By Olasunkanmi Akoni
In the words of wisdom by Frantz Fanon, “Every generation out of relative obscurity discovers its mission, fulfills it or betrays it.” And to every story there is a beginning. For Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Adoza Bello, politics begin with a selfless mission for resurgence of Hope, translating in farewell to hunger and poverty.
In today’s Nigeria the greatest challenge is one of security of lives and property. Having done profound in this sector, the Hope 2023 vision of Governor Yahaya Bello, fondly called, GYB, holds dear the primacy of lives and property.
Bello, one of the leading contenders in the race for presidential ticket on the All Progressives Congress, APC, rekindled the hope 2023 at the second annual GYB Seminar for Nigeria’s Politics and Crime Correspondents, held in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The seminar papers presented include: impact of youthful government on the development of a state/country by Chief of Staff to the Kogi Governor, Abdulkareem Asuku: Succeeding in the fight against insecurity, terrorism; The Kogi example by Navy Commander, Jerry Omodara: Setting agenda for 2023 elections by Senior Vice-Chairman/Editor- In-chef, Leadership, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene; Achieving unity and bridging the gab in a multi-ethnic, multi–religious society; The kogi story, by mosses Okezie: Constructive reporting in crisis situation by former Presidential Spokesman Dr. Reuben Abati,among others.
Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, did the wrap-up at the event which had gala night and presentation of second GYB Media merit award. Bello had earlier, formally declared for president at a well-attended ceremony on April 2, 2022 at Eagle Square, Abuja.
The annual GYB Seminar aims at empowering the relevant sections of the local and international media with deeper knowledge of the peculiarities of Nigeria as a nation, with a view to delivering authoritative reports on the political environment as well as crime without harming the essence of Nigeria’s unity.
The first of these series was titled, ‘Reporting Nigeria for Nigeria’. The second semiNAR, themed, ‘Setting the agenda for 2023’ in view of the fast approaching general elections in Nigeria and the need for the media to shape the process through patriotic, professional and unbiased reportage.
The workshop was initiated by Bello,in realization of the fact that to actualise the Nigeria of today’s dreams, the country must be able to sustain the confidence of Nigerians in Nigeria, and the media (Print and Electronic, Local and International) should play a critical role in this regard.
According to the governor, the positive partnership with the media has yielded good results, so far, and has contributed to the collective modest achievements since independence. “But at this critical period in the history of Nigeria, there is a need for a stronger alliance in the interest of generations yet unborn,” he added.
Functional papers were delivered by key government officials, among others, top media experts, known for their contribution to sharp and knowledge-based reporting of top Nigerian media organisations, will also be facilitators at the two-day event.
It is instructive to note that three decades ago there was a movement that shook all known socio-political foundation in Nigeria’s historicity. It was a watershed. It was captioned HOPE ’93. It was a movement and a moment. It had Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola MKO as the visioner, the driver and the candidate. It was a Muslim/Muslim ticket with Babagana Kingibe as running mate, indiscriminate of creed or clan. And they won the election that was highly adjudged the freest and the fairest in the annals of our nation.
Today that HOPE resonates in the Bello, the resurgence of the hope mantra is instructive in so many ways. Ironically, Hope 1993 targeted at end to hunger and poverty but sadly, 30 years after, the issues remain. It is still about hunger, poverty, job creation, infrastructural development, security, energy and power, resource control, devolution of power, true fiscal federalism and the diversification of our economy.
The crave by Nigerians for the rebirth of hope, Bello said informed his courageous decision to swim in the murky waters of politics to finally face the challenges frontally, and bring about the needed succor which must translate simply into better life for Nigeria masses.
Addressing the large participants at the seminar, Bello maintained that the next president must possess excellent records in successfully managing diversity and insecurity in the country.
“We were able to take a polarized Kogi and forge it into a society that is both diverse and inclusive today. We genuinely demonstrated that every tribe, religion, gender, age, class and physical ability among us is unique and possesses intrinsic value,” he stated.
His administration boats of evenly distributed projects and appointments which has made room at the table of government for everyone.
In Kogi today, the youth are predominantly the ones in office, while women have crossed the 35 per cent Affirmative Action threshold, with People With Special Needs have adequate representation in government.i
Kogi State is a microcosm of Nigeria and possesses the same diversities that often mismanagement have caused Nigerians so much trouble.
“One of my most outstanding achievements as Governor, and one that I am very proud of indeed, is the dismantling of these age long dichotomies.
“Another is the elevation of inclusivity as a cardinal point in the compass of governance. Increasingly, the measure of an individual among us is their humanity and their merit, that is, the sum of their own character and particularly by the things leaders do or fail to do in government.
“Just like I have done in Kogi State, I will ensure that we apply a lot more empathy in how Nigerian society is run. Equity, fairness and justice must undergird government actions in the distribution of national resources and opportunities, including in the recruitment procedures of public entities.
“As president, I will make sure that each and every Nigerian becomes mentally and physically empowered with the unshakeable conviction and practical proof that they are not inferior to any other person for any reason.
“I believe that such conviction, fully internalised, frees people in their own minds and allows them to grow to heights of achievement previously thought impossible,” he added.
A leader, he maintained can afford to be flexible but once the people and their welfare are involved, leader must only do what is right without caring for acclaim or accusation.
“Hopefully time will vindicate you. Even if it does not, you still get to have and keep a clear conscience because you did your best.”
He stressed that a Yahaya Bello Presidency, like his Governorship, will be tough on crime. “I believe that crime is crime and all crimes are inexcusable and have demonstrated strong capacity to neutralize crimes and criminals in Kogi State.
“Most Nigerians probably do not know this, but we went from being the state where violent crime was most endemic in 2015 to become one of the safest states in Nigeria from 2017 till date.
“Our crime rate has been one of the lowest in the country for years now as well as in trrorism, kidnapping, banditry and other vices.
“Kogipedia is us telling our own story, ourselves. It is likely to be an alternative narrative to what you have heard about us, but I assure you that it is the truth.
“In fact, I have instituted a standing reward for anyone who can disprove any of the hundreds of projects we have done in Kogi State which are showcased there. More information about how we have led the Confluence State can also be found at our official state website at www.kogistate.gov. ng.”
He itemized the most important qualities which he considered imperative in the next Commander-in-Chief if Nigeria must live up to expectations come 2023.
The first on the item Bello listed is the natural force and physical energy that cannot be abated if performance is to be elevated. “I am 46 and by the grace of God, I am fit in all physical and mental faculties.”
Bello posited, “A clear capacity to be zealously affected in a good matter and to lead with courage and foresight in the pursuit of the overall best interests of the people and the nation.
“The aftermath of the covid pandemic has vindicated me enough for the times stood alone and insisted that Nigerians deserve better deals.”
Bello’s progressive achievements in Kogi
With the benefit of hindsight, Bello, had during his inauguration, on January 27, 2016, vowed that the era of corruption and impunity was over, toeing the footpaths of President Muhammedu Buhari in developing the state.
“I will be responsible to all people irrespective of where they stand during the election. President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement on May 29, 2015 where he declared, ‘I belong to everybody, but I belong to nobody,’ will characterise my tenure as I promise equitable governance for all the people of the state.
“My administration will serve the people of the state. And because corruption is the greatest evil channelled through impunity, I declare my zero tolerance to corruption and impunity,” he promised.
Bello, who promised to do things differently, said there will be a new direction in the governance of the state, “I will use Kogi resources to work for Kogi people, positive and decisive action will be taken to rescue Kogi.
He continued: “We have conceived a socio-economic blueprint to rebuild the state. Education, health, state-of-the-art security, roads, agriculture, investment in mineral and tourism potential of the state will be harnessed.
“The blueprint will be tailored by all stakeholders to make contribution, and we will work along the civil servants to achieve our 100 days, first year, mid-term and end-of-term targets.”
Bello, while seeking for the understanding of the people, urged them to give him the benefit of the doubt while he strife to redeem the lost image and restore the glory of the state.
At the inaugural, he highlighted five important issues to be tackled, which are: To be fair to all Kogi resident, improved workers’ welfare, war against corruption and live by example, ensure increased Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, and conceptualization of a socio-economic blueprint that will benefit the people.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”, says Steve Jobs. But, beyond the social contract between the leader and follower is the hypothesis that a leader is supposed to package trail-blazing interventions for his followers.
In 2015, Bello, prepared to rebuild Kogi state from the debris of the people’s frustrations orchestrated by the laissez-faire approach to governance issues by the many years of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It was, therefore, not for nothing that the people yearned for change in the leadership profile of the state.
The first radically different policy of the governor, upon being sworn-in has been to unite the people.
A reference from his first inaugural speech led credence to his determination to unite the people. In it, he refreshed the people’s memories with a line in the old Nigerian national anthem saying: “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
And in his second inaugural speech on January 27, 2020, the governor rehearsed how he successfully upturned the table that had the four legs of godfatherism, tribalism, class consciousness and religious divides which, he said “had distorted social equity and equality among Kogites.”
To exemplify that unity philosophy expressed in that old anthem, Bello had, in his first term, appointed Chief Edward Onoja, as his Chief of Staff then. While Bello is Ebira, Onoja is Igala. In fact, it would be the first time in the history of Kogi State that a Chief of Staff would be appointed from a different tribe other than that of the Chief Executive.
Even alleged clandestine dissent from the governor’s own tribe against his intention to choose a Chief of Staff from another tribe did not deter him. To him the state is bigger than the sum of individuals’ narrow interests.
Governor Bello beefed up this unity policy by initiating the EBIGO policy. It is an acronym from the names of the major ethnic groups in the state: Ebira, Igala and Okun. This has reflected in the equitable distribution of amenities and in the robust balance in appointments where no section of the state was short-changed. The governor intends to do more of this ethnic balancing to ensure justice and fairness.
These initial steps by the governor signposted the new trajectory of the new direction through which to navigate the state for the overall benefit of the people. Yet, it signaled the readiness of a government to run an all-inclusive dispensation where holistic synergy has been deployed to move the state forward. That is what he has replicated, with greater dedication, in this second term as reflected in the balanced appointments into his cabinet.
Guided by the government-crafted compass which he christened New Direction Agenda which has been upgraded for his second term in office. Bello has impacted positively in the welfare and future of the people of Kogi state. With the new direction team, he has been driving the robust policies of the state government since his first tenure.
The components of the New Direction agenda had their foci on education, agriculture, health care, job creation through small and medium-scale enterprises, eco-tourism and massive infrastructural development.
No matter how well-intentioned a government is, if the ambience is fractured by staccato gunshots, kidnapping, armed robbery, and social combustion, no meaningful development can take place. Being mindful of the catalytic role security can play in accelerated development, Bello set out with proven ability to address insecurity in the state.
Kogi state, being the gateway to the North and to the South has often times, proven to be a fertile milieu for crimes of various descriptions to thrive. From cultism in some higher institutions in the state; the deadly Isanlu robbery case in which about ten policemen were killed; the Tawari attack by gunmen in which about 23 people were killed including the APC chairman of Tawari Ward, Ibrahim Simbabi and the Chief Imam of the village, Zakari Salihu to the incessant Okene-Lokoja kidnapping spree in which kidnappers and robbers reaped bazaars of ransom from travelers, the story has been a horrendous one.
But, with holistic approach it was not going to be business as usual for criminals with Bello. He roared and smoked criminal out of their hiding places. And he has been launching unsparing onslaughts at them.
Aside the cordial interactions between the governor and the security agencies in the state, Bello had ordered the clearing of objects, verdure and thickets 40 meters on both sides of the highways. It was to ensure that the criminals have no hiding places.
At the onset of his administration, Bello provided over 200 utility vehicles for all security agencies in the state while equipping vigilante groups with over 500 motorcycles to work in tandem with forces to stem the tide of criminality in the hinterlands of the state in tune with his Operation Total Freedom security policies. He engaged the Nigerian military circle across the state to secure lives and properties.
The Kogi Central, presently, is more peaceful than hitherto as consequence of the foresightedness of Bello. Ditto, East and West Senatorial Districts. The vigilante service operation, the whistle Blower policy and the domestication of the criminal justice code were the reasons Bello attributed as factors for security success.
In a sheer display of unprecedent manner, a governor joined security operatives to pull down houses in the state which intelligence reports indicated were kidnappers’ hide-outs.
Bello has adopted the style since inception of his administration. It was a signal pointer to criminals and their collaborators that a new powerful personage has emerged at the scene and that there would be no hiding place for them.
Another area the present administration has risen proactively to tackle security challenges is the Governor’s endorsement of whistleblowing policy.
The kernel of the whistleblowing policy, like that of the Federal Government, is to identify and arrest criminals and those with the tendency to ferment trouble. In the whistleblowing approach, security informants who disclose information that can lead to the arrest of anyone deemed to be a security risk to the state are being compensated.
The Yahaya Bello-led administration had equally mapped out various strategies aimed at engaging and empowering youths in various youth empowerment programmes.
The administration’s major policy on Youth placed empowerment is manifested in the involvement of 239 youths, placed on monthly stipends from across the state for carrying out various public-oriented works. The is to discourage them from indulging in criminal activities and at the same time putting money in their pocket to fulfil their various financial and social commitments.
It was, therefore, not surprising when Bello garnered several awards, including that by the Inspector-General of Police, for his unflagging dedication to the security of the people of Kogi state.
Education remains the bedrock of holistic development of the country. It is the vehicle that moves the nation and any society forward Bello, being a product of full education, struck a blow with an onerous responsibility to provide affordable and comfortable education to the youths. He promised to offer free education if elected as president in 2023 poll.
As he said in his second inaugural speech: “If we fail to fix the education sector in Kogi state, posterity will not forgive us.” This set the tone for diligent prosecution of more educational policies for Kogi State.
Primary education has witnessed a spiraling progress under the Governor Yahaya Bello administration. The Kogi State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has become a critical catalyst to Bello’s policies for a more educated Kogi indigene and residents. With equitable distribution of educational facilities across the length and breadth of the state, the state was positioned to re-write its education history.
The GYB Model primary schools across the 239 wards of the state, the construction of 50-bed capacity hostels at Government Girls’ Secondary School, Obangede and the construction of Library Extension at Kogi State College of Education (Technical), Kabba are the products of Bello in making a difference.
Right from inception of his administration, appreciably buoyed up the health of the people of Kogi State. What aptly signaled his utmost commitment to actualizing his robust health policies were the numerous free services and maternal and new born healthcare for the people at sundry times.a
Bello’s commitment to the health sector led to so many healthcare services that create values in the health sector. Among are: The equipped public hospitals across the three Senatorial Districts (East Central & West) medical equipment, essential drugs and premium quality diagnostic apparatus of international standard.
Actualizing his food-for-all vision which is a key component of his New Direction Agenda, Bello, through the Agriculture Ministry, cleared 1,000 hectres of land at Ojapata, Osara and Kabba to empower the youths in cassava production. With the establishment of five units of garri processing mills in Osara, Agara, Achoze, Aiyetoro-Gbede and Ogbadu in Dekina, the story of food deficit in Kogi State seems to be exterminated.
What makes the New Direction agricultural programme wear a human face is its lavish provision of employment to teeming youths who roam about, after completing their education, without jobs. There is massive rice production in Kogi state. The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), in collaboration with the State Ministry of Agriculture has, through the Anchor Borrowers Programme engaged 20,000 farmers across the state in the last rainy season.
The success story of the Omi Dam Rice mill attests to the truism that “you can’t turn a good man down.” 50 ton-per-day Rice Mill was established at Ejiba in Yagba West Local Government Area. He said the project is completed and currently producing Confluence Rice which is one of the best Rice in the Country. 800 hectares of rice farms was also cultivated to provide paddy for the mill.
The state government keyed into Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) powered by the Central Bank of Nigeria for youth and women empowerment in the development of Aquaculture and Cassava Production.
Under the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) the government constructed 600 earthen ponds evenly distributed in the state’s three Senatorial districts. 200 in Idah East Senatorial District, 150 in Ejiba West Senatorial District, 83 in Adavi-Eba and 67 in Geregu Central Senatorial District. Some of the ponds have been allocated to the beneficiaries.
A hatchery at Aiyetoro-Gbede in Ijumu Local Government was completely rehabilitated and has commenced the production of fingerlings/Juveniles. Also four fish feed mills have been established at Geregu, Idah, Ejiba, Adavi-Eba.
His administration engaged a Consultant for the Anchor Borrowers Programme and collaborated with the Central Bank of Nigeria to facilitate the empowerment of 4,955 farmers. Under the same Anchor Borrowers’ Programme the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) partnered with the Ministry and enrolled 13,000 farmers across the state.
Civil service and pensions reforms
The exhaustive and thorough civil service and pensions reforms by Bello, had saved the state from being financially raped. A meticulous addict of accountability, Bello had through the reforms, blocked loopholes and leakages through which mindless public servants privileged to work in the finance sectors of the state siphoned the state’s lean financial resources.
He has, through the reforms, repositioned the state civil service for optimal performance. In doing more for the state, civil servants and pensioners are now paid their emoluments timely despite the cash crunch occasioned by the corona virus disease.
In a paper, titled: “Prospects of HOPE 2023,” Prof. Chris Nwaokobia Jnr, a leadership and mentorship instructor, who is also National Coordinator, Got Your Back Nigeria, stated: “With Hope 2023 we shall be bidding farewell to epileptic power supply. GYB is committed to doing anything and everything necessary to improve the energy sector. He is passionate about seeing that new players emerge in the energy sector who will use not only hydro but coal, wind, waste and solar in the generation of power.
“Hope 2023 like Hope 1993 is about the abolition of POVERTY. We shall create jobs through robust engagement with the Private Sector. And shall make human capital development a matter of primacy. The GYB Hope 2023 mantra is not just another political promise, but a commitment to a new deal for the masses of our people.
“Hope 2023 is about politics and business unusual. Hope 2023 is about youth inclusiveness and gender parity. Hope 2023 is about improved national security and brotherhood. Hope 2023 is about improved infrastructure, healthcare, job creation and improved energy. Hope 2023 is about the overhaul and the rework of our educational sector and the curriculum. And hope 2023 is about creating the enabling environment for a 21st century compliant Agricultural sector. Indeed Hope 2023 is about a ballot based peoples revolution for the good of our Dear Nation, Nigeria.
“Hope 2023 is a clarion call to our nation to wake up, to rise up and to work along with Governor Yahaya Bello as we birth and berth the Country of our dreams. Hope 2023 is a commitment to new thinking in leadership. Hope 2023 is GYB’s unalterable commitment and passion for a new, prosperous and successful Nigeria.”
No doubt, Governor Bello has re-invented Kogi State to meet the great expectations of the people. In so doing, he has rewritten their history and mopped their tear-wet eyes from years of hopelessness and frustrations foisted on them by past aristocratic governments in the state.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Therefore, in Kogi State, where there was no clear-cut administrative path, Bello created one because he sought to make a difference. This and many more GYB promised to bring onboard if voted as President in 2023.