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Re- Hon Edward Onoja, The Deputy Governor of Kogi State, With the Sincerity of Your Heart Wrapped With the Fear of God, Answer this Question and a Few Others Below

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A RESPONSE TO OGO’OGU MD

DO YOU TOO BELIEVE IN EBIGO OR YOU ARE PLANNING GAME?

Dear Ogo’ogu, MD,

I will answer your No. 1 and No. 2 questions together and the rest in no particular order before making some free comments of my own. I will also freely express my feelings as I write to forestall the possibility of giving the impressions that I welcome gratuitous insults, just because they come robed in the garb of ‘friendly’ criticism. If you take nothing else away from this response, let it be this:

‘Tell me the truth and its bitterness or pain will be a sweet blessing for my soul to cherish, but if you lie to me or about me, do not say you did so as a friend for I will refuse to see it so.’ – Edward Onoja, 2020.

No sir, I am not satisfied with the situation of Kogi State where, by the grace of God, I am currently the No. 2 citizen. We should be so much more than we are right now, but for decades of feckless governance in the past. I am also not SEEKING for posterity to ‘extricate’ me or the administration. I am WORKING, under the leadership of my boss, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, to give posterity all the proof it will need to judge us favourably.

We drew up the New Direction Blueprint as our roadmap for accelerated development of Kogi State in all her constituencies as soon as my boss took office. We set targets in Education, Health, Infrastructure & Utilities, Job Creation & Youth Engagement as well as Public Service & Pension Reforms. Security and Agriculture are designated as priority focus areas until now. The pursuit of these targets, and nothing else, is our preoccupation in government.

I will not go into details about our achievements but we publish a compendium at the end of every year of governance to document accomplishments in a verifiable manner. I commend our 4 Referral Compendia (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) to you. If you swing by the Office, I will even personally present a set to you. Your task would be to go out and see how many out of the hundreds of our projects depicted you can disprove.

I can say boldly, with the fear of God, that if it is evidence of good governance you seek in asking these questions, that is, if you are not just engaging in politicised scurrility, you will find that while we have been by no means perfect, or wonderful even, our government has made very strong efforts in providing the good governance that we preach.

Your 3rd question is an easy one. If Kogi State were to be my own private company, I would have no qualms at all hiring my boss and myself, along with a good chunk of our current and past team members to run it. We have the youthfulness, learning and character plus an enhanced appreciation of the complex dynamics involved in running a diverse society like Kogi. On top of that, we are learning and improving every day. I am also satisfied that in all things we have striven to do our best, which is the best we can do.  I am not surprised though that some find our manners and approaches intolerable. We cannot be the youngest team in governance in Nigeria today (as you rightly pointed out), and not have some ‘old prophets’ who expect us to surrender our state and our people for them to run contrary to the vision given to us by the Almighty God who supplanted them to plant us. We find it funny that such people act confounded when they discover that our allegiance lies only to God and to the good people of Kogi State who elected us twice to be their leaders.

I find your 4th question somewhat disappointing, coming from you. If there is anything that has characterised the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello right from inception, it is the EBIGO philosophy of cooperation, integration and unity in Kogi State. It has become a tenet of governance and has become the main determinant of spread in appointments, projects and programmes.

The scholarship awards for Igala students who earned first-class degrees in their various disciplines is a historical event to which I was invited this year by the organisers. It was set up many years ago by the illustrious Professor Francis Idachaba, NNOM, OFR, professor of agricultural economics and chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian National Merit Award who also became Vice-Chancellor of Kogi State University (now Prince Abubakar Audu University), Anyigba.

No, we did not select the students of one tribe and ignore others. I was invited this year by the organisers and it was a privilege for me to participate in whatever way I could to simultaneously celebrate the late erudite scholar who founded the awards as well as the budding talents who distinguished themselves so spectacularly in their academics.

There is no office like that of the Deputy Governor of Kogi East, only that of the Deputy Governor of Kogi State of which I am the proud occupant by the wishes of my people. My participation in the awards ceremony rather than being an Igala or divisive thing like you claimed was a most unifying event. We got donations for the monetary award from excited Kogites all over three Senatorial Districts of Kogi State. 

When we are invited for similar events in other zones, I am too sure you know His Excellency and myself are always too ready to be physically and financially on song. Unity does not mean that our ethnic groups are outlawed from having their own development plans and programmes.

Of course, I do have my own personal initiatives from time to time and when I do I distribute it across board in the spirit of EBIGO. For instance, an Okun student from Makutu, Yagba East LGA received a N2.5m scholarship, which is 5 times what each of the Igala students you griped about got. I was also approached by a student in Law School in 2019 for financial help for herself and 5 other colleagues. I sent her back to compile a more diversified list. She returned later with a list of 25 Kogi Students in that institution who got between N200,000 and N500,000 each from me, irrespective of tribe or religion.

I am glad that for the first time in Kogi State there is –
No Ebira Agenda.
No Igala Agenda.
No Okun Agenda.
No other tribal or religious agenda.

I am glad that under the leadership of Yahaya Bello, we have been able to fashion for ourselves a homegrown ideology, the EBIGO Agenda, which has unified you in the pursuit of a One Kogi Agenda. Nigeria needs to come and learn from Kogi.

 When you ask me to advise my colleagues (especially of a particular tribe which you had the temerity to mention) to empower people the way I do, I want to believe that you are not abreast with what many are doing. First of all, all government empowerment programmes, whether State or Federal, are shared equitably among all constituencies. Any disconnect often lies in grassroots sensitization and participation, often founded on circumstances which no appointee can help.

When it comes to personal giving my boss is one of the most generous souls I know, and not because he is a Governor today. The number of interventions he makes from his personal resources into the lives of Kogites and Nigerians of all tribes is best described as innumerable. What you may consider as charitable deeds on my part pale into insignificance beside the sacrificial giving our Governor does. In fact, most of my efforts are heavily powered by His Excellency. If you know, you know.

For others, I would rather advise that when those who can give something back do so as their resources and circumstances permit, those who receive need to appreciate the gifts, no matter how little. You cannot ask for alms with arms and still call it voluntary. Plus, it is only the pregnant woman who feels the kicks of her baby.

I believe that if you are truly a man of real integrity, you learn to do the right thing, even if nobody knows about it. With that mindset it should not be too difficult for you to give people the benefit of the doubt. Making unfounded and ignorant accusations against others is the surest sign of a lack of integrity in you. If you do not know or are not sure of the truth or the facts of any narrative, you should keep silent and get an education first.

I assure you that while there may be a deficit of ethics in Nigeria’s political space, with the integrity of many a scam, our promise of good governance in this New Direction Administration has gone beyond the manifestos. It is your prerogative to rate any Governor as you like, but when you make comparisons, be sure to have your facts at your fingertips, otherwise, you are just another rabble-rousing charlatan.

I dare you again to familiarise yourself with our Blueprint, study our Compendia and attempt to disprove them. If you fail or are too arrogant to do that, then I am sorry your much vaunted concern for Kogi and Kogites is a smokescreen and your protestations of interest in her people’s welfare a mere scam.

Let me quickly share a few compelling reasons why this administration APC stood out in her first term and is on course, irrespective of the Covid-19 pandemic, to do even more in her 2nd term.

Around October 2019, the World Bank recognised Kogi State as No. 1 in World Bank Portfolio performance. If you know anything about the World Bank then you will know that if we did not earn this accolade it won’t be given. And if Kogi State is the top aggregate performer in World Bank projects among Nigerian states, it should easily tell you that serious multidimensional development is going on at the grassroots level in Kogi State. Ask yourself why those you are giving top marks did not beat us to it.

By 2019, the incidence of out of school children fell to 13% in Kogi State according to the World Bank. Some states, especially in the North, are still above 50%. I am aware that this drastic reduction in Kogi State is not good news to you because it says Yahaya Bello must be doing some things right. Well, you cannot deny it no matter how much you hate it.

By 2019 too, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) also placed Kogi in the top 7 nationally for Basic Education performance. This must seriously pain you too since you believe Kogi State should not have such good reports as long as Bello is in Office.

Governor Yahaya Bello also made Kogi State No. 1 in the reduction of under-five mortality, according to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS). Neonatal, infant and child mortality is a big problem in this country but I do not suppose you will be pleased for Kogi State since it means admitting that Yahaya Bello is trying.

It is also no secret that Governor Yahaya Bello has done exceptionally well in securing the lives and properties of those who live in Kogi State and the millions of Nigerians who transit through every year.

The Nigerian Peace Index has rated Kogi State as the second most peaceful state in the country and the most peaceful in the North. The National Bureau for Statistics also rated Kogi as having the second lowest crime rate in the country. Anybody who loves to live in peace and sleep with both eyes closed must commend His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello on security. If you do not feel like doing so, there is no problem – it still cannot stop our forward march.

We heard so much about non-payment of salaries and pensions in Kogi State during the staff screening and verification exercise. Then prompt payment of salaries was considered the most outstanding achievement of any government. Now that Yahaya Bello has paid salaries and pensions promptly for over a year now following the conclusion of the exercise, payment of salaries is no longer an achievement to you people. Nothing spoil.

Kogi State has also done very well in the various Social Investment Programmes, and that is very important for keeping the youths engaged and aspiring. The state is rated among the top performers in the federation. I guess you missed that too. Otherwise, you will know that tens of thousands of Kogi youths have become beneficiaries and rejoice with us. All the same, we don’t need anyone’s affirmation to keep doing what we are doing.

You talk of healthcare and lambast your state as having no functional one to speak of. Yet, because Kogi is the Confluence of Nigeria, we handle the largest incidents of Lassa Fever and sometimes Yellow Fever in Nigeria every year. Did you know that since Governor Yahaya Bello took over in 2026, we have had no fatality? Find out the fatality rate in other states, including those which get a fraction of what we see.

No doubt you heard when we were struggling with the various regulatory agencies to fashion a homegrown and common sense response to CoviD-19. But did you also hear that recently our methods have been considered worthy of emulation? A man will only hear or see what he wishes to, according to the preconceived postures of his heart.

My crowning joy so far is that our people gave their verdict in the most resounding manner in the 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections. Nobody has seen the margins by which His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State was reelected in the history of Kogi State. Before then the APC had swept the 2019 General Elections. Since then there has been a sudden and strange silence in the land. The voice of the people is truly the voice of God.

One good turn deserves another and the only way we can repay our people for their overwhelming support is with outstanding governance. Today, Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration approved N1.56bn for post-Covid19 recovery and palliatives across the state. You can depend on it that distribution will be grassroots based and EBIGO compliant.

Add all of the foregoing to our comprehensive programme of development projects designed for our second term and you can be sure that Kogi is on course for multidimensional progress in the next 3 and a half years.

This response is already too long for what I had in mind, so I will just end it here.

Thank you for your Birthday wishes, but the best gift you could have given me is a closely researched and well written dissertation on our many achievements in the office instead of the mishmash of half-truths and outright lies accusing us of being a failed administration and Kogi a failed state. It has left me unable to accept neither the messenger nor his message, for both are frankly tainted with fakery.

EDWARD DAVID ONOJA (CIK)
Olimene Attah Igala
Deputy Governor of Kogi State.

A Passionate Media professional who has a penchant for creative writing. he loves watching Movies, Music love and loves sightseeing.

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