PUTTING KOGI ON THE WORLD MAP BY VICTOR WALSH OLUWAFEMI

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Evidentially speaking, Kogi State has no business in being classified as one of the poor, beggarly states that dots the political landscape of Nigeria, because of its enormous natural and human resources. But again, taking a cue from the Holy writ, “where there is no vision, the people perish”.

The coming of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as Governor of Kogi State should mark a departure from the former situation of an analogue, backward, atavistic and parochial leadership we had in the past. Yahaya, has a unique opportunity to write his name in gold, if only he will adopt a holistic approach to governance that saw Singapore, a backwater economy evolving into a compelling, productive economy that has commanded the respect and attention of the rest of the world.

Fortunately enough, Kogi state, shares a lot of commonalities with our case study Singapore in terms of environmental impact assessment, especially, the marine nature of the two political economies. A cursory look at the historical and political evolution of Kogi state, will justify this thesis of a state in search of relevance and economic emancipation. Kogi is in the north central zone of Nigeria, popularly called the confluence state; due to the fact that the two major rivers in Nigeria Niger and Benue meet there.

Kogi State comprises the Igala, Ebira, Kabba, Yoruba and Kogi divisions of the former Kabba Province. The state was carved out of Benue and kwara state on August 27, 1991 by the Federal Military Government. There are three main ethnic groups and languages in Kogi State; Igala, Ebira and Okun with other minorities like Bassa, Nupe, Gwari, Kakanda, Oworo, Ogori-Magongo and the Eggon minorities.

From the foregoing the history of Nigeria, will not be complete without the mention of Kogi, because of its pivotal role in the emergence of modern Nigeria after Calabar, Lokoja headquarters of kogi was the capital of Nigeria. The British colonial administration were enamored by its centrality, its strategic location, economic potentials and other indices that are capable of putting the state once again on world map.

By virtue of its geography and natural endowment, Kogi offers a unique attraction as a foremost tourist destination and a cultural Eldorado with its unique tourist and historical sites. These attractions include, breathtaking mountainous observation posts overlooking the meeting point of Rivers Niger and Benue .In addition, Mount Patti where Lord Lugard the foremost colonial administrator stayed mostly throughout his sojourn in Nigeria is preserved till today; including the tombstone of the foremost British administrator.

With the vast deposit of Iron ore, Coal and other minerals, it is not by chance that the state is hosting the largest Iron and steel project South of Sahara and a giant cement factory in Obajana-Kogi owned by the most successful entrepreneur in Africa, Dangote.

Kogi today, is an emergent power in the Middle –Belt of Nigeria with its array of first class intellectuals. It has just produced the first female law Professor in the State; Professor, Mrs Alemika, Department of law and Jurisprudence, University of Jos. Professor Obasi, was world’s Chief metrologist in the UN for over 25 years. The list is endless; Professors Olu Obafemi, Efurosibina Adegbija(late) – an international linguist, Ade Obayemi(late) a celebrated professor of archeology, Idachaba an agronomist and many others. Aside academia, we also have Shola Ameobi of Newcastle Football Team, prolific and cerebral Pius Adesanmi a professor of literature in the US, Victor Oladokun a TV personality in Britain, Nollywood Star Mercy Johnson and many more.

It is therefore an aberration for a state with such limitless natural and human resources to join the queue of beggarly states that depends on monthly handouts otherwise referred to as Federal Allocation from Abuja to run their various states. With the change mantra of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Kogi, should take a lead by running creative government that is ready and prepared to think outside the box. The state must be innovative enough to generate enough Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to drive its developmental goals and programmes.

Kogi State under the leadership of Governor, Yahaya Bello should as a matter of urgency come up with an economic road-map or a new development plan for the state; an economic architecture in the same class as the Eko city project. It must be an ambitious or bold plan that will attract the attention of potential investors from every nook and crannies of our world. Where there are thinkers, no project is too ambitions or too bold.

This writer recalled an encounter I once had with a former governor of the state (name withheld). As a much travelled citizen of Kogi, with visible presence and business in Dubai, South-Africa, Kenya and the US, I introduced some of my business associates who were willing to invest over N400 million into agriculture and hospitality industry but was frustrated by bureaucracy and red tapism, the rest is now history. The gospel truth is that, there are many investors out there willing to invest but not into an economic or political wilderness; but in an investor friendly environment which operates within the confines of internationally accepted best practices with the necessary legal framework.

Who says we cannot have our Marina, Downtown with the biggest Children hospital in Africa, a Disneyland, a mega Park with infrastructure to accommodate the heavy traffic that plies the Eastern and Abuja road like Dubai, with all the paraphernalia of a modern city: with 24-hours power supply, a state of art hospital, shopping centers adorned with the best Round–About, banking facilities, casinos, theatres, museums, hotels, eateries that would compel tourists, investors to queue for visas to come to Nigeria?

 With the strategic location of Kogi state, it may decide to buy a franchise to set up a Disneyland project that will set the standard in the entertainment sector and benchmark a new phase in economic and financial engineering for the state and the entire country.

Kogi state and Nigeria is earnestly waiting for a Confluence Fountain, a multi-purpose centre, symbol of our history and unity as a people. It will be like a mega or multi-purpose centre that offers the attractions that will make tourists to willingly spend their Dollars, Pounds, Euro and Yuan.

As a nation, we cannot afford to continue to do things the same way and expect to get a different result, it is evident borrowing from ICT language, it is “garbage in garbage out”. Kogi as a struggling state cannot afford the number of political aides, Special advisers, personal assistants and other political appointees without doing further collateral damage to its fragile and weak economy. What we require at this point in time is a “boutique” approach to governance. That is a compact, mobile, cerebral, digital team that will assist the governor in achieving his goals and aspirations for the state.

In conclusion, to whom much is given, much is expected. As the youngest and probably most exposed governor in the Middle Belt region, Gov. Bello should take a lead in setting up a Middle Belt Development Company in the same line with the Arewa Investment Company set up by the late Sardauna of Sokoto. There are many benefits derivable from such a regional body; ranging from Economic, Political, Social and other developmental benefits.

Governor Bello can mobilize his other brother governors within the region to subscribe to this idea by calling for an Annual Middle Belt Economic Conference to showcase the tourism, agricultural, and natural resources of the region with the intention of attracting potential investors and tourists to the area. The beauty of it all is that Lokoja would retain the headquarters of the regional body being the first capital of Nigeria.

For Kogi, it will be a win-win situation.

Victor Walsh Oluwafemi is the President of the People of the Confluence State in Diaspora. It is a consortium of Kogi citizens living in North America and Nigeria networking on ideas towards development of Kogi State. He is also Executive Director, Africa Development Studies Centre, Abuja.

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