Members of the Kogi State House of Assembly have called on political leaders in the North Central region to lobby for the zoning of the presidency in 2023 to the region.
The lawmakers made this appeal on Tuesday in Ilorin during an advocacy visit to Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to build support for the presidential ambition of their governor, Yahaya Bello.
Speaking for the lawmakers, the Speaker of the Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, said the zone had not benefited from power-sharing in the country under the current dispensation.
“North central has not really benefited from the power sharing of this country under democratic setting, particularly president and vice president. We are lobbying Your Excellency that when it is time to talk about zoning arrangement, let the presidency be zoned to the north central,” Mr Kolawole said.
“We are in Kwara State on an advocacy visit. Kogi State House of Assembly took it upon ourselves without sponsorship from anybody that we want to support our own governor.
“We want to support him because of the existing relationship between us. We have a perfect and robust relationship,” he said.
Mr Kolawole said since Mr Bello assumed office, insecurity had reduced in the state, adding that the governor has also managed ethnic relationships in the state, stressing, “He is a complete detribalised Nigerian.”
In his remarks, Governor AbdulRazaq called for better political representation of the zone at the federal level.
Mr AbdulRazaq said the North Central region, with its huge human and material resources, has never produced the president or vice president since independence.
He commended the giant strides of the Kogi governor and said the social media criticisms of him were not reflective of the infrastructural developments that have taken place under his administration.
“When you listen to some news in Kogi, because the opposition is not on ground they move to social media and they claim that the governor is not working.
“But when you visit practically you will see the difference. I went to Okene and I was shocked with what I saw. This is contrary to the criticisms we see on social media.
“Governor Yahaya Bello is doing very well both at the state and national levels, contributing to discourse at the zonal and national levels.
“At our meeting in Makurdi, we agreed that the zone had been left out in so many things under civilian administration. North Central has not produced either president or vice president at all.
“If we are looking at the present geographical structure of the country based on zones and not just north and south, we believe in terms of political appointment and elective offices, we are being shortchanged, we are confined to party chairmen and senate presidents only,” Mr AbdulRazaq noted.
He said leaders within the region and across political divides are working together to change the political under-representation of the region at the centre.
“We have had several meetings both at the North Central Governors’ Forum level and recently I hosted the North Central Peoples Forum headed by General J.T. Useni (rtd) and what we discussed were about the way forward for the North Central.”
The governor also advocated for infrastructural development in the zone.
Mr AbdulRazaq urged the federal government to invest more in extractive infrastructure for the region and prioritise the dredging of the River Niger.
“The geopolitical zone is lagging behind in critical infrastructure and socio-economic development.
“North Central alone can feed the whole of West Africa. If you look at the infrastructure in North Central, it is basically extractive infrastructure, like railway and federal highways are going from Lagos to the North.
“Enugu to the north and from the north to the south. We do not have major highways crossing horizontally from Niger to Benue and from Okuta (Kwara) to Kogi and bursting out in Cameroon. No horizontal railway line that services us.
“River Niger, which we depend on for most of what we do, needs to be dredged. The annual flooding causes a lot of havoc but if it is dredged and harnessed properly, it will open up new economic prospects for Kwara, Kogi, Niger and Benue states especially.
“Our agricultural productivity will be boosted. The rivers are huge sources of irrigation for the communities that live on the banks. I am aware that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources is doing something on that,” he said.
The governor said that the outcome of the meeting of North Central governors in Makurdi focused on the economies of the zone, while emphasising on agriculture because of its huge prospects.
On his part, the Kwara House of Assembly Speaker, Yakubu Salihu, commended the cordial relationship between the executive and legislative houses in Kwara and Kogi states.
“The delegation informed us about the sterling qualities of Governor Yahaya Bello and his programmes in addressing insecurity, gender equality and youth friendly programmes.
“We appreciate the visit of our colleagues and we told them for now, we will support them with prayers,” he said.
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