Birthday Extravaganza: A Second Look at Gov. Bello’s Profligacy

“A country is in for trouble when its ruler is childish, and its leaders party all day long.” – Ecc. 10: 16 Contemporary English Version.

Bello cutting his 46th Birthday flanked by his wife and Ooni of Ife

The ceremony was reminiscent of the celebrity bash of King Herod the Tetrarch, the Jewish King who played host to guests from far and near to mark his natal day. Musicians, dancers and other artistes practically invaded his court, as Herodia’s daughter, a dancing petrel, nourished the vanity appetite of the guests, with eclat. And in a moment of unprecedented royal folly, the king regrettably offered John the Baptist’s head to his daughter-inlaw. So narrates the holy scripture.

Friday, 18th June was the birthday of the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Adoiza Bello. That description will not be apt until one adds, “the youngest Governor in Nigeria.”

Dressed in white agbada, the “White Lion” (his preferred nomenclature), supported by one of his wives, Rashida, whose excessive facial makeup turned to a carbon copy of an elf, was at his imperial best. Nollywood, Kannywood and all kinds of “wood” groups, musicians and what have you, fell upon one another to provide court jesting for the high calibre guests.

It was indeed a big banquet, graced by no less a personality than Oba Enitan Oyewusi Ojaja II, the 57th Ooni of Ife, who donned his royal robs, beads and endured some six-hour journey to partake in Bello’s pabulum.

The birthday was a big government business. Preparations for the day took tens of man-hour from top civil servants. King sized billboards and flex banners had been erected in strategic corners of Lokoja, the first capital of colonial Nigeria where Lord Frederick Lugard, followed by several State Chief Executives including jackboot dictators, had allowed their birthdays to pass without a hoot.

Certainly, the Confluence State had come a long way. But, it has not seen anything like this, before.It must have cost a fortune in tax payers money to put the gargantuan feast together. One of the artists on stage, Hellen Paul, had jokingly remarked that she deserved, and was in fact, willing to be flogged to compensate for the big money she was paid to feature.

The program encompassed a football match, colloquium, dinner and award night. The events were covered live for about six hours each by NTA, AIT and TVC, three satellite televisions, which bills are not by any means cheap. In any case, the scribe of the government was said to have raised a memo for a staggering amount of money for the ceremony. Her priority schedule is to arrange parties and related social functions for her boss.

This is even as the Confluence State is bleeding. Poverty walks on all legs in the State. Unmistakable misery is written on the face of an average Kogite. Have you seen one lately? More than a third of workers Bello inherited have been summarily yanked off the payroll, without recourse to relevant labour laws. They roam the labour market and beg on the streets. Those favoured to remain especially at the Local Government level, sometime go home with 15 percent of what ought to be their monthly total. At the best of times, they are paid 60 percent or a little less. Worse still, government does not acknowledge the balance, since the records, show full payment.

The State accounting system is so muddled up by the ungodly labour practices, that neither Bello nor any of his foot soldiers can say with precision the extent of its liability to the workers. Yet, Bello, Edward Onoja, his Deputy and Asiwaju Idris Asiru, Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning parade sterling certificates in Accountancy.

It is strange how Bello’s fans still find the courage or the shame to sing his praise in the face of his outstanding ineptitude, rascality and prodigality.

In other states notably Rivers, Borno, Delta, Lagos, Oyo, Ekiti and Kaduna live coverages are arranged for ground breaking or inauguration of people oriented projects. Not in Kogi. Bello has an obsession for the camera, but lacks capacity for things that merit worthy coverage. Millions are paid to beam oath taking ceremonies of the Governor, his Commissioners and what have you. There was one for the opening ceremony of a chapel in Government House. Another was for the swearing in ceremony of an Acting Chief Judge, Justice Henry Olusiyi, who did not last six months before retirement. The last was for a vainglory award by the National Council of Women Societies, NCWS, or something to that effect.

This is because project initiation or commissioning are far in-between, if any. Education and infrastructure are in their worst condition ever, since creation of the State in 1991. Under Bello, the state has less than 30 percent of its required teachers at the primary and secondary school levels. In fact, most secondary schools have two teachers, consisting of the Principal and one other. At Kogi State University, Anyigba more than a hundred senior lecturers and Professors have been in a legal battle over their jobs. Bello sacked them about three years ago for participating in a legitimate strike action. Ironically, some of their students were among those that performed at the king’s birthday bash!

But it was a scam. Pure psycophancy. Nothing but window dressing of a rotten product, to deceive a gullible buyer. Even all the noise about “Mr. Security” is a ruse. Yes, Kogi may not have witnessed the level of anarchy and insecurity in war-torn Borno or bandits beaten Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger and Benue States. It is however, very far from the eldorado it is being camouflaged to be. Were it not for his killing by gunmen on May 1st, Solomon Adebayo, aka Akeweje, a Pension Commissioner, may have been among the crowd celebrating Bello’s birthday. Pious Kolawole, Yagba West LG Chairman was lucky to be abducted in the attack that claimed his friend. That is the reality in Kogi.

Let’s see a few more literature review: Gunmen attack on a bank and police station in Isanlu led to killing of about 12 persons, including policemen in June last year. Three sisters were abducted from their sleep in Eteh-Okofi, Kotonkarffe Local Government Area, LGA in March, this year. The Abductors demanded N100m. Few days after this, gunmen kidnapped five persons at Abedabo Sabo village in the same LGA.On 3rd January 2020, nearly 20 people were killed in Tawari community, Kogi LGA in a militant attack. In July the same year, 14 persons were massacred in Agbadu community, Kogi-Kotonkarffe LGA in an attack.

Is it the case of Senator Clifford Odia from Edo State who narrowly survived gun attack, or Mrs Bunmi Ojo, widow of a former PDP stalwart who along with eight other victims stayed about a week with kidnappers, before their ransom conditions were met this April, or worse still the trauma of three persons who were abducted last month, on their way from a masquerade festival in MopAmuro, LG? The list is endless, but just mentioned the few to put a lie to the macho image impersonation of Bello as “Mr. Security.”

The Governor claimed all Nigerians have been pressuring him to run for the Presidency in 2023. All his actions have been to justify that ridiculous claim. The Kogi collective patrimony may well be the Baptizer’s head in Bello’s self delusion. The youthful Governor could not have done worse, even if he were in a contest for bad governance. Again, the scripture is on point. Bello is one living example of when youthfulness is a burden. He is a disaster in process.

Nigerians are watching.

– Nurudeen Agbabiaka, writer and public affairs analyst writes from Lagos.

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