Kogi Security Under the New Direction Administration: My Story by Petra Akinti Onyegbule

My name is Petra Akinti Onyegbule. I am from the very beautiful and peaceful city of Ogori. A city ensconced in a valley fortressed by hills and  for a very long time, we enjoyed peace and tranquillity and security we almost took it for granted that we were invincible to perpetrators of dastardly deeds. This knowledge in itself provided a further sense of security which became part of our belief: we were protected and shielded from criminal activities, the stories of which we could only hear, but never felt the experience. We were indeed invincible.
 
Lo and behold, this belief in our invincibility which had become a myth was shattered when in April of 2011 men of the underworld raided the Nigeria Police post, fatally shot officers of the law, made away with some arms, and proceeded to rob the only bank that gave us financial inclusion in the local government. The branch manager of the bank and two cashiers were killed and others injured. 
 
The incident shook the community to her very core. We felt raped, our innocence brutally taken away; our invincibility unmasked and peace stolen.
 
The realisation was a shock: if Ogori, beautifully tucked away in a valley surrounded by hills could be so brutally assailed and the sense of security enjoyed by her people shattered in a manner most ruthless, then Kogi was not safe. 
 
Indeed, Kogi was not safe because in August of 2015 I had travelled down to Ogori for a community health promotion programme and while we tended to our activities, news came that a bank had been robbed in nearby Okene, two mobile policemen were shot dead and the area known as 'Total' was thrown into chaos. Fate chose that day to run us out of medical supplies and cash. The fear caused by the robbery incident was palpable. It was so thick in Ogori,  you could have used a knife to slice through. 
 
Participants had gathered early in the day, some had ran their tests and waited for their drugs while others waited their turn. As morning gave way to midday,  the story of the robbery attack gained momentum; different versions emerged, truth was padded and alternative facts were employed to spread the tale of woe. Our fear mounted. We could could not send our people away without achieving the purpose for which we were gathered but we did not dare to go anywhere near Total, much less talk of crossing it. With Okene and Lokoja out of the question, we were left with no other choice than to travel to Edo State in search of an ATM. Indeed, Kogi was not safe. 
 
I could go on. 
 
Tales of robbery - violent, gruesome robbery - attacks dotted the landscape of our history in the very recent past. For over 7 years, Kogi was under siege of insecurity. Kidnappers were on the rampage and a Boko Haram sleeper cell flourished and became daring. Being at the center of the country, Kogi was to become the new headquarters of terrorism in Nigeria and perhaps Sub Saharan Africa. 
 
Our people lived in fear. Kogi became a modern Hobbesian society.
 
Enter Alhaji Yahaya Bello on January 27, 2016 and he vowed to rout criminal elements out of the state. He gave life to his promises to make Kogi safe for all - for living and for business and investment. He gave it everything. Improved dilapidated security architecture and built new ones and ensured a working synergy amongst all security agencies in the state as well as establish a professional vigilante service in the state to fill any lacuna that could be advantageous to criminal groups.
 
In a year, the story changed.
 
It was aggressive. His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello, did not give criminals breathing space. They could not regroup to restrategise. Kogi simply became too hot for comfort. Something had to give. The multidimensional approach paid off. Indeed, like the Joint Task Force was codenamed, "Operation Total Freedom," began to have impact. 
 
Travelers no longer have their hearts in their mouths when they transit through Nigeria's North - South link state; bankers no longer have to disguise to get to their offices; streets and highways can no longer serve as hideouts for criminals; people are no longer in a hurry to leave Kogi, for statistics show that there is an improvement in hospital business as can be verified from hotels records.
 
The world took notice.
 
And they continue to applaud.
 
The Nigerian Police. The Nigerian Army. The Diplomatic Corps. 
 
They see the change. They acknowledge it. 
 
So, when some people snigger at the recognition and accolades the Governor continues to receive from highly reputable institutions on his successes especially in the area of security that Kogi, we need to remind them what the situation was in the not too distant past. Surely, we cannot be that amnesiac.
 
And when they jeer and ask what is the big deal, we have to tell them it is a big deal. A very big deal because security is everything. Security trumps all for to live in perpetual fear of insecurity is to live in bondage, it is to not live.
 
Today, 8th July 2017, the Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, along with the representative of the Chief of Army Staff, Major General R.O Yusuf, Commander, Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) are in Okene to commission the Nigerian Army Forward Operation Base built by the New Direction administration to further enhance security in the state. The base is fully equipped with residential accommodation, operational offices, 22KVA solar power, water, places of worship and other facilities which will ensure smooth operation of the base.
 
Congratulations, Your Excellency, for yet another laudable feat in transforming the hitherto Hobbesian enclave to a secure democratic state where government, and not criminals and hoodlums, run the affairs.
 
Congratulations to Kogites. May our state keep rising in the New Direction.
 
#OperationTotalFreedom
 
Petra Akinti Onyegbule is the Chief Press Secretary to Kogi State Governor.