Is Gov Yahaya Bello an Emerging Political Phenomenon in Nigeria?
By Abdullahi H. Haruspice
AREWA AGENDA – There are unique people everywhere. They come once in a generation and leave indelible footprints wherever they find themselves. Whenever you observe such a rare breed in your locality, pay more than a passing attention to them. They have an unusual mission to fulfil in life. Everything about such unique people is shrouded in some extraterrestrial forces no mortal can adequately deconstruct no matter how much he tries.
Till date, no chronicler of contemporary Nigerian political issues has been able to significantly detail the phenomenal navigation of former President Goodluck Jonathan through the high wired politics of Nigeria, which within a reasonable period of time, culminated in his being VP and ultimately, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The story of the son of a fisherman becoming the President of Nigeria in recent times sounds like a fairy tale. But it happened before our very eyes. Like Jonathan, there is an Ebira man from a relatively obscure background who has been having a meteoric rise, quite magical according to some folks, in the political firmament of Nigeria. His name is Yahaya Adoza Bello, current Governor of Kogi State.
At 45, he is the youngest second term Governor of a state in Nigeria, against all odds. No one gave him the slimmest chance in 2015 when he made an attempt to become the Governor of Kogi State. The question on the lips of most observers then was: who is this uppity politician without a fulcrum coming to become Governor where there are political heavyweights?
Yahaya Bello, ever a dogged fighter with an enduring capacity for a durable or marathon race, participated in the APC gubernatorial primaries which he lost to the eventual winner, the late Prince Audu Abubakar. The election came proper and Prince Abubakar, a former Governor of the Confluence State, was coasting home to victory until death happened thus preventing him from being crowned Governor again by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
There was a temporary impasse occasioned by the sudden demise of Abubakar: who will inherit the leading votes of the late gubernatorial candidate? The leadership of the APC, acting rightly in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act that only a political party can submit the name of a candidate in an election to the electoral body decided in its wisdom that Yahaya Bello, who came second in the primaries, should be the candidate of the party for the supplementary election.
Thus, Bello, an Ahmadu Bello University-trained accountant, civil servant and businessman became the candidate of the APC in the supplementary election where he defeated Captain Idris Wada, then incumbent Governor and candidate of the PDP. Like the political mahogany that he is, Bello went on to win all the court cases instituted against his candidacy and emergence as Governor both within and without up till the Supreme Court. And all these he did without a godfather anywhere except God The Almighty Father.
In spite of the turbulence that heralded his coming to power in 2015 and the teething problems that characterized his first term in office, Bello weathered the storm with all the philosophical calmness he could muster such that when he made an attempt to secure a second term in office, it was an overwhelming victory never before seen in the political annals of the history of the state.
Bello met an over-bloated civil service in the state populated by a chunk of ghost workers feeding fat on the lean resources of the state while doing nothing for the state in return. He made an attempt to correct the ills, had some stumbling block from vested interests, made some unforced errors on his own but by and large, he succeeded in shunting out a significant number of the ghost workers. Today, the Governor who had difficulty in paying workers’ salaries initially now pays without tears and even up to date.
Aside finding ingenious ways to streamline the state civil service, as a finance expert, he also enunciated radical measures to shore up the internally generated revenue of the state through the State Internal Revenue Agency beyond the perilously parlous state it was before he assumed the reins of power. To his eternal credit, the agency has a beautiful, fully automated house to shelter it with the best of Kogites driving the process of revenue generation for the state.
For the first time in the history of the state, upwardly mobile young men and women are the ones running the affairs of the state unlike in the past when they were mere hallelujah boys for the political operators. The perennial maxim that youths are the leaders of tomorrow no longer holders water in Kogi. The youths are already taking charge of their destiny. All thanks to Bello. Does this mean the elders have been relegated to the background in the scheme of things? Never. The young guns only rely on the wisdom and directive of the old to reconfigure and rewire the collective destiny of the state for the greatest good of the greatest number.
As a gender-sensitive Governor, perhaps because of his exposure and the need to give the girl child equal access to leadership just as the male child, Kogi, for the first time since its creation, has a female Secretary to the State Government (SSG), who by her portfolio, is the most senior unelected appointee of the state government. In his first term in office, even for the first time in the history of the state, the governor had a female Chief Press Secretary. In his second coming to power, his Aide De Camp, perhaps the first of its kind, is a female cop. You can imagine a sitting governor entrusting his personal security in the hands of a woman! Similarly, under his gender-friendly watch, the state has produced two female Head of Service in 4 years. That’s how polished and exposed Governor Bello is.
For those who are conversant with Kogi State, it was a safe haven for all kinds of criminals before Bello’s coming to power. Today, the story has changed drastically to the extent that the Governor has received commendation and won awards from reputable organizations for the way he has handled security issues in the state. Is it yet Uhuru? Far from it but the Governor is doing everything he can to make Kogi a difficult place for them to breed and breath.
Before now, Kogi was a hotbed of ethno-religious politics and politicking. Bello’s ascension to Lord Lugard House in Lokoja is now a resoundingly loud radical departure from the usual past. The Government House that used to be for only Muslims now has a Chapel, built and furnished by Bello, where Christian appointees of the state government can now worship. This achievement may seem insignificant but it’s vital to enhancing religious cohesion in a religiously heterogeneous society like Kogi State where it was assumed one religion was superior to the other in the past.
Again, long before now, it was a textbook belief that only an ethnic stock could produce the governor of the state since 1991 going by the sheer population of the tribe. Yahaya Bello, from one of the minority tribes in the state, has smashed this fallacious received theory. He did not only break the age-long belief, he set a new record by defeating a man whose only credential to contesting the 2019 gubernatorial election was being an Igala man. The election petition tribunal has gone ahead to affirm and confirm the victory of the Governor in the election.
Bello, when it was a daunting challenge to win any state for the APC in the 2019 general elections, delivered the state to the party. He fought tooth and nail, even when he was not a candidate in all the elections to ensure that his party won. Only a thorough and abiding party man could have done that. It’s on record that Bello, in spite of his age, has been a bridge-builder in the entire APC large family, trying to bring everybody along in the spirit of party oneness and inclusiveness.
Do you know that in spite of the aforementioned sterling attributes of the Governor, he still has some detractors? Of course, there will always be enemies. If Jesus Christ could have enemies, who is Governor Yahaya Bello? In fact, at a point in one’s life, one needs a dose of enemies to progress in life. Good thing is, some of these uninformed detractors of the Governor have seen him to be a good leader in recent times especially since the coming of COVID-19 and how Yahaya Bello has been able to secure Kogi and keep it safe and sound from the virulence of the virus in spite of the efforts to make the state pervious to the virus by some unscrupulous elements. While they are waiting for a mass of deaths due to coronavirus to happen in the state, the state and the people keep getting stronger and resilient. The Governor has been standing with his people since.
By and large, Bello has won all the court cases instituted against him till date, is a force to reckon with within the national leadership of the APC not to talk of the state chapter where he is commanding all the available shots he can as an emerging political colossus. This is in addition to being a darling son to President Buhari who is the father and leader of the APC. Anyone who underrates Bello does so at his own risk.
Although I am no stargazer or a seer who can predict what will happen tomorrow with magisterial authority, from all studied indications, it appears Governor Yahaya Bello is destined for something even greater than his current gubernatorial assignment at the national level. What it’s that’s coming for the Governor is completely beyond my kin but I have a gut feeling coupled with my background as a student of political happenings that something significant is coming the way of the Governor going by the way he has been building bridges here and there in addition to becoming a notable voice for pro-masses policies. But before then, he has to finish well as the Governor of Kogi State, for whatever that is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
Abdullahi Haruna Haruspice