Barrister Henry Ojuola is an erudite schooler who has been a serial agitator both in court rooms and the hallow chamber of Kogi State House of Assembly where he served two terms representing Yagba East constituency. A running mate with Late Prince Abubarka Audu under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In this interview, he makes case for Okun nation to emerge at the Lugard House.
What is your assessment of the current administration in the state in the last seven years?
It has been very interesting and eventful. The first tenure of the Governor was characterized by a lot of political and bureaucratic issues which resulted to dismal performance. The circumstance of Governor Yahaya Bello’s emergence, you will recall brought about a lot of intra party, inter party and bureaucratic crises and even sabotage. Infact the government was almost grounded if not for the Governor’s capacity, a number of his programs and policies were outrightly sabotaged including the popular civil servants screening which was done several times without result; but now, his second term has been a different ball game with relative peace and harmony and landmark achievements scattered all over the political landscape of the state. I sincerely think that Governor Yahaya Bello deserves our commendation particularly for enlisting the state among the committee of oil producing states enjoying thirteen percent derivation fund from the federal account. This is quite an achievement for the rapid socio economic development of the state.
How would you described the pattern of distribution of infrastructure and political patronage in the state in last seven years?
I think we have never had it so good when it comes to the issue of equity, fairness and justice in the appropriation of the resources and sharing of political offices. For the first time, we had a governor who rose above ethnic sentiment in the appointment of his cabinet members, considering the most important office which is Chief of staff to somebody from another ethnic group, this has never happened. For instance too, my local government (Yagba East) root home with two important executive positions. The relative peace in the state can be largely attributed to his achievement because no room for agitations from ethnic groups that constitute the state. He has been fair in his appointment.
Question (Cuts in):
You said the relative peace enjoyed in the state can be largely attributed to the fair, just and equitable distribution of resources and appointment by the current administration, how has it been in the past?
The truth is that in the past, there was this domineering posture by a particular ethnic group which tend to take majority patronage in virtually every sphere. For this reason, the state has not been popularly integrated. The unity and cohesion that would have brought about accelerated development in the state had been marred by this factor. Even when the agitations are not pronounced, the bitterness are boldly expressed by other ethnic group in the state. Now it is the consequence of that dominance that led to the multi dimensional problems encountered during the first tenure of Governor Yahaya Bello. Power shifted by divine intervention and not by deliberate arrangement and whether you believe it or not, the wounds are still being nursed till date.
So what is your take on the issue of power shift as been clamoured for in some parts of Kogi State?
I think as a people, the time has come for us to learn from history. We should try as much as possible to learn from the event of 2015 that shifted power divinely to another senatorial district. Now imagine that a particular district govern the state at a stretch for almost seventeen years and was still bent on succeeding itself if not for divine intervention. Now it will be an error of judgement for the beneficiary of the shift to now insist on repeating the same mistake of the past. The implication if you ask me is that, they are merely setting a time bomb that would explode in a matter of time because history can repeat itself. So I think for us to harness the full potential of the state, we need to allow the issue of power rotation to evolve after each district have taken their turn for two terms. If we fail to achieve this lofty idea, then we are preparing room for political instability and vendetta in governance in future. So if you ask me, as a mark of our continued peaceful co existence in the state, I want to strongly advocate that all the political parties in the state should conceed the next governorship to Western Senatorial District of the state.
Since politics is a game of number and the Western Senatorial District is believed to be in the minority; looking at the political equation of the state, how do you think this is visible?
This is why we are advocating for power rotation among the three Senatorial districts after eight years each. The politics of number has done so much damage to the state and the consequences would continue to materialize if we fail to correct this abnormality now. Each district has always struggled to maximize opportunities because of fear of the unknown. So leadership is not anchored on fairness, equity and justice but on selfish ethnic agenda. But as soon as we adopt civilized method in our approach leadership in Kogi state, governance will be anchored on the interest of the generality of the people and not on selfish ethnic consideration. Kogi state is highly blessed with abundant human and natural resources and it would take a united people with common interest to harness them for the accelerated socio economic development of the state.
This “round table” talk on power rotation, is it ever visible considering the popular saying that power is not served in the restaurant?
I quite agree with you that politics is not a tea party and neither is power possessed on a platter of gold, but what we are saying generally here is that we have lessons to learn from history and that if power is really meant to promote the well being of the generality of the people, then we should be matured and civilized in the way we go about it. Now imagine the Eastern senatorial districts that held power for almost seventeen years is already complaining of marginalisation and deprivation after only eight years of losing power. From their perspective, it would be suicidal for the central to entrench themselves in power because whether they like it or not, power will exit from them one day and people will begin to pay the price. What we are advocating now is that we should thread carefully and allow reason to prevail by ensuring that we take the right step and decision now so that power is not sought as a means of vengeance. What we need at this period is peace, unity and harmony that will help us to maximize the great natural endowment and abundant human resources that God has blessed us with in the state. If we fail to achieve this in this coming election, and power is retained by the Central or returned to the East, then we should be prepared for division in term of interest and political ideology.