While Kogi State civil servants and retirees wallow in pain and hunger, Governor Yahaya Bello is displaying irritating opulence. Few months back, the story was about his newly completed Abuja mansion. The arrest of a Kogi State civil servant, Johnson Musa, for exposing the Abuja house is still fresh in my memory. Musa was later dragged before a Chief Magistrate Court in Lokoja for allegedly threatening Bello and revealing his Abuja castle. This bold civil servant took the aerial pictures of the massive residence and posted them on social media, with the caption, “This building is owned by an individual in Kogi, where hunger is the first name, in less than one year.” Musa was arrested by men of the Department of State Services on the prompting of the state’s Ministry of Justice. The prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abaji from Kogi State Ministry of Justice, alluded to this. This young man stood up against corruption. I hope genuine patriots and human rights lawyers will rise and save citizen Musa from further humiliation.
Just last week, Governor Bello launched another state-of-the-art mansion, this time, in his home town of Okene. The posh building was inaugurated with pomp, during the Ekwechi festival in the town. The Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, was around to personally inaugurate Bello’s latest castle situated along Mahmoud Atta Street, GRA, Okene.
This talk about this governor being a successful businessman before his foray into politics is nonsensical. The pertinent question is: Why display so much opulence amid poverty? In this state, civil servants have been seething for almost two years over huge unpaid salaries. Many retirees have lost their lives waiting for gratuity and pension. Kogi State has persistently been in the news for all the wrong reasons since the emergence of Bello as governor. This young man is just not getting things right in Kogi, mainly because of his specious exuberance.
I doubt if any governor has inflicted this much pain on civil servants in particular and the people of the state in general. His endless staff audit has become a convenient alibi for owing salaries and pensions. The disbursements of bailout funds by this governor have also not been transparent. The instruction of the federal government was that 50 per cent of the fund should be used to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities. This has not been the case in Kogi State.
The Kogi chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress led by Onu Edoka has refused to allow Bello’s impunity to go unchallenged. Edoka remarked lately: “Workers in this state have suffered total hardship since the coming of the present administration. Over 70 per cent of workers cleared during the staff audit are yet to get salaries of between 17 and 20 months. Despite the huge money collected by the state government in the last 20 months, it is a pity that workers are not being paid by Bello.” He also wants Bello to explain to the people of the state how he spent N38 billion, comprising bailout funds, the first tranche of Paris Club refund (N12 billion) and the second tranche (N6 billion).
If the state’s wage bill is about N2.9 billion, as confirmed by this governor, then N38 billion is more than enough to pay the salaries of these workers for 12 months. This is aside Kogi’s monthly allocation from the federation account. Bello has a lot of questions to answer about Kogi’s finances. The NLC must continue to pile pressure on him until he confesses.
I am particularly pained by the persistent mess in Kogi because Governor Bello ought to be representing the youths who are “Not Too Young to Run.” At 42, Bello is the youngest governor in Nigeria. I was expecting him to prove to cynics that Nigerian youths are capable of managing sensitive political positions. But the reverse has been the case. This young man in Kogi State has not fared well. Today, I am urging youthful Bello to deeply reflect on the numerous crunches bedeviling Kogi State and strive to change his style of leadership. If he is genuinely interested in the progress of Kogi State, he must prioritise the welfare of civil servants and pensioners, because this is a “civil servant” state. It is a shame that the huge bailout funds and Paris Club refunds were not transparently utilised by Bello to ameliorate the suffering of the civil servants. This governor must urgently make amends to reduce tension in Kogi State.
The peace-loving people of this state must stand up and be counted in the battle to checkmate Bello. This is clearly not the change Nigerians voted for. They should not be under the delusion that the debacle in the state will simply vanish with time. It will be a risky and criminally-negligent assumption.
Credits: Yemi Adebowale | Thisday