For 12 years, Kogi State did not participate in the nation’s Independence Day celebration for some inexplicable reasons. But that stopped this year as Governor Yahaya Bello of the state joined the rest of the country to mark the nation’s 56th Independence Anniversary, writes Yekini Jimoh
The celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Anniversary has come and gone, but the event was unique to the people of Kogi State, particularly students, who trooped out in their thousands to grace the occasion. The last time they savoured that experience was 12 years ago. That was in 2004, when Alhaji Ibrahim Idris held sway as governor of the state. Due to the political crisis that engulfed the state at the time, Idris, till he left office sometime in December 2011, did not encourage any national celebration.
Also, when the immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada came on board, he equally shunned May Day and Independence Day celebrations for reasons best known to him. But the present administration under the leadership of Alhaji Yahaya Bello took the bull by the horn, when he celebrated Workers Day in May this year and equally celebrated the Independence Day with the people a few days ago.
Some political analysts, who spoke with THISDAY, said it was a good step in the right direction. According to them, some pupils and students born 12 years ago, did not witness any Independence Day celebration.
Bello, who was delighted with the turnout of people during the Independence Day celebration, which took place at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, took his time to tell the people of the state, some of the problems confronting the nation and Kogi State in general.
According to him, Kogi and other states that make up the federation are not insulated from the malaise of bad leadership, which has truncated the aspirations of millions of Nigerians.
“It is the same story everywhere, replicated on different scales. Some have it bad, some have it worse, but every state has had its share of dream-killers masquerading as leaders.
“The sad state of the Nigerian nation is a dilemma, which presents both threat and opportunity. It is a threat if we allow things to continue the same way. On the other hand, it presents us with an incredible opportunity if we take the diagnosis of poor leadership and cure ourselves of it. To do that, we need to embrace new and better ways of doing things. Put simply, we need to change.
“I, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, I’m a change agent. I decided on change when I joined the campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari despite the danger. I decided on change when I ran for Governor of Kogi State despite the odds. I have decided on change in the way and manner my administration will run the affairs of Kogi State.
“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful, it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better,” he said.
Bello said missed opportunities in the state, and all over Nigeria for that matter, are traceable to poor and uninspiring leadership of the past, adding that now that they had identified the problem, it was time to look ahead.
“The easiest thing in life is to blame even as we keep making the same mistakes ourselves. The more excellent way is to hold those, who have done us wrong accountable for what they did in the past while taking responsibility for our own actions, making sure that all we do in the present leads to positive change in the future.
“Here, in Kogi State, and as part of our accountability project, we are empanelling a Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by a retired jurist of impeccable integrity to look into the management of our finances by previous stewards. Their terms of reference will date back to 2003 upwards to ensure sufficient scope.
“The Panel is not just to find what went wrong and recover what is missing or stolen but to assist us in fashioning institutionalised means of preventing a recurrence. We want to inculcate a tradition of preventing theft, not chasing thieves.”
On the staff screening and verification exercise, the governor said it has been particularly hard on everybody.
“Uncharitable folks imply it has not affected me in any way. They do not understand that a leader’s favorite meal is the approval of his people. My decision to forge ahead with the sanitisation of the Kogi State wage bill made me very unpopular at a time I needed to appear well-liked by you.
“Some thought I should let it wait till after the cases in court are disposed of. I refused because that would be cowardly and insincere. We must do what we believe is right, irrespective of the consequences. I stayed the course because I decided on change long ago. All the same, I will be very glad when that exercise is concluded and forgotten,” he stated.
He stressed that the Supreme Court of Nigeria decisively ended the election petitions which had trailed his administration even before he was sworn-in. According to him, the verdicts marked the defeat of colonising forces which had designs on Kogi State.
“They symbolise the independence of Kogi politics from the grip of external influences. Na God Win o! We thank God because it is all over. Of course, I am happy at the Supreme Court judgments, not only because the verdicts were all in my favour but also because our people will no longer have to troop to Abuja every few weeks to attend court hearings,” he said.
Bello noted that he had made many calls since the day of that final verdict urging everyone, who may have any grievance against his mandate to lay their agitations to rest.
“It is time for us to leave the past behind and lay hold on the future together. I invite all Kogites to close ranks with me, so we can take our state to the heights I know she can attain. We are better together,” he appealed.
Some thought I should let it wait till after the cases in court are disposed of. I refused because that would be cowardly and insincere. We must do what we believe is right, irrespective of the consequences. I stayed the course because I decided on change long ago. All the same, I will be very glad when that exercise is concluded and forgotten,” he stated