Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has enjoyed animated media presence since the turn of 2021. Only indeterminists think this is a simple coincidence or the natural consequence of his assiduity. Analysts say someone is strategically promoting his image in the media. No one really knows what he is doing in Kogi State or what political philosophy reflects his entire administration, but he and a few others insist that he has transformed the state to a desirable place. Senator Dino Melaye thinks he is suffering personified, and that his cosmic destiny, as well as all of Kogi, rejects him. Others simply write him off as a comical governor posturing with the air of a statesman bursting at the seams with the most profound ideologies on national issues. Indeed, pontificating on issues within Kogi is no longer enough for the pretender ideologue; he points to phantom and ambiguous achievements he claims to have accomplished in Kogi as reference to his mettle and profoundness to address national issues.
Last week, he went to the presidency and talked about Nigeria’s unity, COVID-19 (a subject he is least qualified to address), insecurity and food supply among other issues. Only a few hours earlier and accompanied by self-professed short-fused politician, Femi Fani-Kayode, he had met with disgruntled representatives of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) who were upset by certain national issues and were no longer willing to supply food to the southern part of the country. It is amazing that both men believed their intervention to be of any relevance. Somehow Mr Bello magisterially believed he had solved a tricky national issue and his short-fused companion’s comments on the governor’s intervention concerning strong leadership may have coaxed him to visit the presidency to relay AUFCDN’s demands. Prior to that, he had met with former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who had extolled imperceptible virtues he thought were commendable about the governor. In all these things, his media aides, able and willing to the core, gave wind to his increasing penchant for sermonising with all the frenzy of people on a mission. But, what mission?
Whether or not he is the architect of the comical calls for him to contest the 2023 presidency, he is actually being called to run for presidency in 2023. Though this is difficult to believe, given the governor’s unconvincing record in Kogi, one errant group, GYB2PYB, laughably laid siege to the Kogi State Liaison office in Abuja and vowed they would lay a more terrible siege to the entire country than the EndSARS protests if Mr Bello did not agree to rescue the country from the doldrums by running for presidency. This was the sort of duress the governor appeared beholden to; so he did not think to urge them against such provocative statements. He simply looked on with the imperial air of an agreeable monarch. Of his achievements, the most popular, analysts believe, is that he has done something to stymie insecurity in Kogi State. His personal account is that when he first assumed office in Kogi State, the place was a hotbed of violence, but in six months, he put an end to all that and Kogi State is now the safest as far as the country is concerned. In a word, he believes that if all the governors would simply sit up and do their jobs, then there would be no insecurity in the country. But he hardly sits in Lokoja himself, let alone sit up to do anything.
No governor will waste any time heeding the implausible Mr Bello who, in any case, denied the presence of COVID-19 in his state for over a year, preventing treatments from going on within his state’s boundaries. They will remember how the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja was attacked last July by armed hoodlums, probably sponsored. The medical centre was at the time the only institution treating issues related to COVID-19, while the governor had staunchly denied the existence of the virus in the state. In fact, he was of the opinion that the federal government was doing the wrong thing by ordering a lockdown as the country could have capitalised on the pandemic by exporting clothing materials for the production of facemasks. He was also entirely sure that the Chief Judge of Kogi State High Court, Justice Nasir Ajanah, died because he was isolated when he fell ill, and that he should not have been, as there was no COVID-19 in Kogi State. It meant nothing to him that a number of his aides were dying of suspected COVID-19 symptoms; there simply was no COVID-19 in Kogi State, Mr Bello insisted.
Of his meeting with the former president, a statement from Mr Bello’s camp reads: “Former President Obasanjo noted that the fight against insecurity should have everybody on board, stressing that governors should involve everyone to ensure insecurity is curtailed in Nigeria. While appreciating the governor for his developmental effort in the state, especially in the areas of youth and women inclusion in politics and governance, infrastructure, health and education, Obasanjo charged Governor Bello to continue to be an advocate for youth involvement in governance.” It is not clear why the former president, who has himself been fingered as a contributor to the wobbly foundation Nigeria now totters on, alluded to inclusiveness and health development in the governor’s administration. Health in Kogi State remains atrociously underwhelming and inadequate, and ethnic inclusiveness could as well be the Achilles heel for laming the much touted governmental genius of Mr Bello. In fact, it would go a long way for the governor to account properly for the developments and investments he would have brought to Kogi after eight years. Will he be able to? But, spurious calls for his presidency continue to echo round the country.
Posters campaigning for him appeared in Plateau last month, while in Adamawa, Yenagoa and Warri posters have already appeared this month. The posters, like the doltish GYB2PYB, premise his capability on his youthfulness while conveniently failing to tie him to any political party in the graphic design. The bankroller of the futile quest for a Bello presidency is not unaware that there are many people far more qualified than Mr Bello, who has been accused of grandiosity, in his current political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He will find it herculean to win the party’s ticket to run for presidency. The claim for a youthful leader annoys good sense and it is testament to how traumatic the glacial Buhari administration has been that a speck of grey hair is now viewed as anathema to quality leadership in Nigeria. There is no wisdom in the claims portraying Mr Bello as a suitable candidate for presidency on account of his youthfulness.
A youthful president could be worse than an older governor, just as badly as an older president could be disastrous. What Nigerians need to examine is the character of a person, and one such person who has given that character analysis of Mr Bello is Simon Achuba, who worked with him as deputy governor during his first term in office. Mr Achuba’s testimony of Mr Bello is not positive, and the only defence the governor’s camp could put up was that his detractor’s services had been procured by enemies of the state to drag the governor’s image in the mud.
According to Mr Achuba, who accused the governor of mismanaging billions of naira, “When you assess the government of Yahaya Bello from day one, it has been fighting and fighting. Anyone that has a different opinion from him becomes an enemy. Anyone that says anything that is not praise to him, he goes ahead to attack the person. In governance, you must give room for criticisms whether good or bad. As a leader, you learn from criticisms and those who criticise you are not necessarily your enemies. There could be individuals who want you to do well but in his case, it is not so.”
It is difficult to fault Mr Achuba, especially when the bread levy plot of last November remains fresh in Nigerians’ memory. The plot had been to impose taxes on every loaf of bread baked in the state. Public outcry saw the government and then the governor in quick succession distance themselves from the offensive policy. No one was really willing to take the blame for it so they scheduled the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Usman Ibrahim, to take the fall for the administrative disgrace. It is not clear what has become of him, but the story has faded away and pro-Bello agents have regained the courage to announce their unattractive proposition that he should lead the country. It is logical that a governor who cannot govern his cabinet properly cannot govern his state with any propriety. How then does anyone or any assembly of individuals think there can be any merit to suggesting that he govern the country? Even the youths he so desperately tries to identify with ignored his ingratiating and bold offer to lead the EndSARS protests of last October. As part of his proposals for leading the protest, he had suggested that the youths should saddle him with the responsibility of meeting the president to probe a missing $16bn, which he claimed had gone into the pockets of a miniscule few for the revivification of the power sector.
There are whispers that there is no secret bankroller of the calls for his presidency but himself. No one knows the truth of such claims, and it is hoped, for his sake, that they are not true. Already the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and his old foe, Senator Melaye, want his head on a platter of gold for money laundering. They have importuned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), United States Embassy, British High Commission and others to investigate him. His former deputy governor, Mr Achuba, will not object to that position. He must therefore ensure he is innocent at all costs of being the one bankrolling the sundry misguided groups and individuals who think he is fit for presidency. He must also tone down his propensity to carry out the thankless political odd jobs he appears besotted to in company with non-state actors such as the incendiary and bellicose Mr Fani-Kayode.