Kogi state is in no doubt populated with highly religious citizenry. They often, through their actions rationalised incidences to acts of God. And so when the late prince of the Niger, Prince Abubakar Audu, candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 21, 2015 governorship election died on the cusp of winning, despite the shocks, the people forged ahead calling it as the act of God.
And indeed, the final beneficiary of the act of God, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has not hidden his emergence to the adulation of the Almighty God.
Even at the inauguration of his administration on the 27th, January, 2016 at the confluence stadium Lokoja, the presumed political mentor of Yahaya Bello, Senator Dino Melaye had to attribute Bello’ s governorship to the will of God. Melaye in his remarks took the entire citizenry to the cleaners, when he said , the people of Kogi state voted en masse for late Audu while only the immortal God voted for Alhaji Yahaya Bello , and warned the people not to take the hands of God for granted.
From onset, Bello had told the people of the state that his government will be a total departure from the administration of his predecessors and pledged not only to consolidate on the power rotation, but take governance of the state to the emasculated, dehumanised and neglected youths and restructure the civil service for optimisation and efficiency no matter whose ox is gored.
Controversy Over Key Appointments
He had vowed to do things differently from the usual, while promising to bring new direction as the focal agenda of his government. True to his promise, amidst protest by his kins and kith in the central district and first since the democratic state of Kogi, he appointed a confidant, Mr. Edward Onoja, as his Chief of Staff, thereby foreclosing tradition of the office belonging to “ a sibling of the governor”.
All efforts by his kinsmen to have a rethink on Onoja an Igalaman fell on deaf ears, culminating in the gradual withdrawal of their support for his government, while drawing steady battle line with him.
Although, the discordant voices against choice of Onoja were handled amicably without escalation, a scar was already imprinted in the psyche of most of his kinsmen that after all, good things may not come to them and the zone under the Bello’s administration.
Bello according to insinuation was treated as a leper by the zone in the primary election as his kinsmen overwhelming voted for Senator Nurudeen Abatemi and Abubakar Sanusi who came third and fourth respectively.
Not yet done with hitting his kinsmen below the belt, the governor against expectations appointed his second wife Hajia Rashidat Bello who hails from Edo state as the first lady instead of the first wife Hajia Amina Oyiza an Ebira woman.
The people, especially the Ebira women considered his decision as an affront on the Ebira nation and vowed to fight the governor to finish until he rescinds his decision.
Speaking to Independent over the development, Hajia Sikirat Ozovehe from Agassa, said the action of the governor to jettison his two wives, Amina Oyiza and Hajia Hafisat who are Ebira by tribe and bonafide indigenes of Kogi state was totally an insult on the sensibility of the Ebira nation.
According to her ” how can he abandon our daughters who were number one and three to pick number two who is not an indigene?. ” Imagine the three governors before him, Prince Abubakar Audu, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and Captain Idris Wada did not use non-indigene wives as first ladies.
“We are ready to resist him to a standstill until he retraces his action. The Ebira people are not cowards. We are not fools. It has never happened in the state and we will not condone his impunity” she bemoaned.
Incidentally, Ozovehe from Agassa, the hometown of the governor, was among the protesters against the choice of Rashidat as the first Lady when she came for the official commissioning of the Lokoja Amusement park,
Another thing done by Bello which generated a lot of controversy was that In his first assumed official assignment, he ordered total demolition of all the roundabouts structures across the state, claiming that the edifices constituted aesthetic nuisance to Lokoja metropolis. He added that, building roundabouts in a capital city has become obsolete and does not conform with United Nations regulation on habitat, while promising to build a structure that will add value to the citizenry. However, three months down the line, the demolished roundabouts have become a gossip’s mill across the state.
Suspension Of Key Officials
While the people were recuperating from the shocks of the roundabout demolition, which to them, does not pose a threat to the administration, he announced the suspension of all the permanent secretaries, Directors of Administration of Finance, Directors of Local Government Administrations ; Treasurers , Cashiers and the dissolution of Boards of parastatals. He ordered them to hand over to the next most senior officials in the affected ministries and extra ministerial departments and set up a committee to screen the civil service with the aim of ridding the state of ghost workers and other undesirable officials in the employment of the state.
However, with initial resistance from the embattled officials, the citizenry queued behind him with the hope that after all the failures in the previous governments to publish the screening reports, his new direction will be able to transit to marching words with reality even as the committee is midway into the assignment with the people apprehensive of the political will to implement the reports.
Paradoxically, the amiable, youthful, energetic and the apostle of new direction has been known as a dogged fighter against the presumed opponents of the administration.
Crisis In Assembly
Although, the dust of the crisis in the state assembly was yet to settle before he assumed office on 27th January, 2016, he has been severally accused of igniting the recent flame that has brought the state in collision with the National Assembly as an institution.
The crisis got to a head when five members of the faction loyal to the governor impeached the erstwhile speaker Momohjimoh Lawal and his principal officers with 14 other members solidly behind him.This development made the House of Representatives to move in swiftly to defend the House of Assembly as an institution.
They set up the Pally Iriase committee on a fact finding mission to Kogi State as the outcome of their findings led to the taking over of the functions of the Kogi State Assembly by the House of Representatives and concurred by the Senate, who directed the Inspector General of police, Solomon Arase to seal the complex.
Although it was partially complied, the Attorney General of the federation and Minister of Justice, Barrister Abubakar Mallami SAN, introduced a twist with his legal advice to the Inspector- General of Police to unseal the Kogi State House of Assembly , an action that was roundly condemned by the members of House of Representatives who instantly set up a committee comprising 15 members with Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as head. The committee has invited the AGF to appear before it.
The crisis in the House of Assembly has polarized the members and meaningful legislative functions have been put on hold. Speaking to Independent, the Executive Direction of Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Idris Abdul Miliki said in as much as one could not rule out disagreement from the members of the House of Assembly, it must be based on the rule of law, equity and fairness.
He condemned the action of the five members when the law stipulates a two- third majority, insisting that it was null and void. Malik therefore urged members to resolve the impasse to save the House from public ridicule.
Although the matter of the Speaker’s impeachment is in court, the people are urging them to shelve external influence to embrace dialogue and rescue the state from polarisation and under development.
Meanwhile, while the cries from within and outside are for the members to bury the hatchet and rescue the state, the governor Yahaya Bello had last week tacitly drawn the battle line with his ruling party All progressive congress, APC in the state.
The war was said to have been triggered by the salvo from the state Chairman of the party, Alhaji Haddi Ametuo whose executive Council had passed a vote of no confidence on the governor and written a petition to the National chairman of the party John Oyegun accusing the governor of anti party activities even as he has sidelined members of the party, while courting with the opposition party members.
The petition which went viral both on social, electronic and print media,had ostensibly angered the Governor and his supporters who vowed to unseat the embattled chairman Ametuo.
Meanwhile, the state has been awash with groups of various shades pledging their support for the governor and calling for the removal of the embattled chairman.
Speaking to the press, the Special Adviser to the governor on Media and strategy, Abdulkarim Abdulmalik described the action of the chairman as a person who wants to rescue his clan man, Momoh Jimoh Lawal through the back door.
He absolved the governor from the crisis in the Assembly saying that he had worked so hard for an amicable settlement, which was rebuffed by some members of the House.
First to register their support for Bello recently was a group known as APC youths Executives across the 21 LGAs who condemned the passage of the vote of no confidence on the governor, while declaring their unalloyed support for him and his style of governance.
Meanwhile, factional members of the state Exco led by the Deputy women leader Mrs Debora Isiguzo, have thrown their weight behind the governor while calling for the arrest of the chairman for allegedly embezzling over one million naira donated by the government for the payment of party staff salaries and rent arrears.
The Buhari Support Group (BSG) in the state was not left out in the crusade to demonise the embattled chairman. Speaking to Independent, the leader of the BSG, Dr. Yakubu Ugwolawo condemned the vote of no confidence on the governor and urged the citizenry to support the government of Yahaya Bello whose new direction according to the group would soon bring dividends of democracy to the people.
Just as the war between the Angels and the dragons in Revelation chapter 12 verse 7 could not produce a winner until arch angel Micheal was drafted to resolve it, the people of Kogi State are calling on the leadership of the APC and spirited individuals to save the state and the party from the self- destruct button. For now the governor has gone to war with the embattled chairman of his party and his sponsors.