We commemorate 30 years of the creation of our dear state with undying gratitude to the Almighty God for His Divine Providences which gave us a state to call our own on this great corner of the earth He created. It is and will always remain our greatest duty to manage this land and her resources to God’s glory.
We celebrate former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who created our dear state out of the old Benue and Kwara State on 27th August, 1991. Just 20 days ago, on 17th August, 2021, we joined the General to commemorate his 80th birthday. Just like I have prayed on this day in past years, I pray the Almighty God to add more years and strength to him to witness the emergence of a Kogi that justifies his founding visions.
General Salihu Ibrahim (former Chief of Army Staff), Alhaji Aliyu Attah (former Inspector-General of Police), and Retired General Theophilus Jemibewon (a fine officer and gentleman), Chief Sunday Awoniyi (a consummate technocrat), Dr. Stephen Makoji Achema (politician and community leader of note), Pa C.H.N Lapini (elder statesman extraordinaire), Chief P.S Achimugu (another extraordinary elder stateman) are mentioned with pride.
These rare and brave souls, sons and daughters of Kogi State, collectively made agitation and rendered contributions which helped to birth our state. They showed their love for us in their actions and we offer them our thanks today, even as we quickly note that this list is inexhaustible. The journey to where we are today as a state has the inputs of all Kogites, both living and dead. We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have since passed on to eternity.
Today, I honour the first democratically elected Governor of Kogi state, late Prince Abubakar Audu who was also prominent among the ranks of those that laboured for the creation of Kogi State. I also acknowledge the invaluable roles played by my two eminent predecessors, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and Captain Idris Ichalla Wada, as co-architects and co-builders with me of our dear state.
My dear fellow Kogites and partners in progress, it gives me joy to say that we have made some progress over the last 30 years. Granted that we may not be where we want as at today, we would, nevertheless, be doing our own selves a disservice if we fail to acknowledge our own herculean efforts in nation-building and statecraft. All of us Kogites, private citizens and leaders alike have jointly paid the price for any progress or development we see today. As for the mistakes and errors, those of us who have been in leadership will have to sit down and share them.
It has been my lot as Governor and Chief Executive of Kogi State to steer us through some of the most difficult seasons of our 30 years. In the last six years that I have been in charge, our dear nation Nigeria has been hit by at least two major recessions which reduced our income as a State to some of its lowest levels since her creation. If anyone will recall, these duo of economic tragedies hit us within months of my swearing in for my First and Second Terms in 2016 and 2020 respectively.
Although the injurious impacts of the two recessions spoken of earlier were made worse by a naira
exchange rate that has been in a free fall from 2015 till today, we still conjured the funding to fulfill our campaign promises, most times, practically from thin air. It is here that I must pause and applaud the ingenuity and financial discipline of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and his team. It was simply nothing short of magical how His Excellency kept this nation’s finances afloat during periods when bigger and wealthier countries were brought to their knees.
Here in Kogi, by the triple mechanism of blocking loopholes/theft, eliminating wastage/loss and proper prioritisation of expenditure we have managed to make each Naira and Kobo we have earned go much further than anyone believed possible.
In between the two terrible recessions mentioned above, the Covid-19 pandemic arrived like the grim reaper from the first quarter of 2020 and began to wreak havoc on mankind. It continues till today. This controversial phenomenon impaired governance around the world and by means of lockdowns and adverse restrictions which it engendered managed to frustrate service delivery to citizens around the world, Nigeria and Kogi State not exempted.
However, with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, we proved to the world that with the help of God, support of the citizenry, leadership sincerity and a ton of political will it is possible for science and common sense as well as good governance and medicine to work together in the service of humanity.
Due to our position as a major transit hub in Nigeria we are easily exposed to anything our fellow citizens carry along while travelling through, which in the past frequently included outbreaks of deadly diseases like Lassa and yellow fever. Thus we became alarmed at how otherwise respected national public health institutions charged with protecting us tended to proceed on the certainty that no matter what we did here, Covid-19 would decimate us.
Inspired by a mix of principles which included an obstinate refusal to hand over the lives and livelihoods of my people to unsympathetic forces, we insisted on doing our sworn duty to govern proactively and protect our people to the best of our abilities and resources.
We resisted unholy pressures and would not capitulate to the whims and caprices of 3rd parties, whoever they were, in response to the pandemic. We adopted sincere advisories from the regulatory bodies on Covid-19, some of which we modified to meet our localised circumstances and totally disregarded those that were inapplicable, politicised, commercialised or guaranteed to crumble our economic base without any guarantee of keeping the pandemic at bay.
We fought like wildcats to keep our people safe. Some would say I literally transformed into a White Lion and deployed teeth and fangs to do my sacred duty of protecting Kogi State. In my books we did only what good conscience and the fear of God demanded of us. We were a vulnerable people faced with a deadly dilemma, in fact a sentence of death, but by believing in our divine and physical resources, we refused to go quietly into that darkness.
In the end our strategies completely deflected the ill-will and doomsday prophecies which were poured like invective on us from many quarters. Most painful however were the many influential Kogites who joined in this grim concert. The prophesied negative impact on our society and people made by vested interests did not manifest beyond the generalised economic setback. Even at that, we still managed, albeit very briefly, to overtake the rest of the country in projected flow of foreign direct investment. As of today, and God willing, till this ill wind completely blows over on this planet, Kogi State will continue to post the nation’s most covid-free figures.
It is therefore vitally important that on this 30th Anniversary we recount these chronicles, not only to document them for posterity but to remind those of us alive now what daunting socio-economic and politico-cultural odds we have overcome on our journey to the future we desire. We have successfully pulled ourselves a long way forward between 27th January, 2015 when I first stepped into this Office, and today which also doubles as the 19th monthly anniversary of my second term.
While we have never adopted the somewhat awkward practice of flagging off projects with fanfare or commissioning them after completion with festivities with live TV crews that is so popular in our contemporary times, we silently complete and release to the use of our people hundreds of mini to major developments proportionately distributed across the 3 senatorial districts of our state.
These projects range from roads to bridges to rural water schemes to multi-community electrification projects to hundreds of primary, secondary and tertiary health and education facilities, amenities and consumables, to industries, factories and all manners of infrastructure and utilities to comprehensive civil service and pension reforms to tens of thousands of youth empowerment and job creation initiatives both homegrown and partnerships. Hundreds of these mark our first term and hundreds more are aggressively ongoing which we are resolute will be completed on or before the expiration of our second tenure.
I have deliberately refused to go into the details of individual projects in this speech. Not even sector by sector. There is neither time nor need for that today. They are there on ground for anyone to visit and verify. Many prominent journalists from leading networks and news-houses have come to investigate and they have gone on air with audio-visual evidence.
We are not expected to do more than that, but bearing in mind that we have a service compact with our people which includes Open Governance, we have further spent and continue to spend great resources to design and maintain a regularly updated platform where anyone can see our progress at the click of a button on their desktop or handheld device. Today and henceforth we simply refer every person genuinely or maliciously interested in our stewardship of Kogi State’s resources to our e-Compendium at www.kogipedia.net for undeniable proofs. We welcome efforts to disprove what we have uploaded.
With Kogipedia, we are no longer willing to engage in arguments with those who are ignorant or those who still derive perverse pleasure from denying the witness of their own eyes or the direct evidence of their personal experience. I repeat that with www.kogipedia.net we have simultaneously empowered truth-seekers and disembowelled those who wish to contradict themselves for political or other expediency. The truly ignorant will find the site a mind blowing, albeit, enlightening experience. To the biased, will always remain a confirmatory, albeit mentally excruciating, tour. There is, after all, nothing more painful than a detractor who sees his wishes of failure on another turn inwards and become a failure of his own peevish and perverted desires.
In real terms, Kogi is fast becoming the default example of a truly democratised and free state where inclusive leadership and people-based governance models have become central and accessible to all. We understand clearly the demands of public office and have a standing resolve to put the interest of our people first in all we do as a government.
My administration took the security, unity, peace and prosperity of our once divided and impoverished people seriously, right from inception. Today, our state is arguably the safest in the entire country, we are rated the second most peaceful and our crime rate is second lowest. We have a hugely diverse population that is nevertheless more united now than at any time in our history.
By aiming at targets we set in our New Direction Blueprint and allied governance roadmaps, we are crushing our goals in reduction of the Multidimensional Poverty Indices here in Kogi State while keeping pace with the five thematic areas we adopted from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Among other laurels, Kogi State, by the most recent national records, is now the state:
with the second least number of children out of school among the 19 states of Northern Nigeria.
with the least incidents of under-5 mortality in the entire country.
with the most reduced domestic debt profile in the entire country.
which has gone from 90% to 100% scores within the last two years in the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability rankings.
Recently, the prestigious Wall Street Journal joined other credible publications in confirming that the population of our state capital, Lokoja, is set to rise 78% in the next 10 years according to United Nations projections. This, according to the journal, is a faster growth rate than every other sizable town and city in the world.
As a government we can confirm a significant increase in migration into our rural and urban areas in Kogi State over the last 5 years, mainly by people from other places coming to take advantage of our security of lives and properties, ethnic harmony, religious tolerance and growing profile as a commercial centre. All incidences of a reforming and progressive society.
These demographic shifts are often imperceptible, but they are real and they add incrementally to the prosperity profile of our people and residents as demands for their goods and services grow. Farmers and farm workers displaced from their homes by conflict who find our fertile lands and peaceful villages and towns attractive keep arriving. We also have hundreds of MSME owners who have found a business niche among us.
Our greatest challenge remains how to design and implement policies and programmes that would address the immediate needs of our predominantly young and fast growing population while planning and projecting for their aspirations into the near and distant future.
For the records, we do confirm that a rising birth rate is the least contributor to the current renaissance cum population boost in Kogi State. We are not the most prolific state in human reproductive prowess, not even in northern Nigeria and our birth rate remains quite insignificant compared to other cities of similar size in the country.
My administration is keen about issues relating to gender and human rights protection. We have proven our mettle in this regard with awards and commendations from our friends in the UN, AU and other international and domestic development partners to prove our winning ways. As of today Kogi State has achieved a minimum of 45% Affirmative Action for the Women as at today and increasing. There is a tangible reason why I am the Most Gender Sensitive Governor in Nigeria today and the He-For-She Ambassador of Nigerian Women.
At 30, Kogi is the emerging paradigm for Cooperation and Integration as a basis for citizens’ co-existence instead of the previous divide and rule tactics which failed politicians and harmed citizens in our past. It is a paradigm we hope to expand and export to the larger Nigerian society as we march towards the critical 2023 in our search for a peaceful and prosperous Nigerian society.
My beloved people of Kogi State, 30 is not 30 days – let us thank God, celebrate ourselves and appreciate our state.
May the Almighty God grant us both life and the strength to see many more anniversaries of our state and the special blessing of seeing our State vastly improve with each successive one.
God bless Nigeria.
And God bless Kogi State.
Governor of Kogi State