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COVID-19 relief response ‘unites’ political opponents in Kogi

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Bello

The effects of the novel coronavirus know no boundaries, be it the rich and the poor, religious, tribal or political divides. And this is what is playing out among opposing political leanings in Kogi State. Last Wednesday, the Pan-Okun Relief Response To COVID-19 Initiative was launched to tackle the social and health challenges posed by the dreaded virus to the Yoruba-speaking people of the state. Also known as the Okun people, it brought together all shades of political divides under one umbrella.

The mission is to save lives through raising funds for the purpose of buying drugs and essential materials for distribution to the vulnerable in the area. A source in the secretariat said the initiative was tinkering with the possibility of moving beyond distribution of food items to identify health care facilities available in the area, which may be equipped with test kits and ventilators, to support government’s efforts.

Dubbed “Covid-19 Pandemic Okun People Relief Response Initiative”, with an Elders Advisory Council as the apex body, the coalition would bring together under a steering committee and sub-committees political bigwigs who have not been on the same page either through belonging to opposing parties or are presently in court over disputes arising from the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

In words and deeds, political interests and differences have been pushed to the background, with focus shifted to the sanctity of human life. However, emphasis is on the greater unity of the people occasioned by the collective fight against COVID-19, a common enemy to the human race.

The conveners of COVID-19 Relief Response Initiative, who have decided to put on hold their different political affiliates, are Senator Smart Adeyemi, who represents Kogi West Senatorial District, Hon. Leke Abejide and Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf, both​ members of House of Representatives for Yagba and Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituencies respectively.

Adeyemi belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congres (APC) while Abejide is of the African Democratic Congress (ADC). Yusuf is elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Interestingly, Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Adeyemi, opponents in the Kogi West Senatorial election rerun held in November 2019 are both on the steering committee. This is​ irrespective of the fact that Melaye is at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunals challenging the authenticity of the result of that election.

Likewise, Chief Samuel Bamidele Aro, running mate to Mr. Musa Wada, PDP’s gubernatorial candidate in the November 16, 2019 poll will serve in the steering committee together with APC chieftain in the state, the speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Matthew Kolawole, who is a strong ally of Governor Yahaya Bello.

This is at time when Wada/Aro and Bello/Onoja (PDP/APC) are at the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and various other courts on a plethora of cases arising from the disputed governorship election.

The Elders Advisory Council chaired by former Minister of Industries and Chairman, Nigerian Manufacturers Association (NMA), Chief Kola Jamodu, has as members Military Governor of Old Oyo State, General David Jemibewon (rtd), former Minister of Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo, former Acting Governor of Kogi State, Chief Clarence Olafemi, two past presidents of the umbrella Okun Development Association (ODA), Chief Emmanuel Otitoju and Ambassador Paul Fadumiyo among others.

An 18-member steering committee has been inaugurated by Jamodu. Various sub-committees to include contact/network, fund raising and materials collection, procurement, relief materials distribution and funds/materials audit committees were also to be inaugurated at the time of writing this report.

The steering committee headed by a former Deputy Chief of Staff in the Presidency, Prince Olusola Akanmode, has on its membership former Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Yomi Awoniyi, Adeyemi, Melaye, Abejide, Yusuf, Speaker Kolawole, Sam Aro, Hon. Sunday Karimi, former member, House of representatives for Yagba Federal Constituency and Public Policy Analyst and international consultant, Dr. Ronke Bello and National President (ODA), Mr. Femi Mokikan, among others.

Other eminent personalities in the committee are Lagos-based management consultant, Chief Funsho Owoyemi and Director-General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, among others.

Federal, state and local government political office holders, elected or appointed, past and currently serving, all have roles to play in the various sub-committees irrespective of political persuasion or party leanings. Indeed, all Okun sons and daughters in the corporate world, private businesses and public service, academia, home and Diaspora are part of the “Committee of the Whole” irrespective of creed.

The steering committee is expected to drive the process to raise funds for the purpose of buying drugs and essential commodities to be distributed to the people of the area thereby complimenting efforts of the federal and state governments to contain the spread of the dreaded virus in the state and the country as a whole, as well as cushion the effects of the stay-at-home order subsisting in the state.

Jamodu while inaugurating the steering committee last week Wednesday via a statement he personally signed, assured that the council was apolitical and would cease to exist once the objectives of the intervention have been achieved. He, however, emphasised that the combined humanitarian efforts should continue to serve as the symbol of Okun unity.

He said, “Before I proceed, I consider it most appropriate to acknowledge and extol the thoughtfulness of Honourable Leke Abejide, Honorable T. J. Yusuf and Distinguished Senator Smart Adeyemi, who conceived of this timely and compelling project. I also commend those who lent support by painstakingly developing an operational manual for its smooth take off and effective implementation.

“It is widely acknowledged that Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, is one of the worst pandemic that has afflicted the human race. Its ravaging effects have been felt in both rich and poor nations and its associated suffering and deaths are indiscriminate along political, religious, geographical, ethnic or status lines.

“Coronavirus has radically affected not only the lives but the livelihood of our people.”

We are all familiar with its horrendous fall-outs like lockdown, collapse of businesses, disruption of commercial activities and their inevitable impact on the ability of our people to earn their living. That is why coronavirus and addressing its deleterious effects have become the moral equivalent of war.

“And because any of us or any of our relations is a potential victim, and we cannot tell “for whom the bell tolls” next, it has also become a matter of enlightened self-interest for everyone of us to be involved not half-heartedly, but wholeheartedly.

“Fortunately, long before the rest of the world was forced to accept that “we are all in this together”, we as Okun people have been our brothers’ keepers. In fact, empathy, compassion and humaneness have always been among our core values. I am therefore confident that the present initiative designed to mitigate the disastrous effects of Covid-19 through material intervention and effective awareness campaign will be warmly embraced by all our people”.

He added, “This exercise is significant not only for its expected utilitarian outcomes but as a symbol of our unity. It should therefore serve to close rather than expand our faultlines. In this regard, we should constantly bear in mind that the vulnerable and the needy amongst us are not bothered by our differences neither do they derive benefits from those differences.

“It is suggested that in order to jump-start this project, some seed money is required. We will therefore reach out immediately to our elected and appointed office holders, members of the Advisory Council and other committee and sub-committee members to make initial contributions to the seed money. In this exercise, time is of the essence. I therefore expect the steering committee to hit the ground running by coming up with a ‘Programme of Action’ and timelines.

“For the avoidance of doubt, both the Elders’ Council and other committees are ad-hoc, whose functions and activities are tied wholly to the pandemic and the need to support our people during this excruciating period. The activities of the Elders’ Council and all committees will therefore cease once the objective of this intervention is achieved. I know that none of my colleagues on the Elders’ Advisory Council will want to get involved unless the objectives are laudable, the processes are transparent and the outcomes are impactful. I therefore implore all those involved to bear these in mind and strive to deliver results we can all be proud of”.

In his remarks, chairman of the newly inaugurated Steering Committee of Covid-19 Okun Relief Response Project, Prince Akanmode, said, “To the best of my knowledge, no member of the Steering Committee or the proposed sub-committees lobbied for their positions. We should therefore have no difficulty in demonstrating the courage of our convictions in everything we do.

Any of us who has never been criticized, misunderstood or misrepresented has probably never attempted to do anything significant. Where, however, our attention is drawn to any omission or commission in the course of the performance of our roles we should acknowledge same with gratitude and grace. In all that we do, let us be guided by one of the favourite credos of Chief S. B. Awoniyi (of blessed memory) that “there is no limit to the amount of good we can do if we do not care who takes the credit”.

“A variant of this credo which is also most appropriate to our present situation says that ‘The world is divided into those who do the work and those who seek to take the credit.’ Try, if you can, to be in the first group where there is very little competition.”

A top politician in the opposition party told The Guardian in confidence that but for coronavirus, it was inconceivable that some individuals would have reasons to hobnob so soon considering the unprecedented violence and animosity witnessed before, during and after the last election held in the state.


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