January 27, 2016 was an epochal date with destiny for the people of Kogi State as a son of a nobody, man from the rurally rugged Agassa community in Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State, Alh. Yahaya Bello was inaugurated as the 4th Executive Governor of Kogi State.
The late Prince Abubakar Audi was the first democratically elected Governor of Kogi State. He was succeed by Alh. Ibrahim Idris who also handed over to his bosom friend, Capt. Idris Ichala Wada. The coming of Alh. Yahaya Bello was unusual.
He lost the primaries of his party to the late Prince Abubakar Audi. But Audu died while the election was yet to be concluded. By the doctrine of necessity, the party replaced the departed hero with the man who came second in the gubernatorial primaries. As unusual as his coming, Alh. Yahaya Bello, popularly called GYB, introduced uncommon policies and political ideologies that has threatened the gerontologists of democracy.
For decades, the Kogi political elites had hoodwinked the populace with the wool-in-the-eye politics of ethnicity. Since they had nothing to offer, their only selling point was ethnographic divisions, bitter chauvinism and crafted innuendos that were cancerous to the unity and wellbeing of the inflicted people in order to decimate the process of governance responsiveness. The advent of the GYB leadership has cut short the disingenuous entrenchments of the idiosyncrasies of ethnic play for interest mulching. Hoofing self-centredness with the destinies of others. Today, we have a state where the citizens think Kogi.
On the day of his inauguration, the youngest Governor in the nation demonstrated the remonstrance against ethnic jingoism in the state. He saw Hon. Edward Onoja, his Chief of Staff as a brilliant Kogite rather than an Ogugu man from Kogi East. GYB is the first Governor to look beyond his ethnic root in appointing a Chief of Staff. He also appointed his then SA Media from Kogi Central and his then Chief Press Secretary from Kogi West.
The action showed the fairness in the man known as FairPlus in business circles. Another unusual: GYB spread his appointments across the 21 Local Government Areas in the state.
He has built a state where everyone sees Kogi first and above ethnic considerations. Unity is not a gospel.
It is achieved through demonstrative actions. Within his first year in office, Governor Yahaya Bello was able to commission projects in the College of Science and Health Technology, Idah. He was the first sitting Governor to visit the school. Within his first year in office, GYB was able to commission architectural edifices such as the Revenue House, SDG Office and many others across many sectors.
The Governor has also flagged off many projects that, when completed, will impact positively on the welfare of the Kogi people.
What many have not really acknowledged is the new look of Lokoja, the state capital. The city used to be one of the dirtiest before the advent of the present administration in the state. But today, the city is wearing a good look with better intercity roads and saner environment. Achieving a new look Lokoja took the political will of the Governor. The boldness of the Governor to embark on Staff Verification Exercise is worthy of applause. Previous administrations in the state had seen the menace but they saw it as a fire that puts off whoever wants to put it off. But if the fire is not quenched, it would consume the state. And the Governor dared. At the Screening Centre, we have seen how a West African School Certificate holder was place on GL 13 as a Medical Officer by a former Deputy Governor. We have heard civil servants confessed printing certificates to gain employment. We have seen how people inherited the employment of of their late relatives with the connivance of people in authority. The exercise was as revealing as it is saving.
This is not to say the exercise didn’t come with some resistance and hardship. The entrenched corruption in the system put up a resilient resistance against the exercise. Media wars were waged against the government. But the belief of the people that the exercise is to their advantage has helped in winning the media war.
As a government, we have not shied away from the fact that the exercise caused the people some discomfort, even casualties while travelling for the exercise. We feel sorry about those incidents and feel strongly about ensuring the success of the exercise to decongest the doubt of the doubters on the genuineness of the exercise.
To ensure justice, the listening Governor recently set up a Screening Appeal Committee to listen to the complaints of the affected workers and ensure justice for all. Last December, the State Government ensured the surface dressing of the Lokoja-Okene, Obajana-Kabba, Ayetoro Gbedde-Egbe roads as well as many others across the state to give comfort to commuters. The gesture also reduced crime rate as there was free flow of traffic. That was a demonstration of good governance. GYB has already declared a State of Emergency in the agricultural sector of the economy. He referred to himself as the Chief Farmer of Kogi State.
He convoked an Agricultural Summit to which he dragged the juggernauts in the agricultural industry to the state and elucidated his plans, programs and policies for the development of the sector. By visiting the Kampe Omi Dam Project and signing an MOU with the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority for the use of the irrigable land and facilities at Omi Dam, the Governor has succeeded in demonstrating his desire to make Kogi the Agricultural Capital of Nigeria. The Healthcare Plus, a health program that takes the healthcare cost off the people, has not only strengthen healthcare access, but also leaves more money in the pockets of Kogites.
The past 13 months has seen Kogi flex its potential and the will of the Governor to write his name in gold. Revenue generation has improved despite no new taxes were imposed. Anti-corruption has been the bulwark of financial management prowess under the present administration. As a government, we expect constructive criticism. It helps grow the system and strengthen accountability and fiscal responsibility. As a democrat, the Governor is respectful of opposing views and superior alternate views.
However, not all critics are public good-driven. Some critics are uncomfortable with the anti-corruption war in Kogi State. Some critics are antagonistic of the Civil Service Reforms in the state because of their stinking anus. Some critics are playing a distractive game to enable the Governor lose focus. And the last will be explained last. To his officials, the Governor has said solid performance must be the answer to destructive criticism. Let me conclude with the faceoff between a splinter group of the APC Exco and the APC government in Kogi State. The Governor will not fight anyone. He is focused and unperturbed by the scheming of the few Exco members. Their gang up against the Governor “which God voted for” (in the words of Sen Dino Melaye), will not prevail.
All Kogites are looking forward with hope. The Governor is relentless in watering his seedlings to fruition. And the detractors are still in awe of the strength of character called Yahaya Bello. He invested millions on security by procuring Ford Rangers for patrol and better gadgets for 21st Century security. Today, he has been honoured as the number one crime fighters among the governors. More honours will come. Your Governor will listen.
By Kingsley Fanwo Fanwo Kingsley is the Director General on Media and Publicity, Office of the Governor of Kogi State, Lokoja.