Challenges Awaiting Kogi Governor-Elect, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello By A. S. M. Jimoh
The Kogi state gubernatorial election has come and gone, but the controversy that trailed it has refused to die. The whole scenario of the election has taught us important lessons. It has shown that power truly belongs to God, a cliché often use by our politician but never live by it. Secondly, our effort alone can never earn us our goal. We need a touch of the Divine.
While there are losses, angers, victories and jubilations, the man who smiles most is one young Alhaji Yahaya Bello, born approximately forty years ago. Following the death of Alhaji Audu Abubakar, him being the runner-up in the primary was picked by the party through constitutional provision to be Audu’s replacement. He is now the Governor-elect. If Allah wills, he will take the mantle of leadership of Kogi state on the 27th of January 2016.
Because of the triviality and complexity that surround Kogi politics, he will be navigating a very turbulent water. He will be faced by ethnic distrust and a comatose state with nothing to show in term of infrastructure and other indices of development. Nevertheless, if he has the mettle, he will sail through the troubled water to safety unscathed. For a man who deployed enormous resources to campaign, make promises, went to primary and finally winning the governorship, it is assumed that he has the vision to lead the state out of its current direction to an intensive care unit. But recent history has shown that many our politicians only invest in campaign, make promises, pretend a vision and when he/she wins, he/she turns out to be worse than a highway armed-robber and a pillaging army. Alhaji Yahaya Bello must show he is different.
For Yahaya Bello to succeed, he must not and should never dance the rhythm of it-is-our-turn drum, else he will end up more disastrous than Ex-governor Ibrahim Idris, current Idris Wada and Ex-president Jonathan combined. He should realize he has been elected to govern Kogi state, but not a particular ethnic group. Fortunate for him that no one can thumps his chest that he made him the governor. His mandate is Divine. If he would ever thank any human being, it should be President Buhari who insists on the rule of law. By the initial body language of powerful interest in his party, he stood no chance of replacing late Audu even though he is constitutionally bound to be. The appendages of such powerful interest have not rested on their oar to rock the smooth take-off of his administration. Thanks goodness the era of lawlessness is gone. The allegation of anti-party activity and cross carpeting to another party would have been the alibi to get him out of the way.
Admittedly, Yahaya Bello has his shortcoming for not being active in his party campaign following his defeat at the primary. He must atone for this sin by recognizing late Audu and his political family who fought the battle for him almost to the end before the undesirable happened. He should pay tribute to Audu and try to surpass whatever good intention he had for the state before his shocking death. He should not alienate Audu’s political structure because of their current anger and intransigence. Rather, he should explore all diplomatic channels to reach out to them and make them have a sense of belonging. This is because Yahaya Bello’s success cannot be documented without Audu dominating a significant chunk of the discourse.
The above background should be the reason why he should not squander away on the altar of ethnic politics the opportunity afforded him by Allah. Across Kogi state, no region is better than the other in term of infrastructure, including the ones who had their people ruling Kogi state since its creation. This is already an indication that ethnic politics is a politics of underdevelopment. No one has ever benefitted from ethnics or sectional politics. The entire North Nigeria, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bayelsa state and the Niger Delta are instructive examples of the bad showing of it-is-our-turn politics.
Yahaya Bello should give each region and entity what it constitutionally and morally deserves. The Igalas, Ebiras, Okuns and other ethnic groups in the state are facing serious infrastructural deficit and unemployment. The socio-economic and developmental issues in Kogi state are huge challenges to any serious minded person for governance that frivolous issues of ethnic politics will find no space in his heart. This mandate is not one for vengeance.
However, we have to be frank with Yahaya Bello that for him to achieve the goal of a reformed Kogi state and making it competing for development amongst its peer in the federation, tough decisions need to be made. Such decisions will elicit the noise of nepotism and tribalism from those who have been benefiting from such kind of politics. They will lay for him stumbling stone to tread on and fall. It should however not distract his focus. He should follow the path of President Buhari who has remained focus, determined and taciturn in his effort to reawake Nigeria in spite of all the insults haul at him by those who brought this country to its knee. Yahaya should be ready to mend Kogi state thoroughly.
The first of such mending is the highly corrupt and inefficient Kogi civil service. He must exhaustively reform this sector that is the engine room of any administration. The breakdown of governance in Nigeria, and Kogi state in particular, is because of a corrupt, inefficient and usually bogus civil service, peopled by incompetent and never qualified individuals. A touch of technology for this sector will help him cut down the waste and corruption there. He must reward hard work and flush out the logs and those who find their way into the civil service by cutting corners. He should find out why workers at both local government and state levels have become beggars, going for months without pay. He should stand up against the brigand of local government Chairs who have become mini emperor and who only breed thugs.
Education and health services should be competing for highest budgetary allocation when his administration finally takes off. Health facility in Kogi state is among the worst in the whole of the federation. Our hospitals and health centers reek of odours that only aggravate the conditions of patients. They are ill equipped with facility and manpower. The attitude to work of the very few workforces is, to say the least, most sickening. As an example, in Okene general hospital, his immediate constituency, there is a policy that a theatre-bound patient must supply at least twenty liters of water before he/she can be attended to. No matter how critical the condition of such patient is, the hospital will prefer him/her to die than not getting that water! Patients have died in hospitals while waiting for days for doctor to attend to them. Therefore, he must check the witch-like attitude of nurses and nonchalant attitude of doctors in our hospitals. His administration will be confronted with public health centers of substandard drugs and even lack of it. Diversion of the little equipment in public hospitals by doctors to their privately owned ones and referring patients by them to such hospitals must be checked.
Kogi state is one state blessed with very cerebral people. In the then northern province, the people of Okun and Ebira were always the leading candidates in regional examinations. And today, across the federation, indigenes of Kogi are among the top students in the various educational institutions, yet our education facilities in the state are one of the poorest. Regarding Yahaya Bello’s background, one analyst described him as the first product of 6-3-3-4 to become a governor. If he takes a stroll now through the site where he had his primary education, he will consider himself lucky to have had a humble background. His school and the sleepy community of Agassa who host it is now a humiliating background. Public schools across the state are in the worst state any one can ever think of, and are thus in dire need of attention. This is why education should be the prime focus of his administration by providing modern infrastructure and quality teachers. Coincidentally, a group of concerned citizens has already in the pipeline a plan to bring to public notice the non-existence of public schools in Kogi state. I wish his administration would see this as a call to action.
Water, environment and road reconstruction should follow suit in his developmental agenda. No one needs to tell him the acute shortage of water face by the entire people of Kogi state. I can confidently speak for the people of Kogi central having been one of those kids who started at a very tender age sourcing for water across Okene town, from Idare to Iruvucheba and Idakoyivo. Ironically, Okene has the earliest Waterworks in the whole of the federation. However, its dam is now an open toilet for the public and its precinct a haven for criminals and drug addicts. Lokoja the state capital, which also is the confluence of the two largest rivers in Nigeria- Benue and Niger- is not in any way better. At the time he becomes the governor of the confluence state whose people live by the rivers, he will meet us still washing our hands with the proverbial spittle.
Our environment is directly related to our well-being. Unfortunately, the joke in town is that Kogi has become the dustbin of the nation. It is filthy, highly unorganized, hazardous and primitively rustic. Residential structures are built on waterways and roads. Environmental sanitation, well-planned towns and correction of distorted plan should be the thrust of his administration. I had bemoaned elsewhere how our schools have been taking over by residential buildings. I hope he will have the courage to demolish those structures and reclaim our school lands. Roads in the state are in the worst state of disrepair in addition to having thoroughly bad road network. The bad roads in the state have become an easy mean for bandits to waylay unsuspecting travellers, especially along the Okene-Lokoja route. Road redesign and repairs will definitely need serious attention from his administration.
Unemployment and insecurity in the state are on all-time record high. The consequence of unemployment is frequent youth restiveness, especially in Kogi central. The lack of any functional industry in Kogi central particularly is the reason for the frequent crisis in the region. Ironically, the state is blessed with abundant solid and agricultural resources that any serious administration can exploit to its advantage. What would have been the largest steel industry in Africa is located in the state. It is a fact that a working Ajaokuta steel and its raw material supplying company at Itakpe- both in Kogi central- will provide employment for EVERYONE in Kogi state several times over. The abundant palm tree in Kogi east if well harnessed will be a source of employment and revenue for the state. It is therefore obvious that the solution to unemployment and insecurity in Kogi sate lies within it. Collaborating with the government at the center to ensure the immediate take-off of these very important sectors will help his administration solve the problem of unemployment and insecurity. Luckily, he will be meeting a central government that is so much interested in diversifying our economics through solid mineral and agriculture.
Beyond realizing that the mandate is a trust he holds for Kogi people, his election to the state highest office needs him to prove many other things. Among which is his age. It is on record that he is the youngest governor ever elected in Nigeria democracy. By his age, he is within the age bracket of citizens considered not to have been represented enough in government. Thus, the way Yahaya Bello leads Kogi state will become a reference of sort in whether people of our age bracket should have more say in governance.
It is good that he has campaigned on the mantra of a new direction for Kogi rather than power-shift agitation, so comes 27th January, he should start to show the people of Kogi state that new direction.
Wishing him and people of Kogi state the best.
A. S. M. Jimoh.
The writer is on Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and twitter: @anehi2008.