Stripped of their collective pride, it appears that most indigenes of Kogi are waiting for the legitimate opportunity to use their vote to oust Bello. Therefore, the groundswell for the removal of Bello from Lugard House, the official residence of the governor, may have started with the insistence by interested parties in Kogi APC that Bello must be defeated at the governorship primary.
Recently, former Kogi State Governor Ibrahim Idris ruffled the feathers of key persons in the current leadership of the State when he boldly stated that life in the state has become a miserable experience. To a good number of indigenes and friends of the State, Idris was stating the obvious. It is difficult to be mute to how Kogi exists. The sordid stories coming out of the State since Mr. Yahaya Bello became governor has increased the pain of the people. The Confluence State, as Kogi is proudly referred to by indigenes and residents, has become a Confluence of Absurdities. Arguably, Bello is top on the list of governors swimming in a sea of unanimous disgust and disdain. Perhaps, this is the only meaningful convergence of opinion. And, on one thing, there is overwhelming agreement: that Bello whose emergence as governor was dramatic and incidental, must be shown the exit. If ever, there were developmental gains credited to his predecessors, he has since reversed them all and driven the quality of governance many rungs down the ladder.
Although Bello’s All Progressives Congress (APC) won the majority of seats in the State House of Assembly election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a good showing in the National Assembly elections, indicating that the impending governorship election in the State is open for a tough duel. Increasing pointers show that stakeholders in Kogi APC do not favour Bello flying the party’s gubernatorial flag. They are convinced that with his dismal performance, presenting him as the party’s governorship candidate is akin to entering a no-contest and giving the position away to the opposing party, the PDP. The State Assembly election, which possibly indicates the wishes of the people may have favoured the APC, but it does not provide any sort of comfort to Bello.
It may be strongly argued that governance has taken a leave from Kogi since Bello entered the saddle. Like many Nigerian states, government is the largest employer of labour in Kogi, and Bello committed his first and enduring blunder when he embarked on a screening exercise, ostensibly to fish out ghost workers and save funds for the State. On the surface, the intention was good, but till today, it is doubtful if the state government knows the exact number of its employees. Different figures have been bandied between the various workers union and the executive arm of government. The most visible and painful result of the head count of workers in Kogi is the unwarranted delay in the payment of salaries and other statutory monetary entitlements for upwards of several months. Every aspect of government owned labour has been at daggers drawn with the executive arm of government, leaving the running of several MDAs in Kogi prostrate. But Bello has recently been in the news, claiming he only owes Kogi workers four months salary.
Stripped of their collective pride, it appears that most indigenes of Kogi are waiting for the legitimate opportunity to use their vote to oust Bello. Therefore, the groundswell for the removal of Bello from Lugard House, the official residence of the governor, may have started with the insistence by interested parties in Kogi APC that Bello must be defeated at the governorship primary. As things stand today, the most important confluence in Kogi now is not a natural phenomenon like two rivers, but the confluence of a low bar. The mixture and confluence of mediocrity and incompetence in governance.
Buffeted on all sides by stringent criticisms, Bello has resorted to strong arm tactics. He frequently uses instruments of state to coerce the hapless populace. His new modus operandi is to abuse or mudsling anyone considered a possible replacement for their mediocrity. Everyone that is mentioned as a possible replacement becomes marked as an enemy who has never done anything good. Recently, he went after a retiring director general, claiming he charged people to offer employment because that one expressed interest in running for the governorship. Another time, some publication mentioned another DG as a possible consideration and his reaction was to start looking all over the place for election results of the fellow, hopefully to prove that since he didn’t win his polling unit or ward in the just concluded national elections, then he is of no political value.
The story is that the DG whose polling unit in Egbe’s results he is seeking, is disappointing to him. He won the presidential elections in his unit for APC, delivered the APC House of Representatives by a wide margin, and lost the senatorial to PDP by one single vote. This result is one of the best in Kogi West outside Koto and some parts of Lokoja. The state government’s handpicked and rigged candidates for the House of Representatives and Smart Adeyemi, their senate candidate, could not deliver themselves in their homes, and this his new found foe did. A comprehensive analysis of the state appointees and the government’s candidates in the election shows that the speaker, commissioners and advisers and assistants all failed woefully and could not sell their boss or the administration they serve in almost all polling units and wards of their homes.
The governor deceives himself by claiming that he delivered Kogi Central to the president. The truth is that Kogi Central has always voted with and stayed with the president in every election before now. Natasha Akpoti is said to have won the Kogi Central elections and prayerfully will have her stolen mandate restored. In the East, where few individuals and the Audu political family worked for APC, the results are out and good, but in Olamaboro where Onoja comes from, the elections were marred by violence, ballot boxes snatching, gun shots and intimidation.
Bello’s government harassed a senator to be marooned on a hospital bed so that a recall against the senator will take him out, while he was incapacitated. Unfortunately, it is alleged that he wasted the salaries of workers on the failed recall. When elections came, Bello harassed him again, kept him out of the State, prevented him from campaigning, and even tried to stop him from entering the State to cast his vote but they still lost the election to the senator. A governor who cannot secure a recall in absentia or win an election against a candidate in absentia is an apparent political lightweight, and socially irrelevant person who is not fit to come back as governor.
Yet, the governor and his men believe they have earned a second term ticket and superiorly acquitted themselves because they delivered the state to President Buhari in the 2019 general elections.
One of Bello’s closest aides, who is often blamed for the abysmal performance of the governor is Edward Onoja, whose role as chief of staff is supposed to be to administer the affairs of the governor, his calendar, appointments, correspondence, domestic issues and generally ensure he works efficiently. Instead, he is pointed out as having become rambunctious, making no sense of but pretending to run a government. Onoja and the governor have been accused of preventing state political appointees of a certain extraction from their duty posts in the government house, because their areas didn’t deliver victorious elections to the president, but even worse, that they failed to stop a senatorial candidate who had become their Achilles heel, Dino Melaye, a fellow rambunctious, even if more sensible fellow, but an opposition figure and rabble rouser. Bello and Onoja had rehabilitated and propped up Smart Adeyemi in the hope and plan that he would defeat Melaye, but their prayers were unanswered; in what is really one of the most unexpected resounding and all-round trumping of the 2019 elections. The victory of Melaye, instead of being perceived as what it is as a rejection of Smart Adeyemi and Yahaya Bello, because of his failures in governance, is now blamed on political appointees. It appears that they were supposed to rig the elections, parade thugs with guns, suppress those who won’t vote for Bello’s choice, intimidate everyone, introduce violence, snatch ballot boxes, disrupt collation, rewrite results, compromise electoral officers, and where they feel violence won’t work or no opportunity, use the money they were paid to buy the votes of the electorate. It seems they were supposed to use their hard earned (largely unpaid though) salaries to buy the only thing the electorate was worth, the only thing of value they see in people – their votes. They didn’t try to buy the votes of the people by paying them their salaries just before elections, from the monies already provided by the same President Buhari for that purpose, instead they are alleged to have perfected the dehumanising handout of N500, N1000 or N2000 per voter to either induce them to vote, or reward them for voting.
And when they lost both the election and their faces, it was time to punish political appointees for their own loss and failure. Many of the appointees equally deserve this disgrace for shielding and not speaking up when it was important, and even praise-singing and defending the inhuman and the impossible.
At 43 years, Bello is the youngest governor in Nigeria, but his reign of infamy has only brought disgrace to the much touted inclusion of the youth in governance. In more ways than one, Bello is a man of history. The period leading to his emergence as governor appeared to have been enmeshed in a constitutional logjam, as the APC’s governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu, who was poised to win in the election died before that governorship election was concluded. Bello was picked by the APC to replace him. Mr. James Faleke, who was Audu’s running mate, objected to the party’s decision and approached the election tribunal in the State asking it to declare him as governor-elect. But the party had persuaded Faleke to retain his running mate position, which he turned down. Thus Yahaya Bello made unusual history as he was sworn in without a deputy. It was the first time in Nigeria’s political history that an elected governor would be inaugurated without a deputy.
Bello has since doused the flame of the prevailing sentiment and squandered the huge political capital he did not earn, but which was given to him freely by death. Through his immature, inexperienced, callous and arrogant mannerisms, Bello has taken Kogi to the abyss of misrule that no one could have imagined.
Kogi is a confluence of absurdities that presents irrational scenarios. It is a sad commentary to note that Kogi boasts of such eminent personalities as the late Prof Pius Adesanmi, the Babatunde Irukeras of this world, Suleiman Baba Ali, Jibrin Isah Echocho, Victor Adoji, Natasha Akpoti, the current Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Late Arc. Olorunfemi; the political sages Sunday Awoniyi and Silas Daniyan and countless others. Today, there is a big move that is eager to remove the serious affliction that the reign of Yahaya Bello has brought on Kogi.
George Oyedepo writes from Lagos.