Tomorrow, January 27, it would be exactly two years since Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was sworn-in as governor of Kogi State. Ever since he was sworn-in, Governor Yahaya Bello has engaged in the serious business of governance. He has seen and experienced first hand what it takes to govern one of the most volatile states in Nigeria. During his inaugural ceremony at the confluence stadium, Lokoja, the state capital, Bello declared: “we are ready for action,” adding: “we must and will be that generation of Leaders who made the entirety Kogi’s Resources work for the entirety of Kogi’s People.”
Of course, just like many new Nigerian leaders with tall and beautiful ideas of turning society into Eldorado until they eventually face the reality of governance, Bello’s vision is no different. Two years down the line of implementing his big vision for the confluence state, concerned Kogites and others Nigerians are asking, how is the ‘New Direction’ government of Yahaya Bello has so far fared on various fronts of governance? Has he able to deliver his promises? Surely, let’s the available facts speak for him without bias.
In a write up published before the inauguration of the current administration, titled: “Challenges and Opportunities awaiting Bello as Wada hands over a troubled state, I painstakingly outlined many challenges that would likely confront the ‘New Direction’ government which I acknowledged as surmountable with rights people around Bello. In the piece, political instability, bad state’s economy and rising wave of insecurity among others were some of the examined challenges inherited by Gov Bello’s administration. Also discussed, is what I tagged the ‘Golden opportunities’ which the Bello’s government is blessed with. Today, virtually all the predictions are coming to pass.
Bello and economy
It’s an undeniable fact that on assumption of office in January 2016, Bello met a terrible state of the economy, with a devastating structure. The state, which was generally regarded as civil servant state with over 80,000 workforce was facing a serious threat of total collapse. The former governor of the state, Capt. Idris Ichala Wada, had earlier lamented before he handed over power to Yahaya Bello that the average total annual revenue accruing to the state from federation account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was about N80 billion but that 90 percent of it goes into salaries while the state was left with only 5billion. As such, Bello met the state with workers owed several months of salaries, while internal and external debts were left blooming, yet infrastructures across the state were in a state of dismal. As if that was not enough, internally generated revenue was very meager with over-bloated wage bill. Also, a decline in monthly allocation from federal government to the state occasioned by the national economic recession that nearly shut the nation down.
Of course, no sane and serious government that want the state to move forward would allow such undesirable trend to continue without finding a workable solution to the problem. For this reason, Bello quickly undertook staff audit to save his government from the impending collapse. Also, it would be recalled that part of the reason why the bailout fund was not released to the previous government was the inability to determine the real state’s workforce that will assure the federal government that such fund will not go into the ghost individuals when released.
Furthermore, in concurrent with the staff screening exercise, Bello engaged in an aggressive push for an increased IGR for the state by granting autonomy to the state Board of Internal Revenue Service, renovated their offices across the state, built a befitting multi-story corporate
headquarters for the Board, equipped it with personnel and facilities for improved performance.
As a result, just in November last year, the Executive Chairman of Kogi State Internal Revenue
Service, Dr. Yakubu Oseni revealed that the state’s IGR has increased to 1 billion naira adding that, “before we took over, the state was generating N300 million monthly…”
It’s also evidently visible that Infrastructure across the state is recording a new look as several projects are under construction while some have been completed. For instance, all dilapidated roads across the state capital have been renovated while the long-abandoned advanced Diagnosis Center has been completed. In late 2016, Bello flagged off 10 billion road projects across the three senatorial districts of the State; and in August last year, the governor also flagged-off the construction of over 200 blocks of classrooms in 80 primary schools across the 21 local government of the state. Also, as a transportation business man himself, Bello remodeled the state transport service and acquired more buses to boost its operation. Currently, some major towns and the state capital have been given a facelift with solar powered street-lights, while the
demolished roundabouts are being quietly reconstructed among other developments across the state.
Security under Bello
There is no doubt that the state was fast becoming a hub for all forms of criminalities before Bello took over office last two years. Since his assumption as the Chief security officer of the confluence state, he has significantly strengthened the security architecture of the state; improved intelligence gathering; beef-up security personnel by building Army Forward Operational Base to check security threat in the state and equipped police to clampdown kidnappers, armed robbers and other forms of criminalities across the state. Governor Bello ensured that all security personnel alleged to have been compromised by some individuals were quickly redeployed from the state. Also, in his wisdom, he ensured that all bushes along the federal highways across the state that served as hideout for armed robbers and criminals are cleared regularly. As a matter of fact, this is the first time such idea is being utilized to stem the incessant cases of armed robbery on the Nigerian highways. The ‘New Direction’ government has also tackled the incessant herdsmen/farmers clashes with diplomacy. Bello also boosted community policing by recruiting youths and equipping the local vigilante service with 260 Motorcycles and 10 trucks to check-mate crimes in the state. And, just recently, the state government inaugurated Kogi Geographic Information Center to further strengthening the security of life and property in the state. As a matter of fact, today, there is relative peace and security in the state as compared to the situation before he assumed office in 2016.
Bello and ethnic politics
Kogi, a microscopic of Nigeria has witnessed unprecedented political instability since its
creation. The state, which was created in 1991 by General Ibrahim Babangida Military administration, composes of multi-ethnic groups with three dominant ethnic groups just like Nigeria. Since its creation, there have been a recurrent power struggles among the three dominant ethnic groups, notably, Ebira, Igala, and Okun. However, one section has consistently commanded superiority over others which over the years resulted in unending political upheaval. The recent shift of power from the acclaimed largest ethnic group in a circumstance that remains mysterious has further left the state in a political volatility.
For those who are conversant with the Nigerian politics would acknowledge the current uproar being generated in Kogi state under the present administration as not unusual. It’s understandable that whenever political power accidentally shifted from the so-called dominant ethnic group, it
usually induces political instability and unnecessary tension.
For instance, when Jonathan accidentally emerged President of Nigeria, there was persistent pandemonium in the nation’s polity. When Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Southern Kaduna also inadvertently catapulted to number one citizen of the state, Kaduna almost went on flame until the man eventually died in a bizarre plane crash with former national security adviser, Andrew Azazi. And, when Garba Umar of Taraba replaced the brain-damaged late former governor of Taraba state, Danbaba Sutai, hell was almost let-losing in Taraba metropolis. These are a textbook examples of politics of ethnic dominant that has taken root in the Nigerian political settings.
However, what might somewhat differentiate the current Kogi state scenario from the above examples is that the central senatorial district of the state who is the present accidental beneficiary of power shift is not really a minority in the state, but flawed census figures created that impression. And, the hard-line inclusive leadership style of Governor Bello may likely alter the narrative of politics of ethnic dominance in Nigeria.
Governor Yahaya Bello, a 42-years-old chartered accountant has learned fast the art of inclusive leadership. Ever since his assumption, he has consistently ensured that equity, fairness, inclusiveness are his guiding principle of governance.
Projects, appointments, and other state’s benefits are equitably shared, spread across the state. He ensures a good relationship with some opposition politicians, crushing political godfathers, empowered traditional institutions, and strengthened community dialogue. As a matter of fact, Bello is bridging the gaps of ethno-religious divides with his inclusive style of leadership.
Man is fallible no matter how much he may try to be perfect in his dealings. Bello is not different. As such, considering the environment in which Bello rode to power and the nature and character of the state, he is somewhat trying his best.
However, there are numerous areas in which the governor has erred and needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency. One of such is the worrisome screening exercise saga.
When the governor commenced the exercise in the early stage of his administration, many well-meaning Nigerians applauded him for venturing into such difficult task, even when his faith at the election tribunal was not yet decided. Many Nigerians, including this writer, had thought the exercise (the longest in the history of Nigeria), when finally completed will permanently put to rest the decade-long problem of non-payment of workers’ salaries in the state. But, the reverse seems to be the case as genuine workers are still being paid in percentage and some are owed months of salaries.
Also, it’s surprising that despite the enormous supports from President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government on agriculture, the state remained backward in the sector. I have witnessed how Kogi citizens are consistently directed to register via an online platform for agricultural aid
from state government, yet none has been granted to the people especially the real farmers at the grassroots who mobilised themselves for the programme. However, it’s encouraging that recently, the state government launched what it called ‘Confluence Rice’, which the governor described as “a great success in ensuring self-sufficient in food production in the state” but available facts show that such claim does not actually reflect the reality of Agricultural sector in the state. For instance, since the launching of ‘Confluence Rice’, many Kogites are still searching the markets frantically to purchase the product but nowhere to be found. Little wonder, some Nigerians have described it as deceptive.
Moreover, it’s disheartening that the take-off of the well-conceived industrial park that would have put the state on the path of industrial revolution and massively engaged youths in the state was abruptly cancelled without any convincing reason.
The recent opening of a multi-million naira mansion by the Governor, in his hometown, Okene with fanfare portrays his government in bad light, even though we cannot accuse him of using public fund to finance his house project. But with the condition of the majority of workers and Kogi citizens in general, such action suggests that the Governor is playing with the sensitivity of the masses who are still wallowing in a state of hunger.
As Governor Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello clocks two years in office, there is a need for him to pause, reflect, and amend any areas some patriotic Nigerians have identified as loopholes in his government. Bello must ensure that he redouble his efforts in the areas of Agriculture, industry, education, and health-care. He should, as a matter of urgency, reconsider the take-off of the construction of the postponed Industrial Park in the state; sustain the momentum in securing the state from all security threats; integrate any previous administration’s policy that is useful for the masses; for instance, payment of WAEC fees for the secondary school students in the state. This is one policy of the previous administrations that requires commendation because it had helped thousands of downtrodden families in the past.
Bello must as well ensure that his government reduces its spending on social activities that have no sustainable impact on the masses. And, above all, he must, by all means, quickly resolve the unending lingering face-off between government and labour unions by prompt payment of all genuine workers in the state.
May God strengthen, protect, and guide him as he continues to steering the affairs of the State.
Deen Adavize can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org