FIGHT FOR KOGI: WHY GOVERNOR BELLO IS LOSING OUT
When he was sworn in as the fourth civilian governor of Kogi State on January 27, 2016, Alhaji Yahaya Bello came into power with mass followership and lots of sympathisers, but today he no longer enjoys that support, no thanks to his style of governance.
By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
After promising so much and delivering so little, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is turning out not to be the messiah Kogi has been waiting for. How did a governor who was a darling of his Ebira people and the face of youths suddenly become the man many like to hate and treat with contempt?
While it is not yet possible to conclusively explain the governor’s inability to deliver on good governance, a pattern is emerging that helps to explain why his government is turning out to be a huge disappointment.
As soon as he came into power in 2016, Bello declared a toga of ‘New Direction.’ Fast forward to 25 months later, political pundits say the administration is better addressed as ‘No Direction’. Bello seems to have penchants for fighting. He started the war with the House of Assembly orchestrating the change of leadership twice in a year, and extended it to the labour unions with some already proscribed. He is at loggerheads with his party (APC), creating a parallel executive. He is presently at war with two of the senators from Kogi, Dino Melaye and Ahmed Ogembe, while being indifferent to the House of Reps members from his state.
Of all the wars he is fighting, the one with Dino and Ogembe seems odd. It shouldn’t be easy for Bello to forget how Dino ‘helped’ him to achieve his dream of becoming governor. Those who know say Dino was one of those who were privy to Prince Abubakar Audu’s death and quickly leaked it to influential people. Had Dino kept mute, Audu would have been declared the winner of the 2016 governorship election before the announcement of his death and his running mate, James Faleke, would have naturally inherited the governorship. Dino’s early song changed the narrative and brought the intrigues which settled in Bello’s favour. And Dino played a significant role in Bello’s inauguration trying hard to sell him and give him legitimacy before the courts backed him.
Ogembe hails from the same town with Bello. Despite being from a different political party, kinsmen affinity was there at the beginning. How the story suddenly changed still baffles many. The political hatred got to the peak when, penultimate Saturday, Ogembe’s empowerment program was disrupted, and his house ransacked with property destroyed. The senator alleged that the governor was behind the attack. The Ogembe/Bello supremacy battle, if not addressed quickly, may lead to the return of political violence that characterised the old Kogi Central. It will start another clannish supremacy.
The governor has also extended his battle with Dino to the Senate. Last year, at a public function in Akwa Ibom, Dino was a guest of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate Minority Leader. At the function, Governor Udom Emanuel heaped praises on Dino. This irked Bello who took a swipe on his fellow governor in the open. He also berated Akpabio. A move to address the issue by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekeremadu, saw him caught in the crossfire. And that was how a Dino/ Bello battle enlarged to Bello vs Senate.
Bello’s fighting nature has turned so big that many begin to ask if Bello is a governor or a fighter. At the last count, Bello has fought or is at loggerheads with two senators, House of Assembly members, House of Reps members, party executive, labour, NMA, journalists, the Senate and Hon. James Faleke. To Bello, every misunderstanding must end in fight. He seems not to have room for diplomacy.
DIVISIVE GOVERNANCE STYLE
Despite attempts by his aides to diffuse tension generated by the governor’s emergence, it was obvious Bello never thought of reconciliation with those aggrieved over his choice as replacement for the late Audu. Bello jettisoned those who laboured from the Audu’s camp to win the governorship election and picked 75 per cent of his appointees from those in his camp who decamped to Accord Party and only returned to APC when he was announced as Audu’s replacement. The remaining 25 per cent were from his allies in the PDP. So much for a man who voiced his intention for proper reconciliation.
The fatal clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers across Kogi did not start today. The clashes had become deadly such that many voiced out against the establishment of cattle colony as proposed by the Federal government. But Bello, before gauging the mind-set of his people, quickly accepted to have the state used as testing ground for cattle colony. Even when the opposition against it was rife, the governor ignored all and announced three local government areas in Kogi for the scheme. He gave out open invitation to the Fulani to come to the state without proper preparation for the scheme and social implications. Today, the menace of the herdsmen has continued unabated.
HUNGER IN THE LAND.
There is hunger in the land. Kogi is purely a civil service state where the bulk of the money in circulation comes from civil servants. A delay in payment of salary thus leads to the lack of monetary flow.
The governor’s handling of salary payment is one of the factors threatening to wipe off his support base. Many Kogi people, especially civil servants, are disillusioned about the manner Bello handled the public service sector. First was the screening exercise for workers that lasted close to two years, and left many out of job. This was followed by the “traffic light” style of salary payment – in a particular month some will get their salary while others in the same category will not get; only for the trend to change in the next pay day for those that got to be ignored while those who were not fortunate earlier will now get.
In the beginning when Bello began inquiries into past administrations, it was easier to defend the government’s war against corruption. Not anymore. The contradiction in the governor’s war against corruption is best illustrated by the Audu’s era he left out of the probes simply because they are from the same party. It has become obvious that the panel of inquiries were set up by Bello to witch-hunt his predecessors.
Seventy per cent of Bello’s aides, according to analysts, perform below expectation. There’s nothing concrete one can view as their contributions to the state or the offices they hold. Aside the commissioners for agric, environment (now in education), health, women affairs, works, and finance, most of the rest are relatively unknown and believed to be under performers. Analysts characterize them as “Under -17” commissioners. Same goes for some Special Advisers. No wonder the people of the state went to town last week with joy when reports of cabinet dissolution filtered out. But within an hour after the governor dissolved the cabinet, he reversed the decision. To the PDP, Bello is confused.
CHIEF OF STAFF
The claim of Bello’s Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, being in charge of government has been rife. Onoja has continued to enjoy limelight. He makes policy statements and has a retinue of aides.
ONE WEEK, ONE TROUBLE
Many are beginning to read meaning to the happenings in the state. No matter how novel the governor’s ideas may be, they always come out in bad light. Bello is cast in the toga of one -week -one- trouble-governor. The alleged double registration (for election) palaver, the claim of military gears importation and the alleged secret police detention camp are a few examples. Sadly, Bello is losing out in Kogi politics.