Thursday, July 24, 2008

KOGI: As Militants take over the Confluence


A Confluence describes the meeting of two or more bodies of water. It usually refers to the point where a tributary joins a more major river, called the main stream, when that major river is also the highest order stream in the drainage basin. While countries like Germany, USA, India, Brazil and Malaysia boast of two or more confluences, Nigeria takes solace in its only confluence at Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, where Niger and Benue Rivers kiss each other in a celestial embrace enveloping into an aquatic splendour. Also, notable confluences like that of the Rhine and the Mosel in Germany, Wenatchee Confluence in Washington, the Sungai Gombak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Triveni Sangam confleunce in Allahabad, India have all been transformed to tourist havens of global relevance, raking in enormous revenue for the coastal states and the central Government alike.
Sadly, the Nigerian case is far disconnected from the foregoing. Except for the miserable Confluence beach hotel in lokoja, which struggles to meet up with local demands, the Kogi confluence is everything but a source of revenue. Several brain-locked administrations in the state have found the confluence to be nothing but mere geographic happenstance and a hindrance to their rabid predilection for implanting absolute fiefdoms. Ideas and strategies of transforming the confluence into a huge foreign exchange earner for the federal allocation-dependent state through the massive exploration of its tourism potentials in collaboration with major international tourist organisations and subtle local content drives have largely remained scarce commodities and unassailable dreams of utopian heights in the state’s corridors of power where its leaders usually stumble into by mere accidents of history.
Same goes for the huge potential of transforming the state (which CBN declared as the 3rd poorest state in Nigeria) into a major global player in fisheries through a strategic cultivation of Public-Private Partnerships to boost massive fish production along the confluence for exportation and local consumption, thereby employing its intimidating army of educated and uneducated citizens who daily wander in the desolate deserts of helplessness and relentless cycle of poverty. Since nature abhors vacuum of any kind, governance imperatives in the state have found a more Mephistophelean yet ludicrous use of the confluence, transforming it into a confluence of blood!
Recent developments in the state, hitherto renowned as a peaceful enclave of a hugely industrious people, have proved bookmakers wrong about Kogi’s determined quest to rival Niger Delta states in the country’s notorious hall of fame where violence, thuggery and wanton destruction are cherished and promoted to high heavens. From the central to the eastern zones of the state, militancy appears to be the reigning fad, a money-spinner recruiting thousands, empowering the strong and daring, disintegrating families, desecrating core societal values as well as decapitating the future.
With the active connivance and facilitation of the political class both within and outside government, Kogi’s confluence of blood records killings, sporadic shootings, communal disturbances and clannish upheavals almost on daily basis. In the mad scramble for power, the political class murdered sleep by equipping thugs loyal to them with sophisticated weapons to use on their opponents. With the electoral contests over and the battle shifting to courtrooms, the political class and their relatives can no longer sleep, as the highly empowered thugs had no option than to turn their bloodthirsty visage on the defenceless citizens and travellers to sustain their now exotic lifestyles. From Idah to Okene, Adavi to Anyigba, Ankpa to Okehi, Ajaokuta to Koton karfe, the story remains the same: violence unlimited and the state’s security apparatus are rendered even more helpless and hopeless what with the availability and affordability of charms against bullet and knife penetrations to these thugs. Some of these charms go for as low as N200 in certain parts of the state and are even hawked by women!
The unenviable situation in which security agencies find themselves in Kogi state is even made worse by the tacit involvement of the state government or the imprimatur of its officials in every bloodbath on the confluence. The recent edition of the annual Italo festival, a momentous gathering of all Igalas at Anyigba which ended on a tumultuous note as a result of the sporadic shootings and wanton destruction of lives and property that greeted the decision to bar ex-Gov. Abubakar Audu and his band of militants from entering the venue of the festival by militants and forces loyal to the State Governor, Alh Ibrahim Idris, the scramble for Ebira leadership between Senator Mohammed Ohiare and the state Deputy Governor, Philip Salawu, the Government’s ill-advised creation and imposition of the Ohi chieftaincy tools in Ebira land and the widely condemned swearing-in of an occultist and thug as the caretaker chairman of Okene LGA by the Governor are all pointers to the present government’s conception of governance on the confluence. In addition to this weird concept is a governance style that empowers thugs and militants through choice contract awards and sensitive appointments as Commissioners, Special Assistants/Advisers, LG Chairmen and Board Members. Thus, militants now preponderate Kogi’s landscape both from within and outside the Lugard House.
The attendant effects are all obvious for the discerning mind. The health sector is in tatters; hospitals are being refurbished yet they struggle for prominence with local cemeteries, Health workers all resume one industrial action to another, billions are budgeted for road rehabilitation and Lokoja-Ganaja road remains an open sour that must be dressed every rainy season. Education remains an expensive luxury as thousands are being assisted into militancy at early ages. Infrastructures are decaying, N2 billion market is being constructed along a major road in Lokoja and Ajaokuta bridge remains endangered as high tension cables from Geregu power station are laid bare on the bridge. N53 billion budget is approved and N42 billion goes for recurrent expenditure!     
For a state whose current caretaker government feverishly awaits a Court of Appeal judgement to validate its electoral heist and the opposition prepares for a rerun of the elections, hope for a brighter tomorrow cannot but be a costly luxury.

Atâyi Babs
atayibabs@yahoo.com 2008 ©
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