Stakeholders bemoan stunted growth in Kogi State, urge paradigm shift

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

• Sycophancy, citizens’ selfish, personal interests responsible

The dominance of East Senatorial district in Kogi State politically has given it an edge over the other two districts of the State.

That jinx in the complex ethnic configuration of the State that conferred advantage on one ethnic group in a majoritarian system of democracy was broken when Governor Yahaya Bello became Governor in February this year.

Though the agitation for power shift has died a natural death, as the people of the Central Senatorial district have been pacified with the position of a governor, the stark reality of poverty and hunger in the land is another challenge that must be tackled in a state supposedly endowed with natural and human capital resources.

Thus stakeholders are calling on attention to be focused on sectors that would take advantage of the teeming youthful population advantage for a new direction to avoid the pitfalls of previous administrations in the state.

As the State marked its Silver Jubilee of statehood, observers argued that the failure to utilize its potentials and numerous opportunities was not the issue but the need for the new leaders to avoid the errors of the past.

For instance, the chairman of Kogi Coalition of Business and Professionals Association Dr. John Alabi cautioned against the mistakes of past leaders whom he called ‘drunken riders on a camel’ he likened to the State.

Alabi who spoke on the problems dragging the State backward asserted that past leaders were reckless, hence the sorry situation the State is faced with in the midst of abundant mineral and natural endowment.

On his part, Professor Sam Egwu of the university of Jos identified sycophancy around past leaders as one of the major issues that was bedeviling the State, while a former acting Governor of the State, Clarence Olafemi blamed it on the citizens’ selfish and personal interests.

“Somebody will say Kogi is doing well now that we have a change but I will say Kogi is like a camel with drunken riders. The camel is the State and the riders are its leaders so when they are drunk they misbehave. Now we have a Governor who might not be drunk but the camel is still bad. It is important that the lieutenants of the Governor should not be drunk,” Alabi stated.

According to him, what is required now is honesty and dedication from the Governor and all his aides, stressing that since the Governor has taken it upon himself to fight and correct all the ills of the past, he must come with clean hands.

“We need to build bridges of unity … we need to have a blueprint that is populist, we have heard of new direction but where is it? The press, civil society and the business sector, we need to connect, let us key in, let us buy into it, we can check the government on that,” he stated describing Kogi at 25, as a state with missed opportunities, untapped potentials, unrealized dreams with few infrastructural achievements.

Prof. Egwu who is also an indigene of the state bemoaned the fact that most of the human development indicators pointed in the negative direction.

He said that basic needs such as access to education, health, housing; public infrastructure, public safety; maternal and infant mortality rates; and indeed, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remained a mirage.

“This is the most important result of musical cheers at the centre of which are individuals such as Danladi Zakari, Omeruo, Afarkriya, Abubakar Audu, Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada. For the rest of the population, it has been cheers for the music. The picture that emerges, therefore, is that Kogi State has suffered deficit in leadership, governance and statecraft over the years. This is the explanation for the missed opportunities which require political will at the highest level to ensure that recovery takes place,” he stated.

He also held that the weakness of the civil society and the private sector were culpable for the infrastructure deficits and underdevelopment of the state.

His words: “I understand civil society as the domain of associational life which people forge voluntarily in response to the inadequacies of the State to meet its routine obligations to the citizens. I also understand civil society as the soft underbelly of the State that forms enough countervailing powers to the State, and ensuring that the State behaves in the best interest of the public.”

Hence he explained that the presence of a strong civic sector would support State institutions to deliver social services, advance the rule of law and ensure that people play their role as democratic citizens.

According to him, the private sector, in the State has not lived up to its bidding as that realm of organization of business and enterprise for generating wealth outside the realm of the State and the public sector.

This he said is a lacuna that needs to be addressed for Kogi State to make progress and recover missed opportunities.

Similarly, Egwu retrospectively identified the myth of ethnic rivalry in the State as one of the major setback that has locked the development potentials of the state. And admonished Governor Bello to give priorities to the development of human capital above all other endeavors because the conventional wisdom of development is to build on the comparative advantage.

“Kogi’s comparative advantage lies in the development of human capital, evident in the remarkable progress of her population in terms of access to western education by the standard of the erstwhile northern region.

“This is presently under threat because of the massive collapse of education infrastructure – both hard and soft wares especially at primary and secondary levels. Failure to address this would make the existing higher institutions inappropriate for bringing future gains.”

Besides, he listed three important things that needed to be done for the State to recover missed opportunities, which included responsive and visionary leadership, democratic governance and statecraft.

However for Olafemi, the State can leap frog over its challenges of ethnic and social differences when the citizens collectively move against selfish and personal interests saying, “Let us project the State over and above our own personal interests as we mark its 25 years.”

In particular, he wants past leaders in the state to be appreciated noting each leader contributed his or her quota to the development of the State no matter how small.

He said: “To rule a state is not an easy task, it is only those that have carried the mantle that know how difficult it is and so there is no leader that has governed the State that does not deserve commendations and recognition.

According to him, nobody can completely develop a State within a regime adding that development of a State was a continuous exercise.

“Don’t criticise your predecessors when you are given opportunity to govern the State; start from where you met it, do your best and leave the rest for the people to judge. If we do that we will reduce the acrimony in the State because at the moment the State is being polarized along different divides to the extent that today we do not recognize our past leaders,” he admonished.

Continuing he said, “Whether you are a Senator, House of Representatives member, House of Assembly member, Councillor, Chairman or any other political office holder from this Stay you have contributed your own quota to the development of the State. The aggregate of all is what has constituted the 25 years of our existence.”

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