By, PHRANK SHAIBU
The people of Kogi State were shocked to the marrow when they woke up to news of Governor Yahaya Bello’s decision to anoint the Kogi State Auditor-General, Ahmed Ododo, as his preferred successor ahead of the primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
After the sudden demise of Kogi APC governorship candidate, Abubukar Audu, during the poll, Yahaya Bello was pushed forward as the party’s candidate and he inherited 90% of former Governor Audu’s votes ahead of the rerun in which Audu already had an unassailable lead.
Without winning the APC primary, spending campaign funds or even needing to lobby anyone, Yahaya Bello, an ethnic minority, became governor of the confluence state. This could only have been possible by divine providence, reaping where he had not sown.
But many in the Igala nation were satisfied with the outcome since no one from the Ebira ethnic stock had ever been governor before. Despite becoming governor without the mandate of the people, Yahaya Bello’s tenure was far from impressive.
While seeking re-election in 2019, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, rolled up his babariga and went on his knees to beg the Kogi electorate to forgive the governor for his many failures including his inability to pay salaries.
Despite being the beneficiary of one of the most violent elections any state had ever witnessed which even culminated in the murder of PDP woman leader, Salome Obuh, who was burnt alive, the Igala nation stood with Yahaya Bello against their own son, Musa Wada, with the hopes that he would at least return power to the Igala people in 2023 but he has done the exact opposite.
For someone who rose to prominence by divine providence, one would have thought that Governor Bello would at least allow a fair and transparent process just as President Muhammadu Buhari did not stop him from contesting the Presidential primary of the APC last June.
The irony here, however, is that Governor Bello is now playing God, anointing his preferred successor while those who dare to defy his orders are intimidated. This has been Governor Bello’s modus operandi since assuming office. He decides who gets every political position in the state.
Governor Bello’s megalomaniacal attitude was even extended to the traditional ruler of Ebiraland, Okene, HRM Ohinoyi Dr. Ado Ibrahim, who was queried publicly and threatened with punishment for shunning a state event. This is most unbecoming for a man who rose to power by sheer providence.
Nigerians will not forget too quickly how Governor Bello vandalised tarred roads leading to the stronghold of PDP Kogi-East Senatorial candidate, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, in order to undermine her chances of victory.
With such a questionable legacy as governor including a running battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which has led to the forfeiture of at least 14 of his properties as well as a so-called visa ban by the United States for alleged electoral violence, the least Governor Bello could have done was to provide a level playing field for all interested aspirants to contest just as he was given a level playing field by the APC leadership in Abuja to contest the Presidency but he has failed to do so.
With Governor Bello shooting himself in the foot, this is the best time for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to get its act right. This is the time for the PDP to unite, look inward and pick a credible and popular candidate that can defeat the APC and Governor Bello.
Kogi State is in dire straits and is in need of investors which have since fled due to Governor Bello’s lack of foresight. Only recently, BUA Group, one of the wealthiest companies in Nigeria, said it would no longer be investing in Kogi State because there had been no visible effort by the state and successive governments to address the issues of access to the land that would enable BUA to utilise the land for its intended purpose.
Governor Bello’s overzealous and misinformed closure of Dangote Cement also scared off other intending investors. The PDP will thus need a business friendly, popular and accomplished candidate that can defeat Governor Bello and his lackey at the polls. This is not the time for the opposition to hand over its ticket to jokers, dancers and those with no meaningful track record that cannot even win an ordinary senatorial election.
For the sake of clarity, the Igala people remain the majority in Kogi State and no one who desires to step into Lugard House can do so without getting the votes of the Igala people. And so if Governor Bello has decided to play tribal politics by endorsing his kinsman as governor, his experiment will backfire if the Igala nation decides to go tribal as well. For taking the people of Kogi for granted, Governor Bello will bellow in agony once the last ballot is counted.
Phrank Shaibu, an indigene of Kogi State, writes from Abuja