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Not too Young to Run-Yahaya Bello on the Run. By Olushola Omoghehin

Not too Young to Run-Yahaya Bello on the Run

Yahaya Adoza Bello
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The current mêlée between the former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, brings to remembrance, a piece early this month titled: “Youth in Governance: Africa in Senegal’s Story.” In the piece, I discussed how young leaders who took over power in African countries after independence plundered the wealth of the continent through mismanagement, pseudo leadership, leadership ineptitude and whatnots. I took my time to do a chronicle of leaders across different countries in African who took over power at independence in order to establish that African countries have paraded young people in power more than the old contrary to the narrative that Africa is governed by people who are closer to their grave.

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The piece revealed that majority of leaders that took over power from most African countries were mostly in their 30s and 40s with very few in their early 50s. The piece also revealed that most of these young leaders who later perpetuated themselves in office are the ones we called old leaders today. For instance, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Teodoro O.N. Mbasogo of Equitorial Guinea, Denis Sasson Nguesso of Republic of Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea who are currently the oldest presidents we have in Africa started leading their nations at 42, 37, 36, 42 and 45 years old respectively and have refused to leave the stage. Conversely, the same article presented some leaders who became president in their old age and performed excellently well thereby leaving us to choosing between “not too young to run” or “not too old to run.”

Yahaya Adoza Bello, who no doubt belongs to the “not too young to run” group, was born on 18th June, 1975 and became the executive governor of Kogi State on 27th January, 2016 at age 40 (some believe less than 40) when he replaced the late Abubakar Audu who was the legal owner of the mandate but rushed to the throat of eternity before the announcement of the election. As the youngest governor in Nigeria during his time, the circumstances that brought Bello to power was enough to confer humility and stellar performance on him but that was just an antithesis of his action in power. As Chinua Achebe reminded us that “those whose kernels were cracked by benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble,” Yahaya Bello refused humility to rule his life after posterity bestowed on him what was originally not his throughout his eight years in office. He ruled as the king of the jungle (White Lion). But then, But how did he fare?

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Fiscal sustainability is the ability of a government to sustain its spending and various policies without risking its financial stability or failing to meet its obligations. Under Yahaya Bello, BudgIT assessed the fiscal sustainability of the 36 state of the federation under the measure of the ability to meet all expenses and loan repayment obligation without going borrowing plus debt sustainability. In 2017, Kogi State was in 17th position from the 36 states of the federation. In 2018, it crashed to 21st position and 36th position in 2019. In 2020, 2021 and 2022, it remained at 29th, 28th and 27th respectively thereby becoming parts of the states with the lowest fiscal performance in the country. In the area of debt according to data from the Debt Management Office (DMO), Kogi State’s domestic debt as of 2022 was N93.62 billion.

Unemployment rate rose in crescendo despite promising one million jobs for the youths of the state so as to reduce unemployment. Available data from NBS posits that at the end of fourth quarter of 2017, the state had unemployment rate of 17.6% but increased to 19.7% in quarter four of 2018. Suddenly, it rose to 39% in 2020. In 2022, NBS made public, the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report that uses education, living standard, health and work and shock to assess poverty. The report puts poverty rate in the Confluence State at 61% , meaning that more than half of the population are living in multidimensional poverty. The same NBS revealed in 2018 that the state has about 124, 290 children that lack access to quality education out of which girls accounted for 70% while the remaining 30% are boys. Any improvement so far?

As of 2018, Nigeria has an under-5 mortality rate of 132 deaths per 1000 live birth. This means that 132 out of every 1000 children born would die before age 5 but this increased to 148 in Kogi State higher than the national rate and making it the 9th state with the highest under-5 mortality rate in the country. The political atmosphere of Kogi State since Bello took over in 2016 has been so undesirable as every election under him was war-like. For instance, the disappearance of Hon Adelabu Musa, the PDP Chairman in Okene Local Government Area and the killing of many others mostly from opposition parties together with the PDP Woman Leader in the state, Mrs Salome Abu who was burnt alive in her house in 2019 were under his watch.

Under Yahaya Bello as the “White Lion” of the state, the rule of law was under threat as he practically caged the judicial system of the state. This was demonstrated in the abrupt termination of the tenure of his deputy, Simon Achuba on 20th October 2019 through his pals in the House of Assembly and the judiciary. Even when the committee set up by the then Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasir Ajanah reported that there were no verifiable grounds for impeachment and returned the verdict of not guilty. It was the same Justice Ajanah who acquitted Achuba of any misconduct that the “White Lion” hoodwinked to inaugurate David Edward Onoja to replace as deputy governor.

By every standard however, a lion does not run from any animal, not even mortal. Why then is Yahaya Bello running if indeed he is a Lion? Could it be as a result of the ₦80,246,470,088.88 he was accused to have laundered with his nephew, Bello Ali, the Chief of Staff to the current governor or the $720,000 dollars state fund he was accused to have paid in advance for .his children school fees? Why can’t he just present himself for questioning as did by many governors ahead of him like Ayodele Fayose? Or as posits by Simeon Achuba that “the guilty is always afraid,” is our dear “White Lion” really afraid?

As a worthy servant is expected to give account of his stewardship, Yahaya Bello should be happy to answering any summon in order to give account of his stewardship after being preferred to preside over 4 million people. We know this act of ingratitude is common with our leaders but Bello should not take it to another level by trying to evade justice because he won’t succeed and the more he runs, the more he ridicules himself by making it clear to Nigerians that he has defecated on the seat of power of Kogi State. It is therefore more honourable for him to stop running (because he can run but not hide) and clean his excrement (if any) with honour.

As there is no gainsaying that he now constitutes a serious betrayal to the doctrine of “not too young to run”, it is sad that being a bad egg of youth representation, both his doing and undoing in and out of office will henceforth be used as veritable instrument to campaign against youth leadership in the politics of Nigeria. Already, Bishop Kukah has expressed disappointment over Yahaya Bello’s performance being a “poor advertisement” (as he puts it) for what young people can achieve. The performance of Bello in the areas of infrastructural and educational development, payment of salary, pension and gratuity are not all too good stories to tell.

In fact, a citizen of the state in a full article titled “Yahaya Bello – the Worst Performing Governor & A Sore Disgrace To The Youth,” laments that: “it seems to me that Kogi has had no governor since creation as the ones who have ruled the state from Audu Abubakar to Idris Wada to Yahaya Bello are only greedy men who came to fill their insatiable quest for illegal wealth by staunching public funds in foreign accounts all for personal gain.” As this fellow went ahead to narrate the ordeal of his father who was a civil servant for 35 years but died in the 35th year of his active service to the state without any gratuity paid 6 years after, it is believed that many people in the state are still silently suffering similar faith.

We therefore call on Governor Ododo to rise against the tide of betrayals in the state by governors. We know that a tiger can only give birth to another tiger, even if you call it a cub, time will turn it to a tiger but as Wole Soyinka puts that “a tiger does not proclaim his tigritude but pounces,” please pounce on great achievement and let good things speak for you so you can change the ugly narrative of the state. Yes, Bello might have masterminded your assumption into office but remember you are not working for him but for the people of the state and posterity will judge all your actions after leaving office as it is currently judging your godfather. You should therefore stand out and lead the state in the spirit of unity, fear of God with copious infrastructural development.

As a governor, you are the number one law official of the state. And as the law protects you, you must also protect the law. In this guise, as accountability is expected of every government official, it is incumbent of your predecessor to account for all the money obtained from FAAC, and special funds such as ecological, salary bailouts and other intervention funds from the federal government. In your honour, produce him to face the consequence of all his actions and inactions, after all, a good child can offer useful advice to his father. Please be a good child because his one hundred Samuel cannot run away from God.

Olushola Omogbehin a public affairs analyst Writes from Abuja Nigeria omogbehino@yahoo.com 08069220040

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