Without a shred of doubt, the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Adoza Bello, is one of the most admired policymakers and politicians in the history of Nigeria politics today.
His countless millions of lovers are over him like hybla bees over honeycomb. On the other contrasting hand, and like heavenly angelic beings, his haters are uncountable.
Venoms against Bello are coarse, hoarse, biting, brash, and brazen.
This man is not just loved and hated; he is feared. And the fear of Bello, for whatever reason, is real. And many Nigerians are beginning to wonder why.
About three weeks ago, Bello’s posters surfaced in some locations in Abuja, including the national secretariat of the APC with the inscription, “APC Next Level. Alhaji Yahaya Bello as APC National Chairman. Leading the Change, Building a Stronger APC.”
Without even being prompted, many informed observers, on their own, knew the posters must have been planted by detractors who wanted to create some form of bad blood within the ruling party against the ex-Governor.
Those who have studied both him and the Nigerian political environment well knew that there was no way someone like GYB, as he is fondly called, would roll out posters of that low quality when no one was talking about replacing National Working Committee members. It was easy to see the mischief behind the posters and even the reports that followed.
Reacting in a statement through his media office, Bello said he did not authorize anyone to circulate any posters on his behalf as he remains a loyal party man committed to the leadership of the national chairman of APC, Abdullahi Ganduje.
The former Kogi State helmsman urged members of the general public to disregard the mischief makers circulating posters to create a false impression.
“We are aware of the clandestine moves by some mischief makers to create confusion within the hierarchy of the All Progressives Congress. This is the handiwork of some opposition leaders and some 5th columnists within the party.
“A part of the plans already being hatched is the circulation of campaign posters with the picture of His Excellency Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the immediate past Governor of Kogi State, insinuating that he is contesting for the position of the national chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress. The insinuation is infantile, false and should be disregarded.
“Our party is not in the process of conducting Congresses or a Convention, therefore, there is absolutely no basis for anyone to circulate any posters for party offices.
“Let it be abundantly clear that Alhaji Yahaya Bello did not authorize anyone to circulate any posters on his behalf as he remains a loyal party man who is committed to the leadership of the national chairman of the party, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje.
“We urge members of the general public to disregard the mischief of the people circulating posters to create a false impression,” the statement read.
Again, earlier this week, the Kogi State Government raised the alarm over what it described as a desperate attempt by “criminals masquerading as politicians” to tarnish the image of Yahaya Bello, for selfish reasons, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, the state government said, in its desperation, “which would leave Nigerians wondering who exactly is afraid of Yahaya Bello,” the EFCC has, in an amended charge, accused the former Governor of diverting Kogi State Government funds in September 2015, four months before he assumed the position of governor.
It said this was not only laughable but also portrayed the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria.
On Wednesday, anti-Corruption Civil Society Organisations warned the EFCC, under the leadership of Ola Olukoyede, to refrain from allowing “cankerworms of the previous management left in the system” to rubbish his credentials as the Head of the Commission.
The over 300 anti-corruption activists, under seven broad frontline organisations noted that it was pertinent for them to sound an early note of warning in view of the fact that the misuse of the EFCC by political gladiators, as a veritable tool of victimization and score-settling, which they thought had been tackled, was suddenly rearing its head again.
They spoke in a statement jointly signed and released to the media, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations advised the EFCC boss to sit up and stop the Commission from being accessed by “political miscreants who think EFCC is an extension of their political structures to be manipulated at will.”
Bello was sworn in in 2016 as the fourth democratically elected governor of Kogi State, marking a complete change from the former dominance of elderly people in the saddle of the state’s affairs.
Not only that, it was the first time in the history of the state that a non- Igala person would govern the state.
Bello’s emergence as replacement for late Abubakar Audu who was the candidate of the APC in the governorship election came with a bag of mixed feelings.
Being a non-Igala and a young man for that matter was a major factor in the political governance of the state.
The expectation for or against him was enormous especially given the fact that he was from a minority Ebira ethnic group.
Apart from the encumbrances and challenges which come naturally with the office of a governor, Bello was, as well, under pressure to prove that a youth could be trusted with enormous powers.
For some reasons, he was bogged down with litigation from those trying to take the seat from him. He became the most litigated governor – three different cases were instituted against his emergence – all ending at the Supreme Court.
Bello fought many battles on many fronts at once. He started by engaging the House of Assembly members over leadership change. With the then Speaker from the same LGA with him, Bello fought for another zone to produce the speaker in order to ensure balancing of power among the three senatorial zones of the state.
Before the dust of the Executive – Legislative debacle could settle, Bello engaged in a staff audit, putting a stop to State and Local Government workers’ salaries until the end of the screening. The screening was to take a dangerous twist that almost ruined its good intention. The screening initially scheduled to end in just a month lasted more than six months, bringing anguish to workers who lost patience waiting for their salary.
Bello extended his battle to the political class, especially those of the APC, who felt he was a usurper. The battle for legitimacy took a long toll on him and could not allow him to focus well on his Blueprint Agenda in his first term.
By the time the coast would fully clear for him, he was already at the twilight of his first tenure, and the urge to get a second term became ominous. He quickly reached a stage of maturity; gaining strength, confidence, security, respect and social acceptance, by understanding that he was accountable only to the people of Kogi.
Instead of trying to please political chieftains, he made the sound judgment of working for the greater good of the majority.
Bello, headlong, tackled the high reign of insecurity.
Kogi before his emergence was a haven for criminals. He immediately engaged in the effort to end the reign of lawbreakers. His success was resounding and widely acknowledged around the country.
Despite bordering nine states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Bello sustained a solid security and safety architecture through effective law enforcement strategies, local intelligence gathering, collaboration among security agencies, and involving traditional institutions.
Bello thereafter focused on his New Direction Blueprint that was put together by a team of consultants drawn from every discipline.
The outcome of the blueprints is a harvest of legacy projects most of which were completed in his second term, among which is the first overhead bridge in Lokoja, the state capital called the Ganaja Flyover Bridge.
Getting a second term was like redemption for Bello as he put his efforts into constructing infrastructures across the state that even his political arch enemies could not but appraise him for a job well done and for indelible marks in the development of the state.
Bello ensured that one or two roads in all the 21 local government areas of the state were either constructed or rehabilitated. He constructed the ultra-modern event centre named after former President Muhammdu Buhari.
The construction of the Referral Hospital, Okene which has the capacity to handle multifaceted health challenges has become the talking point of health practitioners across the country.
He also built one General Hospital in each of the three senatorial districts of the state. Bello’s healthcare reforms contributed to the decline in the mortality rate of the state.
Bello made tremendous strides in other sectors like education, human capital development, youth and women empowerment.
A cursory look at the education sector shows uncommon accomplishments such as improving education through increased funding and infrastructure, establishing two universities and fully funding their take off, concerted efforts leading to 100 percent accreditation of courses in all the tertiary institutions of the state.
Even the Nigeria-Korea Friendship Institute of Vocational and Advanced Technology also benefited from the release of funds.
The best of his ending is the free education policies he introduced in 2023 for Primary and secondary schools, coupled with the free payment of WAEC, NECO, JAMB, Basic Examination and Junior Secondary school examination as well as the construction of model schools across the three senatorial districts of the state.
He also implemented some policies such as women and youth political inclusiveness.
Bello ensured that during an LGA election, all the vice chairmen were women. He followed it up by ensuring that at least each LGA has three female councilors – one of whom was appointed as Council Leader. Most of those appointed into his cabinet were youths.
Political analysts gave him a pass mark on the fact that he was judged by his cumulative eight years in office and not only by his first term. They said Bello fulfilled the biblical saying that better is the end of a thing than its beginning thereof.
“History will be kind to such a man whose ideal encapsulates that of perseverance, resilience, and dedication and whose journey has led to a more satisfying and fulfilling outcome and rewarding conclusions,” Abubakar Jimoh, a resident of the state said.
Indeed, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said that Yahaya Bello’s exceptional achievements had re-jigged Kogi’s economy.
He commended the former Governor for his exceptional achievements in the state.
Abubakar, in a commendation letter he personally signed and addressed to the former Governor, congratulated him on his notable strides since he assumed office as Kogi Governor in 2016, saying his various infrastructural projects had opened up the state as one of Nigeria’s main trade routes.
While congratulating the Governor and the Kogi State chapter of the APC for winning the just concluded governorship election in the state, the NIA boss noted that the former governor left the North Central state more prosperous, developed and transformed.
He listed some infrastructural projects, renovation of the Okene Reference hospital and the establishment of Omi Rice Farm as some of the achievements of the Yahaya Bello administration.
Abubakar, in the letter, titled, “Acknowledging Your Remarkable Achievements as Governor,” explained how Governor Yahaya Bello’s enhanced public services and facilities added value to agricultural production and rejigged Kogi’s economy.
One begins to wonder why so much attention is given to this man as if he is the only politician in Nigeria.
The conjecture is that many people are very jealous of the man for his enduring relevance in Nigerian politics, his ever – widening base of supporters and his larger-than-life image.