Ethnicity, the biggest problem in Kogi politics says NUJ Chair

Ethnicity, the biggest problem in Kogi politics says NUJ Chair

Adeiza Momoh-Jimoh is a journalist and the General Manager, Prime FM Radio, a subsidiary of Radio Nigeria. He is the current Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist Kogi state. In this interview, he speaks on the upcoming elections in Kogi state highlighting factors shaping elections in the state and expresses optimism that the election would be peaceful.

Adeiza Momoh-Jimoh is a journalist and the General Manager, Prime FM Radio, a subsidiary of Radio Nigeria. He is the current Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist Kogi state. In this interview, he speaks on the upcoming elections in Kogi state highlighting factors shaping elections in the state and expresses optimism that the election would be peaceful.

How would you assess preparations for the upcoming governorship election?

So far so good, on the part of INEC, based on the information they have been dishing out to us, they say they are very ready and prepared to conduct the election, on the 16th of November 2019. On the part of security agents, we have also gotten assurances from them that they are going to do their best to ensure that the election is peaceful and credible. On our part as journalists in Kogi state, we have also made our commitment that we are going to do our jobs according to the ethics of our profession. So far so good, the political parties have kick- started their campaigns, and when I say the political parties I mean the two frontline political parties, because from my observation this election is going to be a two- horse race between the PDP and the APC. That is all I can say for now as regards the preparations.

Would you say that the parties are discussing issues or is the campaign revolving around personalities?

Well I personally have not attended any campaigns of the two parties, but the feelers and the reports we are reading on the social media and also from the traditional media have not shown any remarkable difference between the two parties as regards campaigning on issues. To me the campaigns for now are not issues based; they are based on what this person has done in the past and what the other person has not been able to do. The real campaign promises that should form the fulcrum of the campaigns to me I have not seen that yet, I want to believe in the days ahead parties will come up with promises and campaign issues that will also make people go out and cast their votes for their favourites.

Is the time not too short for that?

Like I said, we are all Nigerians and we do know what is obtainable in our clime here, even the promises that were made in the past: Were they kept? But it is still better for them to be made. Let them be made so we can hold them accountable for one thing or another. But, largely it is not just about APC, PDP or any other party for that matter, majority of campaign promises made in the past were not kept, yet Nigerians are still voting, so whether any promise is made or not, we would have people coming out to vote on that day.

INEC has said that it could sense that there would be intimidation during the election and that there would be vote buying too, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said so recently while briefing on the Bayelsa and Kogi elections, have you been able to perceive such signals too?

When I heard that statement, I said to myself, is it just now that INEC is realizing that vote buying and intimidation and what have you would happen? These have been part and parcel of Nigerian election and Kogi state and Bayel;sa state would not be an exception. There will be vote buying and there will be intimidation of voters, but the question is: How prepared will our security agents be to actually tackle those issues? The signs are already there, they have been there and they will continue to be there but how prepared are our security agencies to ensure that they bring such incidences to the barest minimum? I think that is what we should be discussing.

So are you okay with what the security agencies have said about tackling these problems?

They have made promises, whether they keep their promises or not is yet to be seen. We will have to wait to see that after the election and be able to asses them based on the promises they have made.

Given the historical importance of Lokoja and Kogi state, one would have expected to see a lot more developments, especially in the capital, it doesn’t appear that there has been substantial development, why would you say this is so ?

Let me give my answer with an illustration. We just held our NUJ NEC meeting in Kogi yesterday and that was the first meeting of National NUJ holding in Kogi state in the 28 years of our creation and people were asking why do you have to wait for 28 years to hold NEC meeting of the NUJ? That is what we have come to see as a problem that all of us from this state are reverently praying to God for intervention. For a state that was created 28 years ago one would have expected better and more development if not even in anywhere else but at least in the state capital. But you cannot just hold this government responsible for that; it has been in power for only about three and a half years. What about the remaining 24 or 25 years that the state had been in existence? The only resemblance of development you can see are those things done by Late Abubakar Audu, that is the truth of the matter and I have been a journalist with Radio Kogi and up to the time I left, I knew that before Governor Audu used to say that state allocation was between 350 and 400 million naira and at that time money had good value. But we came into the era of billions monthly yet the development that took place under Audu was much more than any other era. That was when the University was built, that was when the Polytechnic was built, and you can name them all. I am one of those people that believe that by the time we take out the achievements of Audu there will be nothing left for us again, I think the government will actually have to do more to ensure that they give the state capital something befitting of a state that has this historical background of being the first capital of Nigeria. But, again we can’t only blame the government totally; the people too will have to change their ways. Majority of the people that are supporting people to political offices are thinking of what they can take out of it and they are never satisfied, so the funds available to government is very limited, so by the time you settle powers that be and do all other things, nothing will be left for the people. For example a senator will buy cars but he can only give it to individuals so that is the problem we are facing, by the time you spend this small money for few people, there is nothing that will be left for development, so I think we need to change our orientation.

Is it that voters’ education is not enough? Are there no groups educating the voters on holding people in government accountable?

Voters’ education: Who is supposed to do it, is it INEC? Or the political parties?

There are pressure groups, civil society groups that could do it, even the NUJ could set up a small committee on that and you can get support to do it even from INEC or other sources ?

I will not say we don’t have at all but they are in short supply, that is why vote buying is a thriving business, people say if you vote for them the next four years you don’t see them, whatever you can take, take now and it is a problem for us, so I don’t know how we got here and only God knows how we are going to get out of this mess. I am not here to praise anybody, like I said the two parties are one and the same, that is why somebody can leave APC and contest tomorrow in PDP and he will tell you the APC is no longer good, but the truth of the matter is there are also a few things this government has been able to do and you cannot take it away from them, and that is the effort the government has made to bring the people together, one of our major problems in Kogi state is ethnicity, the number one problem of Kogi state is ethnicity. Things have degenerated so much, while we were in school, even as students we didn’t see ourselves as coming from here or there. For example when I wanted to run for students’ union office in Ilorin, Yorubas were the ones that brought me out against another Yoruba person and I won, so they just look at your competence what you can do and vote but that was not the case in Kogi state before now. The issue of competence and ability to work was sacrificed on the altar of ethnicity and religion, all those sentiments and that was the case, so I think it is a problem that we need to tackle, I am the chairman of NUJ today because of our education and maybe our exposure, ethnicity has no place in NUJ politics , so kogi NUJ is a shining example of what kogi should be, because they look at you and appraise you on what they think you can do, not because of where you’re from.

You just said one of the things that this governor has done is to unify the state, but in terms of development, it is like he has not done much and people say he owes workers several months’ salaries?

You see, I want to say this at this particular time, saying anything on issues like that will look like we are marketing one person to de-market the other, so I will want to be careful. In most cases politics in involved, so when there are political sentiments you might not get to the truth, so in all those issues there is politics. On the issue of salary, some were inherited, some the screening exercise came and maybe because of those who handled it, the civil servants had issues with their salaries. Then on the issue of development, yesterday after our NEC meeting, we took some time off to visit some projects. My Public relations lecturer told us that some people will believe that if you are doing a good job naturally people should see it, but the people of the world have become increasingly busy that if you’re doing a good work and you don’t call their attention to it, they won’t know that you are doing anything and that is the truth of the matter, I think one thing is very key on the issue of the salary, even if you build the roads to people’s houses and there are issues of salary that one will rubbish whatever achievement you have made, so I think in recent time there has been a lot of improvement for example I just hope that it continues on the 24th 25th 27th even last month’s salary was paid on the 24th that is October salary.

What about the backlog?

I think that is where the issues are because I have people that are actually in the service, majority of them what I heard is that they have not gotten, but there were some allowances paid sometimes, it was a certain percentage of the salaries that was paid to state workers at the time they were having that salary challenge, it was the balance that they have paid, but those whose salaries were not paid during screening I think that one is still outstanding and they are discussing with the leadership of organized labour of the state as to how to offset that one but the date and time, I do not know.

So are we hopeful that the election will be peaceful?

I was telling someone when they asked me on Raypower program, the presenter asked me about fake police and all those things, I said you are asking the wrong person, the Commissioner of Police is the right person to ask and I can give you his number so he can tell you about what they are doing about fake police, so whether the election will be peaceful or not, we are hoping that the election should be peaceful but the assurances like I said should come from the security agencies because they are the ones who are supposed to ensure peace and order during the election.

If the signs are there that it would not be peaceful, it may lead to voter apathy as people may not want to come out to cast their vote?

So far so good like I said there is nothing to indicate that it will not be peaceful, unlike before in the build up to the 2019 election there were fights but these days APC is holding their rally PDP is holding theirs and nobody has attacked the other, we are hoping that everything should go like this and election day too goes like this, peaceful, that is our prayer an

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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