Yahaya Bello: Not too young to misrule

Kazeem Akintunde
Kazeem Akintunde
Yahaya Bello

Yahaya Adoza Bello became the Governor of Kogi State at the young age of 40. He presently holds the record as the youngest person to preside over a state since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999.

His emergence as Governor also has some form of divine intervention. The man that was actually elected Governor at the polls, Abubakar Audu, died before he could be sworn in. Bello was his replacement by his party, The All Progressive Congress (APC).

His being from a minority group in the state also gave his people, the Ebira, who have never produced a governor in the state, the feeling of pride and accomplishment. Understandably so, since the predominantly Igala- speaking people have been at the helm of power since August 27, 1991, when the state was created, and have produced three previous civilian governors. Feeling that he would do right to all the people of the state and ensure unparallel development of the state, it was ‘a new dawn’ for the Ebiras.

Deputy Governorship Candidate-elect alongside the late governor-elect, Audu, James Faleke, felt slighted by Bello’s nomination, vowing not to work with him and in the process, creating another record as the first person to decline taking an oath of office as Deputy Governor of a state in Nigeria.

Perhaps he had ominous signs that Bello was not someone he could work with and his governance would be a total disaster for the state.

Simon Achuna, who was chosen to replace Faleke, was eventually sworn in, while Faleke returned to Lagos State where he won election into the House of Representatives.

Just few months after he became Governor, Yahaya Bello became an emperor. The power and allure of the office got into his head. Perhaps he was too young to run. He had no reins over the glamour or dignity of the office he occupied.  He lacked empathy for his people, being neither a figure of a good leader, not even an average one. He did not understand the sine qua non of good governance.

For the eight years that he was in power, Yahaya Bello never bothered about the welfare of public servants in Kogi State. Kogi state workers, especially those at the local government level, didn’t enjoy the benefit of receiving their full salaries.

So, hardship, death and insecurity became their daily companion. And you dared not complain or raise a voice. You will either be embarrassed by his enforcers or you may lose one of your limbs, or worse. He elevated political thuggery to a new height in the state. It was therefore not surprising that the day he was leaving office, one of the state government workers was recorded thanking God for the end of his tyrannical rule. The video of that encounter has since gone viral on social media.

Yahaya Bello’s penchant for sycophancy is one of his greatest pitfalls. Bello is the kind of leader every swindler would yearn to consort with. He’s a man who likes to act contrary to his own sentiments. He likes to talk about the role of youth in good governance, yet he’s an example of a failed youth leader. He professed to hate dictatorship, yet, revved up a reign of terror across the state.

Many political opponents of Bello have different sad tales to tell of him. In a bid to stop Natasha Akpoti from winning election to the Senate, Bello ordered that all roads that led to her senatorial district should be excavated to prevent access to INEC officials getting to the area to conduct election thereby reducing her votes in her zone. He didn’t stop there. He owned up to the charade, claiming that the roads were destroyed to prevent terrorists from using it. This was done on the eve of a crucial presidential and parliamentary elections.

Apkoti survived several attacks on her person which Bello allegedly initiated all in his bid to stop her election but today, Apoti is in the Senate, thanks to the judiciary that restored her mandate. Yahaya Bello claimed to “believe in the synergy between law and order”, yet he always twisted the law in his favour. Yahaya Bello was not a leader that rewarded diligence and hard work. He only rewarded his staunch puppets who were always ready massage his ego. He was a leader who preferred sycophancy to liberal opinions.

Since the creation of Kogi state in 1991, no Governor has ever shown a conspicuous devotion to sycophancy than Yahaya Bello. Kogi state is unarguably one of the states with the lowest life expectancy, massive unemployment and highest rate of kidnapping, banditry and impunity. Yet, he could not rise up to the occasion and provide solutions.

Arrogant and devoid of any form of civility, Yahaya Bello embarrassed a senior government official at a function in Abuja few years ago. The programme was put together by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). Bello was invited to the function held at the NAF Conference Centre in Abuja, but when got to the venue, the programme was already on. While other guests on the high table stood up to welcome Bello, this particular lady did not, probably because she was there to represent her state Governor too. For that ‘effrontery’, when Yahaya Bello took the microphone to address the gathering, he took the lady to the cleaners, ‘teaching’ her how to show respect for constituted authority, right protocols and honouring leaders. He lost all modicum of respect that I had for him on that day.

In the twilight of his eight-year rule, Yahaya Bello toyed with the idea of running for President. His campaign poster dotted the major landscape in the country but due to the fact that he would have to resign as Governor to contest as he was sworn in in January 26 as a result of court cases that turned the Kogi governorship election to an off-season one, he had a rethink and jettisoned the idea. When the APC National Chairmanship position became vacant, the power-drunk Bello also considered himself worthy of the office but had to back out when the handwriting wasn’t looking that good.

In spite of the several billions of naira received from the federation account during his eight-year rule, there is little or nothing to show for it in the state. In addition to the ₦30 billion bailout fund given to the state government in 2019 by the federal government, and several intervention funds from the federal government, Bello still had to borrow from commercial banks on several occasions, yet Kogi State remains one of the least developed states in the country.

That Kogi state is still backward is because of Yahaya Bello and his kind, who found themselves in governance by chance. Now, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has invited the ‘White Lion’ as he likes to be called by his sycophant followers to come and explain how funds meant for the running of the state developed wings during his tenure. However, the ‘white lion’ appears to have become a ‘white squirrel’, running and hiding in caves and holes since his tenure ended. He was recently trailed and pinned down to his residence in Abuja by the Commission but was bailed out by his successor, Usman Ododo , who used his official car to ferry him out of a potential EFCC arrest. Now declared wanted by the EFCC,

Perhaps Yahaya Bello never imagined that a day like this would come. He has also been arraigned in court in absentia and the court has ruled that he could be served through his lawyers and through substituted services. It is hoped by all well-meaning Nigerians that he would have his days in court.

To the dismay of the general public, the EFCC, rather than focusing on ensuring Bello’s conviction for his misdeeds during trial before a competent judge, has also resorted to media trial. Information that should be presented in court are now leaked to the media. In the twilight of his administration, Yahaya Bello allegedly took $720,000 from Kogi State government coffers to pay in advance, school fees of his five children who are still in Grade 2 to Grade 8. That sum would cover the cost of his children’s education till 2035.

But when confronted with the fact, the school, American International School, Abuja, actually said that the sum of $845,852 had been paid in tuition since September 7, 2021, and promised to refund the sum of $720,910 to the anti-graft agency because it had deducted educational services already rendered. Yet, there are several pupils roaming the streets of Kogi State without access to basic education. Hundreds, if not thousands of Kogi families cannot afford the basic things of life like feeding and taking care of their own children.

The EFCC scored a major victory in the court of public opinion with their uncovering of Bello’s monumental corruption but I hope that they would be able to replicate that where it matters the most – in front of an impartial, competent judge – so that Yahaya Bello would get what he deserves for his sins against the people of Kogi state that were reduced to slaves under his tyrannical rule.

Bello, at 40, found himself in power but did not know what to do with it to positively turned the story of his people around. He unwittingly became a wrong metaphor for those clamouring for youths in governance. There is absolutely nothing wrong in having our young ones in politics and governance but what they intend to do with power should be uppermost in their minds. The Governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde is about treading the same dangerous path as he has vowed that no one above 50 would take over from him. Makinde should be told in clear terms that he does not have the power to determine who will take over from him as he is entitled to one vote like other indigenes and residents of Oyo State.

While he may have the power to influence who will emerge as the governorship candidate of his party the PDP, that is where his influence ends. Unless he is telling voters in the state that he will force his choice down the throats of the electorate, his under-50 rhetoric may not jell with the people.

How is he sure that the under-50 politician he is clamouring for would be a good representation for the youth and would improve the lot of the people of the state? Governance is not about the age of those leading, but what drives them. Who are they? What is their pedigree? What motivate them in life?

Yahaya Bello, with a first and second degree in Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University should have been a good testament of a young man burning with the desire to take the state out of poverty and onto the path to growth and development if he had used the opportunity given to him by God on a platter to make a positive statement for youth incursion into politics. But he was the exact opposite of what many expected of him.

We need to keep interrogating our leadership recruitment process as we seem to be churning out the worst among us as leaders. And what should we expect when the best among us shun politics due to the fact that it is a dirty game? We can only then sit back and watch as the worst in our midst take over and mess up our commonwealth. It is time for Nigerians to take charge of the process and ensure that those we prop up as leaders are those who know what to do with power for the benefit of the people and not those who only aspire for the office for their own selfish and personal aggrandisement.

See you next week.

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