For those who may not be quite familiar with Kogi state, here is a refresher. The state was created in 1991, comprising twenty-one (21) local governments and Lokoja as its capital city.

The name Kogi means river in Hausa language after the two iconic rivers Niger and Benue that traversed the state and indeed Northern Nigeria. Kogi State is strategically sandwiched between the Southern and Northern parts of the country. It shares boundaries with about seven states namely; Ekiti, Kwara, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Benue, Nasarawa and the FCT. Its mantra is the Confluence State which metaphorically allude to the meeting point of both geographical and cultural (Northern and Southern) divides. Kogi could thus be likened to a melting point or microcosm of Nigeria.

A tapestry of diversity in terms of culture, tradition and faith, giving it a quilt like outlook.
Lokoja, the state capital was where the history and evolution of modern Nigeria started. It was the site a British explorer named William Balfour Baikie established as an “expedition camp” in 1857 as he explored the river. Years later the Royal Niger Company (1879-1900), found it attractive in facilitating trading along the rivers.
It eventually became the administrative base/ capital of the British Northern Protectorate as proclaimed by Lord F. Lugard on 1st January, 1900. In 1914 the Southern and Northern Protectorates were amalgamated into one political entity called Nigeria. A name coined by Flora Shaw the wife of Lugard, in 1902 after the River Niger that incidentally connects the hitherto independent Regions that eventually made up today’s Nigeria.

Missionary activities soon followed in Lokoja area, with the first school in the North established in 1866 under Bishop A. Crowther. The Protectorate’s headquarter gave way to Zungeru (Niger State) and Kaduna (Kaduna State) as successive capitals. While Kaduna served as political capital the town of Wusasa-Zaria became the center of evangelical activities with the second missionary school in the North established in 1926.

Missionary activities in the Lokoja area exposed the then major inhabitants namely; the Igala, Egbira, Kakanda, Oworo-Okuns, Nupe and Hausa etc to early western education, which produced great scholars, technocrats, professionals, clerics, military officers and entrepreneurs.
“Mayoralty” (Mai Gari, Magajin Gari) as a leadership form/model, was also first introduced in Lokoja, when the Colonial Administration appointed a person of Hausa extraction as the mayor (Mai Gari) of Lokoja.

The Maigari position was not a hereditary one, as such individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds such as the Hausa, Nupe, Kanuri etc have occupied it. One of the famous Mai Gari being Mal. Bukar from the Borno region.

On the not so positive side, Lokoja has the unenviable record of housing a pantheon of more than seven deposed Northern emirs/chiefs; royal fathers who lost the favours of the Colonial Administration. They include Alu Maisango (Kano), Aliyu Dan Sidi (Zazzau), Muhammadu Aliyu (Gwandu), and Abubakar Dan Abubakar (Gumel). The great Worrior Queen Amina of Zazzau has her resting place arguably at Ida still in the Kogi area after a failed military expedition.

The testament of Lokoja and, indeed, the Kogi confluence region’s rich history, was the production of top class and highly patriotic citizens who served both the defunct Northern Region and the nation meritoriously In no particular order, they include Chief Awoniyi, who was Sardauna’s Private Secretary. Abdulrahman Okene a Cabinet Minister, Isa Koto, Oheiri, Achimugu, Adukwu G, Aliyu Ogbaje, Ado Ibrahim, Sani Omolori, Sunday Danian, Ahmadu Ali, Stephen Achema, Abdullahi Ibrahim, Salihu Ibrahim, Jibrin Usman, Ibrahim Ogohi, Ben Ekele, A.T.Ahmed, Abubakar Audu, Idacheba, Okpanachi S. etc. The successor Wusasa added notable men like Gen.Gowon, R.B. Dikko, I.Audu and the Beikies and Millers in tow.

It is this curious pedigree that makes Kogi State and its politics of great interest to the average Northerner and indeed Nigerian. Unfortunately in contemporary terms Kogi punches below its weight. Outside the era of late Governor Abubakar Audu, (1992-1993) and (1999-2003), Kogi State’s developmental strides left much to be desired, especially given its huge human and natural resource endowments.

Late Abubakar pioneered or was among the pioneers that started the establishment of state-owned Universities in the North. He established the Kogi State University, Ayingba.He later established a State Polytechnic and built the 5-star Confluence Hotel. Other developments included 1,500 housing units, TV and FM stations, among others. These feats have become too challenging to replicate or built upon by successive governors like Idris (2008-2012), Ichala Wada (2012-206), and Yahaya Bello Adoza (2016-2025).

The trio of Audu, Idris, and Wada are of Igala extraction indicative of the ethnic group’s dominance in the state.
Democracy they say, is a game of numbers or rather a tyranny of numbers. In Kogi, like anywhere else in Africa, the numbers are embedded with ethnic and religious enclaves. The Igala commanding over 58% of Kogi population is dominant in 9 out of the 21 local councils followed by Igbira (Tao and Koto) 5 and Okun 4, the remaining three shared with other ethinities in varying proportion.

The two major faiths Islam and Christianity are almost split in the middle with the balance in favour of the Muslim group. The Igala inherently called the political shots in the state until Providence truncated the chain when Abubakar, the presumed winner of the 2016 elections, returned to his Creator. Political power thus shifted to the Igbira through Yahaya Bello Adoza. Divine hands, one would say.It however became a rough ride for him as the ghosts of competing ethno-religious interests and poor handling of same kept haunting the Administration throughout.

One would ordinarily expect that after a checkered two four-year tenure Yahaya would have taken a well-deserved rest and made peace with his aggrieved constituents. But no, he allegedly wangled the last election (the case in Court) to pave the way for his protege, a tribe’s man in the person of Ahmed Usman Ododo.

The Igala and Okun were livid as they knew the voting pattern and/or strength in the State, like many others, could not warrant the victory. Politics in Nigeria is an ethno-religious phenomenon as a matter of fact. So it was believed that there was no way the Igbira vote could have elected Ododo governor. It was felt that barefaced manipulation using incumbency power by Bello did it.

The consequent post-election dust is yet to settle, setting the stage for political instability and concomitant stagnation. Matters become even more curious if some of the new Governor’s alleged utterances are taken into account, such as the contemplated creation of the “Office of Immediate Past Governor” to be domiciled in the Governor’s Office as well as the open declaration that former Governor Bello shall have the final say in the governance of the state. This is disingenuous and smacks of power intoxication. Governor Ododo and former governor Yahaya should do well to realise that power is transient. And the people’s power which lies in numbers shall eventually prevail no matter what. So the brazen attempt to appropriate power through alleged “electoral ambush” and manipulation in Kogi needs to be re-assessed.

Bello and Ododo should tow the path of political collaboration over cutthroat competition to save the state from socioeconomic retardation. In environments where political weightings vary, only concensus building and enlightenment could facilitate sustainable shifts, particularly from majority to minority groups.

To perpetually keep power against the will of the majority is one of the hardest political endeavours. Contemporary history is clear on that.The minority white Boer regime in South Africa could not hold the Black majority at bay beyond a certain point, despite its enormous economic and state prowess. The French could not keep down Algeria by force. America had to flee Afghanistan after about two decades of military operation to beat the majority Afgans into the liberal political line. And many more examples around the globe abound. In politics numbers don’t respect sentiments especially under nascent and wobbly democratic dispensations as found in Nigeria and indeed most of the less developed countries (LDCs) of the world.

Bello shall be saluted for the love of his people but this love should not be to the detriment of the state. Yahaya Bello’s sentiments/posture could be less problematic if he were to belong to the majority ethnic Kanuri in Borno or Tiv group in Benue state. The two groups (Tiv and Kanuri) command two senatorial districts out of three in their states and as such can “comfortably” shut out the third zone from the executive political space. The Idoma and the Babur experiences in the two states attest to this. By extension even the Zuru in Kebbi, Egong in Nasarawa, Fulani in Taraba face similar challenges . Challenges of marginalisation born out of poor voter-education and enlightenment largely prevails. The ability to choose freely is still highly encumbered by ethinity and religion. The government should make massive political education a greater constitutional issue to save democracy.

Providence may have smiled at Yahaya Bello’s Igbira group but it would require tact to sustain it.The “grah-grah” strategy will only hurt the state more. He would do well to save Kogi the needless political suffocation and economic stagnation that come with a “garrison ” or “do or die” politics.

Be that as it may, it behoves the Igala, the Tiv, the Kanuri of Kogi, Benue and Borno respectively to cultivate the political habit of being their brothers keeper. As minorities too, in national context, they should engage with the smaller groups in their enclaves with a view to working out some form of political equity including access to the governorship seat.This shall create greater sense of belonging and also reduce unnecessary acrimony.

It’s a win- win move that strengthen patriotism and also engender rapid development of the polity.
A. G. Abubakar


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