By Rev. Solomon Semaka
Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, Governor of Kogi State may be a subject of misinformed interpretation from many people. However, no one is in doubt of his passion for development. Even his detractors acknowledge his passion, drive and uncompromising stance on development in Kogi State. At the beginning of his first term in office, in spite of the gamut of offensive barrage of strategic and coordinated assaults on him and his government in the press, targeted at distracting and perhaps booting him out of office, Governor Bello has remained largely unruffled and unscathed given his focus on governance rather than dabbling into rancorous partisanship. This validates the fact that his ascendency to the governorship position is divinely ordained.
Despite the bashing and attacks he got from tribal war lords who did not expect somebody of his age and affiliation to be in office as the governor of an already impoverished and struggling state due to years of leadership neglect and abandonment, Bello did not waver or derail from his avowed commitment to perform the work he had carefully planned to do to advance the socio-economic frontiers of his beloved people of Kogi State. Evidently, the achievements he recorded during his first term in office had clearly set him apart, as a true progressive, visionary and outstanding leader whom the well meaning citizens of the State found suitable to reward him with a second term in office to enable him consolidate on the impacts he had made in governances.
Unarguably, any person familiar with Kogi State prior to the ascension of Governor Yahaya Bello will agree that security of lives and property was at its lowest ebb in the history of the State. Kidnappings, armed robberies, banditry, and all kinds of crimes and criminality found a home in Kogi State, thus making it volatile due to the absence of a robust security apparatus to put a stop to these crimes. This was worse more so that the state is central and a connecting corridor between the northern and southern part of the country. Bello noticed all these and purposed to put a stop to it and it is gratifying that the concerted efforts are yielding results.
As soon as he assumed office, Governor Bello swung into action and procured 200 utility vehicles and 500 motorcycles for the security personnel in the State to facilitate their work. He also fast racked intelligence gathering which helped in identifying those behind the security challenges and bringing them to justice. To make this fight holistic, he also launched the Operation Total Freedom; a security outfit comprising all security units in the State to ensure synergy and effective collaboration in frontally tackling insecurity to a halt.
Governor Bello also revived and recruited thousands of youths into the State Forest Guards scheme to ensure the protection of forestry resources as well as fishing out those who used them as hideouts to perpetrate crimes. Similarly, the governor ordered the demolition of any house or property used by criminals to carry out their activities in the State. To engage everybody in the fight against crime, the amiable governor introduced Toll Free lines to enable citizens reach out to security personnel and the government with useful information regarding criminal activities for a rapid response and swift action in combating such circumstances.
In the area of health, Bello has proven to Kogites and Nigerians that nothing is impossible with focus and determination. While he met a moribund health sector, Bello made it a point of duty to turn it around. Under the New Direction Agenda of Governor Bello, the construction of the State of the Art Medical Diagnostic Center was envisaged and has been delivered. The Health Care Plus Programme for pregnant women which offers health care needs of pregnant women has taken off across the State with resultant decrease in maternal and infant mortality.
Still in his critical intervention in the health sector, Governor Bello has also remodeled, renovated and fully equipped both primary and secondary healthcare facilities in the State. This is in addition to the employment of qualified medical staff with improved salaries and welfare packages to motivate them for efficient and quality service delivery to the people. The timely payment of counterpart funds to health partners to ensure that Kogites are not deprived of health care under any guise has also been a top priority. Also worthy of mention is the Bello Health Intervention Programme that has helped thousands of Kogites with life threatening health challenges to access free healthcare services courtesy of the state government.
Recently, Governor Bello exhibited a rare courageous feat in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic when he refused to gamble with the lives of Kogites. His uncompromising stance for fairness without playing games led to the return of NCDC staff, who refused to comply with the instructions of the governor in line with what they were preaching against. He insisted that there is no COVID-19 in his state and nobody should coerce him into playing to the gallery for the sake of federal allocations. Till date, Kogi State has not played the COVID-19 lottery and still has no known cases except for a suspicious death which is yet to be verified as at the time of writing this piece. No one knows if the Covid 19 lottery would resurface in the near future, fizzle out, or continue ad infinitum. But at least, the people of Kogi state are sure, that their governor has their back come rain and sunshine.
Under Governor Bello’s administration, Kogi State has become the agricultural headquarters of Nigeria. He generously and prudently gave loans to farmers especially those going into mechanised agriculture to enable them produce surplus food both for domestic and international consumption. As if that is not enough, the governor cleared 1000 hectares of land for youthful farmers in addition to giving them agricultural inputs. Bello also acquired 375 tractors with assorted implements with which tractors use for different tasks and 1500 tillers for small scale farmers all over the State.
In line with his agricultural revolution agenda, the Omi Dam project for rice production has been successfully completed with a befitting Rice Mill. This has over the years produced more rice than what is needed by Kogites and will soon feed the whole nation thereby substituting rice importation and boosting revenue generation in the State. It is worthy of note that the agricultural value chain in Kogi State has created more than 20,000 direct jobs and several indirect jobs to the indigenes. An uncommon feat critically championed under Bello’s purpose-driven leadership.
The educational sector has also enjoyed Governor Bello’s magic wand of transformational leadership. Upon assuming office, Governor Bello constructed Model Primary Schools in all the 239 wards of the State. He also remodeled all the Legacy Schools and facilities in both secondary and tertiary institutions. To ensure that these reforms are effective, he restructured the State Ministry of Education to ensure quality inspection and supervision of staff and effective implementation of policies and programmes. Kogi State now has the best educational system in Nigeria with well motivated workforce.
Rural electrification and development is another area that has not eluded the amiable governor. More than 1000 towns and villages across the state have benefited. This has obviously triggered a multiplier effect on the socio-economic prosperity of the people in diverse ways.
In the area of employment and empowerment schemes towards economic sustainability, it is fitting to note that despite dwindling resources, Governor Bello made it a duty to reduce unemployment in Kogi State by employing thousands of Forest Guards. This is the first in the history of the state. This noble initiative died with colonial authorities despite its enormous benefits. Governor Bello knowing the nature of the State has not only revived it but has given it the life that is required for maximum effectiveness.
Another area of employment is the massive recruitment of vigilante members across the State. This has reduced unemployment and security breaches. All indigent students in Kogi State are currently enjoying full scholarship courtesy of the futuristic governor who knows the value of education and does not want anybody to be left out because of their financial background. In addition to all these, the governor has prioritised skills acquisition in the state. Almost all wards in Kogi State have Skill Acquisition Centres and more are underway. These skills are offered free of charge to all indigenes and non indigenes alike residing in the State to make them able to create wealth and contribute to economic growth for a greater and prosperous Kogi State.
Towards restoring credibility and sanity in governance processes, Governor Bello upon taking the reins of office, made it a point of duty to sanitize the Bureau of Public Procurement. Knowing that this is where most State funds get siphoned through funny and nonexistent projects, he sealed-off leakages and loopholes. Governor Bello has strengthened the Bureau of Public/Private Partnership which has now created an enabling environment for the private sector to actively participate in the affairs of the State and do their lawful businesses without any hitches.
The progressive and transformational leadership trajectory of Governor Bello will surely remain a reference point in the State and as aptly complimented by his ever supportive deputy Edward Onoja.
Kogites should be rest assured that our focus and target is to deliver good governance and its dividends to the people at all times in line with building a State we can truly call our native home, our pride, our heritage, while looking into the future with optimism.
–Semaka is a public affairs analyst