Liberty and freedom to associate and belong to any political party of choice in line with an individual’s philosophy, school of thought and ideology is the hallmark and beauty of multiparty democracy which Nigeria practices. Members of the public are empowered and allowed by the constitution to freely express themselves politically within the ambient of the law and to interact with any political interest or party they so desire at any period of time. This unfortunately is not the case among the Ebira speaking ethnic tribe that makes the central (senatorial) district of Kogi State, North-central Nigeria.
Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, the people of central district of the confluence state left no one in doubt of their firm desire to always associate and drum support for a single political party in Unison, regardless of the prevailing multiparty democratic system in the country. Prior to the1999 general elections, political heavy weights and opinion leaders wasted no time in publicly professing their affinity and desire to work with the then newly registered Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). All and sundry were mobilized and convinced to support the party which would eventually rule Nigerian for 16 years. However, a few people regarded as personalities-of-no-electoral-value were deliberately left out and prevented from joining the PDP.
When asked in a radio interview program in December 24th 1998, on the reasons why some prominent figures have been sidelined and deliberately prevented from joining the PDP, even when such personalities played prominent roles in the politics of old Kwara State, a popular politician who is now late said “when cooking beans you first of all carefully exclude the stones, because the small small stones has no nutritional value to add to the meal but rather prevent you from enjoying the meal. What we have done is carefully letting out the small stones in order for us to enjoy the meal later. These people may have played some roles in the old political days, but now I can tell you that they do not have any such charisma or electoral value to earn them a place in our party”
Eventually, some of the “small stones” who were desperate to play a role in the new political republic joined the then All Peoples Party (APP) which later became the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Even though the PDP worn at the federal level, the political superiority and electoral sophistication of the Igala speaking eastern district of the state prevailed and gave the APP victory to occupy the gubernatorial seat of power (Lugard house). The forbidden stones in the central district suddenly became the stepping stones and the “small stones” whom were carefully excluded from the PDP in Kogi State in order not to spoil the enjoyment of the meal, became the enjoyment of the meal. The political gambling made by leaders of Kogi central by putting all our quality eggs in one basket relegated us politically, as the few ones were too scanty and voiceless to champion the course of the zone in the APP led state government.
Rather than learn from our past mistake of single party politics which has earned us nothing but political obscurity, underdevelopment, economic and policy exclusion, our leaders continued to toll the line of political naivety and selfishness, putting their personal interests above that of the entire people they claimed to be representing. 2007 witness the decamping of the whole central district of Kogi state from the PDP into the then Action Congress (AC) which later became Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). With the mantra of “power shift”, anyone who do not support or belong to the AC was seen and labeled as an enemy-of-Ebiraland. The whole idea was to coarse and force all indigenes and inhabitants of central district to vote for the AC gubernatorial candidate who also hails from the zone. Houses and properties of those who did otherwise were destroyed and completely razed down, while some lives were lost. At the end, all the efforts put into the 2007 power shift struggle and agitation ended in futility because of the lack of political calculation and insincerity of leaders.
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Now, the fact that we are on the verge of repeating the same mistake that we have made over and over means that we have learnt little or nothing from the political gamble and “suicide” of the past. It is said that those who do not learn from history stand the risk of repeating it over; this is what is about to be the fate of the people of (Ebiraland) central district of Kogi state. Putting all our eggs in a single basket has been the bane of political success of the majorly Ebira speaking zone of the state since 1999 and we are back full circle to make the same mistake once again.
Although the parties primary elections are yet to take place, but the fact that all the aspirants of Kogi central origin have decided to pitch their tent with APC is a bad omen, a worrisome trend and a political calamity just waiting to befall us and send us backward politically once again. We have shot ourselves in the feet once more. The questions are; what becomes of central district if none of our aspirants was able to secure the APC gubernatorial ticket at the primaries? What prevented some of our aspirants from aspiring and slugging it out in the PDP?
We can only pray that one of the aspirants paraded by central district (EBIRALAND) should clinch the APC gubernatorial ticket at the end of the day. Otherwise, our tradition of committing political gambling would take us a long time to recover in the state politics. Our people needs to be properly educated that we are in a multiparty democracy which offers a benefit of pursuing our interest and championing the course of power-shift simultaneously through a multiple political platforms, it’s high time we should take advantage of this. The time for us to grow up and learn from history is now. A wise man learns from the mistakes and ecperience of others but a fool is compelled to learn from his own experience. This tradition of political gambling must stop!
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