In every situation in life, there is always a payback time. For Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, his re-election bid does not seem to be having a smooth sail on the waters of Kogi. He has resorted to dancing naked on the grave of the political icon who made him. That is yet to be working for him.
Political leaders in the state have vowed to oust the embattled governor despite allegedly moving billions of the taxpayers’ money to lure top leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to secure the state’s governorship ticket.
Bello is a political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari. He started as a progressive on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the coalition parties that formed the ruling APC. Since 2015, Bello has been showing the peoples of Kogi is true colour, and they appear to know him much better than the pre-2015 years.
Kogi is a state in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria, popularly called the Confluence State because of the confluence of River Niger and River Benue at its capital, Lokoja, which is the first administrative capital of modern-day Nigeria.
Agriculture is the main part of the state economy with fishing in the riverine areas like Lokoja, Idah, Baji,etc, and the state also has coal, petroleum, steel and other mineral industries. The main ethnic groups are Igala, Ebira, and Okun.
For Wikipedia, the Igala is an approximately triangular area of about 14,000 km2 in the angle formed by the Benue and Niger rivers. The area was formerly the Igala Division of Kabba province, and is now part of Kogi State. The capital is Idah. In addition to Kogi, indigenous Igalas are found in Anambra, Bayelsa (Nembe), Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Nasarawa, Niger, River states.
The Ebira or Egbira people are said to be an ethno-linguistic group of central Nigeria. Many Ebira people are from Kogi, Kwara State, Nasarawa State and Edo State. Okene was said to be the administrative centre of the Ebira-speaking people in Kogi before the state was formed from Kwara, not far from the Niger-Benue confluence. Since the formation of the state, the Ebira Ta’o people are found in four local governments namely: Adavi, Ajaokuta, Okehi and Okene each with their administration headquarters. Ebira Koto are found in Kogi and KotonKarfe LGA Bassa LGA, Lokoja in Kogi and Abaji LGA in the Federal Capital Territory, and Nasarawa in Toto LGA. Another, the Eganyi are found in Ajaokuta LGA. And the Etuno can be found in Igarra town of Akoko-Edo LGA, Edo state.
Okun is said to be a term generally used to describe groups of Yoruba speaking communities, who are the Yoruba of Kogi. Their dialects are generally classified in the Northeast Yoruba language grouping. They are collectively called “Okun”, which in the Yoruba language means ‘Vitality’ or ‘Strength’, and is the word commonly used in greeting among the people, although this form of greeting is also found among the Ekiti and Igbomina groups of Yoruba people. This identity, which was probably first suggested by Eva Kraft-Askari during a 1965 field expedition, has gained wide acceptance among the indigenous Yoruba people and scholars.
The individual Okun subgroups share some historical and linguistic affinity but still maintain individual peculiarities. Okun therefore, refers to the distinct but culturally related; Owé, Ìyàgbà, Ìjùmú, Gbede, Bùnú or Abunu, Ikiri and Òwòrò peoples, which together are said to make up 20 percent of the Kogi population, according to the highly controversial 2006 National population census.
However, the re-election seeking Bello was declared winner of the 2015 Kogi gubernatorial election after he was chosen on the platform of the APC as the replacement for the late Abubakar Audu who originally won the election but died before the result was declared.
Bello was born June 18, 1975 in Okene, then in Kwara State, the youngest of six children. He attended LGEA Primary School, Agassa in Okene Local Government Area. He was named as a class prefect of class two and was made the school Head Boy in class six. He attended high school at Agassa Community Secondary School, Anyava, Agassa-Okene and obtained his JSSCE and SSCE certificates from Government Secondary School, Suleja-Niger State in 1994.
He studied at Kaduna State Polytechnic Zaria in 1995 and obtained an accounting degree from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria in 1999. He further enrolled for a Masters programme in ABU where he obtabined Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2002. He became a chartered fellow of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria in 2004.
In a seeming desperate bid to retain his seat, this supposed progressive politician has embarked on a spending spree as he continued to allegedly dole out billions of Naira to induce leaders of the party within and outside the state. The cash bazaar, sources say, is to help him clinch the party’s ticket for the November 2, 2019 governorship election in the state.
One of the sources said that the governor resorted to free money spending excercise after advice given to him by some of his supporters and aides that he could use money to buy the support of APC leaders. ‘’Huge sums of money is been spent by the governor in attempting to woe APC leaders to support him. He has opened Kogi’s financial vault to secure the governorship ticket but how far this will take him is the critical issue’’, an insider said.
Despite these overtures to APC leaders, his poor performance in office another source added is making APC leaders reluctant in giving him their support. Various stakeholder groups in Kogi APC recently told their party’s national leaders that Bello is a bad market for the party. Their argument is that if the party wants to win the coming election, they should not field him. The big question APC leaders in the state are asking is, ‘’what are the projects and achievements that he can list and tell the people to consider and return him to office?’’.
They are insisting, ‘’Yahaya Bello is a bad example of youths in leadership positions. He is full of exuberance and behaves as if there is not going to be a day of reckoning. His only claim to popularity is saying he is close to the President and his family. Will dropping the name of President Buhari give him electoral victory? People know the President for his impeccable character, but Bello has nothing good to his own name. He is only wasting billions of naira that he ought to use to pay workers and provide social amenities. The people are ready for him’’, a community leader from Kabba, Gafar Obaaro, said.
Amid insinuations Bello is considering to move to another party to contest the poll, if the resisting APC leaders deny him the governorship ticket, the party’s Stakeholders Forum has already petitioned President Buhari against the second term ambition of Bello.
Kogi’s governorship election is coming up in November 2019.
Convener of the Kogi APC Stakeholders Forum, Alex Kadiri, in the petition said Bello is an individual, who lacks leadership abilities and is known for owing salaries, pensions and gratuities. ‘’Governor Bello was never elected by the good people of Kogi. The death of Abubakar Audu made it possible for Bello to be Kogi Governor. He has shown everyone that he lacks leadership abilities. He can’t fight for the rights and privileges of Kogi people.’’
The rest of the petition goes thus: ‘’We request you to step down your support for the candidature of Governor Bello for the forthcoming election in Kogi. If the party fields him as a candidate, we are sure of losing the state to the opposition.
‘’For the past 38 months, including February 2019, Governor Bello has not paid full salaries to the workers of Kogi, despite the fact that the state received full allocation from the Federation Account as detailed below: Statutory allocation, Excess Crude and Value Added Tax (VAT) (N132b); Internally Generated Revenue by the state(N51b); total allocations to local governments(N111b).
‘’Total funds received by the state and local governments: N294 billion. The other funds received by the state are as below: Bail Out (N20b); Paris Club refunds 1, 2, and 3 (N19b); and refunds for road construction by previous governments (N11b). The governor had conducted multiple staff screening for both the state and the local governments. And from the report of the screening, the monthly wage bill (state, local governments and pensions) at the inception of the administration stood at N5.8 billion. After screening, this figure reduced to N4.4 billion.
‘’It is evidently clear that the total revenue received by the state government was more than enough to settle all salaries, pensions and gratuities with huge balance remaining for overheads and capital projects. It is very instructive to note that even without bailout and other funds received outside statutory allocation, Governor Bello could have still paid all salaries including pensions without conducting multiple screening and inflicting pains on Kogi State and local government workers. This must hurt APC at the polls.
‘’Even after the screening, all salaries and pensions payments were paid using arbitrary percentages, thereby still owing workers huge outstanding salaries. We respectfully write to bring to your esteemed attention, the following facts and issues associated with our party and the governor of Kogi. We had earlier, during the life of your administration petitioned against our governor, Bello, on several occasions.
‘’The party, as a result, set up the Tony Momoh Committee to work on the issues in our petitions in Kogi APC. The result of this committee’s work is kept secret in the cooler without the party or the government addressing any of the issues to date. Another committee was set up under the chairmanship of General Garba. We appeared before the committee, and made far-reaching recommendations. Till this day, that report is also kept secret and under lock and key and no action taken by the party.’’
In the mean time, Director General of Media and Strategy to the Governor, Kingsley Fanwo, has rolled out the achievements and successes of the government since Bello took office. According to him, ‘’every financial statement has both income and expenditure. It is the height of mischief to push out the income of the state without juxtaposition of expenditure to set the idea for public perception.
‘’The governor has only been in office for 39 months but has paid salaries for 38 months; including four months before his inception. Salaries take the chunk of our revenue as a state. However, we have been able to invest heavily on the other sectors of the economy.
‘’To check insecurity in the state, we bought over 200 brand new vans, over 500 motorcycles and gadgets running into hundreds of millions of Naira. We gave teeth to the Vigilante Service in the State through well coordinated training and mobilisation to complement the efforts of the conventional security agencies. Today, the security narrative we met has changed.
‘’The multi-million Integrated Rice Mill at Ejiba is 92% completed and will be one of the biggest legacies of our administration. The administration has also made Lokoja and the other towns and cities in the state saner, cleaner and more habitable. We have completed the Ankpa Township Roads and many others are ongoing with quality jobs.
‘’The revolution to make water available to Kogites have paid off as the administration has delivered a lot of high-worth water facilities across the state. With all the development projects we are doing, it must also be mentioned that we are repaying loans taken and wasted by the previous administrations in the state.
‘’Sanitising and digitalization of our civil service didn’t come cheap. But the administration is proud of what has been achieved in that sector. “We have also electrified about 40 communities across the state. We have improved infrastructure in our schools, hospitals and Primary Health Centres. The administration put in place, bumps to check financial misdemeanors and will be remembered after 2024 as the most disciplined administration in the history of the state.’’
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that party primaries to select candidates will hold either late July or early August this year.