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“Yahaya Bello’s Legacies Will Outlive Him”

by Silverbird News24

The recent allegation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that the immediate-past governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, was involved in an alleged N80bn misappropriation of the state’s funds has generated a heated debate as regards the true intention of the anti-graft agency.

This is more because the alleged crime was curiously said to have been perpetrated four months before the former governor assumed office.

The EFCC recently amended a current charge, FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022, before the Federal High Court in Abuja in a bid to prosecute Yahaya Bello, who left office on January 27, 2024, and quoted September 2015 as the period the offence was committed.

Former Governor Bello was sworn in as Governor of Kogi State in January 2016.

The government, in a statement, last Tuesday, by the Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, raised the alarm and accused the EFCC of collaborating with “criminals masquerading as politicians” to tarnish Bello’s image.

The statement said, “This was not only laughable but portrayed the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria.

“The fact that the EFCC, in charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello 2. Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Honourable Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division further amended the amended charge to include in the counts the name of H.E Yahaya Bello, describing him as being at large, is ridiculous, laughable and portrays the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria.”

Since then, many anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations have come out to condemn the alleged use of the EFCC as a tool for settling political scores, warning the new EFCC boss, Ola Olukoyede, to beware of “cankerworms of the previous administration.”

This is as both the state government and well meaning indigenes of Kogi State have also made it clear that the governor has done exceptionally well and no one complained that the state’s money is missing.

A medical doctor and indigene of Kogi State, Dr. Irene Adebola, said no one could fault the fact that Yahaya Bello recorded so many achievements in his eight years in office.

“Those Nigerians that choose to believe what the opposition is telling them should pay a visit to Kogi State themselves and see things, first hand. The man really transformed the state and I am proud to be an indigene,” she said.

However, it is often said that boldness is welcoming any suffering that comes from doing what is right, because it will produce a greater power of performance. And honour is given to those who are bold in the face of provocations and persecution. This seems to be the case of the former Governor.

Yahaya Bello does not cut the image of a man to adore but those who come in close contact with him always have good stories to tell. He also carries with him that effortless hallo of national knowingness that many vainly strive to appropriate.

According to those who spoke to our reporter, while many adore him, a few others don’t want to hear his name. Some neither love nor hate the former Kogi State Governor, but just cannot stand his intimidating political profile.

He could easily be described as an octopus, one of his aides who didn’t want to be quoted, said. Octopus is an extremely intelligent creature that is usually underestimated.

Analysts said the fact that Yahaya Bello finished strong and was received in his town like a hero of all times was the first sign that political enemies would team up to try to embarrass him ahead of future political games.

In what they described as a celebration of “eight years of unprecedented strides”, indigenes and residents of Okene in Kogi State, on Sunday, January 28, 2024, trooped out in their thousands to welcome Yahaya Bello after his two tenures.

They treated him to a heroic homecoming ceremony in the ancient town of Okene where he hails from.

With loud cheers, pomp and pageantry, the jubilant residents heaped praises on the former governor over his performance in office, with different clans performing with their masquerades amid the thick crowd that thronged the streets.

Before Bello arrived at Okene, a crowd of residents of Lokoja, the state capital, had assembled on the highway linking the former governor’s country home to bid him farewell after successfully handing over to Usman Ododo as his successor.

Some of the people who spoke after Bello’s convoy pulled over to acknowledge their greetings said the former governor had left an indelible mark of achievements in the Confluence State.

As the convoy journeyed deeper into the heart of Okene, the town erupted in jubilation as the former governor’s kinsmen who adorned in ceremonial attire, accompanied by drums and trumpets, danced along the streets, saying Bello had elevated Okene and Kogi State to an enviable height.

In response, Bello said, “I am filled with joy over this overwhelming show of gratitude, happiness and love. It further attests to the impacts our government has made in the lives of Kogites. I humbly return all thanks and praises to the Almighty God. He alone is the Doer of everything we can lay claim to have done in office as a government. Without His enablement we would have been both helpless. To God be the glory.

“Now, we can live with a clear conscience, confident that we did our best for Kogites within the time and resources available to us.

“I have successfully handed over to Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo. Ododo will need our support to succeed in the overall interest of the state. Once more, I want to thank you for this honour.”

He had not left Okene when news filtered in that some posters had surfaced in Abuja, announcing his decision to contest for the position of National Chairman of the ruling party.

Not a few keen observers knew that these could have only been planted by detractors to create confusion and cause disaffection.

“An archaic way of playing politics. But some gullible Nigerians still fell for it even when no one announced a vacancy,” Mr. Ade Adeyiga, a Peoples Democratic Party member said.

Yahaya Bello who ventured into the state political landscape in 2015 contested for governorship primary election on the platform of the APC culminating in his becoming number one citizen of Kogi State on January 27, 2016. The rest is history.

Yahaya Bello came, saw and conquered, most importantly; he has etched his name in gold, following his spectacular performance in eight years.

Notwithstanding the critical circumstances that brought him in as the Governor of Kogi State and litany of opposition, Yahaya Bello however navigated through thick and thin in eight years and berthed in style with numerous successes achieved in the State.

Shortly after taking oath of office on January 27, 2016, the new administration which was tagged a “New Direction Administration” highlighted thematic areas for the government such as security of lives and property, health, education, civil service reforms and provision of infrastructures across the length and breadth of Kogi State.

For taking critical steps to stem the high tide of insecurity in Kogi State and Nigeria at large, the then Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun recognised Bello’s efforts in fighting insecurity and he subsequently became the first Governor to be honoured with the Nigerian Police award as best Governor on Security.

In the area of agriculture, it is a known fact that Kogi is an agrarian state and in line with the determination to ensure food security in the state, the Yahaya Bello-led administration established the largest Rice Mill at Ejiba with capacity to employ over 2000 workers as the project also targeted to move unemployed youths out of the street.

This was in addition to various agricultural programmes initiated by the new direction administration in the state.

The health sector’s services delivery was second to none in Kogi State under the leadership of Yahaya Bello in eight years as it received a financial boost.

Having realised the importance of wellness of the people of the state and in a bid to discourage medical tourism abroad, Governor Yahaya Bello established a gigantic Reference Hospital in Okene equipped with modern medical facilities, while he rehabilitated the Prince Abubakar Audu University Teaching Hospital in Anyingba.

The government also upgraded the General Hospitals at Adogo in Ajaokuta Local government and Isanlu in Yagba East Local government area of the state and similarly established a new General Hospital at Gegu in Kogi Local government area.

Just like the health sector, former Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration also made an indelible mark on the sound of time in the education sector of the state.

Apart from the fact that model primary and secondary schools were established across the state, it is an incontrovertible fact that Yahaya Bello was the first governor to establish two Universities within the four years of his second tenure in office.

These are legacy projects which would outlive the administration and many citizens would live to remember.

The state received recognition at the 72nd United Nations Assembly for its successful implementation of the SDGS.

Although people may have different views about former Governor Yahaya Bello, his transformational leadership showed in his efforts to tackle systemic inequalities in Kogi State, promote tribal unity, religious harmony, equity, youth inclusiveness and the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

The beneficiaries referred to him as “someone who had made the son of nobody to become somebody” because they never imagined to be in the position they occupied under the new administration.

Former Governor Yahaya Bello’s leadership qualities extended beyond his state. Tasked with several assignments to avert looming crises and make peace, he always successfully executed special duties for the APC and helped to mobilise young people into politics and the APC.

In a chat with the state chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Bello prior to November 2023 governorship election, he explained that his party still remained the one to beat in Kogi State, stressing that the party under the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello did well in every facet of life in Kogi State.

A member of the main opposition party, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he was not a member of the APC or a fan of the former Governor, but that he came to terms with the reality that Yahaya Bello did extremely well in the area of infrastructural development.

“After all these visible projects, not witnessed before since the creation of the state, for the EFCC to come out to say he has embezzled so much money, Kogi must be really be the Saudi Arabia of Nigeria in terms of resources. This is clear political witch-hunt, nothing more. And someone must call the agency to order,” he said.

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