100 Days of GYB: The New Direction In Full Stream In Kogi By Gbenga Olorunpomi and Mary Amodu
The political history of Kogi State is at best checkered. At worst, one can say the state has suffered the worst form of leadership possible for a disproportionate majority of its existence. No state better depicts the buffoonery of leadership that the former ruling party forced on the people than Kogi.
Of the many words that could be used to describe the emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello, the one that comes readily to mind is ‘divine.’ Seeing what the man and his team have been able to accomplish in his first 100 days in office, given the challenges he is facing both within and outside his party, it is obvious that Governor Bello recognises the place of God in his ascension and is determined not to disappoint his Maker. A closer look at the governor and his recent moves gives a glace into on how he intends to take the State down the New Direction path.
Before the emergence of the governor, apointment of some personal and principal offices have been ethnicised, but the announcement of Chief Edward Onoja, an indigene of Olamaboro LGA from the Eastern Senatorial axis of the state as the Chief of Staff to Bello, an Okene indigene from the Central senatorial axis of the state, underscores the governor’s non-tribalistic nature. Never has that position been assigned to anyone from a different tribe to any sitting Governor.
Bello’s appointments ever since he was inaugurated has cut across the three senatorial zones. Worthy to note is the appointment of a lady PhD holder, Ayoade Folashade, as the Secretary to the State Government. Her impeccable credentials got her the job, despite never meeting the Governor until her name was muted to him.
Then, 21 Special Advisers were announced, one from every local government council of the state.
The significance of the last sentence becomes more instructive when you realise that the Governor’s own senatorial zone has only five local councils, while the two others have 16. This means that the man denied himself the opportunity to appoint his own people into key government positions. If the man had picked seven SAs from each senatorial zone, the entire state would have applauded him for fairness, but he chose to drill down to each council and to the most disadvantaged tribes at that.
One thing no one has been able to challenge is the quality of his appointees: young men and women of high pedigree and accomplishment; seasoned bankers, accountants, lawyers, engineers, administrators, politicians and all-round go getters to advise him. Never in the history of the state has the governor preferred the serious company of technocrats to the garrulous enclave of politicians. So much is the Governor’s quest for excellence that he had no qualms in reaching outside the Niger and appointed an Igbo man from Anambra State, Moses Okafor, as his Special Adviser on Research and Speechwriting.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, one of the most highly debated issues has been that of fiscal autonomy for local government councils. The cry has been long and loud by activists, who claim that state governors use the funds constitutionally granted to the third tier of government to feather their political nests, while denying the councils their birth right. Having carefully considered the pros and cons, exactly 15 days after his inauguration as the State Governor, Bello granted local councils their financial freedom. With this singular move, Governor Bello returned power to the people. Now, the grassroots know whom to hold responsible when their primary health centres run out of drugs or when their refuse is never taken away. No more would the State Civil Service determine how many staff to be transferred from or to an LGA. It is noteworthy that Governor Bello is only the second Nigerian governor to be so bold to make this move.
Within this same time, Lokoja, the state capital, has begun to wear a new look. The roads that were littered with portholes are being repaired and drainage work are ongoing simultaneously. The agencies responsible for environmental sanitation have woken up to their responsibilities and the mountains of waste in the town have disappeared from sight. Over 40km of rural roads have been made passable by the Ministry of Rural Development and five new communities now have electricity.
With an indefensible and inexplicably high wage bill bogging down the state’s finances, the Governor ordered a state wide staff verification exercise designed to identify the true staff strength and enhance accountability. He drafted in the fearless and much revered elder statesman, General Paul Okuntimo, and charged him with this great task. The evidence so far shows the high level of corrupt conspiracy between high level civil servants and dirty old politicians. In some cases, government schools had more non-academic staff than students. In other cases, invisible schools and hospitals had thousands of ‘workers.’ So, while other states had ghost workers, Kogi had ghost schools and hospitals. Surely, the average Kogite would be the ultimate beneficiary of the Screening Exercise.
While the previous administration took full custody of all its federal allocation, it failed to pay its staff by the same measure. After only 57 days at the job, Governor Bello had paid salaries twice.
To ensure the state gets the full value of its natural resources, all logging activities have been suspended in the state while vigilante groups are being encouraged to enforce this ban. The state is determined to ensure that only processed or semi-processed wood leave the state.
To make this a reality, the Kogi government recently signed an MOU with the China Railway & Airport Construction Company on Infrastructure & Wood Processing. The Special Adviser on Finance, Economy and Investment, Asiru Idris Asiwaju, signed the agreement on behalf of the state at the China-Nigeria Production Capacity and Investment Guangzhou Governmental at the commercial high end roundtable, which held on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Guangzhou, China. This is different from the $363 million in Chinese investment, which President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to secure for the establishment of a comprehensive farm and downstream industrial park in Kogi.
There are plans to revive the State Tourism Master plan. There are plans to take full advantage of its central location and rich history for tourism purposes. Also, working closely with the Federal Minister for Mineral Resources, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, this government said it will manage the full exploitation of the abundant natural resources that dominate its terrain.
For a government that only kicked off 100 days ago, the Governor deserves a lot of praise. His quest to take Kogi in a New Direction looks to be on course. He deserves all the support of everyone that wants the best for Kogi. He already has that of God. That is not in any doubt.