The people of Oke-Ogun in Oyo State are clamouring for power shift to their zone in 2019. They argue that, since the area has never produced a governor, the move would foster a sense of belonging and ensure even development. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the issue.
Oyo State is made up of four administrative zones. They are: Ibadan, Oyo, Oke-Ogun and Ogbomoso. Of all the zones, Oke-Ogun and Oyo are the only ones that have not produced a governor under the democratic dispensation. Apart from Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala who hails from Ogbomosho, all the other governors, including the incumbent abiola Ajimobi, are from Ibadan. The late Alhaji Lam Adesina (1999 to 2003) and Chief Rashidi Ladoja (2003 to 2007) are also from Ibadan. Against the background of this perceived injustice, the people of Oke-Ogun are now unified in the agitation for the creation of their own state.
To actualise their dream for the proposed state, the people of Oke-Ogun under the auspices of the Oke-Ogun Development Council (ODC) had presented a memorandum to the National Assembly, requesting the Federal Government to create the state out of the present Oyo State. The association, while presenting its memorandum through its National Chairman, Professor Joshua Adeniyi, reeled out the various deprivations the people of the area have suffered and continue to suffer. He accused the state governments of under-developing the Oke-Ogun axis of the state.
Adeniyi said: “Since Independence, the Oke-Ogun people have been neglected totally as whatever visible development you notice in the area is through community effort. Through self-development efforts, Oke-Ogun people have developed themselves and we therefore want the Federal Government through significant inputs from the National Assembly to consider the creation of Oke-Ogun State.
“In Oke-Ogun, we don’t have higher institutions of learning, no tertiary health institution, the state and federal roads are completely in state of disrepair and there is no pipe borne water in any part of Oke-Ogun. The boreholes sunk were through individual or communal efforts. Where is government? We in this part of the state have not seen the essence of dividends of democracy. The development is concentrated along the Ibadan, Oyo and Ogbomoso axis to the utter neglect of the Oke-Ogun zone. Where is equity? Where is justice? Where is fairness?”
The proposed Oke-Ogun State, according to Adeniyi, shall comprise Olorunsogo, Oorelope, Irepo, Saki East, Saki West, Atisbo, Itesiwaju, Iseyin, Kajola, Itesiwaju and Iwajowa local government councils. He said the area has all it takes to be a viable state in terms of its 13,537 sq km of landmass; a population of 1.497 million people, according to the 2006 census, abundant economic and human resources endowments. Former National Chairman of Alliance for Democracy (AD) Chief Michael Koleoso and former Deputy Governor of Oyo State Chief Iyiola Oladokun are part of the struggle for better prospects for Oke-Ogun.
The zone is made up of 10 out of 33 local government areas in the state, with a population of about 1.5 million (as per 2006 National Census). Oke-Ogun has the largest landmass (about 60 per cent of the entire state), but lacks any noticeable government presence. This, according to the people of Oke-Ogun, is an indication of successive governments’ insensitivity to the plight of the people.
The zone used to be the food basket of the state, but that is no longer the case, because the younger generation has not taken to farming; most of the farmers in the area today are old, tired and weak. There is no articulated policy towards encouraging the teeming youths to take to agriculture as a vocation and business. Tools for mechanised agriculture is beyond their reach, thus forcing the young ones, many of them graduates, to take to “Okada” riding business. This has often resulted in the loss of lives through Okada accidents because the young lads are always in a hurry in their approach to the business, to maximize their earnings.
A prominent indigene of Oke-Ogun, Professor Segun Gbadegesin, bemoaned the total neglect of the region. He said: “Oke-Ogun used to be the food basket of the Southwest until oil wealth took centre stage in governmental thought and action. Roads developed since 1962 literally disappeared. Okeho-Iseyin road is a federal road that has suffered this fate. It has been contracted out for repair multiple times by the previous administrations. Each time, the ruling party gave the contract to its hirelings with nothing to show. Meanwhile, farmers suffer losses because they are unable to move their produce to the market in timely fashion.
“Water irrigation has been another important variable in viable agricultural revolution. In the Second Republic, one of the initiatives in this direction was the Ikerre Gorge Dam in Iseyin. It was almost completed, but the Federal Government abandoned it. We were told the dam was capable of supplying potable water as well as irrigation water for the whole of Oke-Ogun. However, it remains only a dream, as reptiles inhabit the Ikerre Gorge Dam now. What kind of government invests in laudable projects such as this only to abandon it?”
The former Minority Leader in the Oyo State House of Assembly, Alhaji Adekunle Rafiu, also painted a similar gory picture of Oke-Ogun when he said: “There exists the fear among the stakeholders in the Oke-Ogun project that the existing political equation appears to have put a ceiling to the office to which a citizen of the region can aspire; as if perpetually restrained to second-in-command to the highest political office in the state, budgetary allocation has consistently been below 10 per cent of the state’s total budget, while lack of infrastructure finds permanent abode in the region.
“Projects usually allotted the region by successive governments are usually mysteriously manipulated overnight by the powerful and their collaborators and moved to other zones. This is in utter disregard to the laid down formula for distribution of developmental amenities which prescribes that Oke-Ogun with 10 local government areas, takes after Ibadan zone with 11 local government areas as indicated in their record.”
In the educational sphere, Adekunle said that the zone has always been short-changed, compared to other zones. All that Oke-Ogun can boast of is the satellite campus of the Ibadan Polytechnic located in Saki when other tertiary institutions were cited in Oyo, Ogbomoso and Ibarapa. According to him, no indigene of Oke-Ogun has risen to the position of Chief Judge. He added that the pattern is not different from the subsisting scenario as could be seen in other spheres of life.
A traditional ruler who spoke in confidence said Oke-Ogun will not accept anything less than governor in 2019. He said: “We are tired of playing second fiddle. We want one of our sons to occupy the exalted office in the next dispensation. The other zones that have produced governors did so with the support of Oke-Ogun. In fact, the votes from Oke_Ogun used to decide the winner. If we had assisted other zones in the past to win governorship elections, they should also support our zone in 2019. Our demand is that the office of governor should go round the four zones.
“Under the present democratic dispensation, it is the right of the people to aspire for any office. It is also the right of the people to decide their socio-political direction, judging from the prevailing conditions, where the Oke-Ogun area has been underdeveloped by successive administrations.”
However, Gbadegesin blamed the problem of intra-state power shift on prolonged military rule which, according to him, disrupted the growth of democracy in the country and also prevented generation of citizens from active participation in the leadership of political associations and involvement in governance generally. If there had been no lengthy military rule, many individuals and groups would have benefitted, he added.
On the rationale of power shift demand by the Oke-Ogun zone, Gbadegesin who was recently conferred with a chieftaincy title, the Asiwaju of Okeho, said it is important to note that the progressive development of the state requires all of its parts to share a sense of belonging. He argued that this is only possible if there is genuine expectation that anyone from any part can successfully aspire to the highest political position in the state. To this extent, Oke-Ogun indigenes have a good case for their humble request, he emphasised.
In the same vein, the Professor of Philosophy did not hesitate to point out the limitation of power shift. He premised his argument on three planks. “First, power shift and zoning are, to all intents and purposes, controversial concepts. For us to ask for power shift from one zone or area to another is to suggest that the proposed beneficiary zone or area is incapable of engaging in a fair contest without the backing of zoning formula.
“Second, it is important to note that no one gives up power willingly or voluntarily. It has to be struggled for. Third, even when power shift is accepted, the beneficiaries have to be seen as both competent and dependable and they must prove their mettle to all the stakeholders.
“By and large, power shift or zoning does not necessarily curtail the fierceness of a successful struggle for power. This, notwithstanding, the genuine aspirations of Oke-Ogun indigenes deserves the support of all parts of the state.”
Source:The Nation Online