If anything took the Ebiras by surprise more than anything else, it is the claim of the Igalas that Ajaokuta belongs to them, and the inclusion of the area as part of the Okura State they are currently agitating for.
Whatever the challenges that the Ajaokuta issues has posed to our communities, it is very essential for us to go down memory lane for the purpose of awareness, posterity and most importantly for the preservation of a peaceful co-existence in Kogi state.
History has it that the first settlers saw the bird (Aja) perching (oku) on their newly braided cottages (uta) and therefore coined the word “Aja-oku-uta (Aja perched on cottage) as the name of the land. These are all Ebira words.
It was not surprising that Ajaokuta, which is in the eastern part of Okene Local Government in the then Kwara State before attaining the status of a full local government, has been part and parcel of Ebiraland from time immemorial and the two have moved together from the Old Kabba Province to Kwara State and now to Kogi State.
Ebira and Igala remained separated by River Niger until the establishment of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company and the building of the 3.4 km-long bridge across the river. In the Ajasteel Newspaper of January-April 1991 (page 7), the Attah of Igala, Alh. Aliyu Obaje, expressing his happiness over the establishment of the steel industry said it has brought about developments to the catchments areas – one of such benefits being the long bridge capable of strengthening the unity of Igala and Ebira people. In the same page the late Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alh. Muhammad Sani Omolori, who previously sued the Federal Government in 1988 after a decade of no compensation for part of Ajaokuta land acquired for the steel project, told the team that the support of Ebiras to the success of the project has become imminent because the overall success of the project would signify the success of Ebiras as a people. Commenting on the plight of his subjects as peasant farmers with very limited land area; he pleaded for the consideration of his subjects for appointments. On the 6 page of the same newspaper, the then President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, gave an assurance that the issue of resettling the villagers so displaced by the steel project would then be pursued with vigor. Our people however, remained bitter because after all the efforts and promises, nothing was done. Today, however, all those things serve as recorded evidence aside the separating phenomenon (River Niger) for us to see and show our greedy brothers as well as the world. The pages of these newspapers are available on the website address below.
All the while, our neighbor, the Igalas were on the other side of the River Niger in the then Old Benue State. When Kogi State was created, the Ebiras and the Igalas were brought under the same umbrella.
Our brothers on the other side of the River Niger are not blessed with so short memory as to forget history so soon. Or it may be that our openness, nationalism and compassion which were the key reasons for our inviting them to form Kogi State when their beacon of hope (the proposed Okura State) faded out and ability to have co-habited with their emigrants peacefully in our land at the height of political tension in the State were misunderstood.
It is no more surprising that the level of greed which they have exhibited has extended beyond the State. One will however wonder why a body like INEC should be involved in the delineation proposals, thus alienating the statute. In every state, big or small, there are three senatorial districts. Why should Kogi State be different? Ok! If it was to be a kind of reform, then why is it only Kogi State or why should it start with Kogi State? Kogi neither has the land mass of many other states nor the population of places like Lagos and Kano. So, why Kogi state for experiment? And why is this happening simultaneously with the time when the Igalas have drawn out their map crossing the great Niger River to include our land Ajaokuta in their proposed Okura State? The gimmick behind this conspiracy is clear to us all.
We may not have the state apparatus at our disposal or people at the Federal level to maneuver things to our side, but aside the natural phenomenon, for the sake of history and the prevailing evidences, we have the might of mind to pursue our cause to our last breath and hopefully, we have a credible government.
We therefore urge the Federal Government adherent to Rule of Law to address this issue before it further matures. Our Igala brothers should be made to recognize the fact that the wild days when tribes took pride in breaking ethnic sovereignty and claiming lands are gone. We are living in an era that is humbled by law and defined by freedom and the right for one to keep his properties because issues of boundary and land are very volatile. Stop nurturing an evil day.
A word is enough for the wise.