The history of Nigeria cannot be completed without Lokoja, the capital town of the present Kogi State. Lokoja was the first administrative capital of what we have today as the modern-day Nigeria. The name Nigeria was coined in Lokoja by Flora Shaw, a future wife of Lord Luggard then.
With the place of Lokoja in the political and economic evolution of Nigeria, Kogi State as we know it today since its creation out of the old Kwara State by the Ibrahim Babangida’s administration, should be one of the leading and economically viable states in Nigeria. Regrettably, Kogi State is one of the most backward states in the country due to bad political and economic managers despite her richness in Agricultural, Tourism and other natural resources. It is safe to say that at the Late former Governor of the State, Prince Abubakar Audu who by providence was the first Civilian Governor of the State and would have returned for the third time as Governor on January 27th, 2016 started what could have been described as Kogi’s march to greatness with many infrastructural projects during his first but short-lived tenancy at the Luggard House between January 1991 and November 1992 when the Abacha coup truncated that trajectory. Audu established a love mark with the people of the state during his first coming.
The people voted for him again at the return of civil rule in 1999 and he again had landmark achievements across sectors covering, education, health, Public works and roads which he diligently pursued till he left office in 2003 not without allegations of corruption and his dates with EFCC and the courts. Kogi had a very serious and tragic reversal of fortune in its developmental strides in the intervening period between 2003 till date, a period of 12years under two People’s Democratic Party governments. Governance and service delivery to the people reached its highest low under the outgoing leadership of Capt Idris Wada. A state that should be an oasis of prosperity is today scavenging to run basic social services with months of unpaid salaries to workers, mounting refuse in Lokoja, Okene and major towns, dysfunctional civil service, shambolic security with criminals and non-state actors having free reign among others.
Even with the grinding state of despair a new season is about to emerge out of the ashes of hopelessness of over a decade in Kogi with the young, suave, enterprising and energetic newly elected Governor, Yahaya Bello who will mount the saddle from January 27th, 2016 to begin to stir the ship of the badly managed state to a safe habour of prosperity. The emergence of the Governor-Elect as the new kid on the block is divine. It is only a story which only God could have made possible. The very sad and unfortunate demise of Prince Audu almost at the tale end of a very significant election threw up Bello as the inheritor of the All Progressive Congress’s almost-decided mandate. His emergence to complete the electoral process which had been kick-started by the Audu/Faleke Ticket has thrown up some dust which is yet to settle within the APC and Kogi’s political firmament.
Now is the time for Bello to summon his intellect and wise counsel to manage politics and policy in such a way that the impoverished people of Kogi will be the ultimate winners. Bello must reach out to all power and constituency holders within and outside Kogi State with interest in the state to chat a new path of social, economic and political progress for the state. It is now time to turn the state’s potential to reality. It should never be said of Kogi again that a state that has its capital as the first Administrative capital of Nigeria is still a potential 100 years after. As a successful entrepreneur himself, Bello who will become governor in few days from now must seek creative ways to get the state and the people to work. This is an unusual time to be a leader in Nigeria, least of all a state governor in a State like Kogi. It is even more challenging in a period of very low oil revenue and the concomitant very low allocation from Federal revenue receipts to the 3 tiers of government.
Bello has a date with destiny and he will be holding the banners for members of his generation not only in Kogi State but across Nigeria and everywhere else in the world. He cannot afford to disappoint the under 40s and those of his age who will from now look up to him as an example of a young man in leadership. If he succeeds he will be a worthy example for those pushing the idea of the younger generation in leadership positions. If he failed as a leader, God forbids, he will be a monument of disgrace. Bello has all it takes to deliver and build a prosperous Kogi. Having succeeded in private business, he will be expected to use the same energy and principles that made him successful in business to governance.
The good news is Kogi is rich in human and material resources and the state is a green state waiting for a transformational leader to harness it for shared prosperity. Bello must know that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Like Abraham Lincoln, he asked for the crown when he ran a very innovative campaign to secure the ticket of the APC during the Primary election where he polled 703 votes to become a first runner up to the late Audu who polled 1,109 votes. Like Abraham Lincoln asked Americans to give him the crown and he will bear the uneasiness. Like the great American leader who till date is one of the most successful Presidents of the United State, Bello asked Kogi people through his campaign for party nomination and eventual completion of the election to give him the crown. In bearing the uneasiness, Bello should seek out the best of Kogi people at home and abroad who will work with him to make a new Kogi where the state will no longer need to rely on monthly Federal Allocation possible. The most capitalized and most profitable companies in the world that are richer than the whole of Africa in revenues are ideas and innovation companies. Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Facebook, Ali Baba and other Tech companies are run on good thinking. Good and creative thinking can make Kogi create a new economy around Agriculture across the value chain from produce to processing and marketing for local and international market. Agriculture and Solid Minerals which Kogi has in abundance will put thousands of Kogi youths to work. Opening up the state with critical infrastructure will bring more Dangotes into the state.
Geographically, Kogi is the only state in Nigeria that has a very good fortune of sharing border with 10 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital. The state can benefit from the economy of proximity with the states it shares border with by serving them with Agricultural produce. As a confluence State, good thinking will create a huge tourism industry in the state. Revenue from Oil will only contribute a paltry 6% to the 2016 budget of the United Arab Emirates whereas Tourism and commerce will contribute more than 50%. That is the power of thinking and vision. This is possible too in Kogi and Bello has the intellect, the aptitude, the ingenuity, the presence of mind , the maturity, the brinkmanship that can make all the forces in Kogi across religious, political, ethnic and sub-ethnic divides yield the kind of salubrious atmosphere that will engender socio-economic development and sustainable growth. Bello has no time to waste and he must hit the ground running to execute programmes and blue-prints that will be the building blocks for the total transformation of Kogi.
The purpose of government is to make life good for the citizens and the joy of a leader is to see his/her people happy through provision of amenities and economic opportunities that will make the people have life and live it more abundantly.
This is a generational challenge. Yahaya Bello must make it count for his generation.
Afolabi, a communications consultant, wrote from Lagos.