Empirical evidences have revealed to many of us that the bane of democratic development and progress in Africa generally is the political class. Democracy in Africa can be likened to the famed animal called ‘Onuchéchè’ in Igala language, which exact name or translation in English I am not sure of anymore. Be that as it may, and from the physical description of the wild animal, it resembles something like what the English people call ‘Porcupine’ or ‘Amarillo’. Whatever the case, let’s just know that our example is an animal that lives in the wild. Folklores have it that whenever the animal is hungry and cannot find food, it tears into its own flesh to scoop a mouthful to quench its hunger. It continues to do so for as long as it is unable to find food until it dies ultimately from self inflicted wounds. World over, human beings and particularly, politicians constitute the building blocks of democracy. The success or otherwise of democratic governance anywhere in the world therefore is a direct function of the quantum and by extension, the quality of politicians. India and the USA for example are said to be among the largest and functional democracies in the world. Perhaps, some pundits of Indian democracy may argue that the functionality of the country’s democracy was before the advent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is on account of his sustained and unveiled effort to replace democracy with ‘Hinduism’ in a country where poverty and technological advancements are in a race to out-do each other. Despite Prime Minister Modi’s undemocratic effort, India nonetheless remains a big and successful democracy just like those of the USA, UK, Canada and Singapore. It is the sheer quality of politicians that play by different but unassailable rules of these countries that makes their democratic arrangements work optimally. Unfortunately, democratic governance has not been that successful in Africa. As a touted idealistic mode of governance that midwifed the independence of most African countries from clutches of colonialism, democracy has suffered terrible and morbid experimentation in the hands of African politicians. This has led to many military coup detàts in Africa almost immediately as many African countries became independent. The military juntas that booted the politicians out of office regarded them as corrupt, inept, arrogant, greedy, power drunk, insensitive, over ambitious, shameful and shameless at the same time, unpatriotic; as the various adjectives that the Juntas used to describe politicians were endlessly. Ironically, the Juntas turned out to be worse than the very politicians that they had accused of doing all things wrongfully. They did not only turn out to be more corrupt and grossly inept at governance, most became excessively repressive and violated citizens rights; including right to life, with impunity. The military Juntas, with the exception of a few examples like Egypt, Libya and Ghana, stifled political and socio-economic development of the African countries that they were in charge of. Take Nigeria for example, the military Juntas of former Heads of State, Generals Babangida and Abacha that shared a whooping period of about 14 years between them reversed Nigeria’s progressive clock by a development coefficient power of three. This takes us back to pre-colonial times when the various ethnic nationalities that were cobbled into current Nigeria lived independently in Thomas Hobbes ‘state of nature’. That perhaps was what gave rise to internal dissensions and external struggles against Nigeria’s military Junta that culminated in restoration of democracy in Nigeria on 29th July, 1999. Most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relieve and hoped that democracy will yield many desired dividends that will improve their socio-economic situations and engender qualitative living standards. If those were dreams, Nigerians had better not woken from sleep as they are likely to meet worse socio-economic situations in the country culminating from string of successive Democratic governance in the country since 1999.
The last eight years before the coming on board of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration may probably go down in the history of democratic governance in Nigeria as the worst in this country. If the combined periods of the Juntas of IBB and Abacha had reversed our country’s progress as I said by a development coefficient of the power of three in relation to the period of fourteen or more years that they misgoverned the country cumulatively, the eight years of former President Muhammad Buhari’s period qualifies for a coefficient power of ten. Again, this means that the former President’s tenure took us backwards beyond Stone Age. One can therefore only guess the enormity of governance issues and socio-economic development challenges that confront the current administration in Nigeria whose leadership is currently mired in allegations many illegalities and appears unprepared for governance. However, the numerous personal issues and governance challenges around President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not the thrust of this discussion.
I chose to give the current administration that was foisted wily nilly on Nigerians by a corrupt electoral system and foibles of an equally visionless and fragmented opposition some time to redeem itself before we can ascend a moral high ground to talk about what it is doing right and where it is deviating. However, one is constrained to observe the executive impunity and political brigandship being displayed by the uncouth and infantile governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello currently. Unless, he is called to order, his actions and utterances are capable of causing chaos, disorder and political upheavals that can lead ultimately to break down of law and order in the country. Similarly, unless the Nigerian State looks beyond his hypocrisy and deception to constitutionally rein him in, he might end up setting bad precedents and examples for other governors and those exercising executive political powers in varying forms to follow. It is no longer a hidden fact that Kogi State where Alhaji Yahaya Bello has held sway over the past seven or close to eight years has become the poster boy of bad governance, unmitigated corruption, under-development, intimidation and assassination of political opponents, oppression of the populace, poverty, hunger, diseases, lies and deceits as well as being the bastion of executive impunity.
The State Governor has carried on in Kogi State as if we are in a jungle; without laws and a constitution simply because he succeeded in mainstreaming all his atrocities into the political agendas of the ruling APC party, especially under former President Muhammad Buhari. Unfortunately, the undiscerning and inept former President bought all of Yahaya Bello’s deceptions and tacitly supported his atrocities. The world cannot forget too quickly how Alhaji Yahaya Bello with the aid of former President Muhammad Buhari deployed State security apparatus with their platforms to rig the 2019 gubernatorial election and illegally retained him in Luggard House.
Unless the former President pretended not to know, that singular action of Alhaji Yahaya Bello with his tacit support was what discredited his administration before the international community. Although, the Governor himself became a pariah and a persona non grata in USA and the European Union, it did not deter him from continuing in his atrocious and corrupt ways. Currently, another gubernatorial election in Kogi State is some eighteen days away and the infantile dictator of Kogi State is up in his antics again. Before now, he has embarked on clandestine establishment of local militias in parts of the State; particularly in Kogi East Senatorial Zone that has become his main focus for destabilization of the Zone. The immediate past Naval Chief had obliged Alhaji Yahaya Bello a detachment of Navy Special Forces under the Command of one Lieutenant Commander Akalezie both to do the Governor’s dirty jobs in and around the State and to train his militias.
It was alleged that the Navy Special Forces assisted Yahaya Bello’s militia to abduct late Kebiru Bala a.k.a Okwo from Ejule town to Lokoja to be murdered in cold blood before the Governor. This was after destroying late Okwo’s properties and burning down his house with his newly built hotel. For the records, Okwo was a convict serving a jail term in Koton-Karfe Medium Security Prison for involvement in thuggery, robbery and politically motivated murders. On the advise of his deputy, Edward Onoja Governor Yahaya Bello granted Okwo and other convicted criminals serving various jail terms in the State amnesty. The purpose of the ‘Kangaroo’ amnesty was to use the ex-convicts to perpetrate political violence and intimidate political opponents as well as help Yahaya Bello to rig the election. He went ahead to give each of them a Toyota Sienna mini-van with arms and money preparatory to the 2019 gubernatorial elections. The late Okwo and his ilks helped Alhaji Yahaya Bello and his deputy Edward Onoja to rig the elections through violence and intimidation as was witnessed by the whole world.
Okwo’s only offence that warranted the murderous Governor of Kogi State to order for his elimination was the late lad’s refusal to support him in the forthcoming gubernatorial election and choosing instead to support his Igala kinsman and candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the 11 November, 2023 gubernatorial election in the State. The same militias are gallivanting all over Kogi East Senatorial Zone currently destroying homes and properties of supporters of opposition candidates, in addition to maiming and killing anyone that dares them. Ironically, Alhaji Yahaya Bello dares not to establish or unleash his criminal militias in the Central and Western Senatorial Zones of Kogi State the way he is currently focused on the Eastern Senatorial Zone. The reason for this one-sided criminal focus is not far-fetched. First, the Western Senatorial District of Kogi State is composed of a patriotic, highly educated, connected and united people that the Governor fears and knows that he cannot contend with in any way. Similarly, he cannot unleash his militia in the Central Senatorial Zone where he comes from for fear of internal revolt and ex-communication. The bad taste that his misguided attempt at rubbishing the person of the paramount traditional ruler of the Zone, the Ohinoyi of Egbirra land, left in his loquacious mouth remains fresh up until this moment at least. Secondly, the Eastern Senatorial Zone that he is hell bent on destabilizing politically in the run-up to the 11 November, 2023 election is populated majorly by the Igalas that is the majority tribe in the State. On account of Governor Yahaya Bello’s poor governance and deliberate attempt to ensconce the Igalas in permanent political oblivion and perpetual poverty, the Igala people have overwhelmingly rejected the Governor’s imposed successor and instead, are routing for the SDP candidate. He knows that under a free and fair electoral atmosphere, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s anointed successor does not stand any chance against any of the current gubernatorial candidates of other political parties that are vying for Luggard House. And the Igala majority holds the democratic ace of who wins the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Kogi State. Hence, the focus on destabilizing Kogi East Senatorial Zone by the desperate incumbent and soon to be out-gone Governor of Kogi State. The Governor had over the years exploited the systemic corruption of the political and security systems to compromise the national security architecture deployed to maintain law and order in Kogi State; especially during the tenure of former President Muhammad Buhari. He did not only succeed in compromising security apparatus of Kogi State, he built militias and killer squads with the support of security agencies and unpatriotic agents deployed to the State. Yahaya Bello’s penchant for violence is indiscriminate, infectious and knows no bounds. That is why his security details that ought to know how to navigate a security corridor like a military check-point will order his security aides to attack some soldiers that were mounting a security check point near Abaji city along Lokoja-Abuja road on the evening of Sunday 22 October, 2023. In the ensuing fracas, the security aides of Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, the Governor of Kogi State were reported to have stabbed and injured some of the soldiers manning the security check point. The affected soldiers were receiving treatment in the hospital as I wrote this piece. Can any sane person imagine, let alone behave the way that the Governor of Kogi State behaved on the evening of 22 October, 2023? As if to add insult to injury, the Kogi State commissioner for information and propaganda ran to the press to hastily spread lies and untruths about the unfortunate incident. He hyperbolically stated that his principal escaped an assassination attempt by some unknown gun men that were dressed in military fatigue uniform. Before the hapless commissioner returned to his base perhaps from wherever he went to spread untruths, his principal was on air in the comfort of his Abuja proxy office disavowing the statement of his information commissioner and painting a different picture that sought to scapegoat his security aides and the military men that were at conducting a legitimate assignment at their duty post. Knowing the potential damage that the statement of his commissioner for information and propaganda could cause to his election efforts in the forthcoming gubernatorial contest in the State in relation to internal security, the Governor adopted a reconciliatory tone to play down the enormity of the security breach by his convoy. This is the type of deception he employs to fool the undiscerning and uses to continue to have his nefarious ways. My worry, as is that of many law abiding Nigerians, is how come Governor Yahaya Bello among the 36 State Governors seems to be the only Governor acting openly and flagrantly against the constitution and laws of the land in furtherance of his narrow and selfish political interests unchallenged? Is this a typical example of the many flaws of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or looming dangers of the loose confederation that we practice currently in Nigeria in the name of federal system of government? Whatever the source of the political brigandism and executive recklessness that is currently being displayed by Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, Governor of Kogi State, they ought to provide our lawmakers with something to ponder on legislatively before our nation degenerates into anarchy. What is happening in Kogi State now is beyond the State, but rather they are unguided activities of a careless individual with unchecked executive powers that are clearly capable of breeding anarchy and political instability in our dear country. While the administration of former President Muhammad Buhari dubiously bought into a touted tangentiality of the nefarious activities of the exuberant governor to the broad agenda of the ruling APC to offer him unqualified support, the current and future administrations in this country cannot afford to do same as that portends grave danger for our shallow rooted democracy. Instead, the Federal Government with its agencies ought to guard the Constitution and its provisions with regard to governance and national security jealously against the type of executive recklessness being displayed currently by Governor Yahaya Bello. It is not as if it is only in Kogi State that State Chief Executives have transformed themselves into emperors and demi-gods. Aside a few States like Borno, Lagos and perhaps Oyo State, almost all the States of the Federation have been transformed into personal fiefdoms of our garrulous and kleptomaniac State Chief Executives. Kogi State’s case is only the open because of the frequency of infraction of laws of the land with impunity by the Kogi State Governor and the infantile as well as criminal dimensions of Yahaya Bello’s activities. It is therefore advisable for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to talk to his party’s bogeyman and rein in his excesses constitutionally in order not to jeopardize our fragile democracy through peoples’ discontentment and resentments. The nation’s security agencies also need to be reminded of the need to keep out of politics and remain neutral in the discharge of their roles. It is their compromises with Alhaji Yahaya Bello of Kogi State that emboldened him to disregard lawfully mounted troops and order an attack against them in the course of performing their legitimate duties as the world witnessed once again on the evening of Sunday 22 October, 2023. The seeming acquiescence of current APC government to the oppression and repression of innocent Kogites and other less privileged Nigerians, particularly the Igalas shows that President Tinubu and his party place party victory over the lives and well-being of Nigerians. Unfortunately, the President and his administration that is currently fighting legal wars of legitimacy risk contempt of the international community like his predecessor on account of the exuberant and wicked governor of Kogi State. Who knows, whether he might not order an attack on Aso Rock next time if care is not taken. Time will tell!
Ogacheko Opaluwa is a Social Critic and Public Affairs Analyst. He contributed this piece from Cape Town.