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Matthew Onah, in Lokoja, examines the growing criticism of the Idris Wada government by the Kogi Elders’ Forum
Since the inception of the administration of Kogi State Governors Idris Wada almost two years ago, there have been determined voices of dissent from within his party, Peoples Democratic Party, about his eligibility for the governorship as well as his handling of the affairs of the state. Not only is a member of PDP in the state still challenging the outcome of the governorship election that brought Wada to power, two years after, at the Supreme Court, virtually every policy decision of the Wada administration has been subjected to severe criticism. The Wada administration officials, expectedly, consider many of the criticisms as baseless.
Kogi Elders’ Forum Filling a Void
In the absence of a vibrant opposition in the state, the Kogi Elders’ Forum has been at the vanguard of criticisms against the state government.
In the wake of last year’s flood disaster in the state, the forum came up with various allegations bordering on alleged misapplication of funds meant for flood victims. An auto accident involving the governor about the same period accentuated the criticisms.
Only recently, the Kogi Elders’ Forum held a press conference where it challenged the Wada administration’s decision to source a development bond of about N20 billion from a consortium of banks. According to the forum, the government has not demonstrated capacity to manage such a huge fund.
The forum, led by Senator Alex Kadiri, Chief John Odawn, Chief Clarence Olafemi, Senator Mohammed Ohaire, and others, has been the arrowhead of opposition against the Wada administration. Incidentally, members of the group are all key members of PDP in the state.
But the secretary to the Kogi Elders’ Forum, Chief Juluis Elukpo, has come out to disclaim that the group led by Kadiri and others is the authentic forum of political elders in the state. In a newspaper disclaimer, Elukpo challenged the group to show prove of their membership of the Kogi Elders’ Forum, the platform they have been using for their criticism.
“It is clear that that your vituperation against the governor is nothing but mere political vendetta and we cannot be dragged into such ignoble mission,” Elukpo stated.
According to him, none of those masquerading as elders in the Kadiri group is a registered member of Kogi Elders’ Forum, which is a registered non-political association with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Elukpo said unless the group apologised to the authentic forum, they might be dragged to court.
Roots of Anger
A PDP member in the state, Ibrahim Yunuis, traced the current sharp criticism of the Wada administration from within PDP to his unexpected emergence at the PDP primaries. Yunuis said some members of the party had yet to reconcile with the fact that Wada has become the governor.
“We must learn to accept the will of God, most of our people are bad loser,” Yunuis allged.
Giving an insight into the current political disagreements in the state, another politician, and chairman of the Kogi State Universal Basic Education Board, Alhaji Usman Jibrin Mohhammed, said, “All those masquerading as elders were, indeed, contestants with the governor for the governorship position in 2011. They all contested the position and lost and are now finding it difficult to come to terms with their loss.
“Alex Kadiri and Idris Wada all hail from same village, Odu. As far as I am concerned, it’s just a case of village jealousy. But we must rise above pettiness to develop.”
Mohammed added, “Wada has in the last two years considerably restored sanity in the administration of resources of the state through prudent management and good governance in a way and manner that hope in the future of the state has been rekindled.”
He dismissed most of the criticisms hurled at the Wada administration as baseless and driven by a mere resolve to disparage a performing government.
On the N20 billion bond, Mohammed accused Wada’s critics of trying to play politics with the genuine desire of the state government to improve critical infrastructure.
“It is just sheer political mischief for them to be engaging in negative criticism even on issues that are clearly aimed at developing of our state. They ought to know that when banks facilitate such bonds, it is normally tied to specific projects clearly specified in the memorandum of understanding. No bank or finance house would arrange a loan of such magnitude without stringent conditions attached,” he said.
Mohammed continued, “The so-called elders, having failed to utilise past opportunities because of their shallow-mindedness and selfishness, are now regrouping to checkmate the progress of the state.
“The roads to be constructed, the educational institutions, like the teaching hospitals, the infrastructure across the state to be funded through issuance of the bond are definitely geared towards the general benefit of the citizenry of the state and are definitely not Wada’s property.”
He described as childish and insulting to the intelligence of the bank experts, civil servants and the State Assembly members, who collectively put together the funding mechanism, the claim by the forum that the Wada government lacked capacity to manage the huge bond fund.
Referring to members of the Kadiri group as Abuja politicians with little knowledge of the pulse of their constituencies, Mohammed said, “You don’t just stay away in Abuja and keep criticising for no just reason. Come home, don’t run away. You cannot be running Kogi from Abuja.”
But a civil society activist, Abdul Miliki, felt the criticism of the state government by the Kadiri group had been beneficial to the state. He told THISDAY that in the absence of any vibrant opposition party in the state, the Kadiri group had been helped to keep the government on its toes.
“It is just that these gentlemen are not the proper people to criticise because they had been part and are still part of the problem,” Miliki said. “They have been selfish in their leadership profiles and have contributed nothing to the upliftment of the state in the past.”
Miliki called those opposing Wada failed politicians who lack the moral justification to criticise the governor because they were the same people that brought him out.
But Gabriel Lukman, also a politician in the state, attributed criticism of the Wada administration by Kogi Elders’ Forum to a decline in material perks from the government to members of the group since the coming of the governor.
“Wada is into more projects in the last two years than the eight years of the past administration. There is no much sharing now,” Lukman alleged.
He said Wada should brace up for more criticism as 2015 draws nearer.
“In Kogi, we are used to share share. So now that Wada is devoting more resources to developmental projects, you can’t expect him to be popular,” Lukman said.