Governor Yahaya Bello and the turmoil in Kogi, by Yemi Adebowale

Governor Yahaya Bello

I have spent quality time reading the statement by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba on the crisis-ridden Kogi State, following the removal of Alfa Imam as Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly. In the avowal released last week, Wabba chastised youthful Governor Yahaya Bello for being responsible for the crunch plaguing the state. Imam was removed as Speaker, after being badly battered and replaced by Mathew Kolawole.

The lawmaker who moved the motion for the probe of the Paris Club refund was battered by the thugs dispatched to disrupt proceedings in the House. The NLC President raised the alarm that the removal of Imam could weaken democratic institutions and lead to anarchy. “The offence of the former Speaker was that he had initiated a legislative process to look into the disbursements of the Paris Club refund following non-payment of salaries and pensions and the industrial tensions in its aftermath. The Kogi State mess represents the height of intolerance, insensitivity and impunity, and a precursor to dictatorship and anarchy and should be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians and apprehended by the Federal Government before the situation spins out of control,” Wabba remarked.

I concur with Wabba on this pronouncement. Kogi State has persistently been in the news for all the wrong reasons since the emergence of Bello as governor. Civil servants have been seething over huge unpaid salaries. Just few weeks back, there was a fatal rally involving Senator Dino Melaye and the governor over attempt to recall Dino. The ban of academic staff union at the Kogi State University by the governor is still generating controversy. In the case of Alfa’s removal, thugs, allegedly sponsored by the governor, invaded the Assembly, beating lawmakers and journalists. Governor Bello’s explanations on all these issues are not convincing. Honestly, I fully agree with Wabba that the developments in the Kogi State House of Assembly in particular and Kogi State in general, under Bello’s watch, are appalling. An urgent intervention by the founding fathers of this state has become pertinent before Kogi is turned into a theatre of war. The peace-loving people of this state must also stand up and be counted in the battle to checkmate Bello. 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.

The industrial disharmony in Kogi State aside, patriotic Nigerians should also be worried by the travail of a 32-year-old Kogi State civil servant, Johnson Musa, dragged before a Chief Magistrate in Lokoja for allegedly threatening and exposing the Abuja residence of Governor Bello. Musa, an indigene of Dekina Local Government Area of the state, was alleged to have taken aerial pictures of the governor’s Abuja residence and posted them on social media. He purportedly posted the pictures with the caption, “This building is owned by an individual in Kogi, where hunger is the first name, in less than one year.” The prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abaji from Kogi State Ministry of Justice, confirmed that Musa was arrested by men of the Department of State Services. The action, Abaji said, had put the governor and his family under threat and capable of causing potential harm to their property, urging the court to take cognisance of the offence of cyber-stalking against the accused. This is absurd. This young man stood up against corruption. Patriots and human rights lawyers must rise up to save citizen Musa from further humiliation.

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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. Bello 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 of salaries, pensions and gratuities. I doubt if this has been the case in Kogi State.

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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 Bello is genuinely interested in the progress of Kogi State, he must put aside his personal interest and reconcile with all aggrieved stakeholders. He sure knows that no meaningful development can take place in a chaotic environment. The welfare of civil servants must also be prioritised, 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.

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