Bello in The Eye of Storm

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Since he assumed duties, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello has not had peace.

The governor of the Confluence State has been swimming in the pool of controversy. His supporters and adversaries are locked in a media war.

The opposition against Bello has increased, following the alleged attempt on the life of Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), in which the federal legislator accused the Administrator of Ijumu Local Government Area and chairman of the Association of Local Government (ALGON), Taufiq Isa, of being the mastermind.

The adversaries of Governor Bello, including Chief James Faleke, the running mate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer in the November 21, 2015 governorship election, erstwhile APC Board of Trustees (BoT) member and former Acting Governor Clarence Olafemi, Dr Alex Kadiri and other party stalwarts have reported him to the APC national leadership. Urging the leaders to call the governor to order, they warned that his style of governance may cripple the chapter.

The governor’s camp has, however, maintained that it is not at war with anyone, even as it continues to solicit support from stakeholders, to move the state forward. Although some of the challenges confronting the administration preceded it, the circumstances leading to Bello’s ascension have generated bitterness.

Kogi has been beset with a bloated workforce. This was caused by previous administrations, including that of former Governor Idris Wada, who acknowledged same during the twilight of his administration. He, like others before him, however, chose to let things be, to the extent that the little problem of yesterday had grown into an albatross, and threatening to grind the wheel of government to a standstill. This, was the delicate situation when Bello came into office, which has now been aggravated by not to recession.

Bello at the onset would probably count Hon. Faleke among his foes. But, there was no riff between him and Melaye.

It appeared that the latter would tarry a while at the corridors of the Kogi State Government House. For he, it was at the Lokoja Confluence Stadium, on January 27, 2016, who described Bello to as the “God-chosen Governor of Kogi, adding that whoever fights Bello will be fighting God. But, events appear to have come full circle, with Melaye donning toga of opposition to the ruling party, even as analysts of political events in Kogi maintain that he presided over the choice of persons into strategic offices, including that of the Secretary to the ministries and boards.

Events were to snowball, with unrestrained attacks from both divides, further stoking the ember of distrust within the rank and file of bigwigs. The APC national leadership has appealed to the warring chieftains to embrace truce so that peace and harmony can return to the chapter.

While Bello said he was ready for peace, those fighting him do not trust him.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, a party stalwart from the West Senatorial district said the governor should change his style.

“The governor’s camp makes it look like it is interested in a round-table talk, but that is neither here nor there. They want to discuss on their own terms, which cannot be. They are holding the cake they did not bake, and they seek to use the knife they do not have to share it.”

From the camps of Senator Melaye, Hon. Faleke, Dr Alex Kadiri and other powerful forces are allegations of financial recklessness against the governor including the frizzling of N220 billion last year. They said Bello had wasted federal allocations to the state; N10 billion infrastructural development funds, N30 billion bailout fund and over N11 billion Parish Club excess refund.

Melaye has insisted that his disagreement with the governor was not for selfish reasons, but in the interest of the state and its people. He accused Bello of disregard for due process, refusal by the government to pay primary school teachers, piecemeal payment of salary  and pitching the workers against one other. Another offence listed by the critics during their presentations in Abuja was spending money on “cars for SAs and other people”.

While the government had said it did not owe salary for over 12 months, the aggrieved stakeholders insisted that the claim was untrue.

A source said: “Onoja (Chief of Staff) admitted the government owed 12 months, but some are being owed 16 months. Since he assumed duties, he may say he has paid you N100,000, but in the  bank alert on your phone, you will see N30,000… No local government has seen allocation paper, they only see what they see”.

The government has been showcasing its achievements, including the upward swing in internally generated revenue (IGR), roads and other infrastructural projects spread across the three senatorial districts, tackling criminality, kidnapping and armed robbery, landscaping of the state capital, Lokoja, and others.

Bello’s media aide, Kingsley Fanwo, said: “We are not at war with anyone. They said we are not paying salaries, we silenced them by publishing what we have paid to each worker, month by month. They alleged we are owing 16 months but the published facts show we have cleared workers’ salary except that of April.

“The operational vehicles provided for political office holders are to be used to render service to the people of Kogi State and not for luxury. What good governance could brings to the state far outweighs the cost of those vehicles. All state governments provide operational vehicles for their officials.

“Those allegations represent the height of hypocrisy. They are concealing their real grouses. They were not comfortable with the manner the governor changed the political setting of the state by bringing relatively unknown persons, but highly resourceful and competent, to drive his New Direction Agenda. The political establishment felt they should keep recommending their stooges for political appointments. Two, Governor Yahaya Bello is President Muhammadu Buhari’s version of an incorruptible leadership in Kogi State.

“He has closed the waste of resources into private pockets and have lived up to his promise to use Kogi’s resources for the Kogi people. It is no more business as usual for the dealers who parade themselves as leaders.”

He continued: “The ultimate trigger is the 2019 political calculations. Some people are bent on remaining relevant beyond 2019, despite their glaring failings. They thought they could bully the state authorities to submission. I also think they are shocked that we have largely ignored their distractive plans. The Governor will remain focused in unlocking the opportunities that abound in Kogi for greatness. He will continue to accommodate all because as the father of all in Kogi, he will continue to lead right without discrimination. All those pulling the state down are not hurting only the governor, but the entire people of Kogi State, who believe in the New Direction for purposeful leadership and development.”

Credits: James Azania | The Nation