In my piece of September 9, 2015, shortly after the inconclusively concluded re-run election in Kogi State, I drew the following conclusion, with reference to the State itself, INEC’s declared winner and the Party he belonged to. I am refreshing our memories as a way of leading to the conclusion that this piece will strive to draw about the orphaned status of Kogi State since its creation in 1991 and its present sorry condition and disjointed destiny.
I have nothing against Yahaya Bello. I don’t even know him. The cry for paradigm shift in the political trajectory of Kogi State ought to come to us in less seamy and ominous circumstances; indeed in clutch-able, justice impelled circumstances. It seems to me like a bewildering paradox—of pouring tasty salt into the mouth and defecating into it, making swallowing a dispiriting ordeal. When all these are resolved, in favour of justice, it is my hope that the entire state will be the beneficiary, not the grass that suffers, at the clash of titanic elephants. The times are truly out of joint for the beleaguered people of the previously badly governed but potentially viable Kogi State. Who will be born to set it right? Politicians, the judiciary or the people themselves when their confidence that justice will be their bequeathal, in the long run, have hit a disastrous rock, heaven forbid? The times are, indeed, foggy!!
Back from this extensive opening digress to the topic of the day. There is a historical sense in which it can be said that nearly all the 36 states of our federation, as they presently subtend, are unviable and therefore maintain the status of orphans. For, if you remove Lagos, Kano and some of the littoral states like Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and probably Ondo, most of the states in Nigeria totter, most wearisomely on the precipitous edge of mendicancy—cap-in-hand beggars, bluntly put. Some of them are so pathetic that, not only have they been unable to pay salaries to the workers for many months now, they (exemplifying Osun State) come away with deficit from allocations from federation accounts monthly shared out to them as the main source of revenue for funding their governments. A few others, who barely survive after paying salaries, have nothing left to run their governments, not to talk of offering goods and services to their electorate, the sole reason a state in a democracy should exist. It is in spite of this parasitic, or as I titled it above, orphaned, status of most of the states of the Federal Republic, that many are still clamouring for the creation of more States, as the only strategy of receiving any kind of kick from the rentier economy that the nation runs. Yet, among the orphans, some appear jinxed or jaded or both. Kogi State is the crucial and typical exemplification of this description. Hence, when we say that all the states are born poor, we must quickly add, with reference to a state like mine, Kogi State, that some are indisputably poorer than others!
Now who is an orphan, why the orphan-referent for the States of Nigeria and Kogi State as typical exemplar. In general, nations are known to belong to mothers or archetypal motherhood. Never identified to known fathers. Nations carry the identity of Motherland. Nations are hardly ever traced to their Fatherland. The fathers are hardly known. Indeed, in the social genetic tracing, mothers are best placed to name the fathers of their children—even in matrilineal societies. Only a mother can be certain of the fathers of their children—except of course, through the scientific verification of the DNA. The universe is characterised by Mother Earth, never ever Father Earth! Now to states. Who fathered the Nigerian nation, for instance? At the Centenary, we recall the niggardly wielding and clubbing together, christened as Amalgamation by Lord Frederick Lugard. Is he the father of the Nigerian nation or the foster parent? We have always been here on Mother Earth, our mother land. So when independence came, we relished the Anthem, especially the last line which first stanza ended with; ‘Our Sovereign Motherland”. In that sense therefore, we escape being referred to as an orphan—a child with neither a mother nor a father.
Nowadays, there are conditions of birth in which the father is unknown and the mother is economically crippled such that she cannot own up to parenthood. The orphanage is the rescue. This orphanage metaphor can be stretched to its elastic limit-less-ness! But that is not the subject of our engagement here. At independence, the mothers were known for the three regions, and later, in 1963 as a Republic, a fourth region emerged. The re1gions and their political heads laid proper claims over the parentage of their land. The Premiers guided and nurtured their children with pride, passion and affection, so much so that today, in spite of their numerous balkanised selves through fetid states creation—from twelve in 1967 and thirty-six and FCT currently– there is undying nostalgia about being a Westerner as children of Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello’s children of 14 Provinces (where Kogi State belonged) in the Northern Nigeria and the East had a parent in Nnamdi Azikiwe. Those parents fulfilled their responsibilities of nursing and nurturing their children in provinces with unsurpassed affection and humanising love. In the North, where Kabba Province (and the entire Kogi State of today resided), there was no question of who the parents were. On the level of care, each of the 14 Provinces received adequate and equal parenting, development-wise. If you found a College in Sokoto, you found its equivalent in Keffi and Okene. The colleges for girls were equitably located in Ilorin, Kabba, Kakuri and so on. At times, the areas often regarded as marginal in today’s reckoning got fairer deal in education and man power capacity building than the so-called Hausa States, such that nobody or member Province or Division felt nor had cause to feel orphanised. Ditto for the other Regions. And the states came and orphans sprawled across our nation in the name of states! Some manage to survive; many others are depraved and starving, literally, to death—such as Kogi.
It is dispiriting to remark that the orphan status of Kogi is not due, purely, to economic deprivation or scantiness of resources. Kogi is not the poorest in terms of Revenue Allocation. A state like Ekiti receives far less revenue from the federation accounts than Kogi State. In terms of natural and physical endowments, Kogi is certainly one of the 10 most endowed, with over fifteen exploitable and prospectable minerals that can be harnessed to render the state one of the richest in our country. Just look at Ajaokuta’s steel, Itape’s Iron, the wonders that Dangote is doing to his own advantage mainly, thanks to the criminal visionless-ness and selfishness of the rulers/ruiners of Kogi State who wagered our Cement Patrimony in Obajana!—and so on. And yet, in terms of development, manifest in the social, living conditions of the citizens of that State, the best, perceptible notion of the state of affairs in Kogi State is that it has remained perennially in the state of orphanhood.
Many who decried and protested the creation of Kogi State in 1991 have a right to gloat today. Those of our so-called elders who canvassed for and brought to reality the existence of that state today must writhe in grief and pain of guilt wherever they are — on earth or in sepulchres! The question that discerning minds—either citizens or concerned empathisers raise today is why the state so jinxed or jaded or both rolled into a pathetic mimic of state-hood? And this situation has arisen, painfully with regard to poor and dysfunctional leadership, which has erected weak and non-thriving institutions. If you trace the history of the state from 1991 to date, and especially since the Fourth Republic in 1999, it has been an unending tale of woeful leadership— with perhaps the tolerable exception of the late Prince Abubakar Audu (who also must be cited along with the other PDP governments) in growing a state erected in ethnically-based and biased ethnocentrism and nepotism and criminal polarisation of an otherwise kinship-imperative people. What do I mean by this? Find out next week in the second part of this piece.
– Prof. Olu Obafemi, published this piece in The Sun Newspapers