Chief Obajemu Benjamin Henry is the National Secretary General of Okun Development Association, the umbrella body of Okun people, the Yoruba speaking people in Kogi State. In this interview with Business Hallmark, he speaks on many issues, including the contentious matter of power shift to Kogi West among others
How will you rate the performance of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State?
Well, governor Bello has done his best, but I believe he could have done better. It’s difficult to govern a state like Kogi with three competing ethnic groups and differing interests. Kogi is blessed with enormous natural and human resources, which we all know. In terms of human resources, there is hardly a family that doesn’t have a PhD holder, and in some you have two or three professors, not to talk of having Okun elites in commanding heights of the military. They are also successful in business.
But over the years, we have not had a dedicated governor with vision, who can harness these resources together, create enabling environment for business to thrive and deliver good governance. This challenge of leadership has been with us right from the beginning of the time the state was created. Though the late Abubakar Audu, the first civilian governor, tried his best, but we are yet to get a visionary, who can gather an A- list team to take the state out of the woods. It is the turn of the Okun people to produce the next governor of Kogi State. It’s about equity, justice and fair play.
As the new president of the influential Okun Development Association, what is your vision ?
Primarily, we have not had it good in term of political equity in Kogi State, since the State was created no Okun man has been governor. Recall that the State was created in 1991 by the then military president Ibrahim Babangida. From inception, the Igala, who are in the eastern flank had always been governor, at least they produced in succession three governors, but for the death of Abubakar Audu, who won the election in 2015, power would have remained with them.
But his death paved the way for the current governor Yahaya Bello, who will leave in November, by then he would have completed his second term. Bello is an Ebira man. So, my vision like so many Okun men and women, is to have Okun man takeover from the current governor as the governor of Kogi State.
We have intelligent and capable Okun elites, who are first class brains, and who have etched a name for themselves in different fields.
Currently we are working the talk, negotiating with our brothers and sisters in Kogi Central and Kogi East to support an Okun candidate. Senator Smart Adéyemí, the former President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, who have wide network of friends across all the zones in the State and beyond, is one of the front runners.
We want to drive industrialization in Okun land; in the past, education was our only industry, but we want to kickstart campaign whereby our distinguished sons and daughters with means can come home to set up companies and cottage industries so that our young graduates who may not want to leave the State can get a place to work. We are still consulting to come up with a master plan for new Okun land.
What is your take on the last presidential election?
One clear takeaway from the election is that going forward it’s not going to be business as usual for the power elites. Nigerian electoral system is maturing and the youth,the young ones that were hitherto apathetic to political issues, have suddenly found their voices. The Obidients Movement is their pivot, the launch pad for political reawakening among the young ones.
They are going to play big role in future election, and i think with electoral reform, BVAS and others, political actors will be compelled to be responsible. We will get there, a situation when our votes will count.
Before the election, Peter Obi was the underdog and the Labour Party was a fringe Party, today Obi has become strong, his power derives solely from youth support. Obi is not a saint, he was part of People’s Democratic Party before, but the youth believe that of the pack he is still the best. The next election will be interesting if the youth sustain the vibe and the momentum.
Back to the Okun people, how prepared are your people for the power shift to Okun land?
As i have said earlier, we are currently talking to our brothers and sisters in the other zones. We all know that acquisition of power is about negotiation, Okun people alone can not elect a governor of Kogi State of Okun extraction. I believe the other senatorial zones will see reason and allow us to produce the next governor to succeed his excellency, governor Yahaya Bello.
What do you think is the greatest problem confronting the nation?
Leadership! We have problem of leadership, we have really not been blessed with leaders of vision in this country. Those we have had so far did not even have any national vision to drive but parochial, tribal interest to protect at the expense of national development and unity. There’s no sense of belonging among the nationalities.
Nigeria is blessed by God with abundant human and natural resources but we deliberately chose the Devil as our chief advisor. We also have structural problem. Until we restructure, we may not get it right.
The last election deepened our fault lines , and this may take time to heal. The president- elect , Bola Tinubu will have to commence the healing process if he wants to succeed.
Currently now, we are mainly focusing on power shift to Kogi West so that for the first time since the creation of Kogi State we can occupy the Lugard house as governor.
And we are serious about it.
The Unity of Okun people is not negotiable. Now, we have embarked on the construction of OKUN UNITY HOUSE located at Kabba. Okun nation commitment towards the sustenance of democracy is not negotiable. We are also confident that the President elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu will deliver the dividends of democracy.