By Fanwo Kingsley Olorunfemi
My first day of seeing Alh Yahaya Bello was in Abuja. He was preparing for his Governorship primary election and his residence was a beehive of activities. I could recognize him because I was quite familiar with his campaign materials. He was helping himself to a cup of juice under the tent outside the main building with a lawyer friend.
I walked up straight to him and he received me as if we had met before. He was warm and lively. He cared. Someone said something as I walked into his premises. He called the person and told him that he was aspiring to be the Governor of Kogi State and not a sectional Governor; with a stern warning to the person to avoid using tribalistic cards around him.
Immediately, I felt safe and comfortable. Before Yahaya Bello, the previous Governors were sowing the razor of ethnic divisions. Since they couldn’t perform in the area of impacting the people, their only hope of holding-on to power was to promote ethnic jingoism and prebendal sentiments.
The fog of curiosity was cleared. Then I had a better understanding of the man I would be supporting to become the Governor of my dear State.
One striking thing was that he knew everyone. He studied everyone. He knew the strength of everyone. He never told anyone off as a result of deficiency. He was so accommodating.
In the course of the campaign, we drew strength from his pragmatism and dynamic leadership.
On assumption of Office, he made three key appointments the very day he was sworn in. Hon Edward Onoja became the Chief of Staff; the first time a Governor will appoint a Chief of Staff outside of His Senatorial District. Hon. Abdulmalik became the Special Adviser on Media and Strategy. He is from Kogi Central. And I was appointed then as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor. I am from Kogi West. Those appointments unfolded a new Kogi built on unity and progress.
Fast forward to his three years of leadership, many people now want to redefine this uncommon leader as a draconian, violent and inhuman being.
I stand against this bias, untrue and undeserving positions. Governor Yahaya Bello is a compassionate leader. I have seen that at close quarters and Nigerians have seen that. He has saved many lives and his programs have saved many more from poverty and ill health.
As the Media Aide of the Governor, I was privy to many strategic sessions leading to the Staff Verification Exercise. The exercise was just a part of the Comprehensive Civil Service Reforms.
One patriotic decision of the Governor was his readiness to face the backlash which we thought would result from the confrontation of a very corrupt establishment. There were fake schools, fake clinics and thousands of fake names on the payrolls. The beneficiaries had built big houses in Lokoja. Some built plazas. They are entrenched and powerful. They are rich and would use the media to fight back.
Patriot Yahaya Bello chose to save the state at the expense of his life. He chose to confront the kleptomaniac oligarchy which had stolen the intestine of the State. He did.
When the outcry came, we understood. We made the people understand. But it was a friction between the good and the bad; the corrupt rich and a transparent government. The media capitulated to the Naira power of the corrupt all in a bid to name Yahaya Bello what he is not.
The Rice Mill at Omi Dam wouldn’t have been possible if we had continued to pay ghost workers in order to remain “popular” among the rich and their gullible cronies.
On December 29, 2018, I was at Ejiba to inspect the Rice Mill. The farmers were happy. The people were satisfied. The women know jobs have come. Historic leaders fight for name. They are initially unpopular. But when the trees they plant start yielding fruits, the people become happy.
Many may not know that Alh. Yahaya Bello knew the cost of confronting a stunningly rich corrupt machine. They fought to sustain corruption and their filthy riches; Yahaya Bello fought to take Kogi from them and handed it to the people.
This administration has continued to pay salaries of workers. It might not be up to date like even some oil rich States, but the Governor knows wages are workers’ rights. They deserve their wages and their wages they will get.
Most states of the Federation are struggling to find a balance between infrastructures like roads, industries, diagnostic center and school hostels that Yahaya Bello is constructing; and payment of salaries. Both are necessary. Workers deserve their wages. Non civil servants deserve infrastructure from the commonwealth. When we fund salaries heavily, funding infrastructures suffer. When we fund infrastructures heavily, payment of salaries becomes a challenge. Governor Yahaya Bello will continue to balance the two ahead of massive commissioning that we are tagging the Festival of Projects. Some of the projects are near completion right now while workers also receive salaries. The attrition of the competing ends are critical to the Governor’s success.
Is Yahaya Bello a violent person? Some say he doesn’t smile. Some say he is hard. I have watched him closely. I have seen where he remained strong. I have seen where he lost his emotional balance. The secret am giving you freely is that Yahaya Bello is a compassionate leader. He abhors violence and will go to any length at ensuring safety for all. He is restlessly innovative. He was a restless businessman who was quite successful in that field.
He doesn’t want to see anyone suffer. You would find that in the story of the boy with a hole in the heart.
He saw the boy. He carried him and ensured he lived. He sponsored the operation that saved his life in India. Many have benefited from his kind heart.
My fault and indeed the fault of all his PR handlers was that we have hidden this golden fish for too long; thereby giving room for all sorts of misconceptions and misgivings. Henceforth, you will see the humble White Lion. He is humble, compassionate, considerate and not the draconian Pharaoh you think he is.
May Kogi succeed against the tides of the detractors.
Fanwo Kingsley Olorunfemi is the Director General of Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kogi State.
By Fanwo Kingsley Olorunfemi