By Victoria Nnakaike
On Saturday, November 11, 2023, 1.6 million registered voters will file out to elect a new governor that will take over the Kogi State’s mantle of leadership from the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello whose tenure will elapse on January 27, 2024.
The registered voters will file out to vote at 2,548 polling units spread across 239 wards in 21 local government areas of the state.
They will vote to decide the man that will preside over the affairs of the state with projected population of 4, 486, 800 people scattered over 29, 833km2 land mass called Kogi State.
Kogi, a strategically located state in the North Central Nigeria, is the 13th largest state in Nigeria in terms of land mass and the 20th most populous state in the country.
It was created from the old Kwara and Benue States on August 27, 1991 by the military administration of President Ibrahim Babangida. The state is at the very centre of the entity called Nigeria and serves as a link between the Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria.
Its capital Lokoja, narrowly lost to Abuja as Nigeria’s new Federal Capital Territory due to insufficient land and many hills dotting its landscape according to former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
It is a very strategic state to Nigeria in terms of economy, security, unity, agriculture, industry, commerce, mining, among others.
It is in light of the above that the coming governorship election in the state should be of interest to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion.
Kogi State is a state all Nigerians should make conscious and deliberate effort to protect in the collective present and the future interests.
This submission is premised on eight (8) major reasons that is historical, viz: unity, economy, agriculture, solid mineral, tourism, power and security.
One of the major reasons the forthcoming off-season gubernatorial election matters to Nigeria is the historical importance of the state, especially the state capital Lokoja, to the emergence of the country called Nigeria. Nigeria derived its name from the confluence of River Niger and River Benue in Lokoja.
Floral Shaw, wife of Lord Fredrick Lugard, Nigeria’s first colonial Governor General was the one who named this country Niger Area which was later modified to become Nigeria.
She was said to have peeped out of the window of the Lugard’s apartment on Mount Patti, saw the beauty of the meandering River Niger and said “This Niger Area.”
It was from her statement “This Niger Area” that the name Nigeria was adopted as the official name of Nigeria.
Again, Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, was the capital of Northern Protectorate for so many years.
When the Northern and Southern Protectorates were merged in 1914 to form the present entity called Nigeria, Lord Lugard was resident in Lokoja, and later left Lokoja to resume in Lagos, the capital of the newly formed Nigeria, to preside over its affairs.
Also, with this status, the first primary school, the first hospital, the first post office, first bank, first church in Northern Nigeria were all located in Lokoja, Kogi State.
Another major reason why November 11, gubernatorial election matters a lot to Nigeria is security. Kogi State is right at the centre of Nigeria. It is the main bridge and link the South-South, South East and South West connect to the North.
Kogi shares boundaries with nine (9) states, Edo, Benue, Kwara, Nasarawa, Anambra, Enugu, Ondo, Niger, Ekiti and the federal territory capital, Abuja, and it’s being occupied by no fewer than fourteen (14) distinct tribes.
Any security concern in Kogi will most likely affect the nation’s federal capital territory of Abuja and nine other states.
The security implication of this for the country is that four out of six geographical zones in Nigeria will be affected.
Again, any security breach in Kogi will also negatively affect movement of goods and services between the North and South. Any natural disaster like flooding that happens in Kogi always impact natively on the nation’s economy and security. The 2012 and 2022 flood disasters in Kogi are clear examples.
Agriculture is equally another major reason the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi should be a matter of concern to Nigerians.
As at today, Kogi is the leading producer of cashew and cassava, two major cash crops attracting forex to Nigeria through exportation to other countries.
Other food crops like rice, yam, groundnuts, beans sesame seeds, water melon are equally being produced in large quantities in Kogi State.
Any security breach before, during and after election will affect food production, food supply and may result in food shortage which will add to the problems already created by the recent subsidy removal in the country.
The need for unity of purpose cannot be over-emphasised in the forthcoming election. This is because, with more than 14 different dialects in the state, if they do not unite and come out en-masse and vote for the candidate of their choice without rancour, a wrong candidate could emerge to the detriment of the development of the state.
Economy is another major reason why the forthcoming governorship election in Kogi State must be taken seriously by every Nigerian, as the economic prosperity of Nigeria cannot be fully realised without its connection with Kogi State.
With the efforts of the Federal Government to diversify and seek revenues from other sources other than oil and gas, it must be noted that Kogi State is well-stocked with enormous resources, which, if well-harnessed, can turn things around for the country, economy wise.
The state is the home of 28 out of 32 solid minerals found to be in large commercial deposit in Nigeria. Limestone, gold, precious stones, tin, marble, among others are all available in commercial deposit in Kogi State.
Kogi State governorship election is of importance to Nigeria because of electricity generation- power. Kogi is home to Geregu Power Generating Plant that supplies about 300 Megawatts of electricity to the national grid. The thermal station is the power supply to Abuja and five other Northern states. It is equally hosting one of the three biggest power injection sub-stations in the country.
The injection sub-station located in Zango Daji area of Lokoja is a critical electricity infrastructural supply in Nigeria. Aside this is the availability of largest coal deposit in the eastern part of Kogi State. The state has the largest coal mines in Nigeria; coal also is a major forex earner for Nigeria.
The state is also blessed with availability of the largest crude oil deposits. This has made the state to be one of the oil producing states enjoying 13 percent derivation since November 2022.
The state is also the host of the billion-dollar Ajaokuta Steel Complex. It is abundantly blessed with Iron Ore deposits which serve as major raw material in the operations at the Steel Complex.
The company is currently out of production but efforts are ongoing for production to resume. It is in the best interest of Nigeria to make Ajaokuta Steel Complex work to conserve forex being spent on importation of steel products.
The critical role of the state to the country’s Building Sector can also not be over-emphasised because the state is home to the biggest cement plant in Africa, Obajana Cement Plc.
The cement company produces and supplies a greater percent of the cement need of the country’s Building Sector. It was the cement company that was used to implement the backward integration policy of the Federal Government which eventually made Nigeria to stop importation of cement into the country and make Nigeria to become a net exporter of cement in the world.
The yearning of Nigerians to own houses and government desire to bridge the housing deficit through provision of mass housing scheme also substantially depend largely on Obajana Cement Plc.
The Obajana Cement Plc is also critical to the job creation efforts of Nigeria as it provides direct and indirect jobs to thousands of Nigerians. Any attempt therefore, to disrupt the operation of the company will lead to socio-economic crises for the country.
Apart from being the largest producer in Africa, Kogi state is also home to the largest ceramic and marble production companies in Nigeria. Ceramic tiles and marble tiles are also major products critical to Nigeria’s building industry.
Tourism which was said to be the fastest growing sector in the world is another major reason the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Kogi should be a matter of concern to Nigerians.
The state is endowed with a lot of tourist sites that have been recognised by UNESCO. The tourism site which are scattered all over the state are capable of generating revenue for the country in local and foreign currencies, creates millions of direct and indirect jobs if properly developed.
Some of the tourist sites are the European Cemetery in Lokoja; Confluence of River Niger and River Benue; first church in Northern Nigeria; first hospital in northern Nigeria; first Post Office in northern Nigeria; first river jetty in Nigeria; first bank in Nigeria; caves, mountains Aquatic resources, cultural festivals, among others.