’t farfetched. To the other party respectively, the Igalas are arrogant, the Igbiras are restive and the Okuns are fickle. And these three characters are meant to co-habit together. Isn’t that such a hard task? Some reading might be somewhat surprised with the metaphorical representation of the geopolitical structure of the state. But in truth, Kogi State can only be properly represented using metaphors because it’s a complex case we have and we are dealing with. The Igalas have been ruling since the state was created and to them, it’s a birth right. The Okuns and Ebiras have had to contend with deputising and playing second fiddle to the almighty Igalas hence the agitation for power shift.
Having said that, it’s important to mention that the last time I wrote on Kogi politics was in 2011, I think after the emergence of Capt. Idris Wada as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP and the intervening court cases that followed suit. But I am writing today because I am of the opinion that something is fundamentally wrong aside the geopolitical composition in the state. I would say for certain that there is a clear lack of political strategy by all the actors in the current political movie. I say this for two reasons. One is that mere words cannot translate to results and, two, a tree cannot make a forest. This is where the Okuns and the Ebiras are in terms of their quest for power shift. And if you ask me, power shift might not come anytime soon because you can’t squander two great chances in front of goal and expect to start the next match.
I recall in the build-up to the 2011 gubernatorial elections, the call for power shift was very loud, so much so that political observers were of the opinion that the demystification of the Igalas was eminent. We thought so; we believed so and anticipated so. But what happened? The other party bungled the opportunity. The Okuns had the highest number of aspirants. So intense was the power shift call that the idea of a mock primary was suggested with a view to presenting a consensus candidate. But some refused to subject themselves to the process and it was dead on arrival because everybody saw a potential governor in himself and the rest is history. This is the dynamics of Kogi politics. But ironically politics has gone beyond what is being practised in Kogi state, it’s more like when you have a gasoline car and you pull-over in a gas station and end up filling your tank with diesel. We know the consequences of such action. It’s either you flush your engine system completely or you go for engine change. Kogi needs an engine change.
The just concluded APC primaries further buttress the diesel and gasoline anecdote. If we were good students of history, we would realise that the PDP primaries of 2011 just repeated itself. It was that close in 2011 and it was this close in 2015 and like I mentioned earlier, a tree cannot make a forest. The hue and cry of the supposedly oppressed was superficial; if not why didn’t common sense prevail? I am not sure if power shift can come to fruition in Kogi state anytime soon because it has been established for certain that the Okuns and the Ebiras can’t form an alliance now, and even in the future because personal and selfish interest would always supersede communal or common interest. They still haven’t put their house in order. As it stands they need to shut up and continue to wallow in their self-inflicted misery.
If you say I am somewhat sympathetic to the power shift agitation, you won’t be totally wrong because I am of the opinion that leadership is not a birth right or the exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group. I am Igala, but I don’t buy that idea because it’s untenable and out of tune with reality. My disappointment with the just concluded APC gubernatorial primaries is hinged on the fact that three chaps of Ebira extraction garnered 1403 votes between them and the winner, an Igala, scored 1103 votes. Isn’t this strange? Does this not speak of a confused people? The PDP primaries will definitely produce another Igala candidate and the battle will be between Igala and Igala. And the Okuns and the Ebiras will now settle for crumbs when in fact they had the opportunity to dine at the table.
The case of Kogi is a bad one because the Igalas have been ruling since creation. Ironically the East reeks of the most of underdevelopment and abject poverty. The case of Kogi is also an ugly one because the Ebiras and the Okuns could not form an alliance. What else can be said, you can’t cry more than the bereaved. It’s just a shame.
*Ocheja is a multimedia journalist based in Abuja. He can be reached on email@example.com