By Mohammed Okpanachi.
Kogi State, in its first 25 years as a socio-political entity, passed through a retinue of leaders, military and civilian. Within that period, it experienced the teething problems common to a hitherto rural community striving to cope with the challenges of building a society complete with the best modernity has to offer. Without doubt, much was achieved within the period even as the yearnings and aspirations of the people still continue to expand by the day. For a people who hosted eminent personalities and institutions in the pre and post-colonial Nigeria and played a prominent role in events that bench-marked the emancipation of the country, yet came in close contact with lack, those expectations are, indeed, genuine and demands to be met. That was the stage at which Governor Yahaya Bello took over the mantle of leadership. His coming into office, providential as it is, not only marked a turning point in the politics of that confluence state, in the sense that it not only led to a reconfiguration of its political equation but also has triggered a flurry of activity that will define the developmental trajectory of that state in the next 25 years. To keen observers, the youthful governor is making steady and impressive progress in all aspects of human endeavor. This is in spite of the seemingly interminable and endless litigations that have attended his nomination and election as governor in the supplementary elections of December 2015.
The governor had faced series of cases instituted by his main challenger in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Honourable James Faleke, a former running mate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu who is laying claim to the governorship seat and Captain Idris Wada, the immediate past governor of the State.
The cases were first heard at the Elections Petitions Tribunal which in separate rulings upheld the nomination and election of Bello as the governor of Kogi State. Not satisfied with the rulings, both Faleke and Wada proceeded to the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
In different judgments given about two weeks ago, the appellate court affirmed the verdicts of the lower court. With the second string of judicial victories by Bello, it was widely expected that the litigants would bury the hatchet and give Bello a breathing space to face the real issues of governance in the famed Confluence State.
This is to a no avail. And this is in spite of the genuine hands of fellowship extended to both Faleke and Wada and other aggrieved political elements in the State by Governor Bello to join him in working together in the best interest of the people of Kogi State. The matter is ending up at the Supreme Court where the issue would be finally determined.
Given the quality and logic of the rulings at both the Elections Petitions Tribunal and Appeal Court which were in favour of Governor Bello, there is no shadow of doubts whatsoever that Bello would ultimately triumph.
It is indeed amazing that in the face of these fierce legal challenges which ordinarily ought to constitute serious distractions to governance, Governor Bello has remained focused in his determination and resolve to give Kogi State a new lease of life.
Within the last eight months he has been on the political saddle, Governor Bello has redefined the parameters of governance and given increased and better attention to the welfare and security interests of the people which are the primary purpose of government as stipulated in Chapter 2, Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It is against this background that he has mobilized contractors back to all the abandoned critical road projects in the 21 Local Government Areas of the State under the preceding administration.
The on-going remedial works on these strategic roads in the State have brought a lot of relief to the people of Kogi and other commuters that must of necessity pass through the state to other parts of the country.
An apostle of due process and zero tolerance for corruption, Governor Bello has taken bold steps to block all known areas of financial leakages in the economy of the State. The first thing he did upon assumption of office was to institute the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which ensured that all revenues of the State are never diverted into secret or private accounts.
Secondly, he commissioned a staff audit of the State Civil Service with a view to weeding out ghost workers who have constituted a major drain on the scarce resources of the State. The staff verification exercise was hugely successful as about sixteen thousand ghost workers were identified and expunged from the payroll of the State. This translates to a saving of a whopping N18 billion annually which would now be deployed to provide key infrastructure and other important amenities in the State.
This huge sum of money is what a cabal in the system had been diverting in the past through the ghost workers syndrome at the expense of the development of Kogi State. It is hardly surprising that the governor`s decision was seriously resisted by entrenched interests. But he was undeterred and had to forge ahead because he had the requisite political will to do so. In the area of security, the governor has equally made commendable progress. This is evident in the strategic partnership he has forged with the nation`s military high command.
The partnership has resulted into a high-level visit of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai to Governor Bello in Lokoja where he pledged to deploy troops to critical roads in the State with a view to routing out kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, bandits and other sundry criminals that have made lives unbearable for Kogi citizens and commuters especially on the dreaded Lokoja-Okene road. While still battling with the court cases, Govenor Bello has continued to touch lives in other crucial areas which include the provision of quality education and health care delivery and promotion of agriculture and efficient transportation.
Most importantly he has ensured that the State continues to enjoy relative peace and harmony through his policy of political inclusiveness and constructive engagement with relevant stake-holders. It is in furtherance of his commitment to peace and unity of the State that he quickly moved in and resolved the lingering crisis in the Kogi State House of Assembly which had threatened the peaceful co-existence of the State. There is no doubt that with the giant strides so far recorded by the administration of Yahaya Bello, there is a new dawn of progress in Kogi State. Governor Bello needs the support and prayers of all well-meaning people of Kogi State to reposition the State for greater development that will be a reference point on its 50th anniversary.
— Okpanachi, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Ayangba, Kogi State