Staff Verification: Gov Bello And The ‘Gentiles’ Of Kogi PDP

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The description of members of the Kogi Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as gentiles came from a very senior staff of the state’s civil service. Ironically, this same person who took it personal with the opposition party in defense of the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello is a bonafide member of the group of people the PDP claim they are speaking for- the civil servants.

The level 12 officer in the state’s ministry of justice was reacting to a motion moved on Tuesday by a member of the sate House of Assembly representing Igalamela Odolu constituency, Elder Friday Sanni Makama. The motion sought for a directive, asking the review and screening committee of the recently concluded staff verification exercise to submit its report to the lawmakers within 24 hours.

In the motion titled, ‘Save The Soul Of Kogi Workers’, Makama said he was constrained to move the motion considering the overwhelming evidences of non-payment of state and local government workers in the state and the consuming suffering that was perpetually leading to high poverty status, disease, and death of their people.

The civil servant who is one of the workers Leadership Sunday sought their views on the plethora of attacks heaped on Governor Bello over the staff audit exercise as it affected them in reality said, “Don’t mind the PDP lawmakers in the House; they are the gentiles in the state who have sworn that the governor will not succeed in his bid to effect positive change in Kogi. They want the things to continue the old way so that they can continue to use ghost workers to sap the state dry of its lean financial resources”.

Indeed, Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, was some sort of theatre of verbal war in the week ending today. The political fireworks that greeted the report of the screening committee of the staff verification exercise was felt, even outside the state. The scenario was characterised by accusations and counter accusations. It was a bountiful harvest of tirades and verbal scud missiles to the extent that one could see them flying in the air like bullets.

At Tuesday’s plenary in the House, Makama claimed that the people had lost total confidence in the entire screening exercise, considering the complexities and complications that was deliberately, either by act of omission or commission, brought to mess the state up.  “In this circumstance, this house has a duty to salvage the people and the state from breakdown of law and order, and avoiding more suffering, diseases and deaths”, he added.

The lawmaker condemned the role played by Governor Bello’s aides on the issue at stake, particularly the chief of staff to the governor who granted an interview to channels television.

He said, “The response of the media aides to the governor did more harm than good. The protesting reaction of the state-owned tertiary institutions’ workers, particularly kogi polytechnic Lecturers who on Friday last week took to the street over non payment of their salaries, could be justified given their continued suffering and inability to cater for their families.

“The reaction of chief of staff to the governor, simply put is disturbing, not only to me but to this August assembly that represents the conscience of the people. His reaction at the channels television, describing the protest ‘as baseless and politically motivated’ is simply denying the agitation of the people and salary arrears upon which the bailout fund was accessed”.

Makama prayed that considering the prevailing circumstance of several plans of workers at all fold to embark on an indefinite strike, there was need for the house to resolve that the entire screening exercise be suspended and that the state government be enjoined to commence immediate payment of salaries to all civil servants.

After making his submissions, some other members of the House toed Makama’s line of argument. But ruling on the matter, the Speaker, Ahmed Imam said motions like this were bound to generate heat. He, however, directed the joint committee on establishment, judiciary, pension and local governments to study the report when submitted and report back in one week.

These were the views of lawmakers, mostly from the PDP extraction, that infuriated the senior staff of the state civil service, thus compelling him to describe them as gentiles, ‘atheists, heathens and unbelievers’ who were trying to instigate the good people of the state against their governor with political heresy.

But if the PDP lawmakers thought they could go away with this, then they were labouring under a delusion- not with the kind of media team Governor Bello has constituted for himself. The director general on media and publicity to the governor, Evangelist Kingsley Fanwo was just waiting on the other side of the divide with his own sling and stone, rolling and winding the weapon to gather the kind of momentum that would send the the PDP lawmakers to sleep. He, indeed, sent them to sleep with a combination of right media jabs and verbal upper cuts.

Fanwo said the state government understood the frustration of the PDP on the recently concluded staff verification exercise in the state. According to him, the party was jealous of the achievement of Governor Bello in repositioning the civil service, a feat, he said the PDP failed to achieve in 12 years.

His words: “We sympathize with the PDP over its  frustrations. First, the party was roundly defeated in the State during the last round of elections and now, the Governor has achieved a major feat of repositioning the civil service within his first year in office against the failure of PDP to achieve same in 12 years. To enlighten the PDP, the staff audit is not only about removing ghost workers from the payrolls, but to develop data for pension administration and electronic register. We are enthroning positive change in the service.

“Also, the PDP administrations between 2003 and 2015 supervised the infestation of the civil service with unprecedented corruption. Some of the party leaders loaded the government payrolls with names of their underage children and relatives.

“Nigerians should know that the PDP leaders are crying hoax now because the present administration just published the names of affected workers and we have many of their relations on the lists who were employed at the age of 10.

“Out of about 76,275 workers screened, 32,753 are on the problem lists and the Governor has opened a window of opportunity for them to prove the cases against them. PDP has suddenly lost their mathematics sense just a year after leaving power by claiming government sacked 70% of workers in the State. Their propaganda failed on arrival. We are focused on the anti-corruption war in our civil service.

“PDP almost destroyed the civil service. The last PDP owed workers over 20 months arrears and we have come in to clear that. Now, they are the advocates of the civil servants they almost killed. What an irony!”

Fanwo who urged the PDP to construct credible opposition to put the governor on his toes said the administration of Bello will not bulk under the weight of destructive criticism.

Earlier, at an interactive forum organized by a civil society Group, Equity Forum in Lokoja on Monday, Fanwo noted that Governor Bello expected corruption to fight back, as startling revelations from the staff verification exercise had exposed the rot in the system.

He said, “Popularity secured through the protection of corrupt practices and corrupt individuals can never last. Between such popularity and saving Kogi State from ruins, the Government of Kogi State has chosen the latter. We had wasted billions of state resources on people who did not contribute anything to our economy but used their ill-gotten salaries to develop their places of residence across the nation.

“Those who are due for retirement falsified their dates of birth to debar our youth from gaining employment. Governor Yahaya Bello has chosen to right the wrongs and save the state from economic perdition”, he added, noting that the state government was unperturbed by “sponsored media hype against the exercise”.

Meanwhile, some political analysts have agreed with the governor’s men that the stiff opposition against the state government on the staff audit has something to do with a kind of fear; perhaps, the fear of impending exposition of how PDP may have used ghost workers as conduit pipes to syphon monies meant for the civil service in the state.

The thinking is that even at the federal level, the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, had embarked on a rigorous screening exercise which unravelled apparitions in the federal civil service. Hundreds of thousands of ghost workers were identified through the exercise which heralded a thorough cleansing of the service. This was also the case in sister states like Niger where it was revealed that one civil servant alone was collecting salaries in about six different places.

To this effect, observers are wondering what injury does the PDP and its lawmakers stand to lose in the just concluded staff verification exercise. It is more so when Governor Bello has repeatedly said Kogi government will take care of affected workers through its social investment scheme to create prosperity in the state, while appealing to the people to cooperate with government in its drive to reposition the state.

Since he assumed office in January 2015, Bello has proven that he is one state governor who is passionate about effecting the change agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari in his state. It is not out of context when he repeated the exact words of the president that corruption was fighting back in his state.

How Bello intends to brave the odds and stand by his actions, based on the conviction that they are positive is what keen observers say they are waiting to see. But for a governor who has purposed in his heart to follow the footsteps of the leader at the centre, he must also learn from the bravery of his role model, though the role model (Buhari) in the instant case is an old soldier who has, over the years, developed thick skin to the prickings of armchair critics.

Political watchers of the bitter politics in Kogi aver that the governor could as well sustain the ambition and will power to develop himself to suit the course he is pursuing, which is eradicating corruption. Like Chinua Achebe’s proverbial Eneke the bird, Bello must also be on the wings, flying without perching, since men of today have learnt to shoot without missing.

Credits: Sam Egwu | Ledership


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