Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has been prancing about telling whoever cares to listen that he desires to be the next President of Nigeria in 2023. To show us that he is serious, and to de-emphasise the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction, he said there was nothing like zoning arrangement in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His posters have flooded some places, especially in the North.
Though I am not a politician, I know that the damage already done to the number one office in the country by the incumbent occupier will take a man of great wisdom and lion heart to repair. That man is definitely not Yahaya Bello.
I do not begrudge him. I only see his posters as pure decoration of some walls that are in a state of dilapidation. He has every right as a Nigerian to vie for any leadership position in the country. As governor of Kogi State, and probably the youngest governor in the country, he made some marks even if negatively. But his intended foray into the presidential contest needs some interrogation.
I suspect that Bello is flying a kite, though he does not believe so. Otherwise, how can he ever think of ruling Nigeria with the glaring way he misruled Kogi? In case he has forgotten, we will remind him of certain anomalies that transpired in his state with him in the saddle.
One, does the name Edward Soje ring a bell in his ears? Soje was a director in the Kogi State civil service. In 2017, the man had to take his life barely 10 days after his wife gave birth to a set of male triplets after 17 years of childlessness. Soje reportedly took this action because he could no longer cope with about 11 months arrears of salaries owed him and other civil servants then by the state government.
Two, does Bello remember Mrs Salome Abuh? This women leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in Wada Aro Campaign Council, Ochadamu Ward in Kogi was so unfortunate that she belonged to an opposition party. Soon after Bello’s re-election on November 16, 2019, some thugs suspected to be loyal to the ruling party and to Bello invaded the house of Mrs Abuh and burnt her alive. Chanting GYB 4+4, the hoodlums reportedly poured petrol on Abuh’s building and set it ablaze while they watched the woman cry out from inside the inferno until her voice died out. To prevent her from coming out of the fire, the thugs reportedly rained bullets in her direction. Governor Bello’s spokesman, Kingsley Fanwo, had promised that those responsible for this heinous crime would be brought to book. More than one year after this incident, I am not sure if anybody has been brought to any book.
Besides, it was in Bello’s Kogi that politicians learnt how to sew police and military uniforms for thugs to aid in election rigging. In the last governorship election in the state, both fake and genuine policemen operated freely, as security agents allegedly aided party thugs to snatch ballot boxes and intimidate voters and electoral officials. At least, six people were killed in that November 2019 election.
Do we talk about Bello’s COVID-19 bellyache? Though the disease has affected over 100 million people worldwide and over 2.6 million deaths including Nigerians, Bello continues to bellow strange COVID-19 theories thereby misleading his people. He has failed to present the true picture of the existence of the disease in his state. Though Nigeria just received her COVID-19 vaccines, Bello dismissed it and maintained his stance that the disease does not exist. He stressed recently that he was not going to subject the people of Kogi State to vaccines or vaccination and he would not make them the guinea pigs.
We could pardon President Muhammadu Buhari for some of his misdeeds in office on account of his age. This is partly why many Nigerians had clamoured for younger persons to develop interest in the top leadership of the country. But with a young president like Bello, people may begin to wish for a return of Buhari in 2027.
With a president like him, our judiciary may lose its independence. Recall what happened in his state about one month to the November governorship election when the Kogi House of Assembly illegally removed the state’s erstwhile deputy governor, Mr. Simon Achuba, for alleged gross misconduct. The state Chief Judge moved fast to swear in another deputy governor despite the fact that the impeachment inquiry against Achuba found him blameless.
With a president like Bello, political thugs may become more valued than medical doctors. In June last year, Kogi thugs invaded the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja and vandalised the place. Vital documents were also destroyed. So far, many of the hoodlums are still parading the streets without qualms.
One good thing about the Kogi strongman is that he has ‘deep love’ for President Buhari. He vigorously campaigned for his second term in office. And when some Catholic bishops told the President in 2018 that things were hard for many Nigerians, Bello fumed to no end against the bishops. He said those opposed to the President were corrupt Christian leaders who were unhappy because looters were no longer able to pay tithes to them. He later recanted and apologised to the bishops.
My advice to Bello is to let Buhari be. The President has barely spent two years in his second tenure and Bello is already angling for his position. He should allow his party to come up with modalities for the primary election. He should give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) time to issue timetable for the election. As a young antelope, he should not dance his legs to pieces before the real dance starts. He should take it easy.
The major problem with Nigeria is that it is afflicted with serious leadership deficit. A country populated by great minds and high achievers has been reduced to a nation of Lilliputians. And when you look at the horizon, you see no hope. At the centre, the situation is hopeless. At the states, the hopelessness is without redemption.
Professor PLO Lumumba was recently quoted to have said, “In Japan, a corrupt person kills himself. In China, they will kill him. In Europe, they jail him. In Africa, he will present himself for election.” That is the tragedy of Africa, the undoing of Nigeria. But should we fold our arms and watch our country deteriorate further?
No way! Everybody must contribute his own quota to salvage what is remaining of this country. Good men who have the muscle to enter the murky waters of politics should do so. Those in the judiciary arm should wake up. The legislators should begin to get serious with sanctioning any executive who misuses power. Just get up and do something. I am doing my own bit. Do yours!