Ogun 2019: Reversing The Catalogue of injustices against Ogun West -Senator Kola Fajomo
I wish to express my gratitude to the President and Members of Yewa Development Forum for giving me the opportunity to deliver this lecture. When I was approached about a month ago, it did not take me much time to think about what to write because the call coincided with the time when several people across the state were making comments about the 2019 political transition agenda viz a viz the agitations of the people of Ogun west for right placement in the scheme of things in Ogun State: these among other things includes equitable distribution of state resources and more specifically the claim to the exalted Governorship position of the State.
I have painstakingly read over many of such comments in the dailies and on the social media, many of which are suggestive that Ogun west as equitable one third portion of the State has not been well factored into the developmental agenda of successive administrations in the State since its creation in 1976. My immediate reactions to all these had been first, to recognize the inalienable rights of those making the comments since it is part of the rules of democratic governance that people must speak out their views on issues bordering on their welfare and good governance and secondly, to also find a medium to add my voice in contribution to the debate that power must not be left in the hands of a section of the people no matter how dominant and powerful they may be. These popular views of the fundamental ideas of democratic and principle of good governance has therefore brought me on the podium to affirm the United Nations declaration on human rights in the course of my presentation that “we are all born free and equal … we should all be treated in the same way”
Before I commence the business of the lecture, let me pay my glowing tribute to my brother Professor Rahamon Adisa Bello in whose honour we all gathered here today to celebrate his glorious exit from Public service after meritorious deliveries to public service and the Ivory tower. He is a man after my heart for so many reasons. Although I did not attend Egbado College or University of Ife where we could have met earlier, later when we became close compatriots, we have done many things together to the benefit of our own dear motherland: Yewaland and our dear State Ogun State. The World has heard so much about him as a very outstanding scholar, a first class graduate from Nigeria “Harvard University” talking about our own University of Ife. He is a reputable University teacher and University Administrator of good substance, a distinguished academic and member of Science Academy who had contributed immensely to knowledge through teaching, research and Community services. He was the second Yewa man to become Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, the first being Professor Adesola from Isaga Orile-Yewaland. Im sure it is not a mere coincidence today, that the organizers of this event have thought of inviting me a Saala man to come and talk at an event organized for an Iboro man considering the synonym of the two towns, Ibooro leti Saala.
I join several of our common friends, brothers, Sisters and colleagues to congratulate you on your successful completion of your tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious University of Lagos and your retirement from service having reached the mandatory age of retirement from the service of the University. I sincerely hope that our Nation and Ogun State in particular will pride your experience so high for higher responsibilities in the service of the Nation. My brother, I heartily welcome you to this side of the divide, the league of jobless elders in the Federation.
Ogun State in the perspective of its historical foundation
When I had the privileged opportunity of addressing the University audience in Tai Solarin University of Education in 2010 at the first Alumni Guest lecture series, titled “Governance in Ogun State: A case for Equity, Fairness and Justice” , I made this very brief concluding remark that “Governance in Ogun State since inception had been a commendable one. This is one State in the Federation that has known the greatest peace with ever growing resources. We take the front seat in virtually all the facets of the Nation’s developmental roles. What seems important here is that Ogun State having been naturally endowed with enormous human resources including foremost nationalists and democrats should be a shining example of democracy in its truest form where equity, fairness and justice should at all times be pursued by its political Managers fairly, fully and impartially” Kola Bajomo (2010)
The historical-sociology of Ogun State can be well understood from this well captivating descriptive writing which tells the story of an evolving state from the old Western State comprising the then four major divisions of Egba, Egbado, Remo and Ijebu but restructured into three Senatorial districts of the West, the Central and the East.”The Military government of General Murtala Mohammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo in February 1976 created Ogun State from the old Western State. The State at creation consists of the former Abeokuta and the Ijebu provinces in the old Western region which extended to Badagry and Epe, Ikorodu in Lagos State respectively. Soon after the creation, the Abeokuta province was delineated into Egba and the Egbado administrative divisions, while the Ijebu Province was also delineated into the Ijebu and Remo administrative divisions. Thus, for administrative convenience, the State recognised the four administrative divisions in its governance i.e. the Egba, Egbado, Ijebu and the Remo. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria further delineated Ogun State into three Senatorial Districts along the existing borderlines of its traditional four administrative divisions with almost equal population distribution” Dapo Oke (2017). If the structure of Ogun State was built on four divisions arising from the two Provinces of Ijebu and Abeokuta and lately three Senatorial districts which are supposed to be of equal status, how then did we come about the problem of inequality that has made the Yewa, and Ogun west a disadvantaged region in the State.
The claims of marginalisation
It is a statement of verity that inequality of resource distribution and opportunities has been one of the chief facts in the claims of the People of Ogun West for sectional marginalisation. This inequality takes its source from the imbalance political structures that tend to create the minority issues in the State. The foundation for the marginalisation of the zone could be said to have been laid with the creation of imbalance political structure which tends to create the impression that Ogun west is a minority group in the State whereas every statistical evidence has affirmed that we do not have minority group in Ogun State but minority problem, minority questions and minority issues.
Since inception of the creation of Ogun State, inequalities were seen in the number of local governments and state Constituencies allocated to Ogun west, limited number of our people that were absorbed into the State Civil service, the few infrastructures that were thrown at us which made the masses in the area to continue to live in poverty and in unsanitary environment with the merest fragments of education that continued to make Ogun west educationally disadvantaged and least developed area. In this circumstance, talents of many children born in this part of the State were stunted and limited to few opportunistic advantages obtained outside governmental influence as against what is obtained in other parts of the State.
Prof Afolabi Olabimtan remarked in one of his interviews with Femi Dokunmu of the then Egbado News Magazine, published in 1994. “The Egbado people don’t have the same opportunities as other groups in the State. For instance, the population of the present Egbado North and South put together is over five hundred thousand, but unfortunately they are reckoned with as the minority and they have only two local governments. Whereas, if you take the population of Ijebu East 62,040; Ijebu North 142,429; Ogun Water-side 66,396 and of course Odogbolu, and Ijebu-Ode 244,783; these are five local governments, I mean there population, compares favourably with that of the two local government areas in Egbado. So, we don’t have the same opportunities. As politics is a game of number and you come to the counting or using the number of local governments as the basis of government policies and sharing of amenities, the Egbado people are put at a disadvantage. But this disparity is the creation by the powers that be, those more powerful than the Egbados”
Senator Ayo Otegbola speaking later in 2010 at the stakeholder’s forum for INEC delineation of constituencies described the existing political structures in Ogun west as grossly inadequate. He also lamented that “the conflicts in the existing political structure in Ogun State today are products of deliberate creation of certain individuals who erroneously allocated the electoral units that are totally incongruent with the actual Statistical data of the zones thus creating undue imbalance in the structure especially in electoral matters”.
As it is, it is a matter of general knowledge that the State via the 1999 constitution was accordingly divided into three Senatorial districts and each has the right to return one senator into the Upper Federal Legislative Chamber (Senate) and three Representatives per Senatorial district to the Lower Federal Legislative Chamber (House of Representatives). You will agree with me that there was equity and fairness to all the three Senatorial districts at the Federal level but when it came to allocation of State constituencies and Local government area and wards, the lopsidedness became visible in the number of seats allocated to each Senatorial district with Ogun West having the lowest representation in the State House Assembly and Local government areas. Although there were efforts to ensure that constituencies should be of approximately equal size not much have been achieved in this regard since the measuring tape rule and the sharing knives were in the hands of successive State Chief Executives who determined the sharing formula in favour of their districts, a position any of us had not been able to occupy. It suffices to say therefore that successive administrations in Ogun State had succeeded to a large extent in creating a very wide gap in the political administration of the State which had been adequately watered by subsequent local government reforms of 70s, 80s, 1990 and 1991 up to the most recent creation of LCDAs under Osoba and Amosun administrations. We can therefore conclude that equity of Senatorial districts only existed in law and not in facts
It was the late Bashorun MKO Abiola that first openly acknowledged the fact that equity and fairness in Ogun State had been compromised. In his foreword to “Legacy”, a biography of Navy Captain Oladeinde Joseph, he wrote “It is an open secret that since its inception, Ogun State has been a political compromise. Management of its affairs has always been that of a clever game of sectional balancing of the Egbas and the Ijebus with some opportunistic overtures towards the Egbados and the Remo People”. In practice, when two things are on ground for sharing, the Egbas and the Ijebus will adopt sharing formula based on the provincial status. If three, the argument would be in favour of Senatorial Districts and if four, then we come to the four Divisions of Egba, Ijebu, Yewa and Remo” Kola Bajomo (2010)
Distinguished audience, the example of how the yam peels can be found in this narration of Chief (Mrs) Ebun Akinola-Oyagbola, our first and the only senior Minister in the cabinet of the Federal Government till date. In her interview with Egbado News magazine published in the June edition 1993, She said “My husband was friendly with one Mr. Akinnola the Commissioner for Industries in the western Region. This man told him that it was the Ibese cement Factory that was in the plan before it was substituted for Sagamu. That was because he wanted to know what was responsible for the delay. And then, when I was in office as a Planning Minister, I made it possible to include it in the plan. Then Onabanjo was already discussing with the Technical Partners so he did not want the Federal Government to come into it. When I heard about it, I asked what money the State Government had to push away the Federal Government who established Ewekoro and Sagamu factories. When Onabanjo heard about my involvement, he played a highly political game…”
She added “Not only about the Ibese cemented Factory. They were to take away the Federal Polytechnic in Ilaro If not for my role and influence as a Federal Minister, I talked to Onabamiro who was behind the whole thing that i can never in my life accept that move. I told Sylvester Ugo, then a minister too (now the running mate to Tofa, N.R.C. Aspirant) that because Onabamiro was the special adviser on Education he wanted to take the only Federal Institution in my area away on the ground that there was no permanent site.
I drove to the site and when i came back I told Sylvester Ugo that I have been to the permanent site, that what you will do for me now is to start erecting building on that site. So he did, within a couple of weeks the place had been well developed. Infact, I doff my hat for that Ijebu born Rector (Dr. Ogunbadejo) he was with me throughout the battle until we achieved our aim but later in the day they still took away the Federal Government Girls College, Ilaro to Sagamu on the basis that two Federal Institutions cannot be in the same place”. Distinguished audience, it should be noted that the Ibese Cement factory was made possible through a private investment after several years the projects spent in the pipeline while you are left to wonder why today we are having Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and Federal College of Education also in Abeokuta and perhaps what happened to the rule that made it mandatory for the Girls College to be moved to Sagamu while permitting the two Federal Institutions in Abeokuta if truly there was equity. We owed Chief Olusegun Obasanjo whose regime directly located the Institution to Ilaro due appreciation for the laudable project without which there would not have been any tangible presence of Federal Government in the entire Ogun west till date.
Given all these startling revelations, “It is an undisputable fact that Ogun west Senatorial District is till date the least developed in the State; its roads network are better described as being the worst throughout the State and in the Federation, the area until recently has no share from the State educational Institutions of higher learning, the State Civil service is till date dominated by other sections of the State to their own advantages while Federal appointments notably Ministerial and Ambassadorial positions which ought to be shared between her and other districts have also been regarded to be exclusive right of the other two Senatorial districts. Even when we are the industrial hub of the State, there is nothing significantly to show for the natural endowments of vast resources, numerous industries and invaluable contributions to the State and Federal economies. Above it all, the Senatorial district has not had the opportunity to be at the helm of affairs in the State 41 years after its creation. I have in the wake of all these bare facts consistently asked myself whether the marginalisation of the West is perceived or real and the usual answer I found convenient very often based on my estimations is YES. Obviously, the law made us equal but men kept us unequal” Dapo Oke (2017)
Professor Tope Popoola in a public lecture he delivered at the Ogun west Collectives Guest lecture series in December 2016 titled ” Ogun west political experience: leveraging on the pains and gains of the past towards a successful 2019 Governorship agenda” also made these remarks “Although, I am not an economist, a sociologist nor a political scientist, but if you ask for my opinion on the state of things in Yewaland, I will be quick to tell you that things are very BAD. There are problems of various magnitude and dimensions…. In essence, in the 40 years of our collective existence as a state, Ogun Central and Ogun East have governed for 27 years and Military 13 years. Ogun west is the only district that has not produced Governor for the state. This clearly shows inequality and injustice. Successive administrations in Ogun state have cleverly marginalized the people of Ogun West in the governance of the state and distribution of state infrastructure. It is therefore a common belief that our inability to occupy the exalted position is largely responsible for the terrible state of infrastructure in Yewa / Aworiland land. If we continue with the current order, the retardation of development in Ogun west will affect the whole state despite our rich resources and potentials”
In my deep thoughts about the state of affairs in Ogun State having accepted the views of the Political leaders, erudite Scholars and writers cited above, I have always come to terms that distribution of political power and state resources should equitably be linked to the historical and social background of the state. The ways and manner these had been carried out overtimes showed utter disregard for equity and fairness by the political managers and a compound reflection of profound variations in standard of value and morality by which standard the political institutions in the State can be judged. My view is that further principle of good government can be deduced from the connection of politics with economics of the regions and with the policies that give all the federating units universal respect for equal advantages by progressive measures.
I’m also of the opinion that Ogun west inability to produce governor since the creation of the State has largely affected our opportunities to develop the Senatorial district and to bring it at par with other two districts in the State. You may have seen how industrial economic activities are being diverted from the region due to government inactions to fix the bad road network in the industrial axis of Yewa/ Awori among other factors. It is an irony of history that our close location to the international Border of Nigeria and Republic of Benin in the western border of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which had considerable effect on international commercial activities and which made the area a major slave trade route to the coast and subject of external attacks by slave merchants in their bids to force open the slave routes to the sea. It’s the same reason why the area had been neglected for rapid development by the Government. Our people suffer indignations, degradation and deprivations in the hands of law enforcement agents and poor environmental hazards just because providence has made them to live in boarder areas.
Obviously, the new industrial drive is towards the Lagos-Ibadan- Sagamu and Abeokuta- Siun axis with lots of housing estates growing up along the Mowe-Ibafo-Ofada-Obafemi Owode axis. One would have perhaps seen this as a laudable development in a State creating new opportunities for development if not that the development in Agbara-Igbesa-Ota axis which had for long been the major provider of the State internal revenue are being neglected. The Government who did not see the need to create good enabling environment for further growth of the existing industries in the area has deem it fit to facilitate expansion of road projects in other areas to accommodate the industrial growth initiative in that axis. This is simply a story of killing the goose that is laying the golden egg.
The Political game of marginalization of the west
The Chairperson, distinguished audience please permit me to still make few comments on the politics of marginalization of Ogun west with a warning that the development is capable of degenerating into a situation of creating public outrage and youth restiveness in the area within the shortest time because of the conspiracy theories of the other two Senatorial districts. The Ogun Central leaders in PDP told us in 2011 that Egba cannot wait for another sixteen years to return to power not minding the fact that the district has had the opportunity of ruling the State for two terms and truly they did not wait. I’m also aware that the proponents of Ijebu agenda from Ogun East are presently talking about a provincial order of rotation in the ongoing transition agenda.
Part of the conspiracy theory is their held believe that Ogun west can never unite to have a consensus candidate as if multiple candidacies are alien to democracy and limited only to Ogun west in political ramifications. All these to me are stories created in their minds to justify injustice to the people of Ogun West. We can begin to ask, has Egba been waiting in the history of the nation and the State, tell me which Government in Nigeria that has been exclusive of Egba people either as Head of State, President, Speaker, Ministers and Ambassadors while they have been Governor of the State two times of two terms each. Why will the Ijebus who had been our natural allies suddenly think it’s right and appropriate to argue for Provincial arrangement in 2019 thus returning us to the Lugard era political structure of the North and South Protectorates?
My dear people, these have been the conspiracy stories usually behind the political marginalisation of Ogun West which has continued unabatedly. When Ahab and Jezebel conspired to kill Naboth in order to gain his vineyard they thought they had a reason but before God and within the screen of public opinion they had simply committed injustice. When the recalcitrant Pharaoh refused to allow the request for self determination of the Israelites, he initially had his way but the will of God still prevailed. I also believe that one day Ogun west will surely have its way to the seat of power. I only think that our Ijebu, Remo and Egba neighbours will rise beyond the level of civilization to affirm that what is not fair regardless of the excuses is injustice. What is morally justifiable in the current political transition is the collective wisdom of the two Senatorial districts to agreeing to zone the Governorship to Ogun west in order to ensure that the long history of deprivation and sectional political imbalance will be put to a halt once and for all.
The Ijebu agenda the way it’s being canvassed in the present dispensation to me is a private view of some influential people and their political relations who had been seeking understanding with the people outside Ijebuland to popularize the notion. It attempts to hide the main truth about the historical and social foundation of Ogun State which had been properly highlighted in this speech from public view by conceiving the idea that negates the ideals and principle of 1999 constitution that recognizes three Senatorial districts structure as the basis for power sharing in the State. The Ijebu agenda to all purposes and intents is an argument that preaches principle of power sharing from an uncommon political viewpoint that tends to promote high politics of divisiveness than of united interest.
Truly speaking, Abeokuta and Ijebu Provinces were reference to relationship that was part of our history; it was a colonial account of political institutions then existing that are better restricted in the shelves of academic literature of our pre existence as a State. From my candid point of view, it is not a realistic citation of the contemporary and constitutional structure of the modern state theory as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic. I therefore elect to say that a realistic common sense of political interest in this circumstance can only be calculated through a genuine reference to the constitutional provisions on the basis of political structure of three Senatorial districts anchoring on principles of justice and fairness rather than obsolete historical accounts of impossible contemporary reflections that cannot be subjected to legislative and administrative constructions.
From the foregoing, we can construct the agitations of the people of Ogun west on the specifics of marginalization of a section of the people of the State. The story is that of one of the three blocs that constitutionally constitute Ogun State been deprived of its right placement among comity of people who swore to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation on the principle of freedom, equity and justice. As democrats, we hold as inviolable principle that marginalization of a section of the people in the nation or state such as we are witnessing in Ogun State today should not be allowed to continue since it has the potential to result in systematic and comprehensive denial of the human rights of the people which our government swore to protect by the constitution of the Federal Republic.
It will only be folly for political activists and technocrats from Ogun West to fold their hands and watch events unfold in this manner to be deprived of equal opportunities in a state of their own where their contemporaries from other Senatorial districts are enjoying the benefits of their political association, affiliation and rights of citizenship.
Let me therefore end this lecture with two appeals, one to my fellow Ogun west patriots that we should be held together from today by the knowledge that if we all agree to sink minor divisive differences that has made us a divided race or district we shall be able to match victoriously to the Government seat in 2019 from where we can now end this frustrating history of deprivation and marginalization. Our coming to the State house in 2019 will enable us to play the decisive game of equity and fairness that has made development eluded us for a very long time. We need to appeal to all our aspirants that all of us can only be a winner if one of us is a winner.
And to the political leaders in the State, let me leave you with this appealing thematic analysis from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice “When Shylock asked for justice and his pound of flesh, he was only to the best of his knowledge and conviction proving some points on equity, fairness and justice. His view was that if Venice laws allow contractual agreements to be made among two or more parties, it should be in its interest to also allow fulfillment and enforcement of the terms. For in his view, if in the contrary the agreements are not pursued with necessary compliance, businessmen will not come to Venice to do business and this will affect its prosperity as a city of merchants. But the Court jurist also has a view that if the contract is carried out in that manner, Venice will get a name for barbaric practices and will do greater damage to its integrity and credibility of its great men”. I therefore wish to appeal to the conscience of political managers of Ogun state to adopt the wise wisdom of the Judge in the Merchant of Venice in putting the issue of governance in the State beyond the parochial personal interest of some political gladiators in order to prevent public outrage that may damage the integrity and credibility of Ogun State as a State of heroes and heroines in the history of democracy in our nation and in the continent of Africa.
I thank you for listening
Felix Kolawole Bajomo fca, mni