A Governor’s Thoughtless Gesture

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The one-day public holiday declared on Monday by the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in celebration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to the country was the height of executive indiscretion, writes. Yekini Jimoh

The Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, declared last Monday, August 21, as public holiday to mark the return of President Muhammadu Buhari after spending over three months in London for medical checkup. This development was however welcomed with mix feelings, considering the economic situation facing the state particularly, when a huge chunk of the civil servants and pensioners are yet to be paid in over 20 months.

Thus, on Monday last week, the economy of the state was literally paralysed as banks did not open to customers. Ministries in the state too were shut down even as medical services were also not available to people as a result of the public holiday. Some of the indigenes, who spoke with THISDAY noted that “while workers and pensioners were hungry, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Idris Asiru, was busy displaying affluence and organising what looks like fanfare as if we are a conquered generation.”

However, out of the 36 states of the federation, it was only Kogi that declared public holiday to honour President Buhari, when Katsina, the home state of the president did no such thing. Many therefore wondered why Kogi chose to be different.

According to a press statement by the Director General on Media and Publicity, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, the public holiday and thanksgiving day was declared by the governor for the safe return of President Buhari.

“The gesture is in line with the support of the Kogi people for the renaissance of our nation by Mr. President. We urge Kogites to also use the occasion of the Public Holiday to pray for Mr. President as he resumes his responsibilities of repositioning Nigeria.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Kogi State Chapter, a major opposition party in the state, however issued a press statement to that effect and described the action of the governor as an aberration.

The party, in a statement by Achadu Dickson, Director, Research and Documentation, lamented that while it was an acknowledged fact that governance in the state had drifted in the last 17 months, declaring a public holiday in the state was the height of lack and loss of ideas.

Achadu said while governance in the state has been brought to its lowest ebb, with workers owed salaries and pensions for as long as 17 months, the heavy indebtedness by the state to commercial banks to the tune of N35billion, with nothing to show in terms of infrastructure leaves much to be desired by the declaration of a public holiday.

While noting that as a party, the PDP shared in the joy of the health recovery of the president, and has always joined in the prayers for his quick recovery, the loss of man hours with the declaration of a public holiday was an “indication that we have reached the lowest ebb in terms of governance. The recent government action shows that we have entered a one chance administration in which the ship of state is heading to no direction.”

The PDP said rather than devote energy to pray for the president, citizens should pray for God to heal Kogi State, noting that the state had lost focus, and was losing the decency identifiable with serious states in the country.
Also reacting, Senator Dino Melaye representing Kogi West senatorial district blasted Bello for declaring Public Holiday to celebrate Buhari’s return to the country. Melaye, who condemned the act on a social media platform: ‘Positive thinker’, described Bello’s decision as hypocritical.

While expressing worries on the way Kogi State was being governed by the present administration, Melaye noted that the latest action further confirmed Bello’s gross incompetence and (that he is) outrageously incapable to lead his people.

According to him, “President Buhari must be disgusted with the juvenile and bootlicking attitude of the butter-head governor of Kogi State. Kastina State, the home state of our beloved president has not declared public holiday, why then is Yahaya Bello taking panadol for another man’s headache? We love our president in Kogi State no doubt. But to take hypocrisy to a legendary level is worrisome – further confirmation of Bello’s gross incompetence and outrageous incapacitation. Declaring pubic holiday will not stop you from going to prison. Pay civil servants and Pensioners to reduce your prison term. God bless Kogi State.”

The Igala Consultative Forum through its National Secretary, Sam Ugbede, also condemned in totality the sudden declaration of public holiday in Kogi for Buhari’s successful return back home.

“The ill-health of our president was of great concern to all Nigerians, and across all religions, and we all remain eternally grateful to God for answering our collective prayer, by granting our leader with abundant health. The Buhari we saw, we are all happy with but our surprise is the declaration of public holiday by the government of Kogi State suddenly, what is it for?

“He came back during the weekend, which is traditional public rest period, why extending it to Monday again, when Monday’s are usually busy day? We did not see any reason or meaning for such restriction. The lacuna is that this unthinkable decision is enough to cost Kogi economy colossal amount and the lives of innocent patients, who are scheduled for various medical services today.

“There is no how this accidental holiday will not cost someone somewhere in Kogi his/her life, don’t be surprised that more lives could go. We view this decision of the Kogi governor as immaturity of the highest order and uncalled for.

“Buhari was on sick holiday for about 104 days, more than same period our kogi was on holiday as the government under this man was brought to a halt. The activities in Kogi have been grounded for almost 18 months now, because since the beginning of this administration of Bello, nothing seems to be working.

“As we are talking, our citadel of leanings are under locks and keys, the civil service is in disarray, our economy is in the state of decadence and paralysis, our state is at the mercy of God, complete breakdown of law and order – lawlessness everywhere. The state is under siege by terrorists. The sudden declaration of public holiday by Yahaya Bello is an eye service and diversionary. He is only pretending to be the good boy of Aso Rock. This action is only meant to cover his tracks. He is only trying to cover the sun with palm tree leaves.

“Long before the president left the country, the governor had not been responding to people’s needs and yearnings. Workers are not being paid, despite the bailouts, Paris Club refunds and the constant statutory allocations to Kogi in billions, there is no development anywhere except the personal projects initiated by those of them in positions and funding it with government money.

“How many states declared holiday to celebrate the president’s safe arrival? Not even the home state of the president, Katsina, that is supposed to be the happiest people did, because they are his kith and kin. Each time Buhari is on holidays, especially weekends, he is always heading to Katsina to see his families and not Kogi State, same people who are supposed to declare fanfare did not declare public holiday.

“Kogi State has stopped work to organise party for the same man, who came back and has addressed the public, meaning partial resumption of work, but at the same time Kogi State is going on forced holiday. This is highly unthinkable. It depicts insensitivity and insensibility,” the group said.

The general view is that the decision by Bello to declare a one-day public holiday in honour of Buhari was ill-conceived. There was no basis for it and completely unrelated to the reality in the state, which is believed to have lost more than it had gained since Bello assumed office. Perhaps, the exuberant governor would learn from the knocks that attended his unsolicited gesture..