With the emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello as a candidate for the post of governor of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the deputy director, ‘Dare Odufowokan, reports on that performance debate, which the main opposition party, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) used as your campaign’s main advice, it will play an important role in deciding the final outcome of the November elections
The battle for control of Lugard Lodge, Kogi State Government House is being resolved. Following the outcome of the shadow elections of the two frontline political parties in the state, many experts describe the governor’s contest as a “two-horse race”. Before now, several opposition candidates in the Congress of Power of All Progressives (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were willing to take on the task of governing the central-northern state, even when the Current Governor Yahaya Bello, who is completing his first term, made it clear that he would seek another term in office.
While it lasted, all the candidates of the two main political parties, and many other parties, went around the state, selling their aspirations to the leaders and members of their party, demanding that the flag of their respective parties be given to them in November elections. . However, the parties turn again to the primaries for the November 16 poll. Finally, a few days ago, the era of long speeches was over. It was time for the two sides to choose their candidates. Within the two parts, there were frantic discussions on how to cast shadow surveys, but after all that was said and done, the exercises performed and the winners were declared.
For the APC, Governor Bello would have been the standard-bearer in the November governor’s election, as he would have defeated other candidates to win the ticket. He was declared the winner by the president of the electoral committee and by the governor of the state of Jigawa, Alhaji Muhammadu Badaru. The president of the committee had previously announced the registration of 3,838 delegates and a total of 3,596 delegates duly accredited by the committee. Bello won with 3,091 votes of advantage over Babatunde Irukera, who got 109 votes and others.
The primary election of the PDP produced the younger brother of the former immediate governor of the state, Engr. Musa Wada as his candidate. Wada got 748 votes, followed by Abubakar Idris with 710 votes, while his older brother, captain Idris Wada, took third place, while Senator Dino Melaye took fourth place. Voting was over and the grading of votes was in progress when the gunmen arrived on site around 01.45am on Wednesday and started shooting from different directions. A meeting between the electoral panel led by Governor Umar Fintiri and all the candidates agreed that the classification and counting should continue.
Speaking to journalists after being declared the winner, Governor Bello thanked the delegates for the trust placed in him to wave the party’s flag in the November 16 elections, making sure he would be proud to achieve victory for the party. Similarly, Wada, while appreciating his party for giving him the PDP ticket, assured them that he will defeat Bello and the APC in the general election. Therefore, the scenario seems ready for a clash, not only between the two politicians, but also between the Governor Bello and those who challenge his mandate for various reasons.
With all eyes on the state as the November election draws nearer, analysts say it is not going to be an easy political tussle for either side. While many believe Bello’s performance in his first term is not enough to hand him a fresh tenure, others feel the PDP in Kogi State has also not done enough in the last four years to convince the people of its readiness to offer them better governance. “It is not enough to say Bello has not performed and he must go; we are also concerned about the alternative being offered us. That is why the people of Kogi will think deeply before deciding this time,” Femi Kadiri of the Voters’ Initiative (VI) said.
Confident that it will return to power in the state soon, the PDP has expressed delight over the emergence of Bello as APC’s flag bearer for the November 16 governorship election. Kogi APC spokesman, Bode Ogunmola, said the decision of APC delegates to hand Governor Bello a second term ticket would make it easy for the opposition party to win the governorship election. The PDP claimed that a purported public resentment against Bello’s administration in the last three and half years would pave way for it to win the November election.
“It is a well-known fact that Governor Bello cannot win any local government, given his poor performance and the way and manner the resources of the state are being massively looted. His desperation to return is to save himself from going to prison over looted funds. That was why he had to spend hugely to get strong contenders disqualified. If he succeeds in fooling the leadership of his party and the delegates, we are confident that he cannot fool Kogi electorate who are victims of his monumental misgovernance,” he said.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, assured that the people of Kogi State are firm in the irreversible resolve to use every means available in a democracy to confront and vanquish APC at the November governorship election.
“The PDP only has pity for Yahaya Bello and the APC because our processes are still intact and nothing can sway our resolve as well as strong will by the people of Kogi State to kick them out of office in November,” Ologbodiyan said.
But Senator Smart Adeyemi, a former Kogi West senator, says the PDP will be roundly defeated by Bello, because the governor has performed better than his predecessors. According to him, Bello has been able to handle the issue of payment of salaries, despite the challenge facing governors across the country. Adeyemi, who was a chieftain of the PDP until recently, urged the opposition party to perish the thought of unseating Bello who he described as a performer. He added that the APC remains the preferred political party of the people of the state.
“There are many challenges that this government is facing, but be that as it may, I am of the view that Governor Bello has performed far better than previous administrations that I was somehow involved. This government thought of about one hundred boreholes to extreme remote areas. The second largest rice mill in Nigeria is located now in my senatorial district under Yahaya Edosa Bello. He built it from the scratch. It is about N4 billion project and we are saying that he has not done well,” the Senator said.
Also, Kingsley Fanwo, the Director-General of Media and Publicity of the governor, wants the PDP to forget about victory come November. “We are even stronger going into the November Governorship Election. The governor won’t talk. He believes in allowing his results speak for him. The governor will campaign with the work he has done since taking over the mantle of leadership in the confluence state,” Fanwo said. He added that delivering democracy dividends to the people would continue to remain the major campaign slogan of the governor and his party, the APC as the governorship election draws nearer.
“GYB is gradually redefining governance and politics. While others talk, he works and his work speaks for him. The naysayers said he was not popular and he defeated the opposition in the general elections like never before in the political history of our dear state. The August 29 governorship primaries in the state have again made a resounding attestation to his political credentials. In victory, he has remained humble. He has stretched an olive branch to all contestants in the primaries to join hands with him to deliver victory to the APC on November 16.”
CONTROVERSY OVER SCORECARD
No doubt, one issue that will be of importance to the people of the state as they go out to vote is how well the current administration has fared in the delivery of dividends of democracy to them. The scorecards of Governor Bello have remained controversial. And as the election draws closer, the two divides are shouting themselves hoarse in their bid to make the people of the state judge the governor as they want. Those who want him re-elected are saying he has performed well while those in the opposition describe him as a colossal failure.
The PDP governorship candidate, Wada, is one of those who strongly believe Governor Bello underperformed in his first term. While promising to run an all-inclusive government if elected, the PDP governorship candidate called on all those who contested with him, the members of the party and all Kogites at home and in the diaspora to join hands with him in taking the state out of the woods. Wada described the current situation in Kogi State as unacceptable. “It is time for Bello to start parking his things in readiness to vacate the Government House after the election,” he said.
Surprisingly, Bello’s deputy and fellow party man, Simon Achuba, feels Bello doesn’t deserve re-election as the governor was yet to complete a single meaningful project since he assumed office. “There is no meaningful project that has been brought to 100 percent completion since he took office. If he has just been able to accomplish a few and then say, ‘Oh, I am coming to yours. I am taking it one by one.’ It is understandable, but when you are not able to even accomplish one in four years, it makes no sense,” he said.
Achuba lamented that the changes promised by the APC failed to come to the people of Kogi in the last four years. “For everyone elected to the offices of governor, deputy governor or whatever position; one is expected to deliver on promises and on the wellbeing of the people and effect changes. These changes are not forthcoming in Kogi State. As deputy governor and one who has been part of successive governments, I have tried my best internally to ensure that the right things are done. And for that sake, I am hated, denied my rights and as a result, he (Bello) wants me off the earth.
“The second issue is that of payment of salaries to workers. If you are elected as governor, paying salaries to workers is not an achievement. It is the duty and responsibility of anyone who is in power to do so. As it is in Kogi today, paying salaries has become an achievement. The total sums of money that came to the coffers of Kogi State (Statutory allocation, Excess Crude Account and Value Added Tax, VAT) was N132 billion. The estimated total revenue to the state, that is, Internally Generated Revenue was N51 billion. The total monies that came to the local governments was N111 billion. When you put all these together, it will give you N294 billion,” Achuba explained.
But Governor Bello has said he has done well in his first term and therefore deserves another term. The governor said his detractors are those people who were benefiting from the old order in the state which his administration is gradually changing for better. He said the people of the state are happy with him, insisting that his government is up- to- date in the payment of salaries. He revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari gave him a bail out of about N30.8 billion to clear salary arrears of workers in the state.
“As regard the issue of news making the round that Kogi State is owing salaries, I want to categorical state that my two predecessors inherited salary arrears. It is a problem I inherited when I assumed office. But I want to announce to you today that Kogi does not owe any worker salary at all. We have been able to clear all workers salary and we are up to date. As a matter of fact, by August 29, we paid the salaries of August. That is to tell you that we are up to date as far as salary is concerned.
“The issue of us owing up to 38 months’ salary arrears before we cleared it was all false and lies. We did owe up to that, what we were owing at that time was between four to five months. As I speak with you now, Mr. President graciously approved bailout of N30.8 billion for us and our National Chairman helped me to facilitate the release and the fund which has been fully applied and salaries are cleared, including pension arrears. We do not owe any salary,” the governor said, expressing confidence that he will defeat the PDP in November.
Fanwo, while responding to some of the allegations against his principal, accused Achuba of working with the enemies of Governor Bello.
AN UMPIRE’S OPINION
Guild of Investigative Journalists in Nigeria (NGIJ) recently presented its Governance Assessment Report (GAR) after a month-long investigation and findings on Kogi State under the leadership of Alhaji Yahaya Bello. The report was presented to media practitioners at the Sheraton Luxury Hotel in Abuja. President of the guild, Wale Abideen, said in his opening remarks that the report was the product of a survey of various priority programmes, projects and activities of the under four years administration of Governor Yahaya Bello as well as the impact on the people of the state.
“Respondents to our questionnaire rated incumbent administration high in security, stating that crime rate has reduced drastically in the last three years. Likewise, the Police and other security agencies corroborated our respondents’ position by commending Governor Yahaya Bello for investing heavily to secure lives and properties of Kogi residents. While briefing NGIJ Team, the Police Commissioner in-charge of Kogi Command, Hakeem Busari, stated that Kogi being one of the most insecure and dreaded states with high rate of robbery, kidnapping, banditry and escalation of terrorism activities in the past, has become second safest state in Nigeria according to National Bureau of Statistics report,” the Guild claimed in its report.
The journalists were also quick to reveal that workers in Kogi State are unhappy with the state governor over his inability to pay workers’ salary added with the deplorable living standard in the state. The Guild said 71% of those assessed rated the governor as having performed dismally in the area of workers’ welfare. “While some social media commentators still believe the state government withholds several months of salary, NGIJ, discovered that genuine civil servants are being owed five months since May. Failure to pay up promptly still angers the state workforce as majority of them laments lack of money.”
The President was however quick to make it clear that they could not capture government’s recent offsetting of several months arrears of the state workers due to the period that covered the investigation.
“The overall findings of Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists assessment of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration through inferences from the questionnaires revealed that APC government in Kogi State has tackled insecurity, revamped agriculture sector, improved on healthcare services delivery, provided infrastructure in schools and increased Internally Generated Revenue of the state. But the inability of the governor to pay outstanding workers salary resulted to bad press and downplaying of Yahaya Bello’s achievements in other sectors,” Abideen said.