IGALA ASSOCIATION USA 10th ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD AT WASHINGTON DC, USA, 4TH-6TH SEPTEMBER 2009
1. The 10th annual national conference of Igala Association, USA afforded us an opportunity to reflect on the question of poverty in Igala land. The conference provided us an opportunity to reflect on the current economic, social, and political dimensions of poverty, and directed our minds at the possibilities for change.
2. We are saddened and disappointed by the growing incidence of human and material poverty in Igala land, in spite of official accounts of improvement. These official accounts fail to tally with the recent results of a national research which lists Kogi State as the third most poverty-stricken state in Nigeria. We are painfully aware of the position of Igala land in that disconcerting race to the bottom.
3. We decry the worsening state of unemployment among youths and the proliferation of instruments of violence in private hands. We urge our political leaders to seek urgent solution to political thuggery and the imminent descent to lawlessness in Igala land. In particular, we urge the setting up of a high-powered non-political committee comprising eminent sons and daughters of Igala, such as retired senior armed forces personnel, religious leaders, retired civil servants, eminent professionals, etc. to negotiate a return to peace.
4. We acknowledge that the unbearably slow progress on the development of basic infrastructure, such as schools, roads, potable water, hospitals, etc., exacerbates poverty and constrains the possibilities for change. We also decry the abandonment of productive activities among able-bodied individuals and the tilt towards dependency and mendicancy in Igala land.
5. We also acknowledge that governance is a two-way street. We are deeply concerned about the culture of corruption and lack of engagement which is taking root among Igala political followership. Ethical followership means, among other things, exercising vigilance upon, and a readiness to demand accounting from, leaders. We urge Igala people to stop trading the future of their children for a pittance by their willingness to be corrupted, their complacency, and their complicity in the under-achievement of their leaders.
6. We notice the absence of a legitimate moral (non-political) leadership in Igala land. This makes it impossible to project a strong moral voice in the affairs of Kogi State or Nigeria as a whole. Moral leaders would consist of selected men and women of integrity and character who do not have partisan political ambitions or credentials. Such a moral body would serve to vet political aspirants for character and ability to serve, articulate a people-oriented agenda, draw up rules of engagement in politics, and speak on behalf of all Igala at state and federal levels of government. We urge all Igala political leaders to consider the formation of such a body with minimum delay.
7. We in the diaspora acknowledge our responsibility in the meagre awareness of Igala language and culture among our children. We resolve to teach our children the language, and make available to them conventional and electronic educational resources to facilitate learning of Igala culture and history.
8. We acknowledge also that, among us in the diaspora, our awareness of the conjoined destiny of all Igala bears further effort. We resolve to do more to educate ourselves on the virtues of public service and public spiritedness among our rank and file. The Association begins the work in earnest through its scholarship program, by which members shall extend a helping hand to Igala students in need outside of their own immediate families.
9. We consider and endorse the current agitation for an Igala State as a legitimate demand for fairness by the Igala people in the context of Nigeria as a federation. Igala Association USA resolves to be an active contributor and participant in the struggles of all Igala for fair treatment and respect among the constituent units of the country.
10. In view of our desire for improvement of the social and economic conditions of Igala land, we identify the following matrix of issues and suggest that the issues be addressed aggressively:
10.1. Governance: The current political culture requires change in a fundamental respect. Leaders need to listen more to the yearnings of the people over whom they exercise power to shape the future. The “Town Hall” format of gauging and gathering the opinions of the people is suggested to our leaders. Igala everywhere on earth need to cultivate the habit of visiting Igala land periodically and making available to our land the benefits of their education and experiences in order to augment the effort of government to establish beneficial political culture. The creation of an enabling environment to allow people to exercise autonomy over the direction of their lives is the responsibility of government.
10.2. Strategies for Economic Development: A bottom-up approach is the strategy that is working in most parts of the world. The government needs to engender “ownership” of economic development programs in target communities. Intensive public education is required for people to begin to “own” and identify with government-initiated development programs. Again, a “town hall” format is recommended in the matter of identifying where the people’s interest lies.
10.3. The Role of Local Government Councils: The financial constraints of Local Government Councils is acknowledged. For these councils to be effective, they must be allowed the full measure of revenue allocations from the federal level. The current arrangement in which the councils maintain a joint account with the state deprives the local government councils of much-needed funds for the discharge of their responsibilities to their constituencies. The local government councils, on their part, need to generate revenue internally and be accountable. Local government councils, by virtue of their close proximity to their constituents, have an important role to play in the alleviation of poverty in Igala land. A sample of their docket should include the civic education of the local population in the responsibilities of good citizenship; the establishment of skills acquisition centres to train school leavers for the job market or for self-employment; maintenance of local roads and infrastructure, such as markets; micro-credit financing to lift people from abject poverty where only a small amount of capital can make a difference for those who lack capital but have viable business propositions.
10.4. Cultural Reawakening: The intensifying poverty and political degeneration in Igala land, to a large extent. reflects cultural deterioration among our people. All avenues of education need to be mobilized to inculcate the virtues of Igala culture in the young and not-so-young members of the land, at home and abroad. The speaking and writing of Igala language and, by extension, a proper understanding of Igala values and cultural nuances, need to be encouraged through our educational system. A template for this form of curriculum exists in the pre-school system of education that was in operation in Igala land up to the late 1960s. An improvement of the curriculum should include a compulsory subject of Igala language through secondary schools with a possibility for students to write WAEC level examinations in the language. In the diaspora, all Igala parents have a responsibility to teach Igala to their children, and to make Igala language resources available to the children. The Association should consider developing internet resources to ease studying Igala language and history for children in the diaspora. A culturally-deracinated population cannot properly lay claim to good citizenship. By contrast, a culturally-grounded population would eschew some of the selfish and disrespectful forms of behaviour that have bedevilled Igala politics and escalated the incidence of poverty among the people. Culture is everything; a people who abandons its culture loses its moral compass and would before long lose its identity and fitness to be called a people.
10.5 Igala Association USA will take on the role of advocate for these and other matters of development in Igalaland. To this end, it will open communication with all Igala leaders and political office holders.
11. We thank The Honourable James J. Idachaba (Member, House of Representatives, representing Ibaji/Idah/Igalamela-Odolu/Ofu Federal Constituency, Nigerian National Assembly), for honouring our invitation to participate at this conference. We also thank The Honourable Reuben Idakwoji (Member, Kogi State House of Assembly, representing Dekina/Biraidu State Constituency). We are grateful for their insightful presentations on the theme of “Poverty in Igala Land”. The presence at these leaders at the conference created a rare but unique opportunity for interaction and a sharing of vision by political leaders with Igala sons and daughters in the United States of America andCanada, who gathered for this conference under the auspices of Igala Association USA.
12. We also thank all the presenters at the conference – Dr. Sam Alfa, Dr. Momoh Yakubu, Martin Ahiaba, James Odiba, and Isah Yakubu for their insights. They helped to instil orderly thinking and discussion of the issues at stake.
13. We thank all the leaders of the six break-out sessions – Deborah Idachaba, Fatima Alfa, Amina Osagie, Mary Shaibu, Bello Adejo, and Yahaya Abuh.
14. We express gratitude to the Washington DC Chapter of Igala Association USA. The Washington DC Chapter hosted this conference and catered to the wellbeing of all participants with great enthusiasm and accomplishment.
15. The 11th annual conference of Igala Association, USA will again hold at Washington, DC, USA, in August 2010.
Alloysius A. Ocheni Dr. Paul D. Ocheje
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Attah, Pastor Paul
Idachaba, Mike Akor
Idachaba, James J.
Edogbanya, Mark Ogu
Ocheni, Alloysius A.
Opaluwa, Mohammed Ibrahim
Osagie, Efe Amira
Osagie, Rabi Farida
Osagie, Austin Sayeed
Prince, Aliu Suleman
Yakubu, Isah “Yankee”
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