6th August 2019
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON
The Vice President,
Federal Republic of Nigeria,
SAVE OUR SOUL
REQUEST FOR URGENT INTERVENTION IN THE GOVERNANCE AND SECURITY OF LIVES AND PROPERTY IN KOGI STATE
His Excellency may kindly recall the many times elders and groups from Kogi State have appealed for audience and itemized the problems of the state and certain serious issues that portend a problem and the potential demise of the state and a problem for Nigeria.
His Excellency on occasions had been magnanimous to afford an appointment and receive us. In those meetings, you listened carefully and promised to intervene but charged us to maintain peace and work with the government of the day where possible. We will also draw your esteemed attention to the fact that we had presented our grievances before two previous Reconciliation Committees set up by the National Secretariat of the APC.
Our most recent visit in the run up to the presidential elections revealed the pain and sorrow and complete dissimulation of Kogi state. The broad based reports showed a failing state that is under siege and a Federal Government at the risk of losing the state in elections because of the dire problems in the state. When a people are under siege or attack, it is the time for their leaders to step up to defend and protect them. But when the imposed leaders are the ones who lay siege or attack the people, where will defence, protection or help come from?
This is the story of Kogi today. The affliction the state is suffering is from the duo of the state governor, Governor Yahaya Bello, and his Chief of Staff who doubles as his Deputy Governor and many times the Defacto Governor whose name is Edward Onoja.
Their joint reign of terror and oppression has left the state and the people at their worst. They are completely weakened and beaten down dying under the weight of poverty and lack, and they are also fearful for their lives or even expressing themselves. It will appear that those in charge of Kogi State presently are merchants of death, killing people by either impoverishing them or violently silencing them. Anyone who is perceived not to be in their support dares not cross boundary lines into Kogi State or risk being violently killed. There are so many cases and examples that it will take too much time to itemize in this letter. Thuggery, banditry, violence and killings have become normal in Kogi State. And they are perpetrated by officials of the State Govt.
Citizens of Kogi outside Kogi State don’t fare better. They are under constant threat from the State government and their militias and violent gangs and thugs. They are also becoming poorer because of the unbearable poverty in the state because they constantly receive SOS messages daily for help or death from back home.
How is Kogi Today?
Depending on the source, civil servants have not been paid any salary ranging from 39 months to 6 months depending on factors. In the entire time Bello has been governor, there have been no full payment of salaries, yet Kogi under Bello has received favor from the Presidency and CBN and accessed bailouts given for the sole purpose of paying civil servants. Many civil servants and pensioners have died under the guise of screening waiting in endless lines or traveling on bad roads for the never ending exercise that has never concluded or led to salaries being paid. Others were kidnapped in the process, and even died in hands of kidnappers.
There are children who have been orphaned because of the death of both parents because of salary issue. Many committed suicide at the birth of their children or at the pain of the loss of their children to sickness when they could not afford hospital bills. The number of salary related suicides is unprecedented and still rising. Kogi is the suicide capital of Nigeria today.
We notice that the Federal Authorities had released over 30 billion naira to Governor Bello to pay some staff four month salary out of the 6-39months salary debt being owed by the State Government. While conceding that these recent bail-out had assisted some of the state workers, we are surprised that even if this bail-out was a gift, one had expected the Federal Authorities to have demanded to know what the earlier bail-outs were used for, most especially as this bail-out was released to a non-performing governor in the month of Party Primaries.
The resistance suffered during the presidential campaign was purely a fear of endorsement and assurance of second term for Yahaya Bello by the Presidency and APC, not a lack of love or appreciation for President Buhari, and your administration and what you have done for this country. We must inform you that the people of Kogi State feel left out of the Presidency’s kind attention to citizen problems across the states. Not for appointment or project or programs reason but solely because of a silence in the face of how the state government continues to inflict poverty pain and death on Kogites, who are Nigerians too.
Your Excellency, may we remind you of our cries when we met in January and you charged us to work how we can to secure presidential and other electoral victories and return after to address the issues of governance in the state. Your Excellency, this is a critical time for that intervention. The center is not holding and things on ground are promising to get worse. Sir, if you do not intervene now and assist Kogi to navigate toward the right leadership for the state, too many lives will be lost, the state which is currently comatose will finally die and the Federal Government will have failed the people and residents of Kogi. Your history and role in dousing tension and bringing peace across the country, in the Niger Delta, and North like Benue, Plateau and others in the face of militants and herdsmen crisis is much appreciated. We now need you to save Kogi by intervening in the leadership problem. Recently, herdsmen killed natives in Kogi East and Kogi West. There were revenge attacks. We all know that these counterattacks only worsen the problem, but what Governor Yahaya Bello did in response was to summon Local Government Administrators and traditional rulers. He derided them and threatened to remove and dethrone them if they did not produce the natives in their communities who retaliated against the herdsmen. While revenge is not the right response to any violence, the governor’s strategy is hardly the type that can bring any peace.
The tension in Kogi today has risen to high proportions and anytime soon a spree of violence and counter violence in a strategic state that is the gate way to the North from the south might reach epic proportions because of the desperation of Bello to return for a second term and the frustration and violence readiness of a people who feel they do not have a choice, APC and government will not come to their aid and they must help themselves, defend themselves and take their destinies into their own hands. Your Excellency, this is not just perception or anxiety, it is reality. You may ask your security agencies to provide details of security reports and internal killings and movements which have started increasing which are politically motivated.
The people feel that a crooked doctrine of necessity is what brought Bello to government, so if APC and Federal Government are sincere, they can find another doctrine of necessity to prevent loos of lives by ensuring Yahaya Bello does not even run or come back to continue his reign of terror.
Apart from non-payment of salaries in a largely civil service state, there is no single visible project in the state. When people who are dying for lack of salaries are taken to public hospitals as they cannot afford private, they are met with no healthcare workers who don’t come or left for being unpaid and no drugs or anything to provide care for them. Public schools are closed because of no salaries, and private schools cannot remain open because parents who don’t have salaries cannot pay school fees. It is a vicious circle that Kogi has found itself in under the siege of Bello and Onoja.
Escalating Tension in the Land
The grave danger of kogi today is a desperation that can portend more doom for the state. Agitations to ensure the removal of Bello and Onoja are fueling disunity, distrust, preparation for violence and ethnic disagreement. Although Kogi has like other parts of Nigeria its own internal ethnic politics, but it is more pronounced now and the fight to regain power is taking a dangerous ethnic dimension without consideration for competence and result orientation. This is very dangerous because any continuation of the current government in Kogi or transition to another non-performing government is certain to finally and fully finish the state completely
Recently, there has been a rash of killings of political thugs and operatives of those opposed to the government and revenge killings of thugs belonging to the state government. These retaliation killings are just a tip of the iceberg and a small show of what is ahead.
A few weeks ago, there was breaking news that the operatives of the government led violent thugs to attack Admiral Jibrin Usman who is a former Chief of Naval Staff and a gubernatorial aspirant. The attack was met by the stiff opposition of the security apparatus of the former Service Chief. This led to the death of two people. There have been other attacks and counter attacks that are not reported in the news.
This escalating tension and degenerating security situation is fearful and calls for concern and serious action. If care is not taken, Kogi State will become the battlefield and bloodbath that will stain and dent this Administration’s governance record. Kogi is fast descending into a situation far worse than Ekiti when former President Obasanjo declared a state of emergency and removed the governor. The readiness for violence, war and death by the people of Kogi State is palpable and the resultant end will be disastrous.
As concerned citizens, we appeal to you to champion the cause of the many peace loving and pauperized, terrorized and oppressed Kogites to chart a new course for kogi and help to get leadership for good governance that is in consonance with Nigeria’s national creed of Equity, Unity, Justice and Fairness.
What we have seen and heard in the past weeks is more alarming. We are hearing the Presidency and APC have endorsed Yahaya Bello to run for a second term. We have heard that even though there are cases in court that can jeopardize the party, indirect primaries have been adopted by the party. Your Excellency, posterity is the judge of all. What we do or fail to do will stand for or against us in the Day of Judgment. Politics that is not centred around the people is politrick. Winning Kogi State at all costs, without considering the people is a total loss. It is sad that there are state governors and leaders who are insensitive to Kogi and her people and are only looking at a state won or lost for APC. The way to win both the state and hearts of the people is not to impose affliction on them anymore. Victory is rescuing the people and giving them choices that can move their lives forward, that is what the people of Kogi State need and desire. Your position today, and as a pastor and distinguished senior legal practitioner, we implore you sir to please help us in Kogi State. We are only demanding to be treated like other Nigerians, because we deserve to be so treated.
Your Excellency, we have brought our cries to the right quarters within the Presidency and the National leadership of APC.It is needless lamenting about how issues affecting Kogi State have been handled with careless disdain by this government and the party, the APC. Our only hope now is for your intervention. APC can lose Kogi, but more importantly, Nigeria can lose Kogi, and most importantly we can lose lives and family members and it will be a tragedy of irreparable loss.
We desperately await your help and intervention.
Senator (Dr.) Alex Usman Kadiri.
Chairman, APC Stakeholders Forum & Oppressed Citizens of Kogi State