SOME concerned people of Kogi State gathered in Abuja last Monday evening to observe one year anniversary of the demise of James Eneojo Ocholi, who served for only 115 days as Minister of State for Labour and Employment before his death on March 6, 2015, with criticisms of the federal government over its failure to appoint his replacement 12 months after his demise. After observing a candle light procession in memory of the dead, chairman of Ujache Igala Association, Chief Goodman Akwu said it was difficult for the people of Kogi State and those of eastern senatorial district in particular to comprehend why the APC-led federal government had decided to deny the state a voice at the Federal Executive Council, as a result of its failure to appoint a replacement for the late minister of state. He said after coming to terms with the agonising demise of the minister, it was traumatising “the contraption, the entire Kogi state particularly the Eastern senatorial flank found itself as a result of the lack of representation in the Federal Executive Council in the last one year of Ocholi’s demise.” According to Akwu, “It is flabbergasting to say the least, that in a democratic setting such as ours, government of the day which emerged through participatory democracy leaves a vacuum meant for a state for so long due to tragedies that were not manmade, thereby condescending an entire population of over six million and the ninth largest tribe in Nigeria to the dustbin of history, is shocking. The inability of President Muhammadu Buhariled government to appoint a replacement is obviously a breach of constitutional provisions and this has rather damaged the confidence of the people of Kogi state wondering if this government is actually people-centred.”
Chief Akwu noted with disappointment that the nonchalant attitude of the APC-led government to appoint a replacement for the late minister had also been carried over to the state with the Buhari-led government not executing a single project in the state. He said: “A cursory look into the performance dossier of Buhari-led government shows that up till this regretful moment, there is no single executed or ongoing federal projects in Kogi state in the last two years, as no one sits in the Federal Executive Council, FEC, to canvass or lobby for citing of federal projects in the state.” Akwu said they would have been consoled with the failure of the federal government to abandon Kogi if the present governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was performing. He expressed regret that the economy of the state had been shut down as a result of strikes and instead of the governor focusing on addressing the challenges facing the state, “he has been in the recent time busy gallivanting the width and breadth of the country seeking legitimacy of his misdeeds from those who are unconnected with the state in any way.” Chairman, Public Accounts Committee of the state House of Assembly, Elder Friday Makama said the Igalas who constitute the state’s largest ethnic group were at cross road as a result of the disdain with which issues affecting them were being treated by the federal government, “and even the Yahaya Bello-led government whose misgovernance has put our people in misery.” He said the late Ocholi had written his name in gold because of his fight for the oppressed and voiceless, as he urged others to emulate his virtues for the progress of the society. He condemned the ongoing staff verification exercise in the state for which he said out of the 21,000 people retrenched so far by the administration of Yahaya Bello, more than 60 percent of them,14,000, were from Kogi East. He said unless Governor Bello tried to right the wrongs his administration was committing in the state, he would have problem winning the confidence of the people of the state, especially of the Igalas.