Even before his reelection was confirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was already waiting in the wings to take on governance head on as he is wont to do. During his first term in office, the governor identified certain governance pitfalls in the confluence state. This he did through painstaking research and analysis of available data. He proffered short, medium and long term solutions. The cumulative effect of the governor’s effort is the sanity he brought to the state’s civil service and other sectors in the state.
Determined to consolidate on his achievements in the past four years, the governor introduced the slogan, “Let’s Do More”, as his campaign mantra. This left no one in doubt about what to expect in his second tenure. He did not mince words about the preparedness of his government to strengthen the gains of his first term and avoid all the downsides of his administration during in the past four years.
One of the seemingly intractable problems of Kogi as a state and Nigeria as a country is the interethnic mistrust and religious disharmony. But since Bello came on board, things are no longer the same as the people of the confluence state now see themselves first as citizens of the state before their ethnic leanings and religious dissimilarity.
Little wonder, then, that Governor Bello was bold enough to admit in his inauguration address that uniting the rich human and natural diversities of Kogi State into a progressive and cohesive force for good was the main achievement of his first term, and that it would remain his government’s priority going forward. “We shall not relent in weaving equity and equality into the fabric of our society and strengthening the bases for our coexistence,” he stated.
Despite commendations from those who knew what was obtainable before and the situation in Kogi State currently, the governor is not oblivious of the fact that rebuilding a people into a unified cohesive unit is an arduous task that requires time. To this effect, he noted therefore that the battle for a united and egalitarian Kogi society was one which his government “must not only win, but sustain, and at the appropriate time, pass on to posterity.”
Bello went further to urge citizens of the country to understand that what hurts one, hurts all, hence the need to begin to pool together for mutual protection and profit. He said, “Truly, if we do not urgently make greater effort to live together as brothers and compatriots, we will continue to perish together as fools. One small but significant achievement of our first term, and one that I am particularly elated over because of its uniting force, is the building of a beautiful Chapel inside the Kogi State Government House premises for the first time in 28 years.
“It is not so much the cost of the building, but the balance which we were finally able to bring in the seat of power between the two major religions in our state after such a long time which excites me. It may be a token, but it is a significant token. Of course, the rent-seekers who were beneficiaries of the old ways as well as their protégés came at us with Vengeance, like a Tsunami. They twisted and turned our every word and action into all sorts of negative shapes before the world, especially through their captive media, and for a while the news only reported bad things about us, nearly all of which were false”, the governor added.
As a history maker, the governor did something that has never been witnessed in the history of the country’s democratic practice on the very day of his inauguration to show he was ready to get to work for the people of the state. He announced the list of commissioners on the very podium where he delivered his inaugural speech. And in accordance with the charge he gave, the commissioners were swiftly screened by the State House of Assembly, demonstrating the level of harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
Hardly had the new cabinet members, first among which were the commissioners, settled down before Governor Bello charged them on the need to imbibe the philosophies upon which his administration was built. He listed the philosophy to include transparency, fiscal responsibility, zero sectionalism, understanding and implementation of the New Direction Blueprint and open door policy.
He described tribalism, nepotism, clan, class or religious sentiments as actuators of reasons to get them fired. “We have spent the last four years dismantling the division and distrust long engendered amongst our people by these evils and those who practiced them and we will never countenance the same in our appointees, neither will we retain anyone practicing them in our midst”, he noted.
Governor Bello informed the commissioners that the New Direction Blueprint is his roadmap for accelerated development of Kogi State in all her constituencies. He charged them to study it, understand it and implement it. “The five thematic areas will remain but we are pulling out 4 former sub-thematic areas and making them full-fledged in this second term.
“These are human capital development, cooperation and integration in Kogi State (EBIGO Agenda), security and agriculture. Bring your suggestions to the table and they will be given fair consideration, but run my Blueprint and not your agenda if you want things to remain fine with you”, he added.
To demonstrate his commitment to reigning in accelerated improvement in all facets of the lives of Kogi State citizens as fast as he can, the governor said the overall mission in his second term was to develop Kogi State into Nigeria’s foremost and most secured emerging commercial hub through optimisation of the state’s geographical location, natural endowments and human resources for a sustainable future.
To achieve the lofty goal, he said his administration would embark on large scale urban renewal projects to further transform Lokoja into a resilient capital city with modern utilities attractive to residents and tourists alike. Even though upgrading the sights and sounds of Lokoja will be paramount, he stressed that the beautification project would extend to at least one major town in each senatorial district.
One area the administration has received resounding applause agriculture. It was refreshing to hear the governor mention that rice, cassava, cashew, aquaculture and livestock would remain the bedrock of his government. He maintained that the state-owned rice mill at Ejiba would work to see more Rice Mills built by private capital in the state, increase land under cultivation and facilitate off-taker agreements for local growers. The aim, according to him, is to make Confluence Rice the dominant brand, at least in the home market.
In addition, Bello promised to add 5000 new cassava farmers into the initiative of his government as Nigeria’s largest grower of the crop. He said his government was also planning to build the nation’s largest ethanol plant in the state for the production of ethanol fuel from cassava to further expand the use of green fuels in Nigeria given that Climate Change has become such a dramatic concern globally. “The administration”, he added, “also plans to fully utilize the advantage it has in other agricultural spheres and among cash and industrial crops”.
Overall, Governor Bello defines good governance as the ability to unite the people, things, events and places within a leadership space in a wholesome, symbiotic relationship. He said, “When approached with the above mindset, governance ceases to be a popularity contest and becomes a life-saving vocation requiring the leader’s best efforts always. Our governance objective in Kogi State since January 27, 2016 when we first took Office is to do the right thing for the present generation and for posterity without fear or favour. This objective will remain unchanged throughout my second tenure”.
A lot of key policy decisions have been taken under three weeks of Governor Bello’s second term in office, attracting support from even opposition party members. He has embarked on projects inspection with a sound warning to contractors to complete their projects within the contractual agreement periods. Contractors handling ongoing projects in the state have been mobilised to sites. With such vigour and determination, it is becoming clear by the day that the people of Kogi State have more to benefit from Governor Bello’s second term in office.
– Onogwu is Chief Press Secretary to Kogi State governor.