Monday Column By Emmanuel Yawe
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Ever since he made the surprise debut of emerging as the Kogi state governor in 2015, Yahaya Bello has not ceased to surprise Nigerian political pundits. Today with insecurity on top of the lips of everybody in Nigeria, the name Yahaya Bello has again began to resurface.
“Some of the measures taken by the government to tackle insecurity include clearing the highways of bushes, equipping security agencies, engagement of youths in vigilance groups and incorporation of hunters into anti-kidnapping squad,” the governor said in a recent speech.
Perhaps this is to underscore the point that provision of security is not rocket science or magic but the simple involvement of citizens in the delicate process through involvement of local government chairmen and traditional rulers.
“Upon my assumption of office of executive governor of Kogi, I saw it as a divine opportunity among others to rid the state of all crimes and criminality.
“To achieve this goal, we decided to take simple steps to frontally tackle crime in our society.”
In a world where Nigeria has been rated the third most insecure country after Afghanistan and Iran, any government in the country be it local, state or federal that does not understand it does not understand the business of governance in the first instance.
It has taken sometime for the country to agree with governor Yahaya Bello that such simple measures as he has taken in his turf could bring peace to a state. But such a reputable organisation like the Institute of Security and Strategic Studies has come around to appreciate the good security work he is doing in Kogi. Recently they singled him out of the thirty six state governors in the country and not only did they induct him into the Fellowship of the Institute but gave him its prestigious award as the Security Personality of the Year 2021.
At the investiture and award ceremony, the former Director General National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies NIPSS, Professor Ahmed Danfulani who spoke on the topic “Our National Security Predicaments: Implications for the current Democratic Order” he argued forcefully that national security could not be appreciated in state of fear and national uncertainty. He called for collective effort to project the national security and the Nigerian project.
For the youthful governor of Kogi, there could be no better recognition for what he had so far achieved in his turf and his wider vision for the whole country – Nigeria.
He is a man from Ebira a minority ethnic group even from the minority Kogi state with a relatively obscure background. His rise in Nigerian politics has been rather meteoric. His name is Yahaya Adoza Bello.
At 45, he is the youngest second term Governor of a state in Nigeria, against all odds. When he aspired to be Governor of Kogi in 2015, no one gave him the slimmest chance. In the APC gubernatorial primaries, he lost to the eventual winner, the late Prince Audu Abubakar. The election proper came and Prince Abubakar, a former Governor of the State, was coasting home to victory until death happened thus preventing him from being crowned Governor again by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
In the temporary impasse that followed, the leadership of the APC, acting rightly in accordance with the provisions of the electoral act resolved that Yahaya Bello, who came second in the primaries, should be the candidate of the party for the supplementary election.
In the election that followed, he defeated Captain Idris Wada, then incumbent Governor and candidate of the PDP. He went ahead to win all the legal challenges that followed his declaration by INEC as Governor up to the Supreme Court.
His first term as Governor was very stormy as stormy as his emergence as Governor.
He was faced with herculean changes. First, the civil service was populated mainly with ghost workers who earned fat salaries from the lean resources of the state even as they contributed nothing in return.
He reacted by not only prudently managing the resources of the state but by streamlining its workforce. His new measures, unpopular as they were with those who benefitted the fraud did not only shore up the internally generated revenue of the state beyond the parlous state it was before he assumed the reins of power but brought in other goodies. But Bello’s achievements in Kogi go far beyond the prudent management of its lean resources.
Let us go back to the issue of security where we started. Before his emergence as Governor, Kogi State was a safe haven for all kinds of criminals. Today, the story has changed drastically to the extent that the Governor has received awards like the one earlier mentioned.
Beyond revamping the economy Governor Bello has energized the people in a more basic and fundamental way. Kogites as they proudly call themselves have since the creation of the state in 1991 always elected politicians from one ethnic group of the state to rule them. It was as if the gubernatorial chair of the state was reserved for only one ethnic group.
The mere fact of the coming of Bello from an ethnic minority group has surprisingly changed all that. Today every ethnic group in Kogi sees itself as a stakeholder in the enterprise of building the state of ethnic harmony in Kogi.
But not everybody was happy with the new development of events. Getting a second term for the innovative Governor was a hard task. During the campaigns for a second term a Governor as proud as Ahmed el- Rufai had to kneel down in public and beg the electorate to vote and give him a second term. People listened and gave Bello a second term.
As pressure begins to mount on the youthful governor to run for the presidency of Nigeria, many have even began to compare him with President Barack Obama of the United States of America. For when America was broke and demoralized, the wise citizens of that great country decided to elect not a general or even a wise old Politician. They looked for a young fresher Senator born in the rather remote American Island of Hawai.
With the Audacity of Hope, such people argue, the Bello from Kogi will by 2023 similarly transform from the obscure Governor people thought he was, to President of Nigeria.