Whither Kogi State? By Barr. Yemi Mohammed

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About 13 months or so ago, “unconfirmed rumours” were rife that the economic jugular veins of Kogi State – i.e. the State’s monthly statutory allocation – had been cornered by about 3 or 4 people (names withheld). That is, after the deduction of compulsory overhead costs of the State, such as salaries for civil/public servants and other inevitable running costs, the clique allegedly pocketed the balance.

Hitherto, I had never taken such stories seriously, always with a pinch of salt, for apart from the possibility of their having been engendered by sheer political envy or ill-will on the part of their authors, I also found it difficult to imagine or believe that any set of human beings could practice such mindless and callous brigandage on our State and her people. However, having patiently played (for close to one and a half years, since the inception of the present administration in the State) the role of a reflective and independent-minded citizen who cannot easily be swayed by any “unfounded” rumours or allegations of wrongdoing against any person, whether friend or foe, without being furnished with concrete evidence of same, I now find myself under “arrest” by a self-evident and therefore ineluctable truth, conveyed to me, not via the rumour mill, but through the medium of my own eyes, ears and all other contributory God-given senses! For sooth, these are the living oracles of my existential experiences and perceptions, whose fire-edged testimonies, delivered in flaming broad daylight, I cannot deny without at the same time imperilling my own soul. Luckily for me, my upbringing and cast of mind can never permit me to do such a mean thing. To deny the truth when it is so plainly visible to my eyes, as well as stridently audible to my ears? Never! Now, what have I seen or heard of and concerning Kogi State in the past 13 months?

What do I still see or hear in the State? If you want to know, I shall tell.

I see a scribbly and dishevelled State capital that is not worth its appellation, even though it was also the first capital of the entire country. And I dare anyone to contradict me. I see that virtually all its roads have become dilapidated due to previous poor construction, the unusually frequent rains (obviously part of the effects of global warming) and the increasing traffic impact. I see lack of access to portable drinking water by more than half of its populace (as the so-called “Ibro water” still remains a mirage to many residents of the State Capital, all because of the incumbent govt’s neglect or refusal to carry on the water project from where the former Governor, Ibrahim Idris, left off. I see effectively pauperized and virtually dead Government Ministries (and I mean literally, not euphemistically dead), which are so starved with funds that they could hardly get anything done all by themselves, without a direct “order” from above (i.e. Govt. House). Therefore, I ask: is this how to run a democracy? My answer is an uncompromising NO.

I see a sleepy and not so enterprising, but potentially great State Capital with its horde of cheap and crude labourers doing menial and “patch-patch” work on the main township road every other day, armed with tools that look more like relics from a pre-historic era. By the way, they are the occupational cousins of those indolent pothole artists/menders, unemployed youth in their teens and twenties whom you encounter on some of the “federal” roads in the State, doing their thing as deceptively as they could. Whenever they sight any vehicle coming in the distance, one of them would hurriedly get hold of a shovel or something like that, scoop up a measure of red earth from the road side and fling it on the road, ostensibly to fill some potholes. Then, as the vehicle gets nearer to them, they would start hailing the driver with shouts of sycophantic epithets such as “Chairman!”, “Baba agba! Wa se re o!”, “Correct guy!”, with their soiled arms and antediluvian tools raised up high in the air. Their plight doesn’t ever seem to give the govt. any sleepless nights, because unemployment or creation of employment for the jobless youth is rarely their concern. However, you can rest assured that when they graduate from being gratuitous road menders to unsolicited armed robbers, it is then the govt. would start shaking and shouting itself hoarse.

That was a rather lengthy, though equally important digression. I shall now proceed with my original theme. I see virtually nothing of the infrastructural upgrade (etc.) which we’d expected would result from the State’s share of the SURE-P largesse, except perhaps with respect to one road that leads to the legislative and judicial arms of govt in the State capital, one side of which was recently resurfaced, while its other half is still left wallowing in hazardous potholes, in which condition the road now looks like a prostrate statute of “Lagbaja”. Now, the one billion dollar question is: what has happened to the rest of the State’s share of the SURE-P funds? Your guess is as good as mine.

With respect to what I hear or perceive with my own ears, they are by no means palatable. I hear numerous and heart-rending cries of pain and suffering among Kogites. But mark you, those “cries” are not mere “hearsay”, as some lawyers would contend. Rather, they are real and first-hand evidence of unspeakable suffering and misery among the people. Everywhere I turn, I am bombarded by unceasing groans of want, hunger and starvation. Assuredly, the political managers of the State have turned it into a gigantic Animal Farm, the oddities and idiosyncrasies of which arguably surpass the ludicrous environments of George Orwell’s imaginative work of that title. Indeed, I see that the erstwhile “unconfirmed rumours” have now begun to metamorphose into ugly realities for the State (as highlighted above). Evidence of stinking who-do-nits abound. E.g., If it is not true that the monthly statutory allocations to the State are being poured into some bottomless private pockets, then it is only logical to ask where is evidence of their expenditure? As stated above, there is virtually no such evidence on the ground in terms of project executions, etc., since the past one and half years. On the other hand, there is evidence of neglect bothering on criminality and arising, arguably, from the non-expenditure or non-utilization of the State’s statutory allocations by the custodians. What of the millions realized from several grants and donations for the relief of flood victims in the State? Also gone down the drain, apparently. So far, in spite of the warnings by NIMASA, nothing has been done by the State Govt. to ensure that the water fronts and other areas along the river bank are safe and secure from inundation by floods in the future.

To make matters worse, nobody seems to be bothered much about this ugly and undesirable scenario in Kogi State. Nobody is complaining or asking questions, including the perpetually moribund, so-called “opposition”. That is why I feel constrained to ask: Whither Kogi State? Where is the State heading? Are we, the indigenes, fated to continue like this down the road to 2015, to eventually arrive at 2020 and beyond, without cerebrum? Without anything to show for our close to two decades of purposeless sojourn in the dark tunnel of Nigeria’s devious brand of “democracy”? Is this supposed to be our collective political fate? Are we bound to accept it? If your answer is yes, then I congratulate you for your successful inauguration into serfdom in a “slave State”. Your children will surely one day inherit the same toga of servitude. However, if your answer is no, then let me hear you shout a resounding “NO!” to the foregoing question. But quite apart from that, you must also act, my dear brother/sister, you must do something positive and historic to rescue the State from the shackles of social, economic and political slavery. You cannot just sit down and fold your arms and lament over your lot, like a hapless and helpless orphan. You must ACT! But, of course, I should remind you that whatever you choose to do, you must confine yourself, like civilized citizens, within the compass of the law. Clearly, any action taken outside the confines of the law is unacceptable, no matter how altruistic or well-intentioned such action might be. The law suffices as a weapon to fight any form of tyranny or oppression. But it is either that you act NOW or forever remain silent and end up being condemned by the generation of your children and children’s children for keeping silence in the face of this season of misgovernance, suspected banditry and unbridled impunity in Kogi State. May God be our guide and our shield under these trying & inauspicious conditions in our State.