Viewpoint

May 5, 2024

From Power to Pariah: A fugitive’s story

Yahaya Bello: Court adjourns to June 13 for arraignment

Former Governor Yahaya Bello

By Kemi Adeyemi

In a shocking turn of events, Yahaya Bello, the former governor of Kogi State, who was once a powerful figure in the country’s political landscape, has found himself on the run, fleeing from the very system he once belonged. The White Lion of Kogi, as he is fondly called, has turned himself into a fugitive in his own country. 

Bello’s fall from grace was as sudden as it was unexpected. He had long been prepared for the consequences of his actions. After relinquishing power a few months back, Bello knew he had a reckoning to face with the EFCC. It was evident in his sudden visit to the Presidential Villa. He was aware that he would have to account for the alleged disappearance of billions of naira, including loans meant to pay salaries, from Kogi State’s coffers into individual accounts. 

Moreover, he had to answer for allegedly  transferring nearly a billion naira from the state treasury to pay his children’s tuition fees in advance at an American University in Abuja. 

Fortunately, Bello’s history with the EFCC is far from over, thanks to the commission’s renewed commitment under its new chairman, Mr. Olanipekun Olukoyede, to prosecute him and others like him who allegedly plundered their states.

Yahaya Bello’s eight-year reign as Kogi State’s governor was marked by tyranny and oppression. He ruled with an iron fist, silencing dissenting voices through intimidation and violence. The media was muzzled. His regime was notorious for withholding workers’ salaries, forcing them into servitude against their will. No civil servant in Kogi wishes to see another Bello-like figure in power. 

His recent media assaults and blitz against the EFCC chairman, following the commission’s unsuccessful attempt to apprehend him, bear a striking resemblance to his previous tactics employed against the commission a few years ago under the leadership of Abdulrasheed Bawa. This is a classic Bello manoeuvre. 

In 2019, he allegedly orchestrated the transfer of N20 billion intended for workers’ salaries from the state treasury to an obscure bank account. EFCC secured a court order to freeze the account. Consequently, the funds were forfeited. Undeterred, Bello embarked on a smear campaign against the commission, leveraging his influence to frustrate the legal proceedings until Bawa’s eventual removal.

Amidst the ongoing showdown between Bello and the EFCC, he and his legal team falsely claim that the EFCC’s attempt to arrest him was contempt of court. In reality, the EFCC acted within the law, as the Kogi State High Court instructed them to bring criminal charges against Bello, which they did, filing money laundering charges exceeding N80 billion at a Federal High Court. The subsequent arrest order from the Federal High Court aligns with this directive. 

Bello’s media campaign, accusing the EFCC of disregarding a court order, is a desperate tactic to evade justice. The EFCC has diligently followed the law, demonstrating a commitment to upholding justice. It is sad to see a section of the media abandon ethical conduct, neglecting to scrutinize the grave allegations of money laundering and plundering against Bello, instead fixating on the EFCC’s procedural nuances.

Journalists have a sacred duty to hold public officials accountable. The revelations in the public today about Yahaya Bello merely scratched the surface; the EFCC possesses a staggering array of incriminating evidence, which has prompted Bello’s sudden vanishing act after evading arrest. 

Today, Yahaya Bello is still on the run. No thanks to Governor Usman Ododo, Bello’s cousin and successor. Ododo’s action has crossed a dangerous line. By invoking the immunity clause to shield the White Lion from arrest, he has not only misused his powers but also violated the oath he swore to uphold. The immunity clause was intended to protect sitting officials from frivolous lawsuits, not to provide a blanket shield for criminal activity. By stretching this provision to cover a former official, Ododo has abused his authority and undermined the rule of law.

Furthermore, his actions have compromised the integrity of the justice system, allowing Bello to evade accountability for his actions. This sets a dangerous precedent, where those in power can manipulate the system to escape consequences. The oath of office is a sacred trust, and Ododo has betrayed it by prioritizing personal loyalty over the public interest.

Moreover, his actions have eroded trust in government and the ability of institutions to hold individuals accountable. The people of the state expect their leaders to uphold the law, not subvert it for personal gain. Governor Ododo has sent a clear message that those with connections can operate above the law, while the vulnerable suffer the consequences. This is a betrayal of the public’s trust and a dereliction of duty.

Bello who held sway over Kogi State for eight long years, has proven himself to be a leader without honour and integrity. His tenure was marked by rampant corruption, abuse of power, and a blatant disregard for the welfare of the people. His actions have brought shame and disrepute to the office he once held, and he has demonstrated himself to be unworthy of any position of trust or authority.

Throughout his time in office, Bello consistently prioritised his interests over the needs of the people, engaging in rampant cronyism. He has squandered the state’s resources, leaving behind a trail of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams. His legacy is one of decay and neglect, and his departure from office has come as a relief to many.

Nigerians must learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that individuals like Bello are never again entrusted with the reins of power. The people of Kogi State deserve better, and it is their collective responsibility to demand higher standards of leadership and accountability from those who seek to govern them. 

While the EFCC is expected to be focused on discharging its constitutional duties, the American University, Abuja appears to be an accomplice. It is utterly outrageous and exploitative for the American school to charge tuition fees in US dollars in a sovereign nation with its currency. This practice is a blatant disregard for the host country’s economic autonomy and a stark example of financial imperialism. This act clearly explains that the school is effectively imposing a foreign currency on the local population, causing undue hardship and exchange rate woes for families already struggling to make ends meet.

This predatory approach is a slap in the face to the country’s economic sovereignty and a clear demonstration of the school’s priorities: profits over people. It is unacceptable for an institution supposedly dedicated to education and cultural exchange to engage in such exploitative practices, taking advantage of the very people it claims to serve.

•Adeyemi, an educationist, lives in Ilorin, Kwara State.