The biggest problem facing Igala people presently is the breakdown of political and traditional leaderships. We have in fact crossed the red line. Hope for redemption gets dimmed every day.
Since the demise of Ata Igala, on 30 August 2020, the search for the successor has continued, endlessly, even though the kingmakers are not in doubt about who should be the next Ata. It is only the state government is in doubt. Probably, the state government is looking for a stooge. Head or tail, it is anomalous to leave the seat of Ata Igala empty for a year, and still counting.
I read a damning revelation on Whatsapp recently, where it was said that a great number traditional stools in Igala land are empty, after the demise of the last rulers. The information powered by Uja’che Ane-Igala Association noted that the seat of Eje Ankpa has been vacant in the last five years ago. This is in addition to the several royal stools that are empty. When you add this to the fact that leadership position in Igala land is vacant, you will know that we are in great mess!
Since the death of Dr. Stephen Achema and Prince Abubakar Audu, Igala have been groping from pillar to post in terms of leadership. The centre piece of their leadership was the people, development and welfare of Igala. They were not tribal warlords, as the world goes, but they loved their people. Their strength was the people. They stayed in the midst of the people. The did politics all year round. They were not coming every year to ambush the electoral process or deceive the hapless electorate for inordinate electoral gain.
I remember vividly in 1999, during the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship election, at Plaza Hotel Lokoja, along Mount Patti. There were about six governorship aspirants from Kogi East. Dr. Achema was obviously the popular choice of the delegates. Dr. Stephen Olorunfemi was the only candidate from Kogi west. The stalwarts from Igala exis AS USUAL failed to agree on a candidate, even when they knew that Achema was the preferred candidate. Palpable hatred dogged what would have been a walkover for the Igala candidates.
It so happened that the PDP candidate could not emerge before the deadline for the submission of name at the party headquarter. Eventually, the name of Dr. Stephen Olorunfemi was submitted as the candidate of the PDP, for the state governorship election. As we learned, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, who was the BoT Chairman then played a significant role in the emergence of Dr. Olorunfemi, in addition to Late Abubakar Rimi and Solomon Lar.
Achema’s kinsmen betrayed him, even though they knew they knew he was the choice of the people. They said even if they were not going to win, Achema should not win. Some of them had no plausible argument than to say he was arrogant! The PDP had all the positive signs in place, to win the maiden democratic election in the state, in 1999. I beg to say that the curse continues till date, in Igala land.
When it was obvious that Kogi East had lost, entirely, Achema propounded the principle of Uja’che, to kick start his support for Prince Abubakar Audu, who had already emerged as the candidate of All Progressives Party (APP). Uja’che means fight for self-worth. He wanted to tell the PDP managers in Abuja who conspired against him, that they might have won the battle, but not the war. In spite of the bitter political differences, Dr. Achema gathered the people and told them that irrespective of political affiliations, Prince Abubakar Audu remained the candidate of Igala people. It settled the matter! Everybody was ready to vote for Prince Audu of APP. The defeate of PDP in the governorship election in 1999, put Igala people on the political map, of Nigeria.
So many petitions were written against Achema, saying that he was the reason why the party lost the state election. Their aim was that he should not be given any post, under the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. But Obasanjo was smarter than the petitioners and traducers, who obviously came from Igala land. Obasanjo said if one person could make the party lose election, the person must ne a political factor. His accusers made sure he did not get any ministerial post. That was how Dr. Achema became an indispensible factor in his party.
To underline the seriousness of Uja’che, Dr. Olorunfemi was looking for a running mate in Igala land, but he could not get, until he settled for Alhaji Sule Iyaji, in Omala Local Government. During the electioneering campaign, Dr. Olorunfemi had no confidence campaigning in Igala land. In the end, Prince Audu won overwhelmingly. That time, Igala were on the same page.
Today, the story has changed. It took an Igala politician to propound the slogan, ‘Enemuneme’, meaning another person is better than your own person. Even though the mathematics does not add up, they believed it and enforced it in Igala land. In the last election, many Igala people died in the spirit of enemuneme.
Prince Audu was a great leader. Forget about his weaknesses, in human relations. He had fundamental traits that attracted people to him. Till date, the political shoe he left behind cannot be filled. Prince Audu was a proud Igala person. He believed in the supremacy of Igala race, even among the bigger ethnic groups in the country. He sold Igala to the world. He was a visible face of Igala in the country. He made friends far and wide. He was a great Igala ambassador.
In national politics, Prince Audu was everywhere. As APP state governor, he was not constrained by the PDP federal government, under Obasanjo. He was always there when issues that concerned the nation was being discussed. He was a front runner in his party – the APP. He was not hidden.
One of his weaknesses was that he was not ready to compromise his view on Lugard House, which erroneously made his second home. He was ready to give his life for it. And he did. He promoted other people in politics, but never his children. It was one of the reasons why he attracted multitudes of people.
Today, how many of Igala politicians are in the mainstream of politics in Nigeria. Our politicians have exhibited uncouth lack of knowledge and timidity, when it comes to national politics. For example, there is no Igala person of note in All Progressives Congress (APC), in national politics. In PDP, there are people of note in national politics, but they are on the sidelines. They have no impact. They are probably there to represent themselves, not the people. They do not make friends that can benefit their people. They are inside multitudes, but they are lonely! They are hardly appointed into key committees, of the party..
That is why, for example, it was very easy for the national officers of PDP to manipulate the last senatorial primary elections in Kogi state, in the name of continuity. The NWC of PDP had no respect for any of the leaders of the party in the state. Such a thing could never have happened in APC in the time of Prince Audu. NEVER! Audu was the owner of APC in the state. In PDP, everybody is a leader; even a greenhorn in the party.
My mind tells me that if we are looking for political leaders from among our present politicians, we may wait for eternity. Nobody is ready to disown himself. They are seasonal politicians.
We were stripped naked by the loss of power in Lugard House, in 2015. The smaller tribes in the state have discovered that we are not as united as they thought. They discovered that a typical Igala man is very selfish and can sell his kinsman for a plate of pepper soup, in a blink of an eye.
Sad enough, we have leaders that are not leading anybody. We have leaders that are struggling to win their polling units, during elections. We have leaders that care only about their immediate families. We have leaders that are not reproducing their kinds, in terms of mentoring. We don’t have a mentoring system in Igala land. Every leader dies with his politics. No continuity plan.
Somebody told me a story of a Senior Legislative Aide of Sen. Smart Adeyemi, who later became a member of Kogi State House of Assembly. From what I learnt, Adeyemi put him forward and made sure that he won the election. At the end of his tenure, the state government made him a commissioner. Can we see that in Igala land? NO.
I was also told that the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan was an aide of Sen. David Mark. When it was time to elect national officers of the party at the national level, he put him forward and he won the election. Today, David Mark has a very loud voice in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. How many Igala politicians can mentor their supporters to this point? NONE. In our case, we have banana trees without suckers!
Leadership is not gotten on a platter of gold. It is earned. Leadership is not about coming from big cities in Nigeria to contest election every four years, and return to your cocoon, after every failure. Leadership is not about buying nomination forms during election, printing posters, and erecting billboards.
Today, the names of Dr. Achema and Prince Audu still dominate politics in Igala land. Why? They etched their names in gold. They were not just community leaders. They were national leaders. Achema was a member of G-34 politicians that dared the late military leader, Sani Abacha in his self-succession bid.
How many of our people are prepared to be like Audu and Achema? I don’t know. How many of our politicians are ready to pay the price?
The sad development is that it is not getting better.