Arguably, there is no sitting governor in the country today that has endured a lengthy period of attack from within his party than the youthful governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
The 43-year-old politician is the youngest governor in Nigeria, but his reign has not only diminish the opportunity for more youths in governance, it has given the older breed the ammunition needed to continue to stay in power.
For those who might have forgotten, the Okene-born businessman is a man of history. The period leading to his emergence as governor appeared to have enmeshed in constitutional logjam, as the All Progressive Congress, APC’s governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu, who was set to win in the election died before the process was concluded.
Bello was picked by the party to replace him. Mr. James Faleke who was Audu’s running mate objected to the party’s decision and approached the election tribunal in the state, asking it to declare him governor-elect. But the party had persuaded Faleke to retain his running mate position, which he turned down. Thus Yahaya Bello made an unusual history as he was sworn in without a deputy. It was the first time in Nigeria’s political history that an elected governor would be inaugurated without a deputy.
Since his inauguration, it has been one fight to another. If the governor is not at loggerheads with the state civil service it is with the state judiciary. This and many more squandered the huge political capital he did not have or earn, but which was given to him freely by death. Through his immature, inexperienced, callous and arrogant mannerisms, Bello has taken Kogi to the abyss of misrule that no one could have imagined.
His problem with Kogi people was recently explained by the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Abdul Rahman Ado Ibrahim. The influential traditional ruler, said the Governor has lost the goodwill of the people and it would be difficult to convince them to vote him for a second term in office.
Ado Ibrahim said he supported Bello in 2015 because his assessment of the governor was positive, but “he is a different thing today”. In an interview with DailyTrust, he said Bello does not listen to the counsel of traditional leaders “but he gave more time to those who idolize him”.
“So there is this issue of the boy [Bello] not knowing what he should do because he has extremely wrong people around him. Bello is a nice young man and highly intelligent; that is why I recommended him at that time,”Ibrahim said.
“People said I was supporting Bello because he is my cousin. Well, partly, that could be one reason. Two, he had money to do it, and that money is what has misled him so far.
“A good person should always put money aside and put reality in the front. Money should just be a palliative anytime you need it.
“The governor did not allow traditional rulers to advise him. I haven’t sat with him to advise him on issues that are required to stabilise the peace of the people. I think I should advise him on policy issues, but he gave more time to those who idolize him. He is enjoying that.”
On issues of not paying salaries, the Ohinoyi could not say much.
“For the assessment, I can’t say much, I can only talk about what people are saying and what I read in the papers,” he said.
I don’t know how he does it. If people say he didn’t pay salaries, I cannot say why he didn’t do that. As far as I am concerned, he is paying salaries. I cannot comment on whatever they say he is doing.”
Another factor that could work against the governor as explained by the traditional ruler is his relationship with Ebira people. He said: “His relationship with Ebira people is a bit dented because he has more relationship with the Igala people, who are leading him in government. And they are the people I am now talking to so that they will have a change of mind and vote him back.
“Honestly, they have the votes. All I am trying to do is to get them to give him another term, after that if they don’t need to see his face anymore they can seal his fate. Whatever term they want to give, I’m prepared to go to any length.
“I’m really trying to get my people to support his second term, but I know that they don’t want to hear me say that.” the traditional ruler concluded.
Despite rising opposition to his reelection, the governor officially declared interest to contest the Gubernatorial seat for a second term in April.
Since that declaration, many cheiftains of Kogi State APC and other eminent indigenes have been up in arms against the governor. One of the most vocal group opposed to the governor’s 2nd term is the APC Aspirants’ Forum, Kogi Chapter. The group unanimously rejected the candidature of the governor
over alleged bad leadership and non-performance.
The group through its chairman, Mr Ben Adaji, appealed to Comrade Adams Oshiomole, the national chairman of APC and its National Working Committee (NWC) not to give the governorship ticket to Bello. It added that giving the ticket to Bello to run for a second term would be a risk, saying the party may lose the state to the opposition.
Their grouse with the governor stem from his refusal to follow the directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari to all APC governors to reconcile and accommodate the party’s aspirants after the last primaries. The forum alleged that Gov. Bello had continued to treat Kogi aspirants as enemies and second class citizens in the party they laboured for.
It said the forum had therefore resolved to mobilise and support one of its members to contest the forthcoming primaries and the subsequent governorship election slated for November.
As it is, Gov. Bello’s second term ambition is squarely in the hands of the presidency and so far the governor has remain in the good books of the Cabal in Aso Rock.
Aside, his closeness to Presidential Buhari, he is also reported to be close to does that have the ears of the president. That singular factor, could swing the ticket his way. But the governor can’t jubilate yet because, his backers are not the only deciding factor in the November elections.. The Kogi people and other aggrieved aspirants also have a say. Not forgetting, the Oshiomhole/Tinubu factor, who are hell bent on sending him out of Kogi Government House. If these forces align, it could spell doom for the governor.
As it is, every stake holder in Kogi APC is expecting the president to take a stand on who represents the party in the forthcoming elections.
But President Buhari’s continuous silence has put a dent on his image in the state. It is widely believed that he brought Yahaya Bello to power and has sustained him in power. Bello proudly claims ‘sonship’ to the President and does not fail to remind everybody that everything he is doing has presidential backing.
Mr. President, has one final opportunity to prove those who believe in him right, that the interest of the people in Kogi is paramount and above the vested interest of Yahaya Bello. This is not the time to be silent. This is the time to speak up and be counted among those who rescue the people from the hand of the oppressor.
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