Hoodwinked to Accept an Awkward Trip

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Yekini Jimoh writes that traditional rulers in Kogi State have diminished themselves by allowing Governor Yahaya Bello to coerce them into visiting the Aso Rock Villa to endorse him for a second term in office before President Muhammadu Buhari

It is no more news that the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello led some first class traditional rulers from the state to Aso Rock. His mission was to have the traditional rulers endorse him for a second term before President Muhammadu Buhari. In a state that is struggling to fulfil its statutory salary and other emoluments obligation to employees of government, the trip was said to cost several millions of Naira which includes hotel accommodation, fueling of cars and honoraria to the traditional rulers.

Though the royal message bearers could not be said to have carried the yearnings and aspiration of Kogites, but not a few are happy that the journey was concluded without any mishap, which would have led to a bigger scandal.

No doubt, all the statements about Bello’s purported achievements were contrived to humour the governor and confuse the president, but we hope Buhari was not hoodwinked.

We hear that the opportunity was used to present other urgent matters concerning Kogi to the President. However, the thinking in many influential quarters is that the hand of Bello should not be strengthened by allowing him to choose who represents Kogi in the Federal Executive Council. The Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria must disburse Kogi’s bailout balance t Bello. Is it now that the governor is waking up to demand presidential approval for rail project and donation for agricultural funds when these have already been carried out without his request? These are things that were expected of Bello on assumption of office, not when it’s close to election, ending his tenure.

Going to the Aso Rock Villa with a retinue of royal fathers is laughable. It exposes the governor for who he really is, one lacking in imagination. Is the strategy deployed by other governors? Only the idle and the unresourceful governor has the time to mobilise traditional rulers from their domain to waste precious moments in a bid to lobby the president for a governor who has very little respect for them. Bello is only interested in using the royal fathers to achieve an end, nothing more.

According to the speech of the Royal Fathers, “Unlike in the past, where insecurity was high with vices such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and other forms of crimes going unabated, today under Bello, the tide has changed. We sleep with our two eyes closed. As custodians of culture and tradition with many subjects under us, appointed by God Almighty as his representative on earth, if we do not speak without fear or favor, that is tantamount to miscarriage of responsibilities on our people.

“As fathers domiciled at home, knowing the past and current realities, we are coming under one roof to demand in endorsement for His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello to consolidate for re-election. The work he has started is with a foundation, the type we have never witnessed in kogi State before. He has done well with infrastructural development within the state. Roads which were abandoned for many years under different leaders have been reconnected back to the grid for business.”

Apparently, the Kogi kings were under compulsion to speak in that manner. Certainly, they could not have been talking about the same Kogi we all live in. Frequent violence resulting from activities of cult groups at the state university in Anyigba and Idah threatens the existence of the communities every day. Throughout the current administration, it is a dubious claim to say that roads have been constructed to link local government areas and senatorial districts.

Bello has succeeded in putting the integrity of royal fathers in Kogi to question. Their expected neutral position has been challenged as a result of this visit that the governor coerced them to undertake. How will they counsel or receive other candidates both within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when they clearly opted for Bello?

By this action, other aspirants to the office of the governor should not bother to consult the traditional rulers, who, under the right circumstance should be father to all. Seeking their blessing and paying homage to them cannot be followed through even on a perfunctory level. Both the governorship candidate who embarks on such a visit and the royal father in question will be placed in an awkward situation, except we lean on deceit.

The royal father cannot deny the reality on ground. Stipends due to them have been denied for several months. Non-payment workers’ salaries and pension is known to everyone. Infrastructural deficit is a fact Kogites live with. The reality of bad governance is everywhere, affecting the royal fathers and their subjects. Intimidation, harassment and coercion are the order of the day, as well. Poverty and hunger is have spiraled in uncontrollable dimension in the state; vibrating or oscillating everywhere, in our homes, on the street, in our places of work and in our day-to-day activities.

For how long shall we continue to live in sin, and ask grace to abound?

Reacting to the visit of the royal fathers, the Senator Dino Melaye, Founder, Anti-corruption Network, described them as mere local government employees. He tweeted, “The Kogi State traditional rulers who visited Aso Rock are not delegates of any political party, they are mere local government employees. My respect to those who refuse to feast with the king Kogi Koya and we shall overcome King Pharaoh.”

An aspirant for the Kogi state governorship election on the platform of the APC, Prince Mustapha Audu, called on Governor Yahaya Bello, to focus on his responsibilities as the governor of the state. Reacting to the endorsement of Bello by some Kogi traditional rulers at the Presidential Villa, he said the governor cannot be saved due to his non-performance in the state.

Audu whose late father and former governor of the state, Abubakar Audu, died in November 2015 before the announcement of governorship election results, said the traditional rulers do not represent the people of Kogi State.

He described the traditional leaders endorsement of Bello as a display of poverty, Audu said, they had no business seeking the support of President Muhammadu Buhari for Bello at the Presidential Villa.

According to Audu, “That was not necessary. We do not believe that the traditional rulers who were at the Villa are representatives of our people or Kogi state. That is the truth and we have to be honest with ourselves. These rulers are setting a very bad example. They are showing us that their pockets are more important than their people. Kogi is a state where civil servants are committing suicide. People are putting ropes round their necks and dying.”

He also called on the governor to desist from running to Abuja all the time but should focus on leading the people of the state right.

“Bello should stop running to the president or from pillar-to-post because it is not the president that will save him,” Audu said.

“Please go back home and work. Leave Abuja. You are not the Minister of the FCT. You are the Governor of Kogi state. Face Kogi and work. The road from Abuja to Kogi is an eyesore and the excuse they give is that it is a Federal Road. Kogi is the dirtiest state in the country. If you cannot work, just leave. We are not after anyone. Kogi is at a tipping point. We must not lose Kogi state. We must put our best foot forward. We are ready to forgive the governor and carry him along because he is our constituent but he can no longer be governor because he is ill-prepared,” Audu concluded.

In the same vain, another governorship aspirant on the platform of the APC, (APC), Maj. General Patrick Ademu Akpa (rtd), leading ‘The Hope Agenda Team’ called on all political actors, particularly those in power to stop blackmailing Kogi royal fathers.

He said, “understand the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in relation to the powers of the executives over the traditional institutions.”

He, however, said the purpose is to allow the Royal Fathers the time to carry out their duties as custodians of tradition and not to take undue advantage of the constitution to box them to a very tight corner.

The statement read in part, “Great Kogites, home and abroad, ‘The Hope Agenda Team’ is saying all hope is not lost if only we can consciously readjust our mindset from the way the perpetrators want us to think. It is a deliberate design to use the revered traditional institution of our people for their selfish political interest even against the will of the custodians. However, the people always win in a situation like this if only we can slow down on trading blames.

He called on all the people of Kogi State to be wary of such drama as many will still unfold, saying that If the people focus on the goal, victory is assured, adding that the enemies of the state will keep distracting them until November.

“I appeal to us take it easy on our royal fathers but pay serious attention to the intention of those who blackmail them into doing the things they do as election is fast approaching. We have endured enough suffering, we must be very watchful not to be distracted.

“Let me note here clearly that our royal fathers visiting the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is not a crime but it should not be politicized because our royal fathers made some political requests on behalf of the incumbent governor. I want to ask President Buhari to grant all the people orientated requests made to him by our royal fathers and leave all the political matters to our dear party, the APC and the good people of Kogi state to determine through democratic processes.”

According to him, the greatest endorsement comes from the ordinary people and not a sponsored set in the society. He said, “I am convinced that all Kogites have made up their mind already and this drama would not change their opinion as regards the November, 2019 gubernatorial election in Kogi State. I am with you, to lead the state to a place of hope where all Kogites (royal fathers and ordinary people) can be in control of their destiny again. Let’s quickly understand the manipulations and rise above this pettiness. Democracy is purely about the people because in their hands is the power,” he maintained.

However, Bello has continued to boost that no one can stop his re-election for another four years in office.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja, he said that he rebuilt the APC in Kogi state after the death of former governor Prince Abubakar Audu. He said proudly that his re-election will be a landslide victory in November. He said the APC members at Kogi State House of Assembly, House of Representatives and two out of the three Senators representing Kogi state in the Senate were a reflection of his work on the party.

“I am the governor today and In sha Allah, l will return as the governor for another four years, after the November 16 election. As for the ticket, the analogy is that the tenant cannot send the landlord out of his house,” Bello told State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Anytime, any day, we will win elections in a landslide. That l am going to win in the primaries is given by the grace of God, by whichever means, direct or indirect.”

“You know in Kogi, politics is the loudest, so people must make noise and you can’t stop that. l am very good with my party from the local government to the national level,” Bello said.

Bello, who dismissed insinuations that APC will not give him the ticket to run for the second term, said “They (critics) know that l am the leader of the party in my state. In the November governorship election, we are not just talking of winning, we are looking at the margin. The margin is going to be such that whoever comes far second, will be discouraged to go to court.”