Lost But Not Found: Where Is Yahaya Bello?

Promise Adiele

I nostalgically remember a popular refrain in my secondary school days “Lost but found”. Back then, an item of less value never went missing because nobody needed it. Usually, a good Samaritan would pick it up and proudly announce, “lost but found” across the classes, seeking the owner of the item. But one could not guarantee if the “lost but found” catchphrase would follow an item of real value. It all depended on who picked up such items. However, if an item of real value was declared lost, it stayed lost forever unless one of the good boys like the gentle, honest Mathew Ahuzi picked it up. Good luck to you if your item was picked by some boys I cannot mention their names here…hehehe.

My puerile mind imagined only school items could go missing. Growing up, I discovered human beings could also be declared missing and when they are found, the “lost but found” refrain is enacted. Since many people now embrace the villainous vocation of kidnapping, hardly are human beings found and paraded with the popular “lost but found” slogan. As I write this piece, the immediate past governor of Kogi State Mr. Yaya Bello is lost but unfortunately has not been found and Nigerians are worried about it.

It is no longer news that Mr Yahaya Bello is missing from the Nigeria space. Whether it is by magic, a deliberate act of mischief, official hide-and-seek, or extra-sensory transfer, the former governor has vanished into the air. After all, Nigeria is a land of all possibilities. However, Yaya Bello’s family and friends are not worried or disturbed about his whereabouts. Perhaps, they know a thing or two some of us do not know or possibly, they know he is safe and secured wherever he may be. Ordinarily, the media would have inundated us with such trite advertorial as “case of a missing person, if found, report to the nearest police station.” The notice would have described his physical attributes for easy identification. Most times, a bounty or financial reward is promised to the brave citizen who would provide any information leading to his rescue. But that is not the case with the missing former governor of Kogi State. Many people are convinced that his disappearance was orchestrated and aided by the current Kogi State governor Mr. Ahmed Usman Ododo to shield him from facing the law after allegations of misappropriating public funds to the mind-boggling corridor of over eighty billion naira.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), arguably the most pretentious, prejudiced graft agency in the world, nonplussed Nigerians by stating that Yaya Bello was a wanted man. The commission’s chairman Mr Olanipekun Olukayode took the joke further by declaring that if he did not arrest and prosecute Yaya Bello, he would resign from his position. Of course, Nigerians were not deceived. Today, Yaya Bello is still at large and Olanipekun Kayode remains the EFCC chairman. Such comic relief is needed in Nigeria to relieve the people from existential absurdities such as tedium, despair, suffering, and hopelessness that characterise the APC administration disingenuously led by Mr. Bola Tinubu. It would be impossible for the EFCC, DSS, the Police, and other graft agencies to convince the public that they do not know the whereabouts of Yaya Bello. But it is easy for the EFCC to locate internet fraudsters and small-time criminals apprenticing after their illustrious political compatriots. Many politicians through primitive burglary of the Nigerian exchequer and uncontrolled acts of larceny have plundered the country’s resources beyond recognition. Many of them are enjoying their loot unmolested. Yet, EFCC’s current pastime is to invade nightclubs in search of young felons inspired by a subsisting culture of pillaging within the precincts of public service.

Unfortunately, many Nigerians seem to be suffering from cognate dementia. They have forgotten Yaya Bello and moved on, inadvertently accepting various complexions of degenerate attitudes in the psychology of power formations. No one is asking the right questions about the disappearance or the tricky concealment of Yaya Bello’s whereabouts. In a shocking unmasking of Nigeria’s putrid penal system, in early May 2024, two employees of FoodCo in Ibadan, Ebenezer Olusesi 31 and Ibrahim Adeniyi 41, were arrested and immediately arraigned for allegedly stealing two loaves of bread worth N2,600 from their employer. Olusesi is a baker and Adeniyi is a security guard. Both of them were arrested immediately and made to face the law. That is the sort of system that operates in Nigeria – while the bigger thieves, those who have submerged Nigeria by their acts of official greed and sleaze flourish like a bay palm tree, infant pilferers motivated by hunger and survival are summarily punished by the law. Sadly, the intelligentsia, those who went to school and obtained different certificates argue and defend criminal government officials for fleecing the public purse. No country in the world will contest the position of hypocrisy with Nigeria. Once a criminal is identified in Nigeria, before the act is condemned, people ask questions like – what is his ethnic group, what is his religion, what political party does he belong to? Based on these variables, we condemn or support a scoundrel.

Bring up Yaya Bello’s issue on any social media platform and argue that he should submit himself to the law to clear his name over fraud and money laundering allegations. Educated people will rise to his defence and justify his disappearing act. They will cite examples of how your state governor stole billions and is a free man. Then, they advise that we should all move on. Kogians have also moved on. N80 billion naira is infinitesimal to Kogi State. His disappearance is supported by such scandalous submission as “Is he the first person”? “What about others who have stolen much money and are free”? “Oh, the government is witch-hunting him for standing up against Bola Tinubu during the APC presidential primaries”. As such senseless and irrational submissions gather momentum, the government is blackmailed. Since government officials and many former governors are equally guilty of the same allegation, graft agencies are advised to back out. Yaya Bello walks away a free man and the rot continues and Nigeria continues to bleed.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, except for one or two governors, almost every former governor in Nigeria has been accused of liquidating the state treasury before leaving office. On that score, Yaya Bello walks with his shoulders high having done what seems like a culture in Nigeria. It is necessary to identify these dissimulations in Nigeria’s power structures and properly situate the sources of the country’s economic woes. Therefore, Yaya Bello has become a metaphor for measuring many past governors and public officeholders in Nigeria who committed crimes against humanity by leading their states to bankruptcy before the expiration of their terms.

This essay was inspired by a picture of Yaya Bello I saw online where he was in a well-trimmed, lush garden with his laptop, wearing expensive attire. He looked like a young man enjoying a honeymoon. Then I asked, where is Yaya Bello? Honestly, I do not think Yaya Bello should hide anymore. Perhaps, he is yet to come to terms with the reality that Nigerians love to celebrate criminals and reward them with encomiums in multiple ways. If he finds his way out of the country, upon his return, the airport will be lined up with party loyalists, well-wishers, friends and family members singing the very offensive and inane mantra – on your mandate, we shall stand. If Yaya Bello is afraid (which I doubt very much), let him look at the Senate, the House of Representatives or other sectors of our public service. Let him also look at other former governors like him. He is in wonderful company and as we say on the streets – no shaking.
In a way, one can argue that Yaya Bello may still be in charge of proceedings in Kogi State because there were insinuations that he singlehandedly installed Ahmed Usman Ododo as the first citizen of the state. In a reciprocal gesture, the current governor resisted EFCC’s arrest of Yaya Bello when the graft agency went to arrest him while hibernating in the governor’s lodge after leaving office. Perhaps, the government and our pretentious graft agencies may have realized that Yaya Bello knows a thing or two about other government officials and would gladly spill the beans if harassed any further. Or what else will be the reason for the failure of EFCC to arrest the former governor? If the EFCC allows Yaya Bello to continue to hide hoping that Nigerians will characteristically forget the issue, they would be entrenching a dangerous precedent in the country and gradually, it will become almost impossible to arrest indicted criminals. Of course, the way criminals of every complexion wax strong and dominate the country’s social and political spaces, we shall soon task political scientists to coin a system of government where criminals rule supreme. EFCC must ensure that all allegations of official heist and misappropriation of public funds are pursued to a logical conclusion. “No one is above the law”, should not be on paper only.

Promise Adiele PhD wrote from 
Mountain Top University,
promee01@yahoo.com
X: @drpee4

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