Dialogue with Nigeria: Yahaya Bello Versus Aliko Dangote


One of the political monstrosities bequeathed by President Mohammadu Buhari was the Governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello. At the bizarre demise of the candidate that won the 2016 governorship election in the state, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, the logical expectation was that the running mate to the deceased candidate, James Faleke, would step into the shoes of his principal. But the incipient ethno religious bigotry that would define the Nigerian presidency in the past seven years and a matching suppliant Judiciary supervened. The peculiar fate of Audu was then reinforced with the absurdity of the choice of the replacement. Lest Buhari be indifferent to who steps in to pick up the mantle, a Kogi state Senator had rushed to warn the President that should Faleke replace his principal, it would tantamount to donating kogi state to his Yoruba mentor, (Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu) who would thereby be granted the right of way to penetrate the Northern stronghold of Buhari.

The President, quite in character, bought the bait, hook, line and sinker. In the ensuing abracadabra where two plus two equals seven, Yahaya Bello was maneuverd from coming fourth in the governorship primaries to replace Audu. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the loser snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in such dramatic circumstances. The poetic justice was that the senator who orchestrated the choice of Bello was the first prey to end up in the belly of the tiger he bestrode. The Kogi precedence later found resonance, four years later in the Supreme Court judgment that installed Hope Uzordinma as the Governor of the quite unlucky Imo state.

The contrast between Governor Yahaya Bello and Alhaji Aliko Dangote couldn’t been more stark and ironic. Here is a malevolent manifestation of the public governance sector out to vanquish the best of the private sector. One of the more tragic accidents of generational misrepresentation, Bello had since lived up to to the tragic circumstances that birthed his troubled conception. His was the morning that truly shows the day. Testimonies of his reelection campaign include ‘significant reports of violence and fraud along with claims that he incited the violence with a ‘ta-ta-ta-ta’ chant that imitated the sound of gunfire. Bello repeated the ‘ta-ta-ta-ta’ gunfire chant in Akure, Ondo State while addressing a rally for Rotimi Akeredolu’s re-election campaign. In consequence he was among a list of politicians placed on visa ban by the United States Department of State for undermining democracy in Nigeria’.

If we do not factor the villainous interventions of depraved political actors into the equation, Kogi state was on course to becoming the leading industrial conurbation in Nigeria. As it is the case with crude oil, the Ajaokuta steel mill plant has become a resource curse on Nigeria. After squandering billions of dollars on the project, the Nigerian Attorney General, Abubakar Malami recently stunned the nation with the announcement that Nigeria has agreed to pay damages of $496 million dollars to a company that was earlier granted concession to get the mill functional. This is a pertinent recall. “In 2013 Smart Adeyemi, a lawmaker from Kogi state, had said the Goodluck Jonathan administration — which was in power at the time — recovered the Ajaokuta steel mill without any attendant financial obligation whatsoever”.

“Years later, after the Muhammadu Buhari administration took over, in 2016, the federal government approved the execution of the modified concession agreement with Global Steel, which allowed the foreign firm to retain the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) in Itakpe. Three years later, the same Buhari administration was said to have backed out of the agreement, leading to a legal battle involving both parties”. To any Nigerian other than Malami (and his confederates), the idea of coughing out $496 million in a dubious judgment debt transaction in the thick of the prevailing Nigeria’s dire financial situation would be unthinkable. It is however consistent with the reputation of Malami. He was the Attorney General in 2016 when the project was inherited “without any attendant financial obligation whatsoever”. The lot of Nigeria is getting increasingly reminiscent of the scriptures-“from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”.

Of all the battles the Kogi state government can pick, he has chosen to target the largest private sector employer of labour and probably the largest tax contributor in Nigeria. I am, of course, speaking of the obajana cement company, the largest of its kind in the world, birthed by a most illustrious Nigerian who has been giving the most decisive push to the industrialisation of Nigeria. In the cultural origins of capitalism, Max Weber argues that capitalism is rooted in the cultural mentality that deems wealth creation as a vocation, a calling and specifically, the protestant ethic. In general terms and in my understanding, the human agent of capitalism is (in the idiom of post-modernism) the professional investor-who, beyond the material gratification of business returns, finds ultimate satisfaction in creating wealth as an end in itself. The positive Nigeria that is struggling to be born is that in which the many contemporaries of Dangote (who likewise acquire considerable resources from the primitive accumulation stage of Nigeria’s capitalist development) should equally embark on profitably ploughing back the accumulated capital into Nigeria’s economy. Dangote is, in this respect and in regard of his massive industrialisation of Nigeria and Africa, black Africa’s ultimate textbook capitalist.

The significant point to note about the success of Dangote is his vocational commitment to economic investments regardless of the incentives he has received from the Nigerian government. He exercises an equal mindset towards a ten million naira investment as he would a ten billion naira one. He works doggedly at growing and multiplying whatever is available to him. This is the role model against whom the Kogi enfant terrible has arrayed himself. On one hand we have Dangote personifying the ethos of a positive correlation between productivity and reward, on another hand we have Bello constituting himself into an antithetical embodiment of the prevalent Nigerian culture of trading hard work and sacrifice for mindless hedonism and reckless abuse of power. Literally speaking, one is building industries and the other has constituted himself into a one man demolition squad. .

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