Yahaya Bello the Pro-People Governor of Kogi State

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Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state is no stranger to Nigerians. His audacious approach to issues that many feared to dabble into stands him out a courageous leader.

Within one month after he assumed office in January 2016, Bello left no one in doubt that he is a fearless leader. It is on record that he began a thorough civil service reform within his first one month in office. 

It is worth mentioning that all civilian Governors before Bello carried out same exercise while in office. The difference, however, is that while others attempted to reduce the rot created by their respective administrations midway into their tenures, Bello embarked on a holistic reform to create a clean state for his and subsequent administrations. 

The rot in Kogi civil service has been a hydra-headed monster for decades. A very few civil servants had held the state by the jugular, fleecing the people’s commonwealth. They created the ghost workers system that diverted a large chunk of the state resources into few private pockets. It was common place in the state to see a level 7 officer driving fleets of cars and building estates while senior officers, even on level 15, struggle to survive. The scenario which lasted for decades created bad blood in the civil service, the engine room of the government. Sincere and dedicated civil servants were distraught, lost motivation and output dwindled badly.

Bello’s reform was a courageous pro-people policy.

Kogi is blessed with abundant and nearly inexhaustible mineral deposits. Shylock capitalists exploits these resources without recourse to host communities, the people and state. Illegal miners had field day across all twenty one local governments in the state. Those who established companies cornered few community leaders and ignored their community development agreements (CDA). The people are not happy but felt helpless. How can they confront these big men who have connections with the high and mighty in the country?

Bello took side with the people, again. He confronted the capitalists and made public questions past administrations desired to but couldn’t ask. Today, companies operating in Kogi state understand that they have to adhere to global best practices.

During the COVID -19 pandemic, Bello practically sacrificed himself and stood by the people. Despite threats and blackmail, Bello remained adamant and refused lock down the state. He suffered media attacks from health professionals and politicians hiding under the ‘menace’ to get at him but the people where are happy their Governor did not subject them to economic and psychological torture people endured in other states and countries.

In 2010, the Kogi state government reversed the appointment of school teachers across the state. Chief reason was that their employment did not follow due process. It sounded good but later became sour when people started complaining about lack of teachers in public schools. The administration failed to recruit teachers. Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) and other public spirited individuals started contributing money to employ teachers, qualified and unqualified, to bridge the gap. Despite these, many schools lack teachers for important subjects like mathematics, english and sciences. Parents, Academic staff union of secondary schools(ASUSS) and other citizens cried out to government to save the situation. Governor Yahaya Bello responded with dispatch and within months, the state government put mechanisms in place to recruit qualified teachers. Today, thousands of newly recruited teachers have been deployed to schools across the state to meet the yearnings of the people.

Governor Yahaya Bello is not the usual politician. Maybe that’s why some remain skeptical. He may look unassuming when it comes to politics but the truth is, Yahaya Bello is at rest when it it comes to politics and elections because he allows the people decide. I make bold to say that Yahaya Bello does not know most of his appointees before giving them the opportunity to serve. This can be fact-checked. The people of the state brought no less than 75% of his appointees. He does not play politics to suit himself but to toe the wishes and aspirations of the people.

When APC began sale of nomination forms, he gave some of his appointees the nod to join the governorship race. The appointees are from the three senatorial districts in the state. He gave them free hand to galvanize support from across the state while he quietly mined feedbacks from the people of the state about these aspirant. The emergence of Usman Ododo was a result of a referendum by the people of Kogi state. Yahaya Bello have no issues with any of the aspirants but the overriding wishes of the people prevailed.

The choice of Usman Ododo’s running mate, a primary school teacher, was another political decision anchored on the wishes of people. The combination of Ododo and Joel Salifu will be difficult to defeat, if not impossible. Both represents current realities in the state and showed the next administration is for people at the grassroots.

It is worth mentioning that Governor Yahaya Bello has been sensitive to almost all the salient issues that has been raging in the state, especially ethnicity, infrastructural deficits and insecurity. He listened to the people and act based on the wishes of Kogites.

– James Adeleke, a political analyst, writes from Lokoja.


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