On Jan. 27, a transition of political power occurred in Kogi and thousands of well-wishers converged on the Lokoja Township Stadium to witness the swearing in of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as the new governor of the state.
To many political pundits, the event means different things to various individuals and groups, particularly the three major ethnic groups in the 25-year-old state.
The experts say that for the Ebira in Kogi Central Senatorial District, the inauguration marks the realisation of their age-long dream that one day; their son will govern the state.
To the Igala, another major ethnic group, the date represents a sad reminder of the sudden death of one of their own, Prince Abubakar Audu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Nov. 21, 2015 governorship election, who would have been sworn in as governor on that historic day.
Audu, the first civilian governor of Kogi, died on Nov. 22, 2015, shortly before the announcement of the election’s results.
On the other hand, the Kabba people in Kogi West Senatorial District view Jan. 27, 2016 as a date that reminds them of a lost dream of producing the number two citizen of the state.
Their son, Mr James Faleke, Audu’s running mate in the governorship election, failed to turn up at the event for his investiture as the state’s deputy governor because of the controversies that trailed his political status following Audu’s death.
Faleke then insisted vehemently that the APC ought to have declared him as its governorship candidate after the death of Audu, the principal candidate.
The opposing sentiments notwithstanding, Bello was sworn in as Kogi’s governor and in his inaugural address, he pledged to fulfil all his electioneering promises.
Expressing his determination to fulfil his social contract with all the citizens of Kogi State, Bello said: “I will be fair to all Kogites; I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.
“I understand workers in Kogi have not been paid for about four months, while local government workers have not received their salary for over a year. We will soon start payment.
“I, hereby, declare that the Yahaya Bello-administration will not tolerate corruption, and I will also live by example.
“We will strive to increase our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and we have conceived a socio-economic blueprint that will benefit the people.’’
In spite of these assurances, concerned citizens and groups have been calling on the new governor to live up to the people’s expectations by not reneging on his promises.
For instance, the Ebira Peoples Association (EPA), the umbrella organisation of all Ebira people, urged the Bello-administration to initiate purposeful policies and programmes that would spur the state’s socio-economic development.
The National President of EPA, Dr Musa Adeiza, who gave the advice, underscored the need for the new administration to be mindful of the varied expectations of the citizens of the state by executing people-oriented programmes.
Adeiza, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, particularly called on the APC-led government to give priority to the training and retraining of teachers, as part of designed efforts to improve the quality of education in the state.
However, Alhaji Zubairu Abdulsalami, the Publisher of ‘’The Lawmaker Magazine’’, tasked the Bello-administration on the need to entrench good governance in the state so as to garner the people’s goodwill.
His words: “What Kogi needs now is a government that will bring about economic prosperity and social development for the state and its people.’’
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Jamiu Yusuf, an economic analyst, advised the new government to evolve pragmatic programmes aimed at harnessing and exploiting the rich economic potential of the state, particularly in the rural areas.
Yusuf, who is also a politician, said that if the new administration was able to develop the informal sector of the state’s economy, it would consequently lay a solid foundation for the holistic development of the state.
He also urged the new administration to cooperate with the Federal Government in ongoing efforts to revive the Ajaokuta Steel Company and reactivate the moribund Itakpe Iron Ore Project.
“By doing this, Gov. Bello will facilitate efforts to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in the state,’’ he added.
A civil servant, Oricha Ahmed, commended the governor for his pledge to settle the salary arrears owed workers by the immediate-past administration.
He, nonetheless, urged the Bello-administration to transcend clearing the backlog of salary arrears of workers by looking into issues relating their stagnated promotion.
Ahmed moaned that most of the workers were not promoted in the last four years, adding that they did not also receive salary increments during the period.
He stressed that the unfortunate incident had somewhat diminished the workers’ zeal to give quality service delivery.
Nevertheless, Mr Habuh-Rajan Suleiman, the Vice-President, Kogi Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KOCCIMA), appealed to the new government to lay a solid foundation for the state’s industrialisation.
He stressed that the state had the potential to become industrialised, saying that the Bello-administration could initiate the industrialisation process by giving tangible attention to the development of micro-economic activities in the state.
He recalled that a blueprint was developed for the economic development of Kogi in 1991, adding that the document contained vital processes required in harnessing the abundant natural and human resources of the state for its industrialisation.
On health, Suleiman advised on the new government to place a high priority on the people’s health and wellbeing by improving the health care delivery infrastructure, particularly at the primary health care level.
“The state needs more rural health centres to handle the health care of people at the grassroots, while practical efforts should be made to equip tertiary health centres in the state to enable them to attend to referral health cases,’’ he said.
All the same, Rev. Frank Kato, a politician, called on the political class in the state to jettison their differences and cooperate with the new government so as enable it to achieve the goals of its programmes and policies.
Above all, analysts underscore the need for all the citizens of the state to give their unalloyed support to the Bello-administration in its efforts to expedite the socio-eocnomic development of Kogi and take the state to a greater height.