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In Kogi, fresh wind of opposition blows from the east

By John Akubo, Lokoja
28 November 2017   |   4:26 am
Before providence shifted the baton of authority to the minority Ebira with the emergence of incumbent governor Yahaya Bello, through the sudden death of the candidate...

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

For almost two years of the Yahaya Bello administration in Kogi State, the majority Igalla ethnic group that narrowly lost the opportunity of maintaining their grip on the state’s political power through the death of Abubakar Audu, are beginning to create opposition against alleged bad policies of the state government.

Before providence shifted the baton of authority to the minority Ebira with the emergence of incumbent governor Yahaya Bello, through the sudden death of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar Audu, the majority Igalla ethnic group dominated political power in Kogi State.

For many years since the creation of the state, the Igalla of Kogi East have been maintaining the dominance pushing the Ebira of Kogi Central and the Okun of Kogi West into playing the second fiddle by producing Deputy-Governors.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the minorities to occupy the Lugard House was created in the last governorship election but since Bello carried the day, most of the leaders from Igalla who put their weight behind the victory of APC through their support for Audu, have been left out in the cold as the new Pharaoh did not know Joseph.

Therefore most political leaders from the east who have been nursing their bruises from the missed opportunity, went underground. But with almost two years expended in the life of Bello’s administration, they are beginning to regroup to confront him.

The new wave of opposition from the East is being complemented by agitations even among the minority groups who have shifted their demand for power shift to calls for good governance amid allegations of failure on the part of government to bring development to the state.

Currently, the entire citizenry seem to be united by poverty, hunger and starvation because of non-payment of salary and allowances to the state workforce, a development that has denied the economy of the state of that important lifeline.

Worried by what it described as effects of “a rudderless administration,” an influential group of statesmen from the majority Igalla under the platform of Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC), has come out publicly to condemn Bello’s style of governance.

At a news conference in Abuja, chairman of KEEC, Sen. Dr. Amadu Ali said in their attempt to give the young administration the benefit of the doubt, the leaders had restrained themselves from taking any critical posture, in the hope that the government would retrace its steps and take the right path when it started taking wrong turns at inception.

As an apex socio-cultural body formed on the principles of equity, justice, fairplay and good governance in Kogi State, Ali said the Council had laboured behind the scene to ensure harmony among various political divides in the state and even across the three senatorial districts.

He said, “It is therefore with absolute distress that the elders decided to go public on the deplorable and deteriorating condition of resources-rich Kogi State.

“In the last two years since Alhaji Yahaya Bello providentially took over the mantle of leadership as the governor, impulsive and ill-informed steps taken by the administration have left in their trail, the sounds of wailing and lamentation in villages, towns and cities across the state.”

Ali added that hopes that the government would take the right path were being dashed as the leadership was sinking deeper into errors, making a shipwreck of the opportunity given to the younger generation to steer the ship of the state towards a greater future.

On the stalemate in the state-owned university Ali declared that the termination of the appointments of 135 academic staff of the institution was an evidence of government’s ignorance and insensitivity adding, “These lecturers, some of them professors and PhD holders, were sacked from the state’s university, at a time when many universities in the country are hunting for intellectuals to beef up their faculties.”

He said in their attempt to salvage the situation, the KEEC had sent a delegation led by a former minister, Architect Gabriel Aduku, to the governor with suggestions in the form of a communiqué to indicate their displeasure at the lingering crisis between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of the institution and the state government.

Ali recalled that when Bello was being inaugurated on January 27, 2016, the governor noted in his inaugural speech that salaries have not been paid to civil servants for some months, hence he proposed to commence payment as promptly as possible while implementing strategies to gradually defray the arrears but the promise was not kept.

The group disclosed further that the condition of Kogi has degenerated to a situation in which federal lawmakers had to donate bags of rice to the state workforce and therefore called for a speedy conclusion of the tortuous staff screening exercise that appears to be the longest in the history of the country.

On the state of insecurity in Kogi, the group observed that it has culminated into a situation in which people are being felled by bullets adding, “The evidence of widespread insecurity was manifest in the imposition of 24-hour curfew on five local government areas by the state government on November 9, 2017. The LGAs include Adavi, Ajaokuta, Okene, Ogori/Magongo and Okehi.”

The group therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a presidential committee to investigate the purported staff audit as well as how the funds that went to the state as bailout and Paris Club refunds were utilized.”

Ali said the findings of the group revealed that cash that accrued into the coffers of Kogi State since 2016 was a total of N167 billion adding that the average monthly receipts of funds by the government for 21 months is, on the average, N8 billion. In terms of expenditure, he observed that an outline of civil servants and pensioners salaries and emoluments between 2012 and 2015 before Bello took over totaled N4.8 billion and that the total surplus that has accumulated from January 2016 to September 2017 is N67 billion.

According to him, “This amount should be available for infrastructure development, but the projects which might have gulped this sum are not on ground for the people of Kogi to see. If the government is not engaged in the construction of vital infrastructure, why has government been unable to pay the salaries of even the ‘cleared civil servants’ as at when due? Why did the state government embark on a borrowing adventure from commercial banks, and what has government used the borrowed money to service?”

But reacting through the governor’s Chief of Staff (CoS), Edward Onoja, the government said an industrial crisis actually engulfed the state university, which saw ASUU members refusing to teach for seven months adding that the plight of the stranded students degenerated to a point at which government was forced to proscribe the activities of the union to bring succour to the institution.

According to him, government disengaged academic staff of KSU who failed to resume normal duties after the proscription came into effect and the process of replacing them with other qualified persons was almost concluded.

The government therefore assured KEEF and other citizens of the state that the university can only come out of the process stronger and better positioned to retain her primacy among functional tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

On the issues surrounding insecurity and non-payment of salaries, the state government reiterated its desire to put an end to all criminal activities and that as acknowledged by the KEEC themselves, steps were already being taken in that direction as well as the conclusion of a process that will produce an effective workforce to deliver good governance in the state.