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Row over nominee as Ocholi’s replacement

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Late James Ocholi

President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Professor Stephen Ocheni as replacement for late James Ocholi, former minister of state for Labour and Productivity, has sparked off row over marginalisation in Kogi State.

Ocheni hails from Kogi East senatorial district same as Ocholi and the people of Kogi West senatorial district particularly the Okun clan see this as unfair and lopsided.They hinged their grievances on the fact that within one week the Federal Government made four key appointments with all going to one senatorial area of the state – the East.

Former acting governor of the state and one of the leaders of Okun, Chief Clarence Olafemi claimed that the manner his people were left out in the appointments, smacks of marginalisation.

In an open letter to the President, Olafemi described the appointments as favouring only one section of the state to the detriment of others, especially the Okun people.“The Federal Government had last week announced the appointments of a Residence Electoral Commissioner slot for Kogi; The COE/MD of National Development Bank and The executive director (Engineering) of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and all were skewed to favour the same senatorial district.

“My heart bled when I read about this wicked marginalization of my people, the Okun race in Kogi State, the third largest tribe of Kogi State and by extension the entire West Senatorial Area by the Federal Government of Nigeria with the shadow hand of the Kogi Government,” he alleged.

He asserted that the East Senatorial district already has two major state appointments – the deputy governor and the chief of staff to the governor; the Central Senatorial area has two ambassadorial slots in addition to producing the governor adding that the West Senatorial district has been left with nothing.

Olafemi who is a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, argued that the appointments contradicts the spirit behind the federal character principle as well as negates the spirit of fairness, equity and justice.

“This is the worst distribution of positions that have ever excluded the Okun people in any government since the creation of the state in 1991,” he stated.He explained that the decision to take their protest to the President was taken after extensive consultations with the president of the Okun Development Association (ODA), the political class and the technocrats in Okun land, and that they are asking for the reversal of the appointment to correct the imbalance.

However in reaction, the State government accused Olafemi of fostering his personal ambitions in the guise of promoting the Okun agenda, claiming that the allegations of marginalization are “unsavoury, uncomplimentary and hasty.”

The director general, Media and Publicity to the State, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, urged the former acting governor to separate his personal aspiration from that of the Okun people.Addressing a group of Okun youths in Lokoja, he enjoined Olafemi to begin to act like a statesman, with a bigger picture of the state as his focus rather than his individual ambitions.

“My attention has been drawn to an open letter, purportedly written by a former Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, alleging marginalization of the Okun people of Kogi West Senatorial District. As far as I am concerned, the letter was in bad taste. Chief Olafemi didn’t tell the world about his true grievances.

“A leader of Olafemi’s caliber should explore more diplomatic channels of sending his protests across rather than resort to an open letter to embarrass the hierarchy of the party.”

He said he should have reported his grievances to the party leadership rather than resorting to writing to the public to castigate the President.“The Governor has hailed the President’s fairness in appointing Prof. Ocheni as Minister Designate. The late Minister who was replaced was from Kogi East. It wouldn’t have been fair to appoint his successor from another zone, given the fact that the zone lost both the governorship and ministerial slot to the cold hands of death.

“Kogi West is currently occupying the number three position in the State Executive Council and number one in the legislature. It is believed that the zone will also enjoy Board appointments at both the Federal and State levels. Therefore, cry of marginalization in the state is false and at the Federal level, hasty”.

Fanwo called on Olafemi to key into the United Kogi Project and see all Kogites as one, saying the era of ethnic jingoism and “opportunistic chauvinism is gone for good.”He reiterated that people are solidly behind the President and would continue to support the President. He also advised Olafemi to use his position and experience to support the drive for unity and development.


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