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OPINION

GYB: The Giant Unifier At 44

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By Kingsley Fanwo

Prior to 2015, Kogi State was a Balkanised shreds of interests, peddled by ethnic champions who grabbed the headlines for the propensity to cause ethnic divisions for political gains. For 25 years, the dividers held the state hostage, shrunk her possibilities and opportunities and created a Poly-anomalies of idiosyncrasies that almost destroyed our dear state.

Before 2016, every governor who had ruled the state ensured that his Chief of Staff was of the same ethnic group with him. Bias became normal, division was accepted. Young people were only deployed to destroy. They were not given any chance as gerontocracy became the order of the day.

But the emergence of Yahaya Bello has demonstrated an efficacious antidote to division and exclusion. In his acceptance speech at the Confluence Stadium, he promised a departure from the past; he promised youth inclusion.

Between that stadium and the Government House on the same day, he walked the talk by announcing his first three appointees. His Chief of Staff emerged from Kogi East. The governor hails from Kogi Central. He broke the jinx. He rewrote history!

His then Special Adviser on Media and Publicity hailed form Kogi Central. His then Chief Press Secretary hailed from Kogi West. He set the record of spreading his first three appointments across the three Senatorial Districts. The hope of the people was reset. It marked the new beginning of a hitherto ethnically defeated people.

As if that was not enough, the governor ensured his cabinet was predominantly made up of the youth. Youth that are not children of former governors nor rich people. That singular act defeated the mentality of thuggery. Young people began to see themselves as leaders of today. Youth began to believe!

Today, Kogi State is made up of people of different ethnic nationalities who trust one another. It is no more about where you come from, but about what you can offer a state in dire need of leaders who can dare to be different.

With that, roads that defied previous rehabilitation in Kogi East were reconstructed  or rehabilitated. Ankpa Township Roads were fixed. The School of Health Technology, Idah was visited for the first time by a sitting governor. And that governor is not Igala. The hometown of a former governor from the East was electrified by a governor of Ebira extraction.

Ejiba, a town in Okunland received the biggest investment in the history of Okunland with the establishment of a gigantic Rice Mill there to ensure food security, jobs and prosperity.

So, when projects are done in Kogi Central, no one could fault him or accuse him of ethnic bias. He sees Kogi as his- anywhere in Kogi State. As a microcosm of a larger Nigeria, GYB has successfully followed the footsteps of Mr President in ensuring projects are spread equitably.

It takes a Yahaya Bello to recreate Kogi State. A strong and uncompromising nationalist who is always ready to take hard decisions in order to save the state from perdition. 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. Recently, 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 is the Director General of Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kogi State.

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