By Louis Yunusa
His coming was no doubt, divine. Yes! He was pre-destined to govern his people, and this manifested, though incredibly unprecedented; in a circumstance shrouded in mysteries. He became Governor on the 27th January, 2016. He made history, even though it was not in the circumstance of his own making. Kogi had its ever youngest Governor, he is Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
It was a paradigm shift, herald of a new beginning. He was poised to push the state through a kind of renaissance, the kind that would place it on a new pedestal. This grand vision, embodying his love, passion and plans for the greatness of the state he captured in the New Direction Document, the celebrated blueprint of his administration through which he intends to lift the state.
He crossed hurdles, stepped on landmines, broke primordial yokes of ethnic chauvinism, shattered age long clannish sentiments and class discrimination … all in his quest to make real his vision for the state.
At the time he became Governor, Kogi was groaning and bleeding! Kidnapping and armed robbery were twin crime that gained notoriety, making it one of the most unsafe and insecure in the country.
Though, a situation he inherited, he didn’t bulge. It was his first test and he grabbed the bull by the horn! Within months in charge, the scepter of insecurity gave way, the confluence state had become the safest in the country.
This earned him laurels and accolades from reputable organizations. It was in recognition of his ‘no nonsense’ stance on issues of security that his colleagues, the Northern Governors, found in him the qualities to coordinate their strategies on war against insecurity plaguing the region.
That Kogi is admired as a safe and secure state, turning an investment Haven today is no miracle. Political will emboldened by rare courage of the young Governor did it.
When criminals were treated with kid gloves, offered seats at the government houses at a round table of negotiation, with some Chief security Officers fraternizing with these monstrous criminals, It was a taboo in Kogi. Governor Bello would not condescend that low. Negotiating with kidnappers, bandits and other criminal elements is an idea his administration loathes and has always condemned.
Beside dealing a blow to fraud in the civil service upon assumption of office, what others before him couldn’t confront, for lacking in courage to do, or out of compromises on their own part, Governor Bello also had to contend with the challenge of industrial action by the then Joint Action Committee of tertiary institutions in the state.
Workers at the state owned tertiary institutions had embarked on months of strike action to press home certain demands. It was their right, no doubt, but shutting down academic activities in schools for those outrageous months, despites efforts by government to broker peace with the striking workers, was one demon Governor Bello was ready to exorcise from the life of the workers, at least permanently.
Government drew its sledge hammer, and before anyone could pre-empt the next move, the almighty ASUU of the state university, Anyigba had been proscribed, and this was also the fate of the Joint Action Committee(JAC) of other tertiary institutions in the state.
Unpopular as the development may seem, it was in the best interest of the students whose future the prolonged strike was bent on stagnating. There were murmurs and grumblings, still government had its way and normalcy was restored. The rest is history.
Today, the Kogi example is fast becoming a template in handling excesses of educational unions, that often time plays desperate tricks, as if they are acting selfish scripts to arm-twist the government by grounding academic activities in schools.
Just recently, Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi drew wisdom from this in addressing similar challenge at the state university, Abakaliki. The incessant strikes by ASUU, as it takes intractable dimensions, however, calls for concern and probably, a rethink of Governor Bello’s approach in dealing with the recurring stalemate.
Another move that has made Governor Bello an undisputable trail-blazer is the boldness of his administration to repeal the law granting former Governors, their deputies and other political office holders, the right to draw pension and gratuities from government.
This is what many feared would be ‘’stepping on big toes’’, dreading it would end as ‘’ political suicide’’ to contemplate what many knows is pathetically disgusting, but lacks the courage to correct.
Kogi, last year transmitted to it’s House of Assemblya Bill to repeal this law, describing it as ‘’ anti-people, self-seeking’’, by arguing that resources which would have gone into servicing pockets of these yesterday’s men of power, would be redirected into addressing life-changing needs of the ordinary citizens.
Kwara, Lagos and a few other states are looking in the direction of this move in their efforts to free resources for other development needs of their respective states, as some of these former Governors are serving senators and ministers, and also drawing pensions and allowances at the same time.
Like a prophet, he saw the future, the gloom and doom that trailed the global lock down as a result of the Covid-19, especially in Africa, for a disease that is not as deadly as lassa fever, ebola, yellow fever… that are being effectively handled without having to ground socio-economic activities.
The reality now stares everyone in the face-the economies are now comatose, livelihoods are being shattered and the travails of poverty prevails! Those who chastises Governor Bello, calling him names yesterday, have come to terms with the truth of the scam that Covid-19 represents.
With the propaganda of the so called second wave, who cares! The truth is unfolding and the people are taking their destinies, cautiously into their own hands. Governor Bello has proven he is imbued with all the scintilla of a great leader, and like gold, their best are seen in times of turbulence.
Also, Kogi women had their full political emancipation recently with their election as vice chairperson of the 21 LGs in the state. Having orchestrated the nomination and subsequent election of women as vice chairperson, Governor Bello, in a democratic fashion lobbied for three councillorship seats, at least in each of the LGAs for women.
Women are presently legislative leaders in the 21 LGs across the state, and this has been applauded as unprecedented, not just in Kogi’s history but in the annals of Nigeria’s political history. Kogi is fast becoming a state with uncommon, positive examples as Governor Bello continues to blaze the trail.
LOUIS WRITES FROM LOKOJA