Last month’s swearing in of new commissioners and special advisers in Kogi state raised more questions than answers. This was just as one of the appointees died before he could resume in circumstances that are yet to be unraveled. The death has now created a vacuum which may be difficult to fill in a haste, reports MOMOH OBANSA
Unlike in the past, the swearing in of new commissioners in Kogi state penultimate week, by Governor Idris Wada, did not witness fanfare and excitement that are usually the hallmark of the event. This might not be unconnected with the fact that the people waited for too long in addition to the disenchantment of a section of the political elites over the nominees.
The selection process took Wada over six months after his inauguration as the governor of the state, a development that generated controversies that may have been occasioned by the long and tedious search to get the best of hands that could help drive the agenda of the government.
It is however too early in the day to determine if the caliber of men and women that eventually made the final list justified the long wait even as politicians in the state are divided over the choice of commissioners and Special Advisers in most of the local government councils across the state.
For instance, the quest and contention for the nomination of a commissioner and special Advisers in Ijumu local government Council became tensed following the fierce struggle and demonstration of political wit between Chief Shola Akomode, who was Deputy Chief of Staff in the presidency in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Abiodun Ojo, a former Commissioner under former governor Ibrahim Idris. The power struggle eventually led to the forfeiture of the slot by the area.
Akomode, who was also the Director General of the Wada campaign organization lost out in the power game to Ojo, whose nominees for the position of two special Advisers and the head of the interim management of the Ijumu LGA by Ojo, was believed to have signified the return of the Ibrahim Idris political family in the area.
A look at other nominees from other areas of the state showed that there were no significant differences in the nominees. It was however gathered that some political leaders from some of the councils only had the privilege of being told of those that made the list from their areas as their opinion was never sought.
Wada was believed to have been overwhelmed by the pressures mounted on him by lobbyists for the various positions, a development that led to the delay for the swearing in of the Commissioners for over two hours. The delay, it was gathered was as a result of the confusion that trailed the appointment of some of the Special Advisers that were billed to be sworn in alongside the commissioners.
Further checks indicated that some key political players and stakeholders in the state had protested the inclusions and or exclusion of some persons from the list even as it became evident that some of those who earlier had their names on the list had been edged out at the venue of the swearing in ceremony. They include the nominees from Ajaokuta - Umar Sediq, Okehi – Abubakar Adagu and Evans Adeshina from Ogori/Magongo.
In spite of the hiccups, the remaining appointees were eventually sworn in. And apparently mindful of the time it took him to assemble the team, Wada thanked God for making the day possible. While congratulating the new appointees, he said the search was not in any way easy and therefore charged the appointees to work to ensure the success of his transformation agenda
He said, “I want to sincerely and heartily congratulate those of you who have just been sworn in as Commissioners of the Government of Kogi State. We have indeed, participated in a solemn ceremony marking an important milestone in the history of our dear Kogi State and the Wada administration. This event marks the end of a critical phase of our efforts to institute a model government capable of speeding up the transformation of our dear Kogi state.”
Wada told the appointees that their selection and appointment to their present positions was subjected to strict and long-drawn process that animated interesting public concerns about the speed and tempo of the government, adding that his administration needed to followed such a rigorous process in order to assemble a cabinet that has the requisite knowledge and experience to effectively tackle the various challenges facing the state.
He stressed that he was careful to ensure fair representation in terms of geographical spread and political sensitivities and input given the complex nature of the state saying that while accepting that there is no such a thing as a perfect cabinet, adding that , “In all this is a very good cabinet and I urged the people to support my choice in the interest of the state.”
Wada further said, “We have undertaken this option to maximize the advantage of our abundant human talents and also to reflect our appreciation of the mutually reinforcing elements of the old and new as one without the other is not sufficient to provide the mix that is necessary to generate the cordial relationship which can engender and facilitate quick and hitch-free delivery of dividends of democracy to our people”
He said the commissioners and Special Advisers were all selected strictly on merit, professional standing, experience, technical skills and political expediency to enable him run a government safely from the point of view of the people of the state in relation to the means available.
All said and done, there were however insinuations in some quarters that the former governor and political godfather of Wada, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris still holds sway as the de facto governor of the state. Idris, who was believed to wield so much power in the state even after he had left office in January 27, 2012, was alleged to have nominated over 50 per cent of the commissioners and special advisers. The former governor is referred to by some politicians as the “Saraki” of kogi state.
It may have been against this backdrop that Wada was quick to warn the appointees against any act of disloyalty on the account of how they got into his cabinet.
He declared, “Whether you got into the cabinet by virtue of your excellent professional or educational qualifications, your political sagacity or contacts or even pure luck, what is important is that you are now in, as my choice. As from today, I demand of you all, 100 per cent loyalty. You are now for your own performance and how long you stay in the cabinet will be determined by how well you perform.”
He went further to say that the commissioners and special advisers were appointed to contribute to the total transformation of the state using the instruments of hard work, integrity, discipline, transparency and accountability which he noted are the cardinal principles of his administration.
Taking cognizance of the backward nature of the state in terms of meeting the basic needs of the people, Wada noted that the formation of the cabinet was done against the backdrop of desperate expectations of the people of Kogi for accelerated development consequent on the diminishing access to remunerative activities, inadequate health care facilities, social amenities, high ranking poverty indicators, and a host of other troubling details of the challenges confronting the state.
He therefore assured that his administration was set to ensure that the state emerge as a model of good governance with a view to be transformed into one of the top ranking states in the country in terms of rapid and sustainable socio-economic development, where government can provide opportunities and demand responsibility from all.
The governor outlined his mission statement to include uniting the people of the state for a collective vision, create a conducive environment for unlocking the natural and human potentials of the state, attract resources from the rest of the world, employ best practices for running a transparent and accountable government and∙ to support the emergence of a strong and knowledge-driven economy, promote effective service delivery and provide good quality of life for the people.
“These are well stated or articulated goals, and I expect you therefore to be committed, creative and get practically involved in the implementation of the Blueprint to enable us achieve our vision of transforming our dear Kogi State into one of the top ranking states in the federation,” he appealed.
While promising to deal with corruption is all of it’s ramification, Wada said, “My administration shall not condone indiscipline. Whoever amongst you is not prepared to comply with these core objectives should honourably bow out rather than wait to be labeled a misfit and shown the way out.
“I want to sound a note of warning, that this administration has zero tolerance for corruption. Anyone found taking advantage of his or her position to tinker with the resources of the state shall be dealt with in accordance with the anti-graft laws.”
While not shying away from the enormity of the problems in the state, he noted that the challenges ahead are real and weighty adding that the appointees cannot afford to fail in their responsibility to deliver the goods of democracy to the people adding that the gains of democracy can be measured more by the quality of the living standards and the quantity of projects executed and on this note, he drew the attention of the commissioners to the adage which states, “Opportunity comes but once.”
Be that as it may, not all the sworn-in commissioners would have the opportunity to help carry out the lofty ideas enumerated by Wada as part of his vision for the state, as death sniffed life off one of them, Mr. Simon Ige Olutimayin, who died precisely five days after the inauguration ceremony of members of the Kogi State Executive Council.
It was gathered that Olutimayin, who was assigned the Budget and planning ministry portfolio, was unable to physically attend the swearing-in ceremony that held on July 26, 2012 at the Lokoja township stadium due to ill health as he was alleged to have slumped during a thanksgiving ceremony in his honour in Lagos.
It was further gathered that the late Olutimayin almost missed the House of Assembly screening exercise for the newly appointed commissioners as the car he was travelling in suddenly developed both mechanical and electrical faults while on his way to the state capital for his screening and confirmation by the legislature. All these were signs that all was not well with his nomination.
A close to the family of the late commissioner confided in Blueprint that as if that was not enough, immediately he returned to his base in Lagos, he allegedly developed undisclosed ailment which he had to battle with until his death at an undisclosed hospital in Lagos .
Olutimayin, who was appointed commissioner along with 17 others by Wada last month, was until his death a retired officer with treasury department of the central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
His death had initially sparked off wild protest in Ponyan area of Yagba East local government, as his kinsmen had alleged that his death was not natural, but most likely as a result of his nomination and eventual appointment by the state governor.
In order to check the situation from snowballing into a major crisis, leaders of the area are working round the clock to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
But considering the length of time it took Wada to come up with his cabinet, it may take another long wait for him to be able to fill the position of Olutimayin, would be another rigorous journey.
Blueprint checks revealed that the position was initially earmarked for one Barrister Bola Fagbola before he was asked to step for the late Olutimayin by the political leaders from the area, led by Chief Jude Omokore.
A source to the political leadership of Kogi west senatorial district explained to Blueprint on condition of anonymity that owing to the controversy generated by the death of Olutimayin, it would be pretty difficult for get the nomination Fagbola across owing to likely insinuations that may trail such a move by the members of the public and the political class.
But as is customary with the political class, already many have started jostling for the position as it was gathered that intense lobby has taken the center stage even in the absence of the governor, who has travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Lesser Hajj. The lobbyists are holding on to anything that included the aides and relations of the governor.
No doubt his death has created another serious challenge for Wada who in now under intense pressure from politicians who felt that their interests were not taken into consideration in the appointments so far made.
The affected politicians are particularly aggrieved that having worked so hard and campaigned to ensure the success of the party and Wada at the polls, he abandoned them for non-politicians who did not face the rigours of campaign with them.
As the new appointees continue to settle down for duty, the people of kogi are waiting patiently for what they have in stock for them. It is left for the appointees especially the commissioners to justify their appointments.
Filed Under: Politics