Governor Yahaya Bello might not have been a household name in Kogi politics before he ventured into its murky waters. He was not the most preferred in the 2015 governorship election either. But I have witnessed enough to say that destiny has brought him on board to unleash his governance wizardry unknown to the people of the state.
Despite the initial hullabaloo and fierce criticisms by many, he surmounted the challenges with every passing day. Like every great leader, he learnt the ropes very quickly.
Some of us were very sceptical about the capacity of his New Direction team, especially with the controversy that ushered in his tenure. Now, looking back, and as the end of his second tenure approaches, it is very safe to say that the inclusion of goal-getting, young energetic men and women into the administration, in addition to Governor Bello’s focus on performance rather than noise, has helped to put Kogi State, shoulder to shoulder, with those perceived as strong states.
Even though politicians and critics have continued to hold on to past propaganda of alleged non-performance by the Governor, it is not hard for people to see the frequent verifiable firsts that Kogi State has recorded among all states in Nigeria.
For instance, in spite of the fact that the state has been adjudged one of the safest in the country under the current administration, some critics, who themselves, couldn’t sleep with their eyes closed in the past, and can snore at night, currently, are still holding on to the propaganda of violence and insecurity in the state.
If Governor Yahaya Bello could merit a presidential award for security out of the 36 states of the Federation, those in this category may need to look for another point to sell.
On this never-ending issue of salaries, it is pertinent to lay the facts bare for posterity’s sake. Many of us realised a bit late that he actually set out to create an efficient civil service and he did just that. The work of this more efficient civil service is what is being commended now by respected international organisations like the World Bank. What had never happened before in the state?
Yes, his mode and style of governance were alien to the state, so one would understand that the cries, as it were, were by those accustomed to the old order.
However, Bello, a Chartered Fellow of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), was undaunted. He focused on the ball until the clean-up exercise eventually brought sanity to the state’s payroll, which was hitherto a conduit pipe for resource leakage and wastage.
It did not take much time to see that the pay roll clean up actually enhanced the pay packages of the intended beneficiaries, whose salaries had been eaten up by the unscrupulous few who were beneficiaries of the inefficiency in the state.
The clocking system that was introduced into the civil service, to safeguard the sanctity of government business, also ensured that workers are paid for services rendered, and this culminated in tackling the ghost workers syndrome.
Contrary to what pessimists have continued to circulate, this administration has not owed civil servants and pensioners a dime since the clean-up exercise ended years ago.
The commendable thing is also that, unlike his predecessors, who were always at loggerheads with workers whenever they were preparing to exit the office, Governor Bello is still enjoying the commendation of workers seven months to the expiration of his tenure.
In fact, one of the former Governors was chased out of office for inability to pay workers legitimate earnings.
We have been long in town and have been close to past Governments enough to be able to separate fiction from facts. You can say anything you like about Governor Bello, you can’t take away the fact that he has surpassed expectations in the last seven years.
Perhaps if he had carried the media along from the outset, and did not have to battle media misconceptions, no Governor across the nation would have been able to match his positive mentions.
For a State that earns an allocation that is about the least, regular payment of salaries, when other states are owing workers for upward of nine months, calls for nothing but commendation.
Articles can be sponsored against him, but where you call for facts, even the sponsors know they can’t provide proof of non-performance.
Is it the establishment, from scratch, of the Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara, that is competing favourably in terms of infrastructures and content with first-generation Universities, that one would point at in the education sector? Or the fact that after four decades, the College of Health Sciences, Idah got full accreditation and held its first combined convocation under this administration? The list is endless.
Till tomorrow, the commissioning of the Reference Hospital, Okene, and its first-of-their-kind facilities in the history of the Nigerian health sector, is still the talk of the town. I won’t dwell too much on unsung achievements in this piece. That would be for another day.
However, talking about politics, I doff my hat to Governor Yahaya Bello. In every situation that seems dicey, he wriggles out unscathed in a way that confuses the worst of his critics. As some editors and columnists have said, he is a master of the game.
There must be a reason his endorsement of Ododo Ahmed Usman as the candidate of his party has received the blessings of critical stakeholders across the length and breadth of Kogi State, and seems to have broken the bars of ethnicity and religion beyond what many of us expected. Whatever it is, we will find out by November.
For now, enough of the deliberate falsehood to paint this administration black. Enough of the character assassination with no justification. Many people are wiser now. Politicians should face issues and tell indigenes/residents what they have to offer Kogi people in simple terms. The electorate will make their choice.