Bello’s Unending Challenges

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The All Progressive Congress, Kogi State Chapter, is yet to find a lasting solution to its many crises as members of the party are consistently at loggerheads with Governor Yahaya Bello. Yekini Jimoh writes

It is a fact that the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kogi State is currently in a serious crisis as fallout of the governorship election that ushered in Alhaji Yahaya Bello as governor of the state. Although there were series of court cases instigated by some aggrieved members of the party, Bello was able to win the cases. It is therefore curious that some top members of the party have abandoned the state because of the alleged ‘One-man show’ by the governor.

Chairman of the party in the state, Alhaji Haddi Ametuo, and other executive members of the party like Dr. Tom Ohikere and Hon. Duro Meseko, among others are presently in ‘exile’ following alleged threat to their lives. A former acting governor of the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi, has also fallen out with the governor for obvious reasons. In the same vein, Senator Dino Melaye, who was one time right-hand man of the governor, is also no more with him.

Between Bello and Dino
The crisis between Governor Bello and Senator Melaye was one that almost got out of hand if not for providence. Melaye, who during the inauguration of Bello sang victory songs to the governor, is now at loggerheads with him. The problem between the governor and Melaye was believed to have started when the governor constituted his cabinet without allowing Melaye any major input aside allegedly nominating the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Folashade Arike.

Melaye, on the other hand, felt that given his role during the electoral trials of the governor, he deserved to be treated well as a stakeholder. But the crisis that emanated thereof almost consumed the state.

Bello and the Kogi APC Exco
Aside Melaye, some aggrieved members of the party are also not on the same page with the governor over allegations that the governor appointed people that did work for the victory of the party. Chairman of the party, Ametuo, in an interaction with THISDAY alleged that the governor got the mandate through the grace of God after the demise of Abubakar Audu, the original candidate of the party, who was already coasting home to victory before his sudden death.

Among other things, he contended that all the party members, who worked and spent their resources during the election, had been left out by the governor and instead, brought on board inexperienced people as his political appointees. He also alleged that most of the appointments were made by the Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Edward Onoja, whom he claimed singlehandedly appointed 80 per cent of the governor’s appointees.

“This governor has appointed over 200 aides – from commissioners to SSAs and out of the 286, only 43 are original APC members. You can imagine that the rest are PDP. That is the crux of the matter,” he said, adding that over 80% of those in Bello’s cabinet were a mixture of the PDP and non-party members and insisted that the composition was not sustainable for APC’s continuity in 2019.

The Bello, Edward Partnership
Governor Bello and his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, remain inseparable because their relationship did not start with Bello’s governorship. THISDAY can say authoritatively that Edward had been a good friend of the governor before he ever dreamt of contesting the governorship of Kogi State. Sources also claimed that it was Onoja, who encouraged Bello to contest the governorship race and did everything possible to see that he was accepted before the party governorship primary. It is also believed that Bello came second during the primary because of the kind of campaign and strategy that Onoja put in place.

The Governor and the State Assembly
When the governor assumed office, the first step he took was to remove the then Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Momohjimoh Lawal of the PDP, which was in the majority then and replaced him with Hon. Umar Imam of the APC. The assembly crisis almost grounded the state until an understanding was reached by some stakeholders and which finally paved the way for Imam as speaker of the assembly. The governor also made sure that APC became the majority in the legislature as he won the heart of some PDP members, who later defected to APC.

Has Bello Foreclosed Reconciliation?
From all indications, Governor Bello may have foreclosed the possibility of reconciliation with the many tendencies in the state as he is believed to have identified some members with alleged dual characters, who hide under the reconciliation banner but do not mean well for the administration. Bello, who spoke recently during a stakeholders’ meeting with the people of Kogi Central against the backdrop of some party executives in the diaspora, who have been antagonising his administration, said, “People cannot offer us reconciliation with one hand and try to stab us in the back when we embrace them.”

Bello indicated that his administration has had the singular record of having the most malicious opposition in the history of the 4th Republic in Nigeria. He said even those who dreamt of becoming governor had developed unholy romance with the cup of hatred and bitterness. ‘It does not matter to them that Kogi State belongs to all of us. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred,’ he said.

He said the fortunate aspect was that their antagonism merely gives his government more reasons to work harder in order to prove them wrong.

“It does not matter to them that the fire they kindled among our tribes and zones today will burn them if they ever arrive at Lugard House in the future. They do not care that the young people they give arms today or indoctrinate with hate to make Kogi State ungovernable for Governor Yahaya Bello will become the security threats of their own period if they ever become governor.”

He explained further that these people get on the television or any other media to raise false alarm that Kogi State was overrun by kidnappers, armed robbers and other violent crimes at any slightest opportunity.

“It does not matter to them that the investor they scare away with their lies today is an employer of labour and a tax-payer they will not have in their own time, assuming God gives them the opportunity to lead the state. It is now a proven fact that they can have no joy in whatever does not paint Kogi State as the Hobbesian society of ‘continual fear, and danger of violent death…(where) life…(is) solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’

He said they do not rejoice at the roads they are building, even to their own country homes or share the joy of the communities at the many water projects his administration has commissioned, or those at several levels of completion.

“It pains them to hear of our electricity projects. Their heart is broken to hear Labour has called off their strikes and our children can go back to schools and our people can get attention in the hospitals. They want to die when they hear that we have concluded the Screening Exercise and have nearly completed payment of salaries and arrears, because it removes the only talking point they have against us.

“Unfortunately, what they have is a lifestyle disease, which no doctor can help them with unless they are willing to change. We will leave them to either purge their own consciences of evil motives, or continue to boil in their own hatred,” he noted.

The administration of Bello may be less than 17 months in office, it is believed to have shown the intention to serve Kogi well as he had consistently appealed to the people to judge his administration based on his performance, and not on the basis of malice. The truth, however, is that nothing is on the ground to confirm his intention, a development that critics see as validating the position of his opponents within and outside the government and party.