By Muhammad ‘Din Shehu
Following last Tuesday’s judgement of the Supreme Court which affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya Bello as the validly elected governor of Kogi State, it is safe to assume that all legal encumbrances to the smooth operation of governmental affairs in the State have been removed.
Governor Yahaya Bello can now concentrate on the business of governance without the occasional backward glance of trepidation at the hulking shadows of the two main challengers to his mandate; Captain Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Mr. James Faleke, the running mate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) whose death during the process of the November 20, 2015 gubernatorial election set off a storm of legal issues that has finally been put to rest by the Supreme Court.
This proposed inaugural speech was written shortly after the end of the supplementary governorship election in Kogi State on 5th December, 2015 and delivered in the form of a letter to then Governor-elect Alhaji Yahaya Bello. It attempted to capture (through the eyes of the governor) the expectations of Kogites for his administration, and also outlined the necessary social, economic and developmental policies that his administration should initiate and implement for the people of Kogi State.
In the aftermath of the September 20, 2016 judgement of the Supreme Court, the speech is being published here in its entirety as a reminder of the huge expectations that the people of Kogi State still harbour for the Yahaya Bello administration, and also serve as wake-up call to the huge and multi-faceted developmental tasks that his government must now commit squarely to, if it is to successfully steer Kogi State towards its much-vaunted “New Direction” of sustainable growth and development.
This Speech was never read by Governor Yahaya Bello. Any “plagiarism” herein is the sole responsibility of the writer and he only should be blamed.
Praise to God who elects whomsoever He wills as leader. Many thanks to those who have made it possible for us to witness this occasion. The journey to this day could not have been more unpredictable for me, for the APC, and indeed for the people of Kogi State. I may have wanted it different, but who am I to choose?
To get here Kogi State lost her greatest son; the first and second executive Governor of the State and the gubernatorial candidate of our party in the November 21 election. Prince Abubakar Audu’s death came as a shock to everyone, coming just as he was poised to lead the APC to victory.
Prince Audu lived as a selfless paradox: He was our greatest son, yet the late Ad’oja was undoubtedly the founding father of Kogi State. Again: He laid the foundation for the social, economic and infrastructural development of the state. He built it as well. In his two-terms in office as executive governor of the State from 1992 to1993 and again, from 1999 to 2003, he took the State farther than anyone envisaged.
His achievements in the area of housing, roads construction, health care delivery and electricity, to mention a few, have remained unmatched in Kogi State. Politically, Prince Abubakar Audu was a rallying point for all Kogites. Irrespective of tribe or religious affiliation, he welcomed every citizen. A true statesman, his was a life dedicated to the struggle for the complete political and economic emancipation of our State and her people.
Though Ad’oja is gone, his political vision will continue to live in the minds of millions of his friends, followers and associates–none of these above the people of Kogi State.
On our part, we will strive to sustain the worthwhile visions of the State’s late father, Prince Abubakar Audu. It is in this regard that I have directed that the Kogi State University, Anyigba be renamed the Prince Abubakar Audu University. I have also directed that a major landmark be named after the late Prince Abubakar Audu in all the 21 Local Government Councils in the State. Additionally, my administration will explore other avenues of further immortalizing late Prince Abubakar Audu and preserving his political ideals for posterity. This is but a small mark of honour to pay to a man who devoted his entire life and resources to the growth and upliftment of our dear State. We are eternally grateful to this icon of democracy and the father of modern Kogi.
May Allah Almighty bless and purify the soul of Prince Abubakar Audu and grant him the highest station in Paradise. Amen.
In the wake of the unexpected passing of Prince Abubakar Audu, our party the APC and indeed Nigeria was almost plunged into a significant constitutional crisis. It is in this regard that I must express my profound gratitude to the entire leadership of the APC, especially the National Working Committee (NWC). The NWC withstood enormous pressure to ensure that the party with its choice remains on the side of the constitution and of the law. The APC by its strict adherence to the constitutional provisions guiding our democratic culture have demonstrated once again that it remains committed to the CHANGE mantra upon which it rode to victory in the 2015 general elections.
I also commend the good people of Kogi State. They showed restraint and patience throughout the thankfully brief period of confusion. While hate mongers tried to take advantage of the situation to stir-up and fan the embers of ethnic discord in our peaceful state, our people demonstrated practically that the shared history and ties of brotherhood between the different ethnic groups in the State ran far too deep for partisan politics to rent asunder. Our people have emerged from all these stronger, and with a fresh resolve to tread paths leading to unity, growth and development. This gladdens my heart immensely.
I wish to thank thousands of our supporters who voted massively for the APC and in the process, put Kogi State on a new direction of Change. My gratitude also goes to the hundreds of party faithful who carried our messages of Change and New Direction to all parts of the State during our various campaign stops, meetings and rallies. This day would not have been possible without them.
I want to also thank my co-contestants for the great spirit of gallantry displayed throughout the keenly contested election. We all came into the contest with different ideas on how best to lead our beloved State into the next level of social, economic and infrastructural development. The process of selling our different manifestos to the Kogi State electorate was however done in a peaceful and law abiding manner, as one would expect in a contest between brothers. I can confidently say that the whole process have succeeded in further entrenching the roots of democracy in our State. We can only get better from here.
I urge my gubernatorial co-aspirants to join me in the task of steering the affairs of our state. Your counsel, views and suggestions are always welcome by my administration as no man can be a repository of all wisdom.
My predecessor, Captain Idris Ichalla Wada deserves special appreciation for his kind support and cooperation which has made for a smooth, peaceful and hitch-free transition process. He has proven indeed to be a true statesman.
I thank you all.
Our victory has placed a massive responsibility upon us. This is not the time to bask in the glow of victory, but the time to immediately begin the task of proving to the people of Kogi State that their trust in this administration is not misplaced. Let me at this point assure my fellow citizens that I intend to run an inclusive government where every citizen of our great State has a stake. I will run a fair, just and equitable government where no part of Kogi State has an undue advantage over the other. Let this message go out from here that this administration is committed to the pursuit of an egalitarian State where everybody has equal rights and access to resources.
Under my watch Kogi State will be for none. Under my watch Kogi State will be for all.
I’m not unaware of the enormous social and economic challenges my administration is inheriting. You should be aware as well. The Kogi State treasury is virtually empty; civil servants both in the State and local government councils are being owed salaries and pension arrears; primary school teachers are being owed up to 8 months arrears in salary; our infrastructure is either dilapidated or nonexistent; healthcare delivery in the State is comatose while our children study under the most dehumanizing conditions in the quest for education. The sharp drop in monthly allocations from the Federation Account and the lack of a coherent fiscal policy to cushion the effect of this has all but sent Kogi State spiraling into economic collapse.
We are nonetheless prepared for this task of bringing Kogi State out of gloom into the sunshine of sustainable development and growth once again. I know the magnitude of the problems facing our State. I also believe, by the Grace of God and the support of our people, that we will overcome all these challenges and build the Kogi State of our dreams.
One of the immediate tasks my administration intends to set about achieving is the settlement of all outstanding salaries and pension arrears being owed Kogi State workers. I therefore enjoin civil servants in the State to be patient while we begin the process of settling all outstanding arrears. Succour is at hand.
Having been before now an active player in the organised private sector and an employer of labour let me state here that I strongly believe and live by the precept that the rewards of the labourer should be paid before the sweat dries on his brow. This will, God willing, be the rule henceforth with regards to salaries and pension payments in my administration.
Government, however, does not exist to pay salaries only. Careful investments in social, economic and infrastructural projects and programmes that have direct impact on the lives of the people are the hallmark of a truly responsible government. This is the primary focus of the new direction this administration intends to chart for Kogi State.
Kogi State is too rich to be under-developed. God has blessed us with immense human and natural resources. What has been absent is the political will and ingenuity to properly harness resources for the betterment of our people. That has now changed.
Charting a new direction in my administration’s blueprint entails significant investments in the area of education, agriculture, health care delivery systems, roads, provision of potable water, job creation, affordable housing and social welfare for our people. This administration intends to take practical measures towards achieving these goals within the next four years in line with the APC manifesto.
Daunting as the task may seem in the face of the meagre resources currently available to the State, I’m confident that my administration will come up with innovative solutions to the crunch we are experiencing. I intend to pursue a broad fiscal policy that will significantly improve the revenue base of Kogi State. The era of wholly depending on monthly allocation from the Federal Government for the running of the State has come to an end. Wherever possible, my administration will actively pursue policies that encourage public private partnerships to drive programmes and policies for the sustainable development of Kogi State.
Central to the achievement of all our programmes and policies is the presence of an efficient, competent and professional public service, both in the State and Local Government Councils. We will reorganize and reposition the public service to enable it tackles more effectively the challenges of administration in the 21st century. I recognize that no meaningful development can take place in a lawless society and to this end, I will strengthen and empower the relevant security agencies in the State to better discharge their primary function of maintaining law and order. Kogi State under my watch will not be a haven for criminals and miscreants.
My fellow citizens, Change have come. Today marks the beginning of a dawn in our State. Running the affairs of Kogi State will no longer be business as usual. Governance for the benefit of our people is the operative term in this dispensation. We have a glorious opportunity to chart a new direction of development and all-inclusive growth. Let us seize it. Sacrifices will of necessity be made by us all. To this end and in recognition of the austere economic situation my administration is inheriting, I have decided to donate all my salaries and emoluments for the next two years back to the State. This is not tokenism but a veritable demonstration of my resolve to run the affairs of Kogi State in the most cost-effective way. Reducing the high cost of governance is a major focus of my administration and our policies and actions will reflect this.
My dear compatriots, change does not come easy. There will be hurdles on the way but we are confident that our unity and resolve will prove more than enough to surmount whatever obstacles lies in our path to progress. We are a creative and industrious people. Unlocking the creative potentials of our people is therefore a cardinal mission of my administration. This is the test we will subject all our programmes, policies and actions to: How does it benefit our people and the future generation?
I’m sworn to a binding contract with the people of Kogi State for the next four years. I intend to do so by leading a responsible, people-oriented government that provides good governance, leadership, and the enabling environment for every citizen to fulfill his dreams and her aspirations.
God bless Kogi State.
– Muhammad ‘Din Shehu, an occasional writer and ‘arm-chair’ public affairs analyst wrote in from Lokoja, Kogi State.
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