“There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right”. _Martin Luther King, Jr._
I had an inevitable delay arriving the NYSC Camp at Yikpata Youth Camp, Old Kwara State, in October 1990. So, I had to join the second batch in April 1991.
After the orientation exercise, I was posted to Government Girls Day Secondary School, Otutu, Okene. After some weeks, owing to accommodation challenges at Eboghogho, where the School Vice Principal, an Okene indigene, had graciously kept me, I had to be redeployed to Okene Secondary School on the road to Ajaokuta.
In September 1991, Kogi state was carved out of the Old Kwara State. That was how I automatically became part of the pioneer set of corpers in the new state. Passing out parade was conducted in Lokoja, the capital of the new state, in April 1992.
Since that time, I had developed a strong bond with Kogi State and have followed developments therein with rapt attention.
Until the ubiquity of insecurity made it precarious travelling by road anywhere in Nigeria, one of my best pastimes had been the fun of criss-crossing Nigeria by road.
I would board a Big Joe luxury van from Aduwawa in Benin City and travel across such towns as Ekpoma, Okpella, Agbede, Auchi, Okene, Lokoja, Koton Karfe, Abaji, and Gwagwalada.
I would buy some CDs at the Big Joe Park and hand them over to our driver. After awhile, the youngsters in the vehicle could say they’ve obliged me enough of old school music and give their own Davido or Wande Coal to the driver.
We would stop from time to time to stretch our legs, buy stuffs, wee and proceed. Auchi had the tastiest groundnuts under heaven. I never missed it on any journey. Lokoja was the favourite spot for roasted fish. Abaji had the best of donkwa and kulikuli.
That was then. Times have changed. Colleagues have been kidnapped on that road. Our friend, retired Director of DSS, Barrister Mike Ejiofor, told a chilling story of his abduction on TV on that road and that broke the back of whatever resistance I had left against flying on the Benin-Abuja route, which I ply often.
I won’t dare hit the road to Abuja now on the promise of a year’s salary. I have joined the flying elites with no hope in sight of returning to my old pastime!
But, leaving road travel across Kogi State is not without its sunny side. It has relieved me of the pains and disappointment of seeing the stagnation that is the lot of the people of the state from Okene to Ogaminana, Otite to Ayingba, Lokoja to Koton Karfe, Obajana to Kabba.
Nothing has changed in Kogi. The state capital is a glorified local government headquarters. In Okene, from whence came the incumbent governor, the star attraction remains the palatial residence of that grand aristocrat, Ado Ibrahim, now the paramount monarch of Ebiraland, who was a board room guru when I was a corper. No running water, no good roads. Nothing to show off! Worse still, politically-induced insecurity has now joined the mix.
It is against this background I’m interested in who becomes the next governor of Kogi State via the 11th November 2023 gubernatorial election.
Since 1999, like most Nigerians, my fixation regarding the much-expected Nigerian breakthrough has been who becomes our president. After much disappointments, I ventured into the presidential race in 2018 and 2023 as an aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. As God keeps us alive, the dream will someday morph into reality.
But with the modest difference a few governors have made in their states, it has dawned on me the need to pay as much attention we devote to who becomes president to who becomes governor hither and thither.
Examples of governors who have impressed me lately are Professor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Barrister Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, and Engineer Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State. In the not-so-recent past, the duo of Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwumi Ambode – both of Lagos State – were remarkably exemplary.
If we can have 18 performing governors out of the 36 at any given time, the sum total of their performance will rebound to a positive change across Nigeria.
Yes, China is the second largest economy in the world today, following the reforms embarked upon by Deng Xiaoping in 1978.
Deng said abinitio, “Some provinces will get rich first”. He understood that in a continental-size China, some sub-nationals will record economic transformation faster than others. That happened to be the provinces along the coastal areas who took advantage of the opening-up policy of Deng to set up Free Trade Zones for the export market.
But it wasn’t just proximity to the coast that did the miracle for the provinces that got rich first. Far more decisive was the quality of provincial leadership. Leadership makes the difference anytime and anywhere. There was Huaxi village in Jiangsu Province where the local government dexterously promoted enterprises that turned every member of the village to a millionaire. Huaxi is known as the China’s richest village. In terms of millionaires, it ranks only next to Madhapar village in the Kutch District of Gujarat State in India.
I have done my due diligence on the gubernatorial candidates lined up by INEC for the 11th November 2023 Kogi gubernatorial election and came to the conclusion that Senator Dino Melaye is the best because he has a Dino Policy Agenda for a holistic transformation of Kogi State that isn’t just in his policy papers, but in his head and mouth. Wake him up to discuss his plans for Kogi and he will not need to consult any document, though he has that, to articulate it brilliantly.
I had engaged him and can authoritatively depose to his being unparalleled. And I’m not surprised. He’s the most experienced of the candidates in terms of public service. Twice, he had been elected to serve in the Senate, once he had been elected to the House of Representatives. In terms of education, he parades a string of degrees ranging from social sciences to law and his elocution and erudition attest to the fact that the universities he passed through had also passed through him.
In terms of social justice, it’s only fair the Yorubaland part of Kogi State where Dino hails from be allowed to produce the governor this time, Igalaland and Ebiraland, the two other legs of the Kogi tripod having had their shots in full.
Finally, Dino bonds well with the group most cheated by the misrule of those who have been privileged to be at helms of governance at various levels over the years: our youths.
Anywhere he goes, the youths are ecstatic. Importantly, his plan is copiously designed to give them quality education, empower them through skills’ acquisition in sync with a digital age, and mobilise them as the arrowhead of the fight against insecurity. Dino needs to do more in public communication focused on his policy agenda.
Dino’s theatrics, which some erroneously exaggerate into a disadvantage, is a language that the youths understand. Exhibiting dramatic arts has never been a drawback to governing well.
President Ronald Reagan of the United States (1981 – 1989) was a Hollywood actor. He was arguably the most celebrated Republican president of the 20th century. Arnold Schwarzenegger was another Republican icon and Hollywood star who governed the State of California (2003 – 2011) with uncommon dexterity.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, presently duelling with Russia with all the imprimatur of a war-tested General, was a comedian.
It’s not the hood that makes the monk. The cap fits Dino.
— Olufunmilade is a political scientist and professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies.
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