By Kingsley Fanwo
When he is sworn in on January 27, 2016, Alh. Yahaya Bello will make history as the youngest governor ever in Nigeria. He turned 40 last June.
Alh. Yahaya Bello, popularly known as Fair Plus by his admirers owing to the success of his powerful business brand, was born in the sleepy neighborhood of Agassa in Okene Kogi State to the family of Alhaji Bello Ipemida Ochi and Hajia Hawa Bello Oziohu. He is the last of six siblings.
He started his early education in 1984 at LGEA Primary School, Agassa In Okene LGA. The greatness in him started manifesting early in his life when he was made the class prefect from primary two, the position he held till he was made the school Head Boy in class six due to the leadership qualities identified in him by his peers and teachers.
In 1989 he enrolled for College at Agassa Community Secondary School, Anyava, Agassa-Okene. His quest for qualitative education saw him changing schools five times until he finally settled for Government Secondary School, Suleja-Niger State He wasn’t born poor nor rich. But fate took him to Suleija where he went to live with a relation.
After his secondary education in Suleija, the young but ambitious Bello headed for arguably one of the best citadels of learning in sub-Sahara Africa, the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he studied Accounting.
Studiously intelligent, Yahaya Bello started showing his strength of character and personality at ABU.
One, he showed the detribalized aspect of his life. Three of his best friends in ABU were Ebira, Okun and Igala. Fate made him a unifying chord on campus. He showed no bias against anyone on the ground of background or ethnicity.
Secondly, it also became manifest at ABU that the young Yahaya was a silent activist. Characteristic of the Ebira gene in him, he was always poised to fight against injustice to anyone by anyone. But beyond the activist line, he was always sharing the little he had on campus.
There has never been an accidental leader. Every leader was prepared for his or her calling. Yahaya left ABU, maintaining his ring of a microcosm Kogi.
Out of ABU, Yahaya Bello was lucky to do his mandatory one year national service and got retained at the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission.
With his brilliance and self development through various professional trainings, Yahaya Bello excelled at the commission and rose to enviable heights.
However, those who know Yahaya Bello know he can’t be a humanitarianist, earning salaries. From these ashes of premises rose, the business angle of Yahaya Bello.
From one bus, he built one of Nigeria’s most successful transport businesses. Fair Plus Transport started with an 18-seater bus, procured through a bank loan. But within a short period of time, the funding bank discovered Bello was a great manager of resources and someone who it could bank on.
With the introduction of modern business management into the business, Fair Plus rose to become a giant in the industry.
But what strikes quite a number of people about Yahaya Bello is his humility inspite of his business success.
Knowing where he was coming from and his liberal being, Bello could qualify as a respected of humanity. Above all, he is a great listener with inherent ability to decipher and sieve the chaff from the grains.
Getting Bello into a governorship contest wasn’t a mild task. Though he is undeniably committed to the service of humanity, he wasn’t impressed by the murkiness of the terrain and the insincerity of politicians.
But as soon as he agreed to put his integrity on the line to defend the welfare of his Kogi people, he never looked back until he achieved his aim.
A planner that he is, Bello quickly assembled his friends, most of whom were his ABU friends from Kogi and gave them the task of developing an action plan that will give Kogi a new direction.
A positive thinker, Bello never lost hope that it is doable. He never bought into voices of pessimism. He believed it was time to rescue the state from gloom.
He believed the redemption of Kogi lies in his generation.
He injected innovations into politics. For instance, prior to the August 29 Primaries , he assembled his Ward and Local Government Coordinators to enlighten them about his dreams for Kogi State. According to him, it is impossible to market a product one barely know about.
He charged the coordinators to be fearless and approach their task with all sense of responsibility.
“The future of Kogi lies on your shoulders. You now have a golden opportunity to reject a failed status quo and join me to build a new Kogi that will be capable of meeting the needs of its people”, he said.
When the Coordinators left the meeting and training session, they were provoked lions ready to deliver to their principal. It took the veteran in the late Prince Abubakar Audu to dislodge Yahaya Bello into a respectable second in a contest of over 22 seasoned politicians.
While other aspirants were sharing money to the delegates, Yahaya Bello shared promissory letters to them. What was in the letter?
“As you are aware, Kogi is not for sale. As your governor, I will give you jobs, put your roads in shape, revamp your education and healthcare and empower you to empower others”.
This practice is quite alien to the politics of the state where the highest bidders always win. Coming second in the contest, he was the first to rise up to congratulate the late Prince Abubakar Audu in the magnificent Confluence Stadium, venue of the primaries.
While hugging the late Prince Audu, the former governor made a statement that was prophetic: “Don’t worry Fair Plus, I am handing over to you in 2019”.
Sadly, the enigmatic Ogbonicha political General didn’t wait till 2019 to hand over to his beloved political son. He left the stage like a big masquerade when the ovation was loudest, leaving the stage for Yahaya Bello to continue the struggle.
The trend of Saturday’s election shows Yahaya Bello as a unifying glue as he did well in the three Senatorial Districts, even winning some polling units in Kogi East.
As hr gears up to take over the mantle of leadership in January 2016, all eyes will be on the charismatic and bursting but reserved governor to meet the immediate yearnings of the people which are improved infrastructures and human development.
Many of the citizens will also be looking up to him to address the epileptic salary payment at the Local Government Councils.
Will Yahaya Bello bring his personality and expertise to bear to salvage Kogi? Time has the answer.