Yekini Jimoh, in Lokoja, looks at the fresh feuds in the Kogi State chapter of All Progressives Congress
The governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, is receiving intense bashing from members of his All Progressives Congress, who should ordinarily rally round his administration. Some political analysts attribute the crisis rocking the party to ego and personal interest of some individuals who feel the governor has shut them out of the system.
Considering how Bello emerged as the fourth executive governor of the state, those who were loyal to late Prince Abubakar Audu, particularly, the Chief James Faleke camp, still believe their mandate was stolen by the governor. But during the inauguration of Bello as governor, Senator Dino Melaye, the senator for Kogi West, was the Master of Ceremony on that occasion. Melaye had described Bello as the chosen one, saying whoever is fighting Bello is fighting God.
Today, the senator has joined forces with some members of APC from the state to fight the governor. They have accused the governor of lavishing N220 billion in one year. At a press conference in Abuja to appraise the state of affairs in the Confluence State, recently, the stakeholders alleged that in the last one year, the governor had brought “unprecedented hardship” to the people. The press conference, which was addressed by Melaye, was attended by the Kogi State chairman of APC, 20 out of the 35 state executive committee members of the party, local government party chairmen, Senator Alex Kadiri, former House of Representatives members, among other prominent party men and women.
They accused Bello of maladministration and high-handedness resulting in system failure in the education, security and economic sectors of the state.
Organisers of the press conference said the over N220 billion allegedly wasted by Bello in one yea “represents 13 months federal allocations to the state, N10 billion infrastructural development funds, N30 billion bailout fund, over N11 billion Parish Club excess refund. We also have the N16 billion refunded for Federal Government roads built by the past administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, N700 million ecological fund.
“All these above exclude an average of N600 million internally generated revenue monthly. Flowing from the above financial scenario.”
They issued a four-week ultimatum to the governor to reconcile the on-going staff audit in the state with the realities on the ground, pay civil servants, pensioners and others all their entitlements for the past one year. According to them, the N30 billion bailout fund is primarily meant for salary purposes while part of the N11.2 billion Paris Club refund was aimed at ameliorating the sufferings of the people.
Emissaries to Vice President
Faleke, who was the running mate of late Prince Abubakar Audu in the 2015 governorship election, was also at the Presidential Villa recently to see the acting president, Professor Yemi Osibajo, in connection with problems facing Kogi State. Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives, led a delegation of Kogi State indigenes to the Presidency to complain about what he called the suffering of Kogi People under Bello. The group comprised former ministers, former ambassadors, former National Assembly members and other stakeholders from the state. He said that the governor’s actions were inimical to the future of APC in the state.
Faleke told the vice president, “We came to the presidency to let the federal government know what is happening in Kogi State as regards the fortunes of the party. The way it is dwindling day by day as regards the civil servants, the welfare of the people and their relationship with the state government.
“We have come to let the presidency know so that when elections come and the party losses, no one is to be blamed. We want intervention from the federal government to find a way forward in this situation.
“The governor of the state should recognise those who work for the party and make the party to be successful. It is one thing to be victorious at the court level and another thing to carry the people along. I want to use this opportunity to urge the governor to carry the people along.
“This is the fifth time he is setting up a committee to review staff strength with so many screenings every day. People are dying. You ask people to come from the entire 21 local governments to Lokoja to present their documents; some of them are dying on road accident.”
Faleke added, “We get calls every day for welfare from civil servants, school children that their parents have not been paid for months. So, we want him to stop this because this is not the only way to stop ghost workers and it shouldn’t be the last. I’m not against eradication of ghost workers but it shouldn’t be done to the detriment of the people.”
However, Bello has dismissed the moves against him as part of a fight back by corrupt elements against his anti-corruption drive. His director-general on media and strategy, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said the government of Bello was poised to implement the recommendations of the Staff Verification Committee to further deepen his drive towards a disciplined and efficient civil service in the state.
“Popularity secured through the protection of corrupt practices and corrupt individuals can never last,” Fanwo stated, in a veiled reference to those opposing the governor. “Between such popularity and saving Kogi State from ruins, the government of Kogi State has chosen the latter.”
He quoted Bello as saying, “We had wasted billions of state resources on people who did not contribute anything to our economy but used their ill-gotten salaries to develop their places of residence across the nation.
“Those who are due for retirement falsified their dates of birth to debar our youth from gaining employment. I have chosen to right the wrongs and save the state from economic perdition.”
Fanwo said Bello was unperturbed by “sponsored media hype against the exercise“, saying “those who stole billions of naira through the ghost workers scam in Kogi are uncomfortable with government for not only exposing their nefarious acts, but blocking the pipes of thievery.
“I have written my name in gold for my courage to bed the cabal of ghost workers in Kogi State. It will be foolhardy to think corruption would not fight back, but this administration is capable of dealing with troublemakers.
“Those who chose violence instead of proving their cases with facts, surely, do not have genuine cases. However, established cases of fraud against the government and people of the state shall be prosecuted.”
An APC chieftain in the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi, has been trying to reunify the party. He has called on the governor, Melaye and other aggrieved members to embrace peace. Olafemi, a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and one-time acting governor, said in an interview with THISDAY, “The way out is that we still have elders like me that are not taking sides. Senator Dino Melaye is my man whom I worked for during his campaign, Alhaji Yahaya is my governor, I supported him the day the party presented him as replacement for late Prince Abubakar Audu as governor and I have remained with him.
“I’m still capable of bringing peace to APC but the governor, Dino Melaye and others must agree to peace.”
According to Olafemi, “The current issue in the state, which is verification of workers, did not start with Governor Bello neither with Captain Idris Wada, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris or Late Prince Abubakar Audu but the problem started when Kogi State was created.
“When Kogi State was created from old Kwara and Benue State there was no proper record. Workers flocked into the state with fake certificates, fake documents, particularly promotion letters and others so that they can have their way. Some people that are not working either in Kwara or Benue State forged appointment letters with high grade levels without proper documents to show for it. Such people later rose to the position of director in various ministries.”
It does not seem that the feuding parties are keen on acquiescing to the mediatory efforts of Olafemi. For now, the members of APC and the people of Kogi State can only hope that the crisis rocking the party in the state will end soon.