Of Bello’s Bulldozers And Mahmud Jega’s Buried Amulets By Barry Eneji Yakub
The recent demolition by the Kogi State government of some landmarks in Lokoja, the state capital has caused not a little stir among the general public. From the media reportage of the demolitions of the former Paparanda Square; Lugard, Lokoja City, NTA and Government House Roundabouts, one is inclined to think or believe that the Yahaya Bello administration had perpetrated a Taliban or ISIS-styled destruction of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kogi State.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Governor Yahaya Bello during his inaugural address on January 27, 2016 at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja had stated his administration’s resolve to, among others; reposition Kogi State as a tourist destination of choice, tapping into her unique and strategic position as a gateway to the Northern, Eastern and Western parts of Nigeria. The rich colonial history of Lokoja as the first administrative base of the British colonialists in Northern Nigeria is added boon to the latent tourism potentials of Kogi State. These, more than anything else, must have informed the decision of the Kogi State government to immediately begin the task of rebranding Lokoja by getting rid of, to be quite honest, the monstrous architectural eyesores that passed for city landmarks, and that had over the years serve to reinforce popular opinion of Lokoja as the dirtiest State Capital in Nigeria.
It is worth noting that contrary to widespread reports in the media, none of the 5 demolished landmarks quite fit the billing of a ‘monument’. Governor Yahaya Bello administration committed as it is, to repositioning Kogi State as a tourist hub, could not have at the same time, destroyed monuments that are major draws for potential tourists and visitors to the State.
Kogi State is renowned for its diverse tourist attractions. Lokoja on its own, can boast of historical monuments such as the official residence and office of Lord Frederick Lugard, the first colonial Governor General of Nigeria; the Iron of Liberty, European Cemetery, Confluence of the Rivers Niger and Benue, Mount Patti, the first Primary School in Northern Nigeria, Holy Trinity Primary School founded by the famous Bishop Ajayi Crowther amongst others. None of these UNESCO World Heritage designation-worthy monuments were demolished by the State government during the recent exercise.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo in a press release on the issue said that the demolitions were the beginning of a process to make Lokoja more attractive. “The nodal status of Lokoja as the gateway to the North, East and West is supposed to be an attractive state capital in order to meet the expectations of potential tourists. This is with the intention of replacing them with beautiful ones, befitting of its status,” Mr. Fanwo explained. He added further that there will be no stones left unturned by the Yahaya Bello’s administration in its resolve to fulfill its major policy objective of making Kogi State a tourism hub as a way of further diversifying the State’s economy and increasing her Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) base.
Sadly, these rational explanations from the State Government has had little effect on some commentators who since the demolitions, have gone to town with numerous rumours and false insinuations on the reasons for the demolition of the 5 landmarks in Lokoja city. The most laughable is the one that His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello ordered the demolitions in order to remove the portent ‘jujus’ planted beneath these landmarks by his predecessor, Captain Idris Wada.
Ordinarily, one would have dismissed all these with a wave of hand as the handiwork of desperate political traducers but for the views expressed by Mahmud Jega, Managing Editor of Daily Trust Newspaper in his Monday Column titled ‘In Search of Buried Amulets’ published on February 29, 2016 where he all but implied that the fetish leaning of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello was the real reason behind the demolition of the 5 landmarks. Coming from a respected and seasoned journalist of Mahmud Jega’s standing, it smacks of a willful attempt at impugning the character of Governor Yahaya Bello. It was most unfair and uncalled for.
In the said column, Mahmud Jega displayed a surprising lack of insight into the very issue he was writing about. Rather, he descended into a farcical narration of the demolitions and in a manner most unseemly, proceeded to recount a fantastical story based on rumours and hearsays of how Governor Yahaya Bello’s predecessor, Captain Idris Wada had buried amulets and human remains as juju sacrifices to ensure his victory in the November 21 Governorship election in the State and the demolitions were but Governor Yahaya Bello’s way of removing the fetish objects.
One expected Mr. Mahmud Jega, a widely respected columnist, to have sprinkled his decidedly bland fantasy broth with some tasty seasoning of objectivity. Alas, he quite literally jumped into the fray, dismissing the reasons advanced by the Kogi State Government for the demolition of the landmarks as in his words, they “hold no water because Yahaya Bello inherited a state in deep financial and labour crisis and it is difficult to believe that demolishing roundabouts and building more beautiful ones is his top priority.”
Yes, Governor Yahaya Bello inherited a deeply troubled state; fiscally and infrastructure-wise, but to conclude that because of these problems Governor Yahaya Bello will be unable to focus on his stated mandate of delivering good governance and responsible leadership to the people of Kogi State is downright patronizing and an underestimation of the true measure of the man whom God has chosen to lead Kogi State in quite extraordinary circumstances. Governor Yahaya Bello is aware of the enormous challenges facing Kogi State and since taking the oath of office; he and his team have been working assiduously to bring Kogi State out of the present gloom into the sunshine of sustainable development and growth once again.
Some of his early actions such as the swift resolution of the industrial strike action embarked upon by Kogi workers over months of unpaid salaries by his predecessor, reinstatement of 15 illegally sacked Local Government Council Chairmen, abolition of State and Local Governments Joint Account, institution of voluntary environmental sanitation and immediate clean up of Lokoja, comprehensive staff audit to rid Kogi State Civil Service of the menace of ghost workers’ amongst others, has marked out this chartered accountant and astute businessman as one with a firm grasp of the issues bedevilling the state and also, the panaceas. There is nothing thus far to suggest that Governor Yahaya Bello is ill-equipped to handle the multifarious roles, or perform the countless socio-economic balancing acts required of a responsible government that seeks to provide strong, dynamic, focused and driven leadership to the people.
Governor Yahaya Bello does not believe in juju; terrestrial or subterranean. He therefore has no need to demolish any landmark in Lokoja or any part of the state to excavate buried amulets and other fantastical weavings of overactive imaginations. His belief is centred solely on God who has brought him “a young boy, fatherless while still a baby” through the vicissitudes of life to his present station as Governor of Kogi State and the lodestone of the aspirations of her 3-million odd inhabitants.
The forces against Governor Yahaya Bello are many and varied. It follows then that in their desperation they are hell-bent on using every policy and action of the administration, no matter how trivial or harmless; to justify their hollow narrative that he is a usurper to the Lugard House. Nevertheless, Governor Yahaya Bello will not be deterred from his administration’s core mission of “serving the superseding interests of the people of Kogi State to the very best of its capabilities.” In this regard, Governor Yahaya Bello waits upon none but the affirmation of God and the people of Kogi State.
Mahmud Jega was right on one score. “Bello’s bulldozers” are very busy in Kogi State, clearing and laying the foundations of a modern Kogi which shall arise from the rubbles of every demolished relics of the recent past when Kogi State was nothing more than a glorified farm centre. Governor Yahaya Bello is hard at work indeed.
Barry Eneji Yakub (BEY) is a member of the APC. He is a businessman, public affairs analyst and grassroot politician. He sent this piece from Eika-Adagu, Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State.
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