The gubernatorial elections in Adamawa, Bauchi and Imo States must have thrown up a poignant question in the country’s polity: Why do politicians who enjoy massive goodwill from the electorate fritter it away after their astonishing electoral triumphs? Recent developments in Kogi point to the likelihood that that poser would echo on November 2, 2019 when the governorship election holds in the state.
Most Nigerians that watched the tension-soaked 2015 governorship election in Kogi would recall how Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who after having lost the primary election on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) and working surreptitiously for the opposition, came back to inherit the winning votes of late Prince Abubakar Audu and became the governor.
Not that alone, having become governor, Bello enjoyed another round of unmerited favour when circumstances presented him with the opportunity to appoint his deputy, the same way commissioners and other aides are appointed by governors. He practically contested the final lap of the gubernatorial election without a running mate, because late Audu’s deputy refused to tag behind with him.
However, despite the rich benefits of those fortuitous circumstances, Bello found it hard to settle down and serve the people of Kogi State, rather he chose to gallivant from Luggard House to Abuja on a steady course, such that a greater part of the state’s finances went into political jamborees and other eye-service appearances at the Presidential Villa as he took advantage of every photo opportunity to advertise his ‘closeness to the seat of power’.
Barely one month after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) published the time frame for the conduct of the gubernatorial election in his state, Bello was forced to render apology to Kogi people, particularly civil servants who have been enduring the hardship visited on them by the state government’s failure to pay salaries and other emoluments.
The dire socioeconomic circumstances of Kogi workers came to light when a director in one of the ministries committed suicide. Although all manner of arguments were thrown up to downplay the death of the civil servant, including allegations that he was disengaged from service, the notion had been created that Governor Yahaya Bello was performing below average.
It was obvious that the governor was busy creating political distractions for his administration. He got himself enmeshed in the protracted but needless executive versus legislature face-off that cost the state many man-hours of tangible governance and fruitful initiatives.
The attempt by members of the National Assembly to wade into the misunderstanding between Governor Bello and the Kogi State House of Assembly lawmakers, where the state government was stoking leadership crisis to have a rubber stamp legislature, became an opportunity for the governor to pick on Senator Dino Melaye, who incidentally contributed to his (Bello’s) emergence as governor.
It was not only Senator Melaye that Governor Bello broke up with in his blind obsession with political grandstanding. He distanced himself from the people and continued to fight imaginary enemies, to the extent that his administration at one time started destroying roundabouts in Lokoja, in the vain belief that those spaces in the urban area provided homes to fetish objects.
While his predecessors like Alhaji Ibrahim Idris embarked on the completion of mega water schemes to ameliorate the perennial water scarcity in Kogi State, especially Lokoja and other major towns, the governor devised a programme of propping himself as a super APC governor by convoking and attending meaningless political meetings.
As part of that bogus political vision, when the Anambra State governorship was held in 2017, Governor Bello manouvred himself into the various schemes and plots to impose a particular candidate as APC standard bearer in the election up to the level of committing huge sums of money for logistic support for his preferred candidate.
When the politics of APC midterm convention and later, the calculations for the national convention of the party gained momentum, Governor Bello was seen siding one of the tendencies invariably to ensure that his faction of the party was favoured by the national leadership.
Also during the recent general election, Kogi State was said to have provided material and moral support for APC’s governorship candidates from neighbouring states. Through his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja, Bello was said to have a retinue of political good boys ‘empowered’ to assist in elections.
DESPITE the machinations of the governor during the recent election in the state, even when he was not on the ballot, it was obvious that Kogi voters do not want to have anything to do with the administration. It is perhaps on account of the political situation in the state that the national leadership of APC are said to be toying with the idea of holding a direct primary to select the party’s candidate for the November 2, 2019 gubernatorial election in Kogi.
That could also explain the recent protest by some ‘APC youths’ to the national headquarters of the party in Abuja where they pleaded with the party not to tamper with the ‘peace and progress of Kogi State under Governor Yahaya Bello’.
Although the protesters pointed accusing fingers in the direction of APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for the ongoing attempts to deny the governor a second term, the party chairman has fired back, affirming that APC ticket is for performers and not political irritants.
There are therefore strong indications that having devoted himself to politics and calculations for his second term, some tough governance lessons await Governor Bello during the gubernatorial election in the state later in the year. For instance, voters might want to remind him that monies wasted in the failed attempt to recall Senator Melaye could have been used in defraying salaries instead of the perfunctory plea for forgiveness he delivered recently.
The governor would also be forced to review his antics over the use of the bailout funds and other interventions from the presidency, which were allegedly rerouted to some cabal members for them to sustain for him favourable mention before the president and his wife.
One other crucial test the voters in Kogi would definitely confront their governor with is why and what did he do with the screening exercise his administration embarked upon shortly after assuming office.
Most Kogi workers who welcomed the headcount as a desirable programme to not only weed out ghost workers, but also establish the true size of the state’s workforce were taken aback when, after the exercise, the government allowed workers’ salaries to remain unpaid for months.
Critics blame Yahaya Bello’s poor administrative principle on naivety and inexperience, saying that although the young man was associated with some measure of success in his private transportation business, he lacked proper tutelage and exposure to handle the challenges of governing a state.
The governor seems to believe all that matters in politics is winning elections. For instance, after the February 23 presidential election, he was heard thumbing his chest that he delivered President Muhammadu Buhari in Kogi Central.
The governor also resorted to tongue-lashing his rivals or those eyeing his office just as he blames some of his aides for failing to deliver the polling units, especially the defeat of APC Senatorial candidate, Senator Smart Adeyemi by Senator Melaye.
It is his attempt to use President Buhari’s vote tally to bolster his sagging acceptability that Governor Bello would likely get the shock of his life on November 2, 2019. He would find out why the same voters that voted APC during the presidential election on February 23, voted for the candidates of Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), Senator Bala Mohammed in the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election in Bauchi State.
When that happens the Kogi governor would learn why it is better to spend time and energy in team building for good governance and sustaining political bridges instead of applying the full force of incumbency against perceived opponents.
Yet, apart from learning that there is no second chance to create a first impression, Bello would also learn the hard way how voices of the feeble masses could be made strong through the instrumentality of permanent voter cards (PVCs).
Most importantly, the biggest lesson the Kogi State governor would learn from the unfolding realities within the ruling party that he belongs is that an incumbent runs for reelection on the strength of his track record of performance rather than perceived federal might or handouts during election.
The bitter lesson from that would also ensue from Kogi governorship poll and the narrow political circumference created by Bello is that allies and party faithful would team up with various opposing tendencies against the return of a candidate considered as a common enemy to state, platform, and the people.
Governor Bello might have unwittingly created favourable circumstances for the perpetration of anti-party activities and it could also be the defining moment when his clash with Oshiomhole would find loud expression.
Culled from Guardian