Inaugural Meeting on Emergence of an Umbrella Organization for the Igala People
PREAMBLE: The inaugural meeting on the emergence of an umbrella organization for the Igala people of Kogi State was held on December 29, 2009 at the Francis Idachaba Lecture Theatre, Kogi State University, Anyigba. Being an initiative of Igala Association USA and Igala UK, the inaugural meeting was attended by over 150 participants including leaders of various development organizations and group across Igala land, representatives of Igala sons and daughters in the diaspora, traditional rulers, local government officials, legislators, politicians, opinion leaders, students and women groups.
The meeting deliberated on the desirability of working towards the emergence of a pan-Igala organization as envisaged by Igala Association USA and Igala UK, that can fill the void created by the absence of a credible platform capable of giving the Igala people a unified voice in local and national affairs. A detailed presentation of the concept note was delivered by Dr. Michael Idachaba which enunciated the following core elements: the Umbrella Organization shall be non-political and expected to serve as the supreme voice of the Igala people; the leadership of the organization shall consist of persons of high moral character, high intellectual depth, national recognition, passionate about Igala advancement, financially self sufficient, and demonstrably non-partisan; the organization shall among other functions speak forcefully on behalf of Igala people on vital national issues, develop and execute political, social and economic agenda for the Igala people, put in place a mechanism for accountability of our elected officials, help create a conducive environment for investment by wealthy Igala and non-Igala patriots, and partner with political leadership to create a peaceful political environment. Dr Idachaba’s presentation set the tone for intensive and passionate deliberations by the participants resulting in a number of key observations and recommendations.
Following exhaustive deliberations, participants observed as follows:
RECOMMENDATIONS AND THE WAY FORWARD
On the basis of the aforementioned observations, participants made the following recommendations in providing the way forward:
Professor Sam Egwu
Dr. Michael Idachaba
Committee set up by Igala USA /
UK for the Emergence of an
Umbrella Organization for Igala People
FORMATION OF A STRUCTURED UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION FOR IGALA AS A SOLUTION FOR THE COMPLEX DEVELOPMENTAL CHALLENGES FACING THE IGALA NATION
Address Presented by Dr Michael A. Idachaba on behalf of IGALA ASSOCIATIONS, USA & UK through the Committee on Emergence of an Umbrella Organization for the Igala People
At the Inaugural Meeting held at Kogi State University, Anyigba, Kogi State, Nigeria
On December 29, 2009
Your Royal Majesty, the Attah of Igala, Alhaji Aliyu Obaje (or his representative) , Your Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris (or his representative) ; All other Royal Highnesses; Distinguished members of the Kogi state delegation to the National Assembly, Distinguished Vice-Chancellor and members of the Faculty of Kogi State University, Distinguished members of Igala delegation to Kogi State House of Assembly, Distinguished Opinion leaders, Distinguished leaders of Civil Organizations, Distinguished Igala Patriots.
On behalf of the committee on emergence of an umbrella organization for the Igala nation, and the entire Igala community in US and UK , I welcome everyone who has honored our invitation to be physically present at this historic meeting. Before going forward with my address, I want us to observe a one minute silence for the souls that were lost about 2 weeks ago in Dekina in one of the biggest tragedies on Igala soil. May God Almighty grant comfort to the families of the departed souls.
I want to begin by paying tribute to the efforts of the members of my committee who worked tirelessly to bring us to the point we are today. Most members of the committee had desired to be here physically but unable to, due to different commitments. We had met virtually every week since September to plan and strategize for this day. Members of the committee include: Abu Acheneje (Secretary), Mrs. Lillian Zekeri, Mr. David Shaibu, Mr. Martin Ahiaba, Mallam Mohammed Isah Akus from the UK, and Dr Momoh Yakubu. They all send their best wishes.
I equally want to recognize the contribution of the larger Igala Bodies in both the United States and the United Kingdom who set up the committee to work towards the Emergence of an Umbrella Organization for Igala people. Their continued support has been invaluable to the committee’s work till date.
Finally I want to express my committee’s appreciation to members of the Local Organizing Committee led by Professor Sam Egwu who worked tirelessly on all aspects of the logistics to get this meeting organized. I want all members of the LOC who are here to please get up and be recognized. Please join me in giving them a deserved round of applause.
I want to begin my address by paying tributes to the efforts of several Igala organizations that have worked and still working towards the upliftment and advancement of the Igala nation. There are well over 30 organizations working on development issues on Igala land and her people. Organizations like FS Idachaba Foundation, Igala Project, National Frontier are actively involved in giving out scholarships to Igala sons and daughters in an effort to address the issue of access to qualitative education to bright students from indigent families. As I stand before you here, I’m aware that Igala Advancement Foundation is working on ways to get to the root of the horrific accident that claimed dozens of lives in Dekina a forth night ago, with a view to ameliorate the pains of the victims’ immediate families. Organizations like network of Igala associations and ATEKO Club are actively involved in advocacy efforts on a wide range of issues. Other organizations that cater to different segments of our diverse population include Ebulejonu Daughters Club, Ufedo Club, Ojuju Agbadufu, Igala National Solidarity, Igala Historical Foundation, Club 582, Iyale women Association, Imane Development Union, Royal Club of Ofakaga, and others too numerous to mention.
But perhaps, the organization that comes close to being a National Igala organization is the Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA). It has been very much involved in sustaining the organization of ITALO, the most prominent cultural and unifying event for all Igala people, that show cases the richness of Igala culture and heritage. All the efforts of these and other organizations deserve the appreciation of all Igala people.
But despite their nobility, the total aggregate of the efforts of these organizations is still dwarfed by the complexity of the challenges that confront the Igala nation today. There is currently no individual with the resources to address the complex issues facing the Igala nation. The only institution with the wherewithal to tackle all these complex issues is the Government. What is missing in the current leadership set up within the Igala nation is a strong national organization that will serve as the link between the people and their Government.
PROBLEMS FACING THE IGALA NATION
The Igala nation is facing some very serious and complex economic and social problems today. I will now attempt to discuss some of the very serious ones with you. These include: Poverty, Violent crimes, dilapidated educational and physical infrastructure, lack of access to good healthcare, high unemployment, and erosion of moral values.
Poverty – This is a problem that needs no introduction. There is hardly any family in Igala land that does not experience poverty in one form or the other. Most of our social problems can be directly linked to this problem. A recent Central Bank of Nigeria data confirms what we already know: that Kogi, a State in which we are the majority is the 3rd poorest state in the country. By implication, Igala can be considered as one of the poorest ethnic nationality in the country. Majority of the Igala population cannot afford three square meals a day. Majority also cannot afford to pay for their children’s secondary school education. The underlying reason for high poverty in Igala land is the fact that majority of our population are still engaged in non-productive, subsistence farming that is incapable of fetching enough income to meet even the most basic necessities of life. The industries that could have used the produce from their farms as raw materials and thus provide outlets and expanded opportunities for them are non-existent.
Violent Crimes – Violent crimes such as arm robbery, killings for political reasons, and murders for other reasons have reached intolerable and frightening levels in Igala land. Such crimes were virtually unknown about 30-40 years ago because they were foreign to Igala culture. The combination of poverty and elevation of wealth and political power above our value system have led to increase in violence and disregard for human life. The issue of violent crime is personal to me. In 2006 when I came home on a visit with my entire family, we were visited by men with guns in the middle of the night in my father’s house in Idah just a day after we arrived. They specifically told my father they were looking for his son that came from America . They took the money we brought to spend while in Nigeria , including the money that a friend sent me to give his family members. They took the car I bought for my mother’s use after we were gone. I sustained injuries on my head and had to immediately evacuate to Lokoja for my injuries to heal. That was the end of my holiday. We left Lokoja for Abuja and back to the US . The entire episode took place in the presence of my kids who were brought to get acquainted with their fatherland. They had nightmares about the whole incidence for a while. After such an experience most people could be moved to have nothing to do with the land that is so unwelcoming. My passion for Igala land made me resolve that nobody will drive me away from my fatherland. That is why I am here today. The truth is I have no other place I can call my own land than Igala land. Even if I spend 100 years in the US , I will still be a stranger.
Loss of moral values – 30-40 years ago, an average Igala person had a deep sense of appreciation for our moral values such as integrity and hard work. It was common practice for a son to explain in detail the source of his wealth before his parent will accept monetary gifts from him. The inordinate acquisition of wealth and power was virtually non-existent. At the time under consideration, the village headmaster and his teachers were not only respected, they were the exemplars of traditional values and character. The teacher worked hand in glove with the family to ensure that we had very deep mores and values. That is why it was unheard of to hear of a petty thief or treasury looter of Igala descent. No child wanted to put their family’s name through that kind of shame back then. And if it was a thing of grand shame to be a petty thief back then, you can imagine the amount of embarrassment a family would feel to hear that a member was involved in an act as dastard as armed robbery.
High Unemployment – The problem of poverty in Igala land is compounded by the absence of employment opportunities for our teeming young ones graduating from our tertiary institutions. High crime rates generally correlates with high unemployment. When people go through the rigors of higher education and end up with no job, and a bleak future, they become vulnerable to all kinds of negative inclinations. About 30 years ago, it was the norm that job will be waiting for you after graduation from the university. It is no longer the case.
Lack of adequate representation in National Institutions - Of all the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria , none in the top twenty-five (except Igala land) has less than two Senators representing them in the Upper arm of the National Assembly. This is in addition to having at least a state capital located on their soil. If you cast your mind back to the eight years of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, you will recall that we were the only one in the first ten ethnic groups that had no representation in the Federal Executive Council. Even under the present Yar’Adua dispensation, the most we have gotten is a token Minister of State. During the Obasanjo era, the argument then was that Igala had Chief of Defense Staff and Chief of Air Staff. This argument is not sustainable given the fact that other ethnic groups that held top military appointments were not denied representation in the policy execution arm of the Federal Government. Military and Defense appointments are based largely on professional merit and less on political representation or federal character. Decisions about where to site projects and who to execute those projects are made in the Federal Executive Council where we had no representation for 8 years. We can therefore understand why there is virtually no Federal presence in Igala land.
Lack of Access to Quality Health Care – Igala land has some of the worst health facilities in the country. The hospitals and medical centers are in dilapidated state with virtually no drugs and equipments to perform basic medical services. I came face to face with the reality of our medical infrastructure during my ordeal in the hands of robbers that attacked me and my family. I sustained injuries and was taken to General Hospital Idah in the dead of the night. My injuries were stitched, using bush lantern because there was no light and the generator was either non-existent or non-functional. The materials used for my treatment had to be hurriedly purchased from private shops.
CURRENT LEADERSHIP AND PERPETUATION OF OUR DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEMS
The endemic and intractable nature of the problems facing the Igala nation is largely due to leadership structure that is currently in place. The current leadership is characterized by the following:
Absence of organized leadership dealing with integrated developmental issues of poverty, education, economics, social, and political
a. Different organizations pursuing different developmental agenda with no strong umbrella organization;
b. Absence of a forum for the common people to exert pressure on political leadership to work for the collective good of the people;
c. With no mechanism in place to hold political leadership accountable for their stewardship, they are therefore only open to individuals, friends, and family pressure which interests are often at variance with the collective interest of the people;
d. Absence of a properly constituted forum for the electorate to scrutinize, deliberate, discuss, or otherwise make inputs into developmental agendas and programs of political office seekers;
It is very clear from the above analysis that the leadership structure currently in place is incapable of meeting the challenges of 21st century developmental challenges facing the Igala Nation. Thus, a new leadership structure is needed to urgently confront these challenges head on.
PROPOSED LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE AS A SOLUTION TO OUR COMPLEX DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEMS
Leadership Design – The leadership structure being proposed is expected to consist of a well organized Umbrella Organization to which other existing organizations defer to. The Umbrella organization is expected to harmonize the activities of the other organizations. It is expected to liaise with the other organizations in the development of a common agenda for the Igala people. The organization is expected to exercise the supreme moral authority of the Igala people. Every Igala son and daughter except the Attah of Igala is expected to submit to the authority of the organization.
Requirements for Leadership of the Umbrella Organization – Because of the nature of the assignment they are expected to perform, the Principal Heads of the organization are expected to possess the following qualities:
a. Be of high moral character – it is impossible to provide moral leadership if you have moral questions regarding the performance of your previous public assignments. Thus, it is critically important that people seeking to lead this organization must be people with proven, unblemished records.
b. Must possess the intellectual depth to understand the intricacies of 21st century governance. The problems confronting the Igala nations are complex economic and socio-political problems. To be the spoke person in articulating policy agenda to address these problems, one must of necessity be broadly trained or exposed to these complex problems and their solutions
c. Broad acceptance among a cross section of the Igala community. It is extremely important that those at the headship of the organization have the support of those they are leading for their leadership to be effective
d. Nationally recognized – The leaders of the Umbrella organization are expected to go head to head and toe – toe with leaders of other major national ethnic organizations. Given the caliber of persons that have headed organizations such as Afenifere and Ohaneze, it is absolutely important the leaders of the Umbrella organization be people with national recognition whose voice commands respect both in the corridors of power and among other nationalities
e. Passion for Igala Advancement – This is one of the most important qualities for successful performance at the headship of the organization. If you have national recognition and are not passionate about the issues of the people you lead, you will be of little use to the organization and their causes.
f. Be self sufficient – It is practically impossible for individuals that intend to derive their livelihood from Government Contracts to be critical of the same Government even if the Government is not living up to its moral obligations to the people. Thus, individuals who are self sufficient are less likely to compromise principles and collective aspirations for personal monetary gains
g. Have no partisan political affiliation – The surest and quickest way for an organization to lose credibility is for its leaders to be perceived to be fronts for a particular political organization.
Organizational Structure – The Umbrella Organization is expected to have Chapters at Villages, Districts, Local Government, State/National levels. The lower level is expected to put together development agenda some of which will be presented to political leadership at that level and the rest passed onto the next level until it gets to the highest level. All items that find their way to the highest level will form part of the agenda for the National body. The main body is expected to have an intellectual arm that will consist of Igala intellectuals from different fields of endeavor. This arm will provide intellectual guidance on technical details of policy agenda and assist the leadership in rapidly articulating Igala positions on major national issues.
Role of the Umbrella Organization – the organization is expected to perform the following functions:
a. Speak forcefully on behalf of Igala people on vital national, state and local issues
b. Work with other existing organizations and its own intellectual arm to develop a comprehensive developmental agenda/blueprint for the Igala people
c. Partner with political parties to ensure selection of credible candidates for political leadership in Igala land
d. Partner with political leadership to ensure timely execution of our collective priorities
e. Organize open and transparent forums where political candidates will present their agenda to the people to determine which candidates have better agenda at any given political cycle
f. Partner with political parties to deemphasize the influence of money in our body polity and elevate the role of ideas
g. Partner with political leadership to demand fair share of Igala representation at all levels of government
h. Partner with political parties and their leadership to lower the temperature of our political environment. This can be done by working with the party in power to see opposition members not as enemies but brothers. They will also work with the party in power to give reasonable accommodation to opposition members in the running of government. They will also work with the party in power not to exclude qualified opposition party members from government contracts
i. Put in place mechanism for accountability of our political leadership to the citizens that put them in power. This can be done by setting benchmarks and deadlines for execution of agreed priorities, and arranging periodic forums for elected officials to brief them on the progress made on the execution of those priorities. They shall utilize all constitutional leverages such as threat of recall and loss of support to ensure adherence to agreed timelines.
j. Work with all stakeholders to put in place measures that could guarantee safety of private investments
k. Sensitize and encourage our wealthy citizens on the need to site their productive investments in Igala land for the sake of our collective security. With investments come employment opportunities for our youths. Employment of youth reduces the pressure to commit crimes. The net result is a safer environment for all of us.
Most of the monumental changes we have read about in history begin with one person. Thank God, there is already a group of us here who are willing to bring about positive changes to our land. Most of the ingredients we need to effect those changes are already in place. Under the present political structure in Nigeria , the local government councils are well positioned to spread development to the remotest part of our rural areas, just as the state government exists, and is equipped to meet state needs. So all that appears to be missing to us is a grassroots organization that has the moral force to help the state and local governments serve us better. For the avoidance of doubt, the grass root organization we seek to bring about will neither compete with, nor take political power away from those who currently wield it. In fact, when properly formed and constituted, the organization will, among other functions, serve as a buffer to shield the formal organs of government and the individuals who run them from undue attacks; complement and help them do a better job of carrying out their mandates; formulate and articulate developmental goals for the governments; but above all, demand accountability from the government. The precise modalities for how these functions are going to be carried out will form part of the deliberations for today’s meeting and subsequent ones.
Thank you for listening, God bless Igala Nation, God Bless Kogi state, and may God continue to Bless Nigeria .
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