Kogi gov poll: Kinsmen’s rejection and Audu’s ghost, Bello’s headache?

As the people of Kogi state elect who governs them for the next four years on November 2, TOPE SUNDAY takes a look at some of the factors that may threaten the second term ambition of the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kogi state appears to be in disarray following the agitations by some of its members that the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who is a member of the party, should not be given second term ticket for his alleged poor performance.  

According to Bello’s critics, governance has taken a leave from Kogi since his emergence as the governor of the state. Also, they said, he fights many battles at a time, and has also neglected the late Abubakar Audu’s structure that gave power to him without much ado.

His emergence

Bello, a man in his early forties, can be described as a man of history. The period leading to his emergence as governor was enmeshed in constitutional logjam. Late Abubakar Audu, who was the APC’s governorship candidate, was coasting home to victory, but died before the election was concluded.

The vacuum created by Audu’s death paved the way for Bello, who was picked by the national leadership of the party at the expense of Hon. James Faleke, a running mate to the late Igbala prince.  

Faleke, as expected, objected to the party’s decision and approached the elections tribunal in the state, asking it to declare him governor-elect. While this lasted, the party had persuaded Faleke to retain his running mate position, which he turned down. His refusal to serve as Bello’s deputy and the subsequent legal tussles, according to the political observers, marked the beginning of Bello’s many battles.  

How Bello’s problems started

On assumption office as the governor that was sworn in without a deputy, the struggle for who becomes his deputy created a plethora of crises within the party as no member of the late Abubakar Audu was considered for the number two position in the Confluence state.  According to pundits, his choice of Hon Simon Achuba, a former deputy speaker of the House of Assembly as his deputy, instead of looking inwards and picking from the late Audu’s family, or structure, was an attempt to build a political dynasty for himself.

The governor was alleged to have said on assumption of office that he would not work with the old men and women, who are members of the party. Instead, the governor reportedly gave room for the youth, who are within his age bracket. This, analysts called ‘his political albatross,’ because those older men and women are grassroots politicians, who are closer to the people.

Also, he allegedly removed the Haddy Ametuo-led Kogi state APC executive. The Ametuo-led party executive was removed from office by the governor with the alleged backing of the former national chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun-Odigie, and replaced them with loyalists of the governor. The sacked executive committee is now in court to demand for its reinstatement.

In all, all these affected people, Blueprint Weekend gathered, have resolved that the governor will not get a second term ticket.

Civil servants and unpaid salaries

Across the country, Governor Yahaya Bello seems to be the most accused governor for allegedly not paying workers their salaries. According to reports emanating from the state, the governor owes about 38 months’ salary arrears.  

At the 7th state congress of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), recently, the state chairman, Comrade Onuh Edoka, and his counterpart in Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Ranti Ojo, broke silence over the pitiable condition of the state workers and declared that they are dying and still being owed between eight to 38 months salary arrears.

Edoka, who said the government had succeeded in pauperising the workers, recalled that a former NLC chairman in the state, Comrade Salami Ajanaun, died of an ailment because he had no money to treat himself, stressing that the same government refused to pay his pension and gratuities.

In the face of this, the elders of the state’s APC in a petition to President  

Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw support for the second term bid of Governor Yahaya Bello, also alleged that the governor despite his refusal to pay workers their salaries had received a total of N132 billion from the Federal Account since he came on board.  

The petition read in part: “For the past 38 months, including February 2019 Governor Yahaya Bello has not paid full salaries to the workers of Kogi State, despite the fact that the state received full allocation from Federation Account as detailed below: N132 billion from statutory allocation, excess crude and VAT; N51 billion as internally generated revenue; statutory allocations to local governments (N111 billion).  

“Total funds received by the state and local governments: N294 billion. The other funds received by the state are as follows: Bailout: N20billion; Paris Club refunds 1, 2, and 3: N19 billion; and refunds from the Federal Government for road construction by previous governments (N11 billion).

“The governor had conducted multiple staff screening for both the state and the local governments. And from the report of the screening, the monthly wage bill (state, local governments and pensions) at the inception of the administration stood at N5.8 billion. After screening, this figure reduced to N4.4 billion.

“From table above it is evidently clear that the total revenue received by the state government was more than enough to settle all salaries, pensions and gratuities with huge balance remaining for overhead costs and capital projects.

“It is very instructive to note that even without bailout and other funds received outside statutory allocation, Governor Yahaya Bello could have still paid all salaries including pensions without conducting multiple screening and inflicting pains on state and local government workers.”  

A civil servant, who did not give his name for the fear of being witch-hunted, said he is being owed 14 months’ salaries. The Grade Level 8 officer in one of the state’s parastatal, who hails from Kogi east, said, “Life is becoming unbearable for me and my wife. Now, we live at the mercy of our relatives to eat. But we have resolved that governor is not coming back.”

His kinsmen’s rejection

Unconfirmed reports have it that some sons and daughters of Ebira land in Kogi central district, where Governor Yahaya Bello hails from, have resolved to withdraw their support from him. While this was generating ripples, the recent interview granted by the highly revered Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji (Dr.) Ado Ibrahim, laid credence to the development in the town.

The monarch, in the interview with Daily Trust, stated that he had deviated from his normal character before he became the governor, adding that he (the monarch) did not know how to ‘sell’ him to his people.

He said: “There are so many issues, but only God can solve them. He is my son, so I can’t say much. All I can say is that God will help him to come back. When he comes back as governor he would have learnt more. Yes, I am praying for that.

“Well, he is 44 years now. Have I told you my relationship with him? My father gave him the title of Ohinoyi of Agassa. His father, Bello, is my cousin. The governor has a completely different notion of Ado Ibrahim. He knows nothing about my connection and what I did in the past.

“So, there is this issue of the boy not knowing what he should do because he has extremely wrong people around him. Bello is a nice young man and highly intelligent; that is why I recommended him at that time. The only person that could have been a better choice at that time but had no financial backing was the late secretary to Atiku. The boy is from Ihima here.

“People said I was supporting Bello because he is my cousin. Well, partly, that could be one reason. Two, he had money to do it, and that money is what has misled him so far. A good person should always put money aside and put reality in the front. Money should just be a palliative anytime you need it. For the assessment, I can’t say much, I can only talk about what people are saying and what I read in the papers.

“People talk about salaries not being paid. He is not the only person who hasn’t paid salaries. His relationship with Ebira people is a bit dented because he has more relationship with the Igala people, who are leading him in government. And they are the people I am now talking to so that they will have a change of mind and vote him back.”

Continuing, he said: “Honestly, they have the votes. All I am trying to do is to get them to give him another term, after that if they don’t need to see his face anymore they can seal his fate. Whatever term they want to give, I’m prepared to go to any length. With good terms, they can relate again.

“I’m really trying to get my people to support his second term, but I know that they don’t want to hear me say that. They are better people who can do it.

“The governor did not allow traditional rulers to advise him. I haven’t sat with him to advise him on issues that are required to stabilise the peace of the people. I think I should advise him on policy issues, but he gave more time to those who idolise him. He is enjoying that. That is why I cannot talk about his administration very much; I don’t know how he does it.

“Whatever I want to say is that my human relation with him should not be put to shame. I introduced him and favoured him in place of others. I did my own assessment of him at that time. He is a different thing today, as far as I’m concerned.”

In what appears as resemblance of Ohinoyi’s submission on Governor Bello, an indigene of Ebiraland, Bilal Jubrin, said he and his family had concluded that Governor Bello will not win his re-election.

He said: “What has he done to the Ebiraland? Even when the previous governors who were from Igalaland were ruling us, they brought development to our land. But, let him come and show us any completed road he had constructed in Ebiraland. For me, I have rejected him’’.

Audu’s ghost

Political pundits are of the opinion that the present political tussle Governor Bello is enmeshed in is not unconnected with his strained relationship with the late Abubakar Audu’s political structure, which he reportedly neglected.

Aside from the powerful forces in Abuja and in the top echelons of the APC, who are reportedly against the second term bid of Governor Bello, key members of the late Audu political structure in the state like Hon James Faleke and Mustapha Mona Audu, one of the sons of the late Audu, have also declared their respective intentions to replace the governor.

While Faleke has not publicly declared his intention to run for the governorship, his posters have flooded the national secretariat of the party in Abuja and some of the major towns in the state.

In a petition sent to President Buhari by the Kogi state APC Stakeholders Forum, re-echoed that the fact that people of the state did not vote for Governor Bello, adding that it was the late Audu that was loved and voted for the Kogi electorate.

The petition, which was signed by the convener of the Forum, Alex Kadiri, stated that: “Governor Yahaya Bello was never elected by the good people of Kogi state. The death of Abubakar Audu made it possible for Bello to be Kogi state governor. He has shown everyone that he lacks leadership abilities. He can’t fight for the rights and privileges of Kogi people.

“We request you to step down your support for the candidature of Governor Yahaya Bello for the forthcoming election in Kogi state. If the party fields him as a candidate, we are sure of losing the state to the opposition.”

Now that the primary election of APC in Kogi is around the corner, the fate of Governor Bello, according to political observers, is hanged on his people’s support and the Audu’s structure. But for his re-election, the civil servants and the Igala are the determinants. Will he survive the Audu’s ghost that is haunting him and other onslaughts against him? Only time will tell!

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