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APC In a Quandary Over Kogi’s Bello

GOVERNOR Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is widely regarded as the most inept governor in the country, barring perhaps the stiff competition former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, gave him in the past two or three years. But since the exit of his competitor after a most uninspiring rule, Mr Bello has become incomparable. He is widely regarded as youthful, a claim now being put to the test by his detractors who insist he is in fact older than he looks and claims. Having punished Kogi for about four years with nothing really to show for his governorship other than that he wasted the state’s time and resources, he has shockingly indicated a desire to fight for re-election on the assumption that his first term could be attributed to his electoral effort.

For a man eager to get a second term, and having sadly neither worked for it nor earned it, it is passing strange that he is going about it the wrongest way. He has still not cleared the salary backlog of civil servants, other than make highly publicised token gestures, and he has neither courted nor befriended state workers and other Kogites whom he has oppressed and scandalised. Yet he has presented himself to be canonised by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to seek a second term in November. He seems to think that since his party initiated the ugly and reprehensible conspiracy to foist him on the state some four years ago, it should be wiling again to get him into office by hook or crook. It is not clear how they would do it, or whether they are even willing to affront all civilised values to sanction his participation.

But whether the APC allows itself the humiliation of embracing Mr Bello’s ambition or not, it beggars belief that the governor sees the brutalisation of the state as the surest way to make an unforgettable impression on the electorate. He has thrown his hat into the ring. It should have been immediately and forcefully picked up and hurled at him. There are many reasons to do this beyond his scandalous management of the state’s financial and human resources, beyond his deliberate refusal to pay civil servants their salaries. He hopes to contest the governorship three months from now, but he has done nothing of significance to justify even one vote, indeed, no reason at all to endear him to the electorate. He has fought everyone, some of them the state’s leading social, political and judicial elite, and befriended no one, no matter how insignificant, including unknown and uncelebrated lawmakers.

Two of his enemies stand out, two gentlemen who had nothing against him starting out, and who even actually befriended him and helped pave the way for him to be accepted and crowned. The Chief Judge of the state, Nasir Ajanah, an Ebira like him, stands out. For elementary reasons, including refusing to subordinate the judiciary to the executive branch, Mr Bello singled out Justice Ajanah for excoriation and intimidation. Adopting the reprehensible style by which former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, was unceremoniously shoved out of office, using a combination of propaganda and judicial heresy, Mr Bello had hoped to quickly get rid of the chief judge in favour of his Man Friday. He cajoled the mannequins at the Kogi House of Assembly to initiate impeachment process, and hoped that his intimidatory tactics would persuade the public and help galvanise the state judiciary to endorse his wish.

Not only did the judiciary stand pat and courageously resisted his bullying tactics, judicial workers also lined up behind their embattled chief judge. Consequently, the legislature’s floundering plot to unseat Justice Ajanah failed miserably, embers of the conflict nevertheless still flickering. Judicial workers union, Kogi branch, was shocked to see that the top wigs of the judiciary in Abuja were ambivalent towards a chief judge they had a duty to protect against the infamous executive putsch hatched by an irresponsible politician.

Since he lacked policies and programmes, Mr Bello seemed to have nothing else to do than engage in verbal and judicial brawls with officials and politicians he has had no reason to fight. His other prominent enemy, who started out as a loyal party member, is the deputy governor, Simon Achuba. Mr Achuba was not as discriminating as Abiodun Faleke, the late Prince Abubakar Audu’s running mate who should have constitutionally inherited the governorship mantle when the APC candidate slumped and died in 2015 after the governorship election had been fought and won. Mr Faleke, angry because of the injustice perpetrated by his own party against him, spurned the indignity of being asked to be the automatic running mate of the inexperienced and untested Mr Bello. But Mr Achuba rushed in where angels feared to tread, and only months later became public enemy number one of the cantankerous governor. All manner of intimidatory tactics have been brought to bear on the deputy governor in order to force him to quit. And yet he was no radical, nor even a querulous politician. Sadly both the legislature and the judiciary have signed on to the Bello rigmarole designed to force Mr Achuba out. The conspirators may succeed because there are really not many people left with any spine in the state.

Mr Bello is sustained in office by his supporters and mentors in Abuja. The support is so wide-ranging and so massive that he does not feel burdened by the dictates of conscience to act responsibly in office. He hopes their support will get him the ticket, assuming the APC at the national level caves in to injustice. More, he hopes that once he gets the ticket to run for re-election, he would use all manner of state coercive machineries — all of them without exception — to win the November poll and coax a pliant judiciary to endorse the repugnant outcome. These are the reasons Mr Bello is fighting everybody, exempting no one, a few months to a decisive election that could finally ruin the state. He has made no friends, and is not encumbered to make any. He has enacted no great policy and built no significant structure, because he has by his obnoxious habit formed the opinion that his powerful political and judicial friends in Abuja have his back.

If Mr Bello surmounts the controversy swirling around his real age, and manages to extricate himself from the double registration trap INEC has woven around his neck, he may indeed get the ticket. APC under its staid former national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, could not absolve itself of blame for enthroning an undeserving and incompetent politician. It remains to be seen whether the current party chairman, the pugnacious Adams Oshiomhole, can withstand the wiles and savagery of Abuja to dethrone Mr Bello. The obstacle is not one of ethics, it is one of courage. Indeed, everyone knows the right thing to do in Kogi. The problem is to find those to do it. It will take a truly herculean effort by Mr Oshiomhole not to disappoint himself and Kogites, for Mr Bello could not conceivably win a free and fair election in a state he has loathsomely brutalised and bastardised.

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