By Bala Haruna
The race to the gubernatorial elections in Kogi State this year is intense and peculiar for several reasons. Apart from the fact that the incumbent has betrayed the trust of the people with non-performance that has made it impossible to pay workers’ salaries and execute projects, the issue of fair play and equity among the various zones have come to the front-burner. Of the three zones in the State, only the West – the second largest ethnic group, have never ruled the State. Therefore, it becomes pertinent to dissect the credentials of a prominent son of Kogi-west and what his candidacy portends for the State.
Babatunde Irukera, the present Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) comes across as the perfect alternative to Gov. Yahaya Bello. A cosmopolitan and a technocrat with vast international exposure and connection will be the breath of fresh air that Kogi desperately needs at this trying times. It will be recalled that he contested the 2015 elections but as a faithful and loyal party man, he stepped down at the last minute for Late Abubakar Audu. What happened in that election is now history as Audu, the presumed winner passed on before the official declaration of results while his Kogi-west deputy, James Faleke was eventually prevented from ascending the throne based on some alleged lacuna in the electoral act. However, not a few people believed that Kogi-west was schemed out of the Governorship by vested interests.
Compensating Kogi-west with the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial ticket now becomes imperative in the interest of justice and fair play.
Given the level of resentment the people of the confluence State have for the incumbent and by extension the APC, the party needs to field someone deemed a break from the norm with a record of performance in both public and private sector, that is where Irukera comes in. Born on the 4th of September 1968 in Kaduna state, Irukera hails from Egbe, Yagba West. He studied law from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and upon graduation in 1989, he proceeded to the Nigeria Law School in Lagos in 1990. In 1995 he proceeded to the United State of America, where he carved a niche for himself as a successful Immigration expert in 1996 after passing the Washington State Bar examination at first sitting, a year after arriving America.
In 1997, he started a partnership ( Thomas & Irukera) which ultimately became Partners, Attorneys & Counsellors, both in Chicago.
As DG of CPC, he is responsible for the daily management of the Council and leadership in fulfilling its mandate to protect consumers and secure remedies when consumer rights are violated. His record of advocacy and cases in favour of consumers is outstanding and provides the clarity that both the Council and industry need in ensuring due regard for customer service and protection of consumer rights.
Irukera has to his credit key sector related consumer protection advancements including advising the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority with respect to its role in sector consumer protection. He led the initiative in developing current aviation consumer protection regulations as well as the Passenger Bill of Rights.
He also led the team that revised existing aviation economic regulations and superintended a comprehensive regulatory and parliamentary investigation into anti-competitive behaviour by foreign airlines. He has also provided capacity-building and advisory services to federal agencies and other clients with respect to competition/antitrust issues. He co-authors the Nigerian chapters in a range of competition/antitrust-related widely regarded international publications.
Apart from his intimidating credentials, what stands him out is his strong corporate network which he has garnered over the years as DG CPC. This will come in handy to develop Kogi State as corporate organisations will find Kogi State a viable destination to do business with Irukera in the saddle.
The APC already bedevilled with a string of gubernatorial losses in Adamawa, Bauchi, Imo, Oyo, Sokoto and just recently Zamfara – adjudicated by the Supreme Court, cannot afford to gamble with Kogi State. The people of the State groaning under the current leadership of Gov. Bello are yearning for a viable alternative to liberate theState.
The APC must not by its acts of omission or commission handover the State to the opposition. The party can reinvent itself by fielding a man of integrity, competence and charisma like Babatunde Irukera. Indeed, the party can kill the proverbial “two birds with a stone” – placate Kogi west to entrench equity and give the State afresh start with Irukera. The way to redemption can’t be better defined.
Bala Haruna, a political analyst and Kogi State Indigene wrote from Abuja.