Bellow is the address of the Governor :
AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE, AT THE GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY FOR THE CHAPEL OF PEACE AND UNITY, KOGI STATE GOVERNMENT HOUSE ON MONDAY 22 JULY, 2019.
I welcome everyone this morning with joy and a deep sense of satisfaction. Comparatively speaking, building a Chapel anywhere is a small project for a state government. The fountain and origin of my excitement flows from the significance of this project rather than its size or cost. Today, we gather to flag off the construction of a building which will not just be a house of worship for Christians but also a symbol of the access, welcome and inclusion which we have worked to guarantee all citizens in our public institutions.
I remember that around 2015 while I was still campaigning for Governor my team and I noted the absence of a Chapel in Lugard House even though a mosque for Muslim faithfuls had been built. We resolved to do something about it of God ever put us in Office. In particular, Edward Onoja, my campaign manager then, who is now my Chief of Staff, bore a burden for it, extracting a promise from me to balance the scales if I win. When I arrived here as Governor by the peculiar deeds of God, the construction of a bespoke place of worship for Christians inside the premises of the Kogi State Government House became a personal aspiration of mine.
We must understand that in Kogi State, strong components of Islam and Christianity have lived side by side since precolonial times and have cooperated in every area of life and endeavour. I believe that it is vitally critical for our seat of power to also make a symbolic statement of welcome for adherents of the two major faiths. Thus, I found it sad that for no reason other than, perhaps, the personal wishes of my predecessors in Office, Government House, Lokoja has no custom-built place of worship for Christians.
If you can, imagine this: For about 20 years, indigenous Governors of this great State took care of one religion and refused to build a corresponding place of worship for about half the populace in the very place we all co-own. Either that, or they pretended not to notice that it did not exist. How absolutely unfortunate.
By such intolerant behaviour doing they gave the impression that the feelings of Christians do not matter while falsely portraying muslims as insensitive to the feelings of others. But the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) is quoted by Anas ibn Malik ibn Nadr al-Khazraji Al-Ansari, one of the well-known sahabi (companions), to have said, “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
That is why we are here today – to remedy that error, to correct that impression and above all to do the right thing, to the Glory of Almighty God alone.
I will, of course, be guilty of the most unconscionable hypocrisy and godlessness if I stood on the site of this Holy House today condemning the intolerance and inequities of the past if my own government is characterised by the same evils. I therefore challenge everyone gathered here like Prophet Samuel challenged his people at Gilgal: If anyone accuses Yahaya Bello of fostering ethnic, religious or class barriers in Kogi State since he became Governor, I urge the individual to speak up now.
“Remember Me, O My God, for Good.” Nehemiah 5:19.
By the end of this week, my Administration will be rounding off her 3rd year and a half in Office. In that time, if there is anything we have worked hard to institutionalise, it is the ‘One Kogi Principle’. We have 239 wards, 25 State Constituencies, 21 Local Government Areas, 9 Federal Constituencies and 3 Senatorial Districts, but only 1 state. The rest of the world sees us as Kogites first before anything else, and we must strive to see ourselves like that too.
It has therefore been my philosophy of governance to affirm and forge all our plural strengths, all our diversities, into one united people. To do so effectively we have had to consciously attack tribal distrust, break down religious divides and overcome class cleavages. In this we have been guided by our good conscience and the New Direction Blueprint which stipulates a roadmap for ACCELERATED and PROPORTIONAL development of Kogi State in all her constituencies.
We have tried to show fairness in appointments and spread of projects, both State and Federal. Tribe and Religion have not been the yardstick for selection into public office, except to measure of equitable distribution. Unlike in the past, classism has been permitted to play no role at all. In all instances, we have made the effort to distribute available resources evenly.
“Remember Me, O My God, for Good.” Nehemiah 5:19.
One of our own academics, Dr. Usman Ogbo, said something that I really like about good governance because it echoes my own ideas and preferred practices:
‘Good governance is any administrative exercise that is good, and blind to ethnic toga, religious affiliation, race, gender and age barriers but speaks the common language of sustainable development for the good of all.’
Like good governance, bad governance does not respect tribe, religion or class. It afflicts everyone in that society equally. Nothing illustrates this truth than the experience of the eastern flank of our state. Even though it is the area which has produced all the Governors before me, it has seen little signs of development, just like the other parts.
In electricity distribution especially, Kogi East has the least penetration of all among our 3 Senatorial Districts. In fact, nearly 90% of it was still in agelong darkness when we took Office. We have since been able to bring electricity to about 50 communities but that is not even a drop in the ocean of darkness. What we have now done to combat this horrible start of affairs is to design a Project Power Kogi East with the aim of accelerating delivery of electricity to at least 200 communities in Kogi East Senatorial District by December, 2019.
So that people do not see this project as a last minute publicity stunt directed at getting votes in the forthcoming elections, let me state that the project is captured in our 2019 budget and money duly appropriated for it. We have inaugurated the Implementation Committee and it has started work in earnest. When we turn on the switch after completion, the light will not refuse to benefit Kogi East because it was brought by a Governor from Kogi Central. That is the essence of saying that good governance does not know tribe, religion or class.
As we round off our 1st term and approach the people of Kogi State to vote us for a 2nd term on November 16, it is with all sense of humility and gratitude to God that I note how pleased I am that my few critics, whose numbers are rapidly diminishing by the day, have failed to accuse me of anything worthy of note. Despite the vast resources stolen from this state in the past and now at their disposal, and in spite of having unlimited access to media collaborators, yet they cannot articulate any coherent accusation of mismanagement, not even ordinary malfeasance, against me or my Administration.
Everyone knows that if those princes and princesses of detraction and distraction had anything against me, the whole world would have heard of it by now. Even to fabricate them as lies and disseminate them as misinformation, they have failed. Our Open Government, Transparency and Accountability Initiatives have made sure that every amount, every resource, is accounted for.
They have not been able to accuse us of not doing projects in the 3 Senatorial Districts, or of failing to secure lives and properties, or of any form of sectionalism, or of embezzlement of public funds, or of enriching wives, children, friends or privies with State resources or of facilitating crimes and criminality of any sort.
I am most grateful to the Almighty God Who has continued to help us overcome the temptation to take the dark paths of the past. God has guided us on the way we should go and we have not departed from it. At the very beginning of our Administration we strengthened our sense of mission by developing the New Direction Blueprint as our template for accelerated development of Kogi State.
I must confess that it has been difficult convincing our people, and indeed observers from outside, to accept efforts which improve the Multidimensional Poverty Indices (MPIs) of our state over the more familiar, but unsustainable, Stomach Infrastructure with which the general Nigerian populace has become both familiar and entitled.
The outcry over our unorthodox methods was understandably loud in the beginning, especially when amplified by dramatised outrage from some of our more garrulous opposition figures. I am not even sure that the hue and cry has subsided completely because we are still on the journey. However, after 3½ years in office, I can beat my chest that, by the grace of God, we have a Kogi State that is largely better than we met it.
This is not a claim I want anyone to believe simply because I made it. It is derived from a strong record of verifiable data coming out of credible national and international institutions. I will point you to a few for your own research.
Kogi State is a strong performer in the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria. In 2017, we were invited to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as one of only 4 states in Nigeria deemed success stories in the SDGs. Our team made a presentation to the World.
Lokoja became the second cleanest state capital in the country after Calabar. It used to be the dirtiest. Apart from improvements in urban hygiene and environmental sanitation which is a critical component of resilient cities and te SDGs, our secret lies in the number of schools, healthcare centres, roads and rural infrastructure we have constructed or upgraded. There are also deliberate interventions to improve welfare and access for all sections of the populace.
We are the most improved state in the country today for security of lives and properties since 2016. We had over 250 kidnap cases in 2015 but 6 months after we took Office cases dropped by over 90% and has remained so. In the past, all banks were forced to close their branches outside the state capital Lokoja because of frequent armed robbery attacks. Still they were routinely attacked. Lokoja even recorded 2 major Bank robberies in one day in the past. By contrast, we have only had one bank robbery since 2016 we came to Office. It was in a remote location and the robbers were arrested shortly after.
We bought over 200 patrol vans, thousands of security gadgets and other equipment and logistics for the security agencies in the state. We set up a Joint Taskforce and improved cooperation, communications and cohesion between the law enforcement agencies. We built a forward operations base for the Nigerian Army in a known criminal hot-spot and established scores of security outposts across the state. We established, equipped and operate one of the best Vigilante Services in the nation for community policing.
Today, several law enforcement agencies have made us their case study for rapid progress in check-mating insecurity. Accordingly, we have hosted study groups from several services sent to understudy our methods for possible replication elsewhere. We have also had the privilege of obliging some brother Governors with our templates on request.
Our Civil Service and Pension Reforms generated the most vehement uproar as we went from screening and verification to biometric capture and digitisation of workforce and payroll data. Last month, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in her latest ‘Labour Force Statistics’ include Kogi State one of only 9 States to reduce unemployment over a period which saw the rest of the nation slide deeper into it. As for non-payment of salaries and pensions, the outcry has nearly faded with our renewed efforts and shortly we will lay them to rest for good.
I want to thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for approving our latest request for bailout. I thank HRM the Attah of Igala for leading our traditional leaders to the President to make our case more strongly. I thank the CBN Governor and everyone else in the value chain who helped to facilitate it. At this juncture, let me announce that we have our bailout of N30.8bn in our account.
We believe strongly that in education, and especially basic education, lies the quickest route to redemption of the North from today’s existential problems. Accordingly, we have always prioritised education. Kogi may be the only State in the nation which committed over 25% of her 2019 Budget to education.
About a fortnight ago we were rated 7th top performer in counterpart funding by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). At a meeting last week, the World Bank informed us that we were no longer a priority case out of school children because we have an incident of 13% while there are states with over 50%. We have constructed or renovated 375 classrooms in primary schools across the state. Our plans to upgrade 6 of our secondary schools into centres of academic excellence and unity were delayed by opposition, mainly on religious and other parochial grounds, but we are still consulting. Some of our tertiary institutions were finally able to meet the infrastructure and curriculum requirements for full accreditation from the relevant regulatory agencies.
All round, Kogi State under Yahaya Bello is undeniably one of the most improved states in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPIs) in this country. In fact, as at last week, an institution analysing all the ratings from the NBS and others over a timeframe placed Kogi State as number 9 on the list of states with the lowest occurence of extreme poverty in Nigeria. The significance of this developing story which our Research and Development people are still studying is that for the first time ever, a state from the north of Nigeria might have made it into the Top 10 List of best states in the country.
My aim in reeling out all of these milestone achievements is to underpin my belief that it is our duty as leaders of today move our people and our geopolity forward using the resources at our disposal. Transgenerational progress can only be made by seeing governance as an opportunity to improve life for the next generation and not merely as a tool for winning the next election.
On the national stage, some of us are intensely distressed by the unhappiness of some Nigerians with the present administration. President Muhammadu Buhari is perhaps the most sincere man I have ever met. His love for this country is indisputable. But I also know there are sections of the population which do not believe he does enough to combat our multifarious problems, especially insecurity and poverty. That may well be so since no man is perfect and all we can do is urge the Federal Government to improve her game all round.
However, there are also those who believe the President has made remarkable progress in many areas. Even in the area of security, and this is arguable, but going by the way things stood before his election in 2015, there are vast numbers of Nigerians who believe that if President Buhari had not come when he did, Boko Haram would have crossed the Rivers Niger and Benue by now and on their way South, while Abuja may have become worse than the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the worst days of their insurgency.
Like I said, all of this is arguable, but one thing is clear – we may never know what God has delivered us from even as we complain about what we are going through. My counsel therefore is that as leaders, whether clerics or politicians or statesmen, in taking stock of our national realities, we must refrain from taking sides to the point of bitterness. Sometimes, things are not always as they seem. Let us beware of pushing our preferred narratives with the certitudes which only the Omnipotent God should have. What is the use of getting your desires because you insisted on your way, only to have leanness sent into your soul?
In my opinion, the only thing we should be certain about which is that Nigeria is the only country we have for now and we are all equal stakeholders and partners in it. The task of uniting and building it up is certainly not for Government alone. Wherever we might stand on the President’s performance, or the performance of any Governor, it is still the God-given duty of all, and in particular, religious, political and community leaders like us to protect the people and unite the nation.
Tough times do not last, but tough people do. So, no matter what difficulties a country goes through at any time in her history, the leaders of the day must stand on the side of God and Good and labour to equip the people to flourish. I believe history will find our greatest contributions as leaders in how we used our words and actions to build resilience in our people for the times we live in while uniting them for the only nation we currently have. Otherwise, our lecterns, platforms and pulpits will be accounted as instruments by which we divided the people, pitting their fears against their compatriots’, and in the process dividing the country as well.
May our works in our time cause God and posterity to remember us for good like the Prophet Nehemiah prayed.
Once again, I welcome our distinguished guests and ourselves to this epoch-making ground-breaking ceremony for the Chapel of Peace and Unity, Government House, Lokoja. I hope to have the pleasure of your company when we dedicate it in December. May the Almighty God bless the House which will rise here and may He hear His people when they pray unto Him from within it and answer their prayers.
To God be the Glory!
Governor of Kogi State
22 July, 2019.