It is my great pleasure to be invited to serve as the keynote speaker at this years’ 2016 Annual Conference by the Igala Association in America, holding here in Boston, Massachusetts.
I want to sincerely thank the organizers for the rare privilege. I must admit that the theme of this year’s conference: Crisis on Multiple Fronts: Igala, Culture, language and Leadership in the 21st Century is not only apt but topical and timely in many respect most especially as it relates to the Igala as a language (Ichi-Igala), as a people (Abo-Igala) and as a territory (Ane-Igala), and its culture(echolo).
Knowledge in these are derived from stories told by the elders andelderly, reading of literature and history on Igala, practical life experiences through contact with peer and other age groups and from my political sojourn and activities in Kogi state.
There is no doubt that Igala has witnessed up and down geo-political movements over the years from Kaduna of the defunct Northern Region (Kabba Province), Ilorin of Kwara state, to Makurdi of Benue state and to the present Lokoja, Kogi State. These geo-political movements come with corresponding socio-economic opportunities, responsibilities and challenges to the Igala as a people, the language and the territory or land.
Igalaland has rich fertile land with favorable vegetation, economic trees, and lots of natural and mineral resources such as coal, limestone, oil including the contentious Odeke Oil well in Ibaji LGA. The Odeke oil well has been a contentious issue between Kogi, Anambra and Enugu states on ownership of the oil well. This has remained on front burner before the National Assembly and the Presidency. Mr. Chairman, distinguished audience, it is from these geo-political movements and the inherent socio-economic opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that the theme of this conference “Crisis on Multiple Fronts: Igala Language, Culture, and Leadership in the 21st Century” shall be situated.
This presentation shall focus on practical rather than academic, theoretical or research, with the kind permission of Igala sons and daughters for whose purpose we assembled here today, in a different country from ours. The import of the adopted approach is to make this discussion interactive in such a way that, as sons and daughters of Igala origin, the socio-political and economic opportunities that abound and the mirage of challenges confronting our people are better understood by ourselves.
For those of you that were full grown adult, before your sojourn here, you can recall and recollect those good old days of moonlight plays, storytelling, hunting, swimming, farming, going to the markets with parents or age or peer groups, and various unavailable or poor infrastructures or social amenities such as roads, houses, water, and electricity, medical and educational facilities.
Igala is an ethnic group with common destiny, culture, hope, language with some dialectical variation and aspiration. However, how much have we been able to actualize this. In bringing home this discussiontherefore, we will focus on the following:
- Who are the Igala and their spread
- The culture and administrative structure of the Igala
- The Igala and state governance/Leadership (1979-1999)
- Where did the Igala get it wrong?
- What are the crisis on multiple fronts that is confronting Igala?
- How prepared are the Igala for the challenges of the 21stcentury?
- Way forward/Recommendation
- Who are the Igala?
The term Igala is an elusive term but represents tripartite meaning. Igala stands for the people (Abo-Igala), the language (Ichi-Igala) and the territory (Ane-Igala) which is traditionally referred to as the Igala kingdom but contemporarily and geo-politically, referred to as Kogi east senatorial district of Kogi state. The Ane-Igala represents a kingdom which was made up of a loose conglomeration of various peoples that speak the language, belonging to the Kwa group of language. In addition, Ichi-Igala represents linguistic ethnic groups with common language and culture as well as political unity under the Ata Igala’s effective rule. Abo-Igala on the other hand represents the Igala speaking people that trace their origin to the Igala kingdom and exhibit the traits and traditions of the area (Abdulkadir 1990, Usman 2015).
Geographically, Igala people are found east of the confluence of the rivers Niger and Benue. The land is bounded on the west by River Niger, on the east by Enugu State, the south by Anambra State, on the North Benue/Nassarawa States. It is 120 kilometres wide and 160 kilometres long. It is located approximately between latitudes 6o301 and 80 north and longitudes 6o30` and 7o40` East and covers an area of about 13,665 square kilometers.
The population size of Kogi East Senatorial District, which represents the Igala kingdom, or Igalaland with nine (9) Local Government Areas based on the 2006 Population Census figures stood at 1,483,373. This gives the Igala people the numerical strength over and above other major ethnic groups in the state (Egbira and Okun) in term of politics and electoral contest. In terms of their present location in Kogi State, the Igala are evenly distributed all over the land but with Idah, Anyigba and Ankpa more densely populated. Idah remain the cultural and historical headquarter of Igala. The Igala are also sparsely found in Edo, Delta, Anambra and Enugu States. However, the bulk of the people are in Idah, Ankpa, Dekina, Omala, Olamabolo, Ofu Igalamela/Odolu, Ibaji, Bassa (and even Lokoja and Ajaokuta) Local Government Areas of Kogi State (Egbunu 2009).
In physical appearance the Igala, like many other Nigerians, are true Blacks who speak a Kwa language of the Niger-Congo family. In this regard, the Igala have strong linguistic affinities with the Itshekiri and Yoruba, so much that some scholars think that these three languages can have a common dictionary.
The coming on board of the military rule in 1966 and the eventual state creation in 1967 pushed the Igala from one geo-political location to another. For instance, from Kaduna (Northern Region) in 1966, Igala was moved to Ilorin, Capital of the new West-Central (later Kwara) state. At Ilorin the then Igala Division was referred to as “Kwara Overseas” because of the natural division between Igalaland and other parts of kwara state by the rivers Niger and Benue. In 1976 the Igala was again moved from Kwara state to Benue State. In Benue state, the thought of breaking the yoke of stagnation and an appendage citizenship among our people heightened, with agitation for a new state, but no united front for a homogenous Okura state, due to disunity most especially amongst Igala elites along the old Divisions that made up the Igala Native Authority. What we had instead, is Kogi state.
On the 27th August 1991, Kogi state was created by General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, then the military head of state. At its creation the Igala axis from Benue state and erstwhile Kabba province (Egbira and the Okun) from then Kwara state, were merged and named Kogi State, with capital at Lokoja. The journey to Kogi state was supposed to be a rekindled hope for Igala, but how far have we faired 25 years after?. The state celebrated its silver jubilee in Lokoja on 27th August, 2016. A celebration that has left many questions in the lips of many people.
Recall that the Igala came from Benue state with six LGAs namely: Idah, Dekina, Ankpa, Bassa, Olamaboro and Ofu in Kogi east, while the other side of Kogi West and Central came with five LGAs from Kwara state namely: Okene, Okehi, Oyi, Yagba and Kogi respectively. With creation of additional Local Government Areas, that of Kogi central jumped from two to five, while those in Kogi west increase from three to seven. In other words, the five LGAs from Kogi West and Central were increased to twelve, while Kogi East (Igala/Bassa land) which already have six LGAs merely moved to nine. This makes a total of 21 LGAs in the state.
- The culture and administrative structure of the Igala
The Igala people following the war liberation with the Jukun people led by Ayegba Oma Idoko, had a “centralized state system” (Okwoli, 1973). This was firmly established under the paramount rule of Ata. The Ata Igala is the traditional paramount ruler of the Igala people. “Ata” which literarily means father is the custodian of the culture, tradition and custom of Igala people. Culture, is defined as the total way of life of a social group. It embodies all aspect of lives of people, including style of life, way of dressing, belief, attitude, arts, law, religion, customs, traditions, values and any other capabilities and habits(food, tattoo, marriage, inheritance) acquired by man as member of society. Culture is unique to and shared by the members of a group, Igala in this instance. Culture could have material or non- material components. A society has to exist for there to be culture. It is shared, learned, cumulative, diverse, varied, dynamic and a whole. Dynamic in the sense that new items may be added, or old ones improved upon, or unsuitable cultural items are abandoned or replaced. These could happen when cultural items are borrowed from other culture and/or when culture items are not transmitted from generation to generation. Culture is a unifier. Language, on the other hand is the heart of culture that need to be used for communication regularly for assimilation and to avert neglect and extinction. For us,this can be achieved by using Igala language as a main or common language of communication at home, having Igala names amidst other names of our children, by so doing, preserve our names such as Ocholi, Ocheje, Onalo Abutu, Edegbo, Ajanigo, Ejura etc. and regular visit to home in Igalaland to spend some good time and days with the home front. This way, the language, the culture will be rejuvenated and accommodated by upcoming children.
Women, play significant role in Igala culture. Omiachi T. stated in his book that the recognition of women hood has been depicted in Igala land whereby all Ata since Ebulejonu must dress like women and have their ears pierced to wear ear rings and expensive beads (odugbo) made of elephant tusks that constitute part of female regalia and culture.
Ata is traditionally regarded as the wife of Achadu, while Achadu is referred to as “Oko-Ata” (Ata’s traditional husband or the Prime Minister). This was the basis why every Ata Igala will have their ears pierce by Iye Okpu as part of the traditional processes for the making of a new Ata.
Traditionally speaking, Ata Igala is a priest-king. He was in-charge of the major Igala sacred objects, shrines and festivals (Egbunu 2001). His provincial Chiefs (Am’onu) were also in custody of their various shrines, grooves, sacred objects and festivals in their own domains.
Customarily, succession to the Ata throne is hereditary and rotational between the four royal families. Ascension is the right of only those who belong to the royal lineage. The ascendancy to the throne is rotational in such a way that three other lineages hold the office before the cycle gets completed (Boston 1968:8 Egbunu 2001).To ensure fairness and justice in appointment of future Ata Igala, Igala area traditional council (modification of native law and custom) Order 2015 procedure and Regulation for the selection and Ascension to the stool of Ata Igala, was approved by the state executive under the administration of the former State Governor, Capt Idris Wada and become operational on 27th April 2015. It was gazetted as Kogi State Legal notice no 2 of 2015 vol.1 at Lokoja on 21st May 2015. The order has a clear line of rotational succession of the male line of descendant of Ayegba Oma Idoko involving the four ruling houses of Aju Ame Acho, Aju Akogu, Aju Akwu and Aju Ocholi.
Among the Igala, the Ata was regarded as divine, a man who was in constant communication with his ancestors whom he had to greet every morning (Etu 2001). In fact, some Ata epitomize Supreme Being and “played god when they told their subjects that they were both Ata in this world and in the world to come” (Etu 1993:69).
Etu (1993) equally reported the story of Ata Obaje Ocheje (1925 – 1945) boasted while talking with the then Colonial Resident that: If you make a mistake, the Governor at Kaduna will correct you. If the one at Kaduna makes a mistake, the Governor-General will correct him. And if the one in Lagos makes a mistake, your king in your country will correct him. But if I, the Attah make a mistake, only God (Ojochamachala) can correct me (Etu 1993:83 cited in Egbunu 2009).
This depicts the next to god status the Ata position was portrayed then. In other words, Ata status was inextricably linked to his supernatural power and status.
Ata is supported by the District-heads (Am’onu-ane). Ascendancy to the throne of Onu ane is also hereditary and strictly restricted for members of the royal family.
- Igala and State Governance/Leadership (1979-1999)
Apart from the traditional form of community leadership which is exemplified by the unified position of Ata as the “symbolic father” of all Igala sons and daughters as well as the various Onu-Ane whose ascendancy to the throne are strictly restricted to people of royal blood, Igala also participated actively in the modern competitive open political system of governance.
Political leadership at this level since the attainment of Nigeria political independence is either by appointment and/or by election. Some of the notable positions of political appointments are Ministers, Ambassador, Chief Executives and Chairmen/Members of Federal/State Boards, Agencies, Commission etc, Heads of Military and Paramilitary institutions/establishment, Heads of Tertiary Institutions, Secretary to the Federal/State Government, Head of Service, Chief of Staff to theGovernor, Commissioner and Special advisers etc. The elective positions include, Governor, Deputy Governor, legislators/Law makers of National, State and Local Government levels and the President and Vice President of the federation.
With respect to appointments and elective positions, Igala sons and daughters have occupied some positions at one time or the other. There are nonetheless many unoccupied position both for elective and appointee position.
Mr. Chairman and the distinguished audience, you may recall that, of the entire Igala geo-political movement, it is only at our present abode – Kogi state – that Igala as an entity was ever privileged to have produced a democratically elected Governor of a State. The only opportunities nearest to this was in Benue state when Igala produced two Deputy Governors in the persons of Late Mr Isah Odoma and Alhaji Sule Iyaji under the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) when the late Mr Aper Aku was Governor from 1979 – 1983.
So, it was due to sheer strength of majority population that an Igala , Late Prince Abubakar Audu, emerged as the first democratically elected and Executive Governor of Kogi state between 1991 –1992, on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC).
Over time, questions have been asked of the impact and benefits of the leadership opportunities occupied by the Igala sons and daughters on the growth and development of Igala land at the backdrop of theconsequential acrimonies that are detrimental for the desired unity amongst the Igala people. These acrimonies arise from the competition for such leadership position without a central focus. We get to see thislater in this presentation.
- What are the crises on multiple fronts that are confronting Igala and Leadership in the 21st century in Igalaland? The 21st century began 1st January 2001 and will end by 2100; it is also called the 3rd millennium.
Activities as relates to language, culture, and leadership in the 21stcentury are built up on previous centuries and millennium. There is the tendency to say there is a lot of many more years to go in the Century and as such it might be premature to talk of crisis in a forecasted 100 years when we have not even spent a score. Nonetheless, a solid build up on previous century right from the commencement of a new century, is key to avert crisis, this again makes the theme apt and timely.
Leadership since the beginning of the century uptil this moment, is both traditional, political and a mix, with an unclear delineation between both or inappropriate mix of both. That of tradition is as old as the Igala language. Over time, there have been leadership discuss in Kogi East or Igalaland, but no aggressive/sustained approach has been given to contents of such discuss for implementation. Despite the population advantage that Igala have in Kogi state in addition to educational status and land mass, the tribe has not been able to harness this advantage to the benefit of her people, due to individual rather than group or collective approach to fundamental issues that affect the people. Elective offices, job and appointment opportunities, project site, and development, have suffered as a consequence of this absence of internal cohesion. While states like Benue have internal cohesion and understanding in joint deliberation and negotiations amongst the various tribes, same cannot be said of Igala specifically and Kogi state in general.
Leadership in the 21st century requires ethnic/Community leadership and political leadership. A synergy between this leadership types are mandatory for a reasonable cohesion and productive progressive Igalaland. As at today, Igala land can boast of well structure traditional leadership. This is further strengthened by the now clearly defined successive law to the stool of Ata Igala accented to by the administration of Capt Idris Wada on 27th April 2015. This was 2 years after the presentation of staff of office to the present Ata Igala, HRM Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni at Idah, which took place at Idah on 27th April, 2013.
Social ill, kidnap and cultism have become prominent with people living in perpetual fears and worries, in Igala land.
There is presently no clearly defined, viable and visionary leadership in Igalaland that could be a rallying point. This obviously is an indication of poverty of political leadership. The outcome of 2015 general election and that of the governorship election in November/December 2015, with attendant legal debacle that may finally be laid to rest soon at the Supreme Court, is a clear manifestation of absence of viable, visionary leadership with committed followers that follow the footprints of it leader(s). In this instance, the led and followers/supporters were firing at each other from different cylinders and directions. Juxtapose this with leadership exhibited in the past by great people and names like sir, Ahmadu Bello, Tafewa Balewa, J S. Tarka, Aminu Kano. Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and a host of traditional rulers, Oba, Kings, Chief, etc including our own Ata Igala ,Ameh Oboni and Aliyu Obaje on both regional and national politics and integration, then you would realize there have been some missing links.
This again bring to the fore, one of the reasons myself and three other Igala sons residing in Yola, Adamawa state, between 1993- 1996 floated and ran Inikpi Club of Nigeria, a socio-philanthropic organization with official address in Ayangba. The club brought together prominent sons and daughters of Igala in the profession, business, civil life to address and strategically draw up as a team, the collective desire of Igala and Igalaland, and placing Igala first, for the overall benefit of her people rather than individual pursuit of agenda that has been our bane and rubbed off the Igala in the polity of the state in particular and the nation in general. The club made significant impact within its short lifespan, typified by the caliber and quality of contributions made by prominent Igala that participated in our structured meeting and activities. Unfortunately due relocation of the founding and pioneer members of the club at that time, this laudable project that was beginning to see the light of the day, fizzled out. Other ethnic groups have used population advantage to maintain unity for a common purpose.
Leadership is dynamic and vital in the progression of any society. It is the heart of development through organizing and mobilizing available human and material resources to accomplish set goals and objectives for a community, a group, a society, business, state, a nation etc
There are various forms of leadership, but what we strongly need in Igalaland is a visionary, inspirational transformational and transactional leadership.
Munroe(2005.2) stated that: “A good leadership should have the capacity to influence others through inspiration, motivated by a person, generated by vision, produced by a conviction and ignited by a purpose”.
Transformational leadership is cardinal for development and change. Natural resource endowment and rich culture without transformationalleadership cannot transmute to development and modernity. This type of leadership arouses or alters the strength of needs which may have laid dormant amongst the followers.
Key to success of good leadership are resilience, competence, courage, focus, team work, strategic thinking, self-discipline amongst others. On the other hand, transactional leadership motivate the followers by exchanging with them rewards for services rendered.
The 21st century is defined by the realities of post modernity and post industrialism and the unfolding of economic, political and cultural contradictions associated with this processes, constriction of different kinds of identities, convergence of technological, scientific, rapid globalization and communication changes or revolutions with attendant casualties in the states and nations that do not want to imbibe the new order, as a result of resistance to change, despite constant and permanent features of change.
We are confronted by astronomical upsurge of crimes and criminality. There are high rate of kidnapping, thuggery, health changes and maternal mortality ratio, chronic poverty in our land, the ghost workers syndrome, skyrocketed unemployment rate amongst our youths, dampen and fallen morale of our civil servants, unpaid pensioners. Others are the poor political representation and high rate of corruption and sharp practices.
In addressing some of these ills, Ata Igala on 30th May 2013, in addressing to the Kogi State Council of Chiefs, stated “These are very trying times for our people. We live with them, they see us every day and cry to us at critical period. We have obligations to carry their burden, but how much can we carry. We have hunger, poverty, diseases, insecurity, of lives and property, failure in education, environmental problems, new issues of various proportions come up every day, our children are not knowledgeable in our culture”. This is a lamentation from His Royal Majesty, what else can be further from the truth.
Leadership in Igalaland should broadly focus on building institution- Agriculture, Education, Health, etc and nurturing various businesses, entrepreneurship and political institution with the greater interest of the people rather than shallow interest of a few. Sacrifice and commitment are key to uplift of Igalaland.
Can we still have the likes of Omodoko, and Inikpi who paid the supreme price and were sacrificed for the sovereignty of Igala kingdom? This is a pertinent question to ask in the 21st century.
Prince Abubakar Audu was re-elected democratically as the governor of the state under the platform of the All Peoples Party (APP) from 1999 – 2003. Let me remind us here that, Chief (Dr) Steven M. Achema of the blessed memory contested for the primary election under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket. He lost to late Arc. Steven Olorunfemi due to bitter rivalry among SDP gladiators of the Igala extraction. Despite this, Chief Achema with a sense of Igala nationalism urged his supporters then to switch their support to Prince Abubakar Audu of the APP. The election was contested and convincingly won by Prince Abubakar Audu. Dr. Stephen M. Achema died in a ghastly motor accident in the twenth century, precisely on 6th November, 1999. Dr Achema was then the Special Adviser on Labour matters, to the President of the Federal Republic, Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR.
Audu’s tenure (1999 – 2003) was viewed variedly and differently but the people, politicians and professional. The achievement of that administration, coming after the military administration include the establishment of Kogi State University at Anyigba, appointment of Igala sons and daughters to various positions of responsibilities and authorities, construction of township and rural feeder roads, massive rural electrification projects, building of new and rehabilitation of dilapidated existing health facilities across Igala land, creation of additional Local Government areas that were more in the eastern flank, but not adopted by the Federal Government, and so earlier LGAs status quo was returned, among other developmental initiatives. He was said to be pompous and egocentric, chauvinistic and ethnically bias.
Prince Abubakar Audu ouster (2003-2007) led to the emergence of the second democratically elected Governor of the State. H.E Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris rose to power on the backdrop of his unassuming posture which took the political landscape by the storm. Due to his humble disposition, he quickly carved a niche for himself within the circle of the aggrieved elites who saw Audu as too overbearing and intolerant, in addition to above allusion of him. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris tried to balance the ethnic-geopolitical interests in the State through appointments and location of physical and social infrastructures equitably. He rebuilt and renovated the dilapidated primary buildings in many locations across the State. He also repositioned the Kogi State University, Anyigba by injecting funds to aid accreditation and developed more physical facilities. He supported and facilitated establishment of more faculties in the university. He was known to have invested greatly in infrastructural and human capacity development. He opened up rural areas with network of feeder roads and connected some rural areas to electricity, built some major road.
Despite these, there were some disturbing examples of acrimonious relationship in the polity. These include series of litigations between late Prince Abubakar Audu and Alhaji Ibrahim Idris from 2007 – 2012 in appropriate Courts of coordinate jurisdiction, first over the disputed results of the 2007 Governorship elections and then secondly 2008 re-run governorship election results and other subsequent elections. The subsequent one was the election of his successor. The contest was between Capt Idris Wada of PDP and Prince Abubakar Audu of APC on 4th December, 2011. The latter case was disposed of at Supreme Court.
It will be recalled, that earlier between 2005- 2007, an Igala, an elder statesman. Sen(Dr) Ahmadu A.Ali, for the first time in the political history of Nigeria, was the National Chairman of a political party- Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP). That was the leading political party, in control of the Federal Government, had many state Governors and had majority in National and most of state assemblies. The party is the main opposition party presently in Nigeria, having lost Presidential election to All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2015 general election.
In the same vain between 2012 and 2015, that were series of litigations between Alhaji Jibrin Isah and Capt Idris wada over the mandate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) ticket to Capt Idris Wada. This dominated Courts rooms up to the Supreme Court level.
Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, handed over power to the Governor-Elect, his successor, Capt Idris Wada on 27th January, 2012, after almost 9years as a Governor. This followed a Supreme Court judgment on the same day over the commencement of second term after the rerun election. The snags created by endless litigations in the State almost created a crisis of transition, which elongated the vicious circle of litigation between Capt Idris Wada and Jibrin Isah. This took a major part of the four years first term mandate of Capt Idris Wada. The cases were ruled at various level of jurisdiction, including Supreme Court, in favour of Capt Idris Wada. Apart from the Jibrin Isah issue, Prince Audu who lost to Wada in the 2011 election pursued justice up to the Supreme Court.
Capt Idris Wada came into office on 27th January 2012, when projection of economic and financial crisis were stirring on the nation.
Other crisis points are those of funds, arising from dwindling allocation from the Federal Government. The state monthly Federal fund allocation was perpetually on the decline on monthly basis during the tenure of Capt Idris Wada, with this, despite the reasonable improvement in theState Internally Generated Revenue, the monthly recurrent expenses, personnel costs, subventions to institutions, and the then just introduced minimum wage for worker overshoots the income. The consequences was little available for infrastructural developments. To meet up developmental needs in areas of health infrastructure, roads, water, the state sourced for bond. Only 40% of the bond of N20billion was assessed or released over two years, due to series of ill-conceived petitions, Nevertheless, Capt Idris Wada introduced a disciplined, humane, puritanical and Spartan-like approach to the governance of the State, and ensured that workers remuneration are not tampered with, despite these financial challenges. State wide quarterly Free Rural Medical Services was introduced for indigent populace, encouraged agricultural development, renovated PHCs and Zonal hospitals, continued the construction of uncompleted hospitals, including the ultra Modern Diagnostic Imaging and Comprehensive Medical Laboratory Center, and commencement of a teaching hospital and award of contract for the construction/building of kogi State University Teaching Hospital, Anyigba, constructed rural feeder roads and rural electrification, Ultramodern Motor park, Vocational Training Center and reduction of thuggery from the politics of the State.
Apart from the paucity of funds, intra party and inter supporters crisis and varied criticism continued to be issued the administration had to contend with, into the 2015 election.
The tension and palpable fear that the contest of the 2015 Governorship election in Kogi state brought between two Igala sons – Late Prince Abubakar Audu of APC and Capt Idris Wada of PDP was unimaginable. Prince Abubakar Audu, who was leading in the election, died before the result could be announced. The outcome of that contest and subsequent supplementary election, led to the accidental or unplanned power shift to the current administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Power shift was been canvassed, and gradually, people are getting in tune with the idea, but not an abrupt one as has happened in Kogi state. The state government under Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has not demonstrated good governance since assumption of office on 27th January, 2016, instead has melted out pains and suffering on the state workforce, pensioners and the political group both of his party All Progressive Congress(APC), the opposition People Democratic Party(PDP) and the citizenry in general.
Despite the fact that PDP Members form a majority in the Kogi State House of Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Assembly is from APC. This has been attributable to undue interference of the state governor in the affairs of the assembly.
The death of Abubakar Audu who was the frontrunner at the said governorship election and the contentious APC decision to substitute him with Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the second runner up during the APC governorship primary election, paved way for accidental power shift to an Ebira, from Kogi Central extraction to become the current Governor of Kogi state. The electoral debacle is currently before the Supreme Court for final adjudication. A critical observation, in the APC Primaries then, showed, at least five Igala aspirants, including late Abubakar Audu, others being late Barrister James Ocholi, Senator Alex Kadiri, Senator Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane, Air Marshal S. Atawodi(rtd)contested the primary election.
Apart from the late Prince AbubakarAudu who emerged winner, other Igala contestants did not come second, or third positions in the primaries. The aspirants of Ebira extraction were all ranked in those positions. This was again worrisome. Since the coming on board of the current Kogi state government, the fate of the Igala race under the current administration is better imagined, to the extent that, those who worked against Capt Wada have been gnashing their teeth and regretting their actions. Igala the majority ethnic group is not only treated as minority but also relegated to the background both at the State and Federal levels. Indeed this is where the “Crisis of Leadership of Multiple Fronts”, can better be described!
At the State level, Igala now has a Deputy Governor, situated to probably fulfill the mandatory constitutional requirements. While the Chief of staff, appointed strictly on personal relationship and friendship with the Governor, is an Igala man. Beyond this, most key position in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including health and educational institution have been occupied mostly be people from the central senatorial and few west senatorial people. This does not and will not augur well for the harmony, peace and understanding in the state. At this junction, it is pertinent to remember the plight of Igala – the major ethnic group in Kogi state, is suddenly being treated as minority ethnic group under the current dispensation.
On this, we quickly remember the painful and mysterious death of our two (2) fallen heroes. The first was Prince Abubakar Audu, the flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and a frontrunner in the 2015 Kogi State Governorship election whose death on 22nd November, 2015, created a vacuum and uncertainty in Kogi state and amongst the Igala considering the period of his demise, which resultantly paved way for the accidental power shift arrangements currently in place in our dear state now. The scenario that brought on the present governor, has never happened in our polity and in other climes, and presently awaits final judiciary intervention. The second was Barrister James Ocholi (SAN), a brilliant Lawyer per excellence whose demise in a ghastly auto mobile accident on 6th March 2016 while serving as Minister of State, Labour and Productivity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria alongside with his wife and son, remain a colossal and irreparable loss to the entire Igala race.
While we are grappling to recover from the shock arisen from the death of these two (2) Igala political big weight, we were faced with yet, the death of two first class Chiefs or Ejeh. These were the Ejeh Ofu, HRH Peter A. Opaluwa on 14th May 2016, and Ejeh Ankpa, HRH Ahmadu Yakubu on 15th August 2016. Both Royal highnesses are first class chiefs and chairmen of Ofu and Ankpa Traditional Council respectively. Sadly too, four years ago, precisely on 16th July, 2012, Igala Kingdom lost and mourn the death of late Ata Igala, HRM, Alhaji (Dr) Aliyu Obaje, CBE,CON. All these have occurred within the first 20 years of the 21st century.
A substantial proportion of multiplicity of problems/crisis facing the Igala nation are self-inflicted; ranging from lack of internal cooperation and synergy amongst Igala to inadequate attention to the core values of our people. What must however be emphasised here strongly is that our self-inflicting tendency and action have opened much space for external forces to penetrate and compound the problem.
From all the foregoing, we could highlight some of the salient issues that have dominated the sphere of the challenges of Igala as a people and as a kingdom at the moment as follows:
- Absence of Unity: It is disheartening that the Igala have found it difficult to locate themselves within a common maxim that has the promotion of Igala thoughts and perspectives as an agenda. Although there are notable socio-political and cultural organisations such as the Igala Cultural and Development Association (ICDA), the Ojuju Agbadufu, the Ebulejonu, Ukomu Igala, the Igala Youths Assembly, Ufedo club, Igala Association USA and others in diaspora, etc. These groups should form a united front required to push a common agenda. These organisations need to stand up to strongly counter some moves at the State and Federal levels that are considered inimical to the common interest of the Igala nation. It should be noted that the annual Italo festival- a cultural festival that holds at Anyigba, has not held for many years now, for non- convincing, explicable reasons.
- Stereotypism: The stereotype and subconscious implant of discriminatory allusion to place of origin in Igala land such as Abo Dekina, Abo Ankpa, Abo Idah, Igala ejogba, am’akpoto, am’ ogugu etc, should be seen more as semantic rather than derogatory and therefore a weak contributor in the inability to have a common front in the search for leadership position at all levels of governance over the years. The culture of enwu k’ajuwe majen, ifuda rinyo (What a hen would not it, it scatters) in our hearts and souls, in our march to the much needed development.
- Lack of effective and Selfless Leadership: Political leadership has been the bane of Igala nationalism over the years. While we have succeeded in producing Governors at the state level since the creation of Kogi State, the extent of expectation of the people and the Igala kingdom has not been met for so many reasons.This is mainly due to mutual suspicion and lack of cohesion. Personal interests by forebearers to the leadership of the State at the expense of the larger populace and the community has been a recurring decimal. This is because the Governor cannot be at every place, but has to entrust responsibilities. In addition to this, there are many competing interest and needs over the scarce resource, consequently it becomes more herculean for the implementation of policies and programmes needed for the development of the rural communities. It must also be stated that most of those who represent the Igala areas at the federal level, most especially the National Assembly, have not exerted adequate imposing voices, Pressure and lobbying required to put the Igala issues on the National map and agenda. There is no denying the fact that contribution on the floor of the assembly would exert considerable pressure on the leadership whenever issues of common interest are to be debated. Our representative need toenhance the image of Igala, an ethnic group that is ranked ninth in population in the country.
- Inappropriate resource Allocation to Local Government Area: Because of size and population, Kogi east is not fairly and justly treated on fund allocation. There is the need to review the LGAs in Kogi east with a view to give them commensurate resource through the Federal Government monthly fund disbursement to states.
- Structural Marginalisation: Considering the structural imbalance in respect of representation at the National Assembly, the Igala are marginalized as the following will show. For instance, a total of 708,128 voters elected a Senator in Kogi East for a population of 1,604,345 people. On the other hand, 330,132 voters elected a Senator for 909,746 people in Kogi West and 321,949 voters elected a Senator for 884,396 people in Kogi Central Senatorial District (Modified after Coalition of Igala/Bassa Socio-Cultural and Development Associations (CIBSCDA), 2013, cited in Mohammed, 2016). The implication of the above is that, one (1) Senator serves 1,604,345 people in Kogi East, and two (2) Senators serves 1,794,142 people in Kogi Central and Kogi West Senatorial districts combined. This therefore amount to a ratio of 4.24: 2.34: 2.4 for Kogi East, Central and West Senatorial Districts respectively. This is equally true in terms of representation at the House of Representatives; the Igala area produces three members while the West and Central produce six. In a glaring instance, Ajaokuta Local Government which has a population strength that is not up to that of Olamaboro Local Government is a Federal Constituency while three LGAs namely-Ankpa, Olamaboro and Omala Local Government Areas combine to make one. The lopsided nature of the representation is also reflected in the combination of four LGAs- Idah, Ibaji, Ofu and Igalamela/Odolu Local Government Areas as a Federal Constituency. Also worrisome is that of Dekina and Bassa, both of which constitute one federal constituency, at the backdrop of the land mass and population of this LGAs, especially Dekina, in contrast to two Local Governments at most combining to make Federal Constituency in both the Western and Central Senatorial Districts. Thus, the existing delineation is arbitrary and unsatisfactory.
In a nutshell, it has been established that the Eastern flank of Kogi State has a chequered socio-political challenges and cultural sojourns. In all these, it has become evidently clear that multiple Socio-political factors have restricted the development of the area. A combination of these factors have made the area to lag behind in many areas to meet the educational, health, technological, economic, and infrastructural needs of the people. Unless the snags as identified are tackled, it is difficult to imagine how those needs can be realized in the foreseeable future of the 21st century.
THE WAY FORWARD /RECOMMENDATION
- Strong institution rather than strong leaders, needed fordevelopment of a comprehensive infrastructural and human capacity development agenda. This should be by Igala at home in collaboration with those in diaspora as a blueprint for government buy in, development partners and foundations.
- Fostering socio-cultural unity among the various individuals and communities of Kogi East through the promotion of domestic and international exhibitions, festivals and carnivals of arts and culture, with recommencement of Italo festival and similar festivals.
- Community wide agenda and participation with visionary political leadership
- Clear leadership structure in Igalaland, bearing in mind the constitution and clear laws of the state for the purpose of good intermix of the traditional institution, community members, professional, business and political class.
- Deliberate man hunt for Visionary, inspirational and transformational leaders.
- Creative strategies and uncanny political commitment and will, hardwork, selflessness and effectiveness
- Cultural renaissance
- Improved usage of our language and cultural orientation at homes, include Igala names, amongst the names of our children and wards.
- Education for cultural transformation and language studies
The issues identified in this theme are numerous, but not insurmountable. With concentration, commitment, patriotism and unity of peace, the recommendations, though inexhaustive, can be achieved over time to the delight and happiness of Igala people. In that way we shall reduce the rising level of restiveness and various forms of civil disturbances in the land, and by extension, the state.
Once more, I wish to thank the Igala Association U.S, for giving me the opportunity to carry out this assignment. My appreciation also goes to some individuals that made this visit worthwhile- The President Dr Paul D Ocheje, Chairman LOC Dr John Ojih, the entire LOC. I cannot forget to mention chief (Mrs) Amina Osagie- Omi akele Ata, the Immediate Past President of the association. She has been wonderful over the years. I remain grateful to all of you.
I wish to also appreciate professors Sam Egwu, Usman S. Ogbo and Dr Armstrong Idachaba for their invaluable contributions to this paper.
A KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY DR OMEDE IDRIS, TO IGALA ASSOCIATION, U.S.A, AT BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS ON 3rdSEPTEMBER, 2016 DURING THE 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
NB: Dr. Omede Idris was former President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and immediate-past Commissioner for Health in Kogi State.