Yahaya Bello and His Presidential Bid: Nigeria is not Kogi

By Adebayo Abubakar


When it comes to watching home movies, some people enjoy Hollywood-produced (American) movies, because most of them are action-parked. Some people settle for Bollywood-produced (Indian) movies. Say what you may, some people go for Nollywood (Nigerian) movies. While some people take pride in reeling our with glee, the titles of the Hollywood movies they have watched as a matter of status symbol, some people out of sheer xenocentrism would look down on those who do not subscribe to their choice of movies. While Nollywood is seen by many as “T’ibile” (the local or indigenous one). I am not ashamed to tell you that, I belong to the group that goes for those local or indigenous ones – Nollywood-made movies. Call me what you may.

Let me add to the sensation about how local, or indigenous I want my movie list; I settle for the comedy genre in over 70% of the ones I watch. That is why, Baba Suwe, his beloved wife – Moladun, Dejo Tunfulu (who died last Friday), Alaran, Lukuluku Bantashi, (of blessed memories); Princess Lanko, Wale Elesho, Baba Wande, Bolaji Amusan (Mr Latin), Lanre Omiyinka (Baba Ijesha), Olaniyi Afonja (Sanyeri) and his friend Adekola Tijani (Golugo), Madam No network, and Tunde Usman (Òkèlè) are some of my favourites in the Yoruba movie industry, otherwise known as Yoruwood. Among those who act English; Nkem Owoh, Sam Loco (of blessed memory), John Okafor (Mr Ibu), Ime Bishop (Okon Lagos), Francis Odega (Sylas), among others, are the reason why I watch those movies, especially following the retirement of most of the pioneer actors and actresses in Nollywood. With these guys, most of the time, I get value for my money, after very healthy doses of laughter.

So wherever I have the opportunity to savour comedy, I don’t let it slip by. But much as I love it, I got one that leaves a very sour taste in my mouth over the past weekend. It was Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the governor of Kogi state, officially declaring his intention to join the race for who becomes President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, come 2023.

While I concede to him and anyone for that matter, the democratic and constitutional right to run for any office in the land, provided they are qualified, I do not think it is fair on Nigerians, for someone to contemplate subjecting them to what Yahaya Bello has subjected the people of Kogi state to from January 2016 when he was sworn-in for his first term, till date – midway into his second term. He appealed to Nigerians to give him the mandate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari so that he could replicate the “giant” developmental stride he had made as the governor of Kogi state. He did not stop at that; he also promised to create 20 million millionaires between 2023 and 2030, using the Igbo apprenticeship model of learning a trade under a master and later getting set up (settled). Really? How many millionaires has he been able to create in Kogi state, especially among the people who earn their income from a government he heads – the civil servants and pensioners? Why is the governor laying curses on Nigeria and Nigerians, through his ill-advised and ill-informed presidential bid?

The answer is not far-fetched. It is either Yahaya Bello is willfully unaware of the essence and the import of governance or he is being mischievous; poking fun at the pauperized people of Kogi state who had been suffering since the state was created on the 27th day of August 1991, but have suffered much more than they ever have, under the “White Lion” as he is fondly called by his admirers.

To underscore his seriousness about the project (Yahaya for President), he announced the appointment of the then director-general of the defunct M.K.O. Abiola Campaign Organisation (Hope 93), and former senate deputy leader, Jonathan Zwingina, as the “National Coordinator” of the Yahaya Bello Presidential Campaign Organisation and a former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK), as the deputy national coordinator. He also announced the appointment of the director-general (DG) of the campaign organisation, in the person of Hafsat Abiola-Costello, a daughter of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.

While I can understand those of Zwingina and FFK, as is not unexpected of an average careered Nigerian politician who is always for “Bread ń Butter” – “Ẹnu Gbẹ“, I find it very hard to comprehend that of Ms Abiola Costello, considering her consanguinity with the late billionaire, who typified benevolence and compassion towards the downtrodden, with the educational pedigree to match and even surpass the demand of the office of the president of Nigeria.

I would like to ask the DG if she really knows what her father stood for in the eyes and hearts of Nigerians while he was alive? And again, I would like to ask; “whether she thinks her father would treat his employees, the way her new principal, Yahaya Bello, has been, and is still, treating civil servants in Kogi state, paying as little as 2% of their monthly salary as their take-home pay?” Well if she knows the answers to these questions as well as we knew her father, I would advise her to get on YouTube to check out a recent video interview, granted by one of the governor’s one-time appointees, Ms Petra Akinti-Onyegbule, who once served as his chief press secretary (CPS) to know who Governor Yahaya Bello is before agreeing to serve him as a political aide.

According to the former CPS, part of the reasons she left the government bordered on the delayed, mutilated and amputated salaries and pensions civil servants and pensioners respectively were receiving from Yahaya Bello-led state government, after a protracted screening (staff audit) purportedly aimed at flushing out “ghost workers”. Imagine, a grade-level 14 officer receiving a monthly salary that is as low as ₦2,000. Yes, you heard me right; ₦2,000. There is no gainsaying the fact that such a high-ranking officer of the state has familial responsibilities. I am talking of bills like water, healthcare, electricity, and school fees among others, to be settled on a regular basis. Therefore, the moment the CPS resigned, I knew something serious was amiss because I saw her as a passionate, and dedicated media aide; the type any political public office holder would always crave. So, how would late MKO Abiola feel in his grave, watching his daughter serve under such a leader that grossly lacks empathy? I’d leave answers to that question, for those who knew late Chief MKO Abiola very well.

Bello told Nigerians on Saturday, April 2, 2022, at the declaration ceremony that there is a “foundation”, laid by the current administration upon which he is coming to build if elected. How low, could the bar of governance be lowered in Nigeria? He went further to say that he be judged on the basis of his performance as Kogi state governor since January 2016. Let us do a bit of evaluation of his administration’s performance: on infrastructure; how many roads, has he rehabilitated? We are not talking about how many virgin roads he had opened up yet. What visitor could not see on ground physically; he sat in a national television studio, asking anybody to dare him, with a contradictory claim. But barely 24 hours after, a Facebook user, by the name Paul Smith did a video recording of one of the major roads within Lokoja, the state capital, leading from Lokongoma Phase-2 Housing Estate to the State House of Assembly, linking the Okene-Abuja bye-pass. Along that corridor is where you would find the Zone-8 Police headquarters; Office of the DSS Kogi State Command; the Lokoja branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Post-service Housing Estate; Lokoja Township Stadium, which construction work was started by late Alhaji Abubakar Audu, but was completed by the duo of Governors Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada. The road itself was constructed in the 90s.

None of these physical infrastructures could be said to have witnessed any form of renovation, or rehabilitation touch, since our “Presidential Governor”, – a product of a historical accident assumed office, about six years ago. I won’t waste your time on workers’ salaries, and pensioners’ welfare. He keeps mouthing the fact that no worker or workers’ union complains about the lack of salary. And I ask who among them would dare complain, in the face of his “Taratatatataaaaataaaa political cum administrative philosophy”? We were all witnesses to how he intimidated medical doctors at the Federal Medical Centre Lokoja into denying the veracity of the existence of COVID-19 and the admission of any positive patient admitted into the facility. Who is, therefore, the civil servant on a ₦2000 monthly take-home pay that will dare to counter him on the claim that the administration pays full salary as, and when due? In that case, the workers will have to continue to live with the payment of “amputated salary” and “mutilated minimum wage”. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the end of the tussle between Bello and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) over a sum of ₦20 billion salary bailout fund, in an account with Sterling Bank Plc. Although Yahaya Bello-led Kogi state government denied ownership and existence of the said account and even demanded a public apology from the EFCC failure of which the anti-graft agency would be sued; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has acknowledged receipt of the sum of ₦19.3 billion ‘recovered’ by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the Kogi State Salary Bailout account domiciled in Sterling Bank Plc, according to the spokesperson of the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, per Premium Times.

The issue of Confluence Rice at Omi Dam, Ejiba in the Yagba West local government area, which started and ended on PowerPoint slides is another fictitious achievement that is going to be replicated at the federal level. But no one dare say anything about the non-existence of any rice farm or factory anywhere in the state, as there is nothing on ground to match the “rented bags of rice that were used for window display during the purported launching. General hospitals across the state have been taken over by reptiles and rodents. Dilapidated structures typify public primary and secondary schools across the state. Trunk-B roads have either been overgrown by weeds or are dotted by craters deep enough to swallow a mini truck. Odokoro-Gbede-Iyara road in Ijumu local government is one good example; Iyamoye-Alu-Igbagun-Oranre-Ife-Olukotun, down to Oke-Agi-Mopa is another. I am sure, roads in the Eastern and Central senatorial districts fare no better.

When he appeared on Channels Television with Seun Okinbaloye’s “Sunday Politics” last Sunday, I knew he was going to put himself further under the klieg light. And with the kind of outing he had on Sunday, it became obvious that Yahaya Bello spends much more time in the gymnasium than he does, in the library, as he struggled to provide any relevant, plausible and coherent explanation to the questions being asked by the anchor, regarding his purported achievements as a governor. If the saying that, “a good reader makes a good leader” is anything to go by then nobody should be surprised, as he was sweating profusely to answer the question thrown at him by Seun on Sunday. He was asked to be specific about those projects he intends to showcase when the chips are down in the presidential race, but there was no response that could be said to address any of the questions. He was instead referring viewers to a website whose URL he could barely remember if at all it exists (www.kogipedia.com) “Dazzol“. Apologies to Mr Obafaiye of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. Even on the state government’s website, the information there, including the photo gallery, is as scanty as the hair on a vulture’s head.

According to the latest report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Kogi state is very conspicuous on the list of 24 states that have attracted zero foreign investment in the last year; this is in spite of the huge potential in the state, resulting from its abundant mineral deposits. Is that the kind of achievement he wants to replicate at the federal level?

Well at this juncture, I would hand Bello’s advisers over to God, as Nigerians would say.

It beats my imagination, how our “Presidential Governor” thinks the rest of us would reason like members of his cabinets and his aides, who have the penchant for telling him what he wants to hear, instead of what he needs to hear or know. If the pauperized, but resilient people of Kogi state carry on as if their state now competes with Dubai, in terms of infrastructural development, Nigerians at large would definitely ask those hard questions that would throw the governor off-balance anytime; they will carry out empirical research as to what he has, or has not, done in the State. Governor Bello has forgotten that not every “Kogite” is a civil servant or state pensioner who might not be brave enough to talk, owing to reasons bordering on job security and or personal safety. He must therefore be prepared to hear from the rest of us (Kogites) who have all these while, kept mute over his crass incompetence and misgovernance that have characterised his disastrous during his over six-year stay in office. To even say misgovernance is dressing his administration in an undeserved robe; it should rather be non-governance, as governance has been on sabbatical since he came on board. He needs to be aware that, as a bull in a China shop, Kogites are only counting down, his days in office. But to want to nationalise the “Kogi disaster” which he personifies would be pushing his luck too far. He has taken his presidential jokes too far, and it is high time he was given a reminder of our collective sensibility; Nigeria is not Kogi state.

Abubakar writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via 08051388285 or marxbayour@gmail.com

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