The Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, last week, visited his country home for the first time as governor. It was no less a deserved break from the crisis that presently defines the state, writes Yekini Jimoh
On April 2, history was made in Kogi State, when Governor Yahaya Bello of the state, for the first time since he was elected visited his country home. The event was no less historic because since the creation of the state over 30 years ago, it was the first time a minority tribe was elected as governor of the state. The first time an Ebira person was elected was in 1979, in the old Kwara State, when the late Adamu Attah under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) became the first civilian governor of the old Kwara State.
Therefore, the election of Bello was no less significant, especially for the people of Ebira land, whose son had been asked to head the affairs of the state after many years of denial. The people trooped out in their thousands to grace the occasion, organised by the chairmen of the five local government councils in the Kogi central senatorial district of the state.
All the traditional rulers, politicians, supporters and members of all the political parties in Kogi central graced the occasion. The roll call too was of who is who in Ebira land and in the diaspora. It did not end there, other Kogi indigenes, the Igalas and the Okuns, Nupes, the Oworo, the Kakandas, the Igbos and the Hausas were present, pointing to the fact that the event was more than a mere reception.
The event which took place at the Ohinoyi Civic Center in Okene has been described as epochal in the life of the people of Kogi central by the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim.
Former chairman of Okene Local Government Council, Alhaji Nasiru Abdullahi Soso, said “I was Okene’s Local Government chairman 25 years earlier, now a politician and community leader. With unity among the Ebiras, we give gratitude to God for his (Bello’s) emergence. It has been our desire for some time now and this time, God decided to give it to us.
“On the backwardness of the state, I will say he has started well by recognising all the ethnic groups in the three senatorial districts. He is trying to bring equity and balancing in the administration of the state. Our hope is that he would continue in this vein so that at the end of the day, every Kogi indigene will be happy that the governor has brought a serious change in the administration of Kogi State.”
However, addressing the people, Bello said there was a passion to life in Okene, which endears it to anyone who is fortunate to be born, raised or live in it. For a true Okene person, even if he is not Ebira, that passion cannot be found anywhere else.
“I know what Charles Dickens, the great English writer meant when he said ‘…every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.’ My search for self-actualisation may have taken me to distant lands and nearby places but Okene is always home. These mountains, these valleys, these great undulating terrains, are full of strong memories for me. My heart is here.”
He also agreed with Joseph Conrad’s statement that “We wander…over the face of the earth, the illustrious and the obscure, earning…our fame, our money, or only a crust of bread; but it seems to me that for each of us going home must be like going to render an account.”
Bello said on December 6, 2015, shortly after he emerged Governor-elect, “I returned home to you so we could celebrate and thank the Almighty together. Today, I feel like I have come home to render an account of my stewardship of Kogi State, her people and her resources in the 2 months and 5 days I have served as governor.”
Governor Bello noted that he met a Kogi State that was severely challenged in every way imaginable. Civil Servants were being owed months of salaries, the debt burden was high, the Treasury was empty, and security across the state had deteriorated. Infrastructure deficit or no infrastructure at all was the norm, among many other challenges. “The reality on the ground everywhere was enough to discourage anyone. Thank God we were prepared.”
Continuing, he posited that the first thing they realised was that Kogi State would not tolerate excuses, so they got down to work. “I am glad to report that some of the innovations and solutions we deployed to achieve results, especially the Quick-Wins, are already paying off handsomely. Others will take a little more time to mature.
“We have started cleaning up the Civil Service. You will not believe the level of subversion of the state’s loyal workforce that our Screening Team has uncovered. We found one person putting as many as 300 ghost-workers on the payroll of a Local Government somewhere. And he is just one of many.”
Bello noted that the temptation to use the money available for other things was great, but they have chosen to prioritise “the welfare of our workers. In that regard, they have paid two salaries in less than two months. We paid the first batch of salaries across board and without asking too many questions even though we knew the nominal rolls were compromised. This was to help actual workers, who needed money to handle their responsibilities
“The second batch we paid with the personal guarantee of the Head of each MDA because we reasoned that change begins with each of us, and a leader should know those working under his immediate supervision. By the time we conclude the Screening, it is our intention that only actual workers will be taking salaries from the State. We will also let the Law take its course with those suspected of putting ghost workers into the system.”
In the area of infrastructure development, the governor said they have started repairing some critical roads and drainages “to reduce the adverse impact of the rainy season on our people,” adding that Okene and environs are some of the beneficiaries so far.
“We have refurbished and operationalised three Health Care Centres across the state within these same two months. These interventions are obviously Quick-Wins,” he stated, adding that his Administration will definitely touch every part of Ebiraland.
“Ebiraland has lost many colossal leaders in recent times to death, both through natural incidents and in tragic accidents. The list reads like a Who-is-Who in Ebiraland. Great men like Ibrahim Attah, Sanni Omolori, Senator A.T Ahmed, Usman Ovatemi, Adamu Attah, Musa Etudaiye, John Lawal, Shuaibu Omoyayi, and others. Their passing is a great loss to our land. I condole with the Ebira nation, and their immediate families. Their deaths should also remind us that we cannot be losing people through uncontrollable circumstances, and be losing others through entirely preventable crises,” he said.
On the frequent crisis in Ebira land, Bello said he feared that with the pace of intertribal hostilities and external aggressors, a generation of Ebira has arisen who believe this attribute means they could not forgive their brothers, when they wrong one another or that they must fight themselves at the slightest provocation, “otherwise, how do you explain the frequent unrests in Okene, and Ebiraland?”
He therefore called on the People to work with his administration to reassure the rest of the People in Kogi that Ebira People can be both gracious and competent in leadership.
“I am here today to say it is in the best interests of the Ebira to let peace prevail among ourselves. It is only in the atmosphere of peace that our acumen and enterprise will find the most forceful expression, leading to more prosperity in our Land. We are working round the clock to improve the parlous security situation we met.
“I sound a warning here to those, who provoke unrest in Okene, or elsewhere in Ebiraland. I also warn those who will allow themselves to be provoked. Remember that even though I am your kin I am also the Governor and Chief Security Officer of Kogi State. I will not hesitate to wield the big stick even against my own family members if they threaten the peace or security of any person or part of Kogi State,” he warned.
He said every person across Kogi State will be well-advised not to break the law. “If you do, I will ensure that the law is merciless in return. I vowed to keep the people of this state safe. I will do so. For those who have chosen a life of crime, especially violent crimes, I guarantee them it is the wrong choice.
“My Administration and the Security Outfits are designing unusual modalities to checkmate crimes and criminals across Kogi State. We are working hard and smart to make Kogi crime-free. I remind every robber, kidnapper and other criminal types as well as those who aid and abet them that there is no Statute of Limitation on crimes. Criminals are therefore advised in their own best interests to move out of Kogi State with all haste. We are coming for you, and rest assured, we will get you” he charged.
The governor, who quoted President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that the president was one man he considered a mentor and would follow without question as his dignity and honesty have become his aspiration.
“Today, I want to quote him extensively again, and while interchanging ‘Nigeria’ with ‘Kogi State’, I hereby adopt these words of his as my own: I am a Nigerian and Nigeria is my country. I have no place else on earth to call home except Nigeria. If Nigeria fails, I fail. If Nigeria succeeds, I will be exalted among the nations. I must therefore do whatever it takes, beyond the limits of my natural abilities, to ensure this Nigeria does not fail. I will do my bit and ensure everyone else around me do theirs.
“I will not be an agent of division or subversion, because in so doing I hurt not only others but myself. I will support my government to enable them have the courage to always do what is right, and where I feel they are failing, I will make my voice heard, not to ridicule or abuse, but to proffer better alternatives
“I believe that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, and I also believe that the pains I feel today are sacrifices being made for Nigeria to rise again because only God anoints leaders and Nigeria is a blessed country…this is my stand, and may God give me the courage to always stand for what is right at all times. Amen.”
The governor noted that he needed his people to succeed in this sacred trust that God has committed into his hands as Governor of Kogi State.
“If we are not united, how can we expect Kogi State to be united under my leadership? If every Ebira Person does what is right as a Nigerian and a Kogite, it will create a critical mass of right-acting citizens and influence others to start acting the same way. In time, our state will become a model for others to emulate
“It is a great pleasure to be here today and to share this quality time with you. I have spoken my mind here because I cannot play politics with my own kindred. The incidents of the past in which deserving sons of Ebiraland lost in the field of contest to others because of clannish interests were painful and must never be repeated. I will promote the collective greatness of one indivisible Anebira over any clan or parochial interest. We are strongest together,” he promised.
He, therefore, saluted His Majesty, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim, Ohinoyi of Ebiraland and Vice Chair of the Kogi State Council of Traditional Leaders, saying his hospitality has been nothing if not Royal.
The Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, earlier while receiving the governor in his palace had solicited the co-operation and support for the governor to enable him deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
The royal father, who emphasised the need for peaceful co-existence of the people irrespective of their tribes and religions pointed out that crises cannot in any way benefit the state.
“I am appealing to my people and indeed the entire people of the state to let peace prevail among ourselves. It is only in the atmosphere of peace that we can see and enjoy more dividends of democracy,” he said.
With this acceptability somewhat, the people of the state hope that the governor should be broad-minded and see Kogi State as his constituency, especially for the purpose of development, peace and unity. The only legacy he could leave behind is that Kogi is for everybody.
The election of Bello was no less significant, especially for the people of Ebira land, whose son had been asked to head the affairs of the state after many years of denial. The people trooped out in their thousands to grace the occasion, organised by the chairmen of the five local government councils in the Kogi central senatorial district of the state