Analysis: Why the demand for creation of Okun State is still alive

Analysis: Why the demand for creation of Okun State is still alive

Monday, September 14, 2020 7:34 am

National Assembly

Richard Elesho/ Lokoja

In recent times, the Okun people of Kogi State have reiterated their time honoured request for the creation of Okun State. For many years, attention shifted from the issue. But, just when people thought the matter had died, it bounced back to life like the proverbial cat with nine lives.

Last week, the people exhumed the carcass of their dream from the dump site where it had been consigned and loudly renewed their request for an exclusive State. They also demanded their removal from the North Central Geopolitical zone to the South Western zone.

The Okun is a Yoruba sub-group that presently dominate Kogi West Senatorial zone. The zone is made up of seven Local Government Areas, LGAs. They are Kabba-Bunu, Ijumu, Yagba East, Yagba West, MopAmuro, Lokoja and Kogi LGAs.

The Okun has five dialects namely Iyagba, Ijumu, Owe, Bunu and Oworo. The people derived the Okun nomenclature from their common way of greeting, which means strength or vitality.

They were formerly in the extinct Kabba Province from where they were added to the old Kwara State. In 1991, they along with the Ebira and Igala, their brethren in Kabba Province were brought together to form Kogi State.

The euphoria that welcome the new State however soon faded away and the people resumed their complaint of marginalization by the dominant Igala tribe. For instance, they are unhappy that since the creation of Kogi State nearly three decades ago, no Okun person has been elected Governor.

The Okun also grumble that despite it’s vastly educated human resources, the area lacks commensurate government presence and adequate infrastructure.

In addition, the people hold that since they are Yoruba, they should be allowed to join their kith and kin in the Southwest. They argue further that their current affiliation excludes them from enjoying certain creations like Amotekun along with their tribesmen in the Southwest.

The agitation for Western merger is as old as Nigeria’s independence.

Their complaint found expression in a memorandum the Okun Development Associatuon, ODA, their Apex sociocultural group, addressed to the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, last week.

In the document they wanted a separate state which would be made up of the Okun people and the core Yoruba speaking part of Kwara State .

The memorandum, signed by Ambassador Babatunde Fadumiyo, on behalf of the President of ODA, expressed support for the restructuring of Nigeria to bring about a truly Federal Republic.

The document noted that there should be a boundary adjustment that would bring together, ethnic groups separated from their kit and kin.

It reads in part,

“To ensure fairness and uphold human rights for minority nationalities who have been separated by artificial boundaries from their kith and kin, a referendum shall be conducted.

“This will enable such nationalities to choose which Local Government Area, State and region to
join as long as their present location is
contiguous to the LGA , state or region they want to join.

“The Okun people of Kogi State reaffirm their Yoruba origin. It is incontrovertible that their culture and values are the same as those of Yoruba in the South-West of Nigeria with whom we share territorial contiguity and economic relations.

“We therefore, put forward as our core demand, the readjustment or relocation of Okun people ’s political and land boundary from the North-
Central zone to the South -West .

“In joining the South-West, we demand that
Okunland be incorporated as a state (Okun State), since we have all it takes to be a viable
one.’’ The memorandum demands.

Will their request see the light of the day this time?

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