Here is an extensive interview with Ahaji Abdulrazak Isa Koto, the Ohimegye of Igu, Koton-Karfe Local Government of Kogi State. Daily Trust reported this interview in the early hours of today and the traditional ruler said a lot of things like government negligence in building infrastructures… Read the interview below….
It is four years now since you ascended the throne as the 25th Ohimegye of Igu-Koton-Karfe. How have you ensured peaceful co-existence among your subjects and other ethnic groups in you chiefdom?
Koto: There is always peaceful co-existence among my subjects and other ethnic groups, including the Fulanis in my chiefdom. Since I came on this throne, I have always summoned a peace and security meeting every month here in my palace where representatives of various ethnic groups-Ardos, Fulani chiefs, village heads and community leaders-come from various locations within my chiefdom to deliberate on how to ensure peace at their various domains.
And where there is a problem especially between a Fulani and a farmer, especially as it involve destruction of crops on the farm, we always have a way of sanctioning them so that they live peacefully with one another. And we have always ensured that where there is an existing crisis, we call them to this palace and resolve it with fairness without any bias. Whether you are a Fulani, Bassa or Gwari man, we make sure we do justice to everybody, even where crops are destroyed herdsmen, we ensure that compensation are made to the farmer.
Your people have a very rich cultural heritage. What are you doing to preserve it, especially in the face of influences of western and Islamic education?
Koto: We are actually on the verge of reviving our cultural heritage, as since my accession I deemed it fit to revive festivities that are not obnoxious or anti-Islamic, but that will be able to bring our customs and traditions to limelight. So annually, on Sallah days various cultural troupes from various localities within my chiefdom converge here on Sallah days to perform for days, from morning till evening showcasing our customs and traditions. We have cultural groups that are led women, and other cultural groups across various ethnic groups living here. They come with their masquerades to perform.
And besides, we are trying to put aside a day for the annual fishing festival like it used to be. In the month of April, people from various locations across riverine areas under my chiefdom take part. The festival also serves as price control mechanism and marks the beginning of harvest. Apart from that there are other cultural activities that we intend in the nearest future in collaboration with the local government and the state government to bring together all these activities in one performance.
Your chiefdom is surrounded rivers. The Niger and Benue link around you, yet the fishing festival is not as popular as Argungu fishing festival in Kebbi, where VIPS and foreign tourists go to witness?
Koto: Actually we cannot compare our fishing festival with that of Argungu, due to some challenges, but most importantly it is a lack of permanent venue. The other thing is we don’t have journalists coming and giving it publicity to let the world know. It is like that of Ogani fishing festival at Opanda in Umaisha, under Toto Local government of Nassarawa state.
But we are hoping to intensify effort to put our resources together in ensuring the next year the festival is given wider media coverage. A venue has been set aside, but we want inputs from private individuals and government so that we can a have permanent venue, where we can invite the general public.
Because I believe that the fishing festival, apart from showcasing our culture, it will also go a long way in contributing to economy of not only Kogi state, but the country at large, as it will also attract tourists.
What challenges facing people of your chiefdom deserve urgent attention of either state or federal government?
We lack electricity. Road network that will link our farmers to transport their produce to the market is also big problem. Also, we lack a standard hospital; even here in Koton-Karfe town is an eyesore, not to talk of rural communities. Most of the infrastructure here have decayed or they are non-existent, as there is a hospital we inherited from old Kwara state and some other viable projects that have been abandoned.
There is no tertiary institution. Apart from the prison which was built in 1810, under the native authority, there is no state of federal government presence here. Besides, despite our proximity and contribution of our land that make the FCT what it is today, we are yet to benefit from any government project. Sincerely, I have not seen any derivable benefit from both the state and the federal government. The electricity project from Lokoja to Koton-Karfe is still ongoing.
Since my ascension more than four years now, I am not sure we have had electricity for a month, as the electricity which connects from FCT down here is erratic, which has negative impact on traders and artisans. The other problem we are facing is also lack potable drinking water, as even where there are taps, there is no electricity to pump water. Children have to wake up early in the morning and go to the stream before going to the school. So it is unfortunate that there is nothing on ground for people of my chiefdom to benefit in terms of basic amenities and rural infrastructure.
There is talk of hardship in the country and people are despairing. Do you have message of hope for your people?
Koto: The traditional institution is always at the fore front of creating an enabling environment for government policies to thrive. With the present hardship, we are praying that it will soon be over. And as a Muslim, there is always time when Allah tests our faith-if we can bear or cope with any difficult situation in which we may find ourselves. In my understanding the hardship will come and pass. Like we do always, we galvanize support for our government policies, we plead with our people to be patient and they should also try to have it in their minds what we can do for ourselves without going to government to look for support. Sincerely, I am one of the people who believe with time, all the present hardship we are facing will come and go, as we are also very hardworking people here too, and we have not relented as we have contributed our own quota towards the economic revival of not only Kogi state but the country at large.
What advice do you have for the government?
Koto: We the royal fathers are always on the receiving end, as we are closer to the people at the grassroots than the politicians. If there is any crisis or problem people are facing, the traditional leaders are ones that fell the heat most, as it has not been easy for royal fathers. And even where there is any security challenge, the royal fathers have to stand up to handle the situation before the security wades in. And that is why you see most of our chiefdom is always peaceful. The enabling environment that we create for our people has continued to enhance the peaceful co-existence among our people and other various ethnic groups in my chiefdom. However, my advice to the government is that the government should try and take the traditional institutions along in some of its policies, especially in terms of monitoring projects and other policy formulation. In fact, the government can through the traditional institution galvanize support or opinions from people about government policies. I believe government has a lot to gain if the traditional institution is carried along in some of its policies.
Source: Daily trust