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Factors that will shape Governor Bello’s second term in office

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Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, of All Progressive Congress (APC) was sworn into office for a second term on 27 January 2020. Bello took his first oath of office on January 27, 2016 as replacement for late Abubakar Audu, who died shortly before the declaration of the results of the election he had worn.
 
No doubt the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State will go down in history as the most controversial election in the history of the state and perhaps Nigeria. The election was marred with the worst violence, murder and other electoral fraud that boggles the mind. Nevertheless, Bello secured another chance to serve his people for a second term in office, but not without complaints from many quarters.

The election generated national discourse due to the alleged poor handling of the process by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agents, and over-zealous party stakeholders desperate to return Bello to power. There was also protest by the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP), which also alleged widespread rigging and manipulation of the process that led to Bello’s victory. The candidate of PDP, Mr. Musa Wada, had rejected the result and is currently at the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja to challenge Bello’s victory.

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But Governor Bello had described his re-election as victory for true democrats, saying it would spur him to do more for the people of the state. In his inauguration speech, Governor Bello called on the people of the state, particularly his political opponents, to put aside all differences of politics, ideology or affiliation and join hands with him to give the state the best of governance.

Bello made the declaration on Monday at Lugard House, Lokoja, shortly after he was sworn in by the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasiru Ajanah. He also hit the ground running by naming 17 commissioner-designates. All the commissioner-nominees have been cleared by the state Assembly and were inaugurated immediately.

According to Bello, his ‘Next Level’ in Kogi State would rely on synergy at every stage, primarily the one between the people and the government, but also with a wide array of domestic and international investors, service providers and development partners spread across the public and private sectors.

According to him, “Kogi voters have re-elected us with the most historic margin in a gubernatorial election ever seen in this state and it is now incident on us to keep our electoral promises and we shall do just that.

“We will sustain focus on agriculture for improved food security, mass employment and increase in internally generated revenue. We will take the agricultural revolution, which we started in the first term to the Next Level.”

Governor Bello also promised to build the nation’s largest ethanol plant in Kogi State for the production of ethanol fuel from cassava as this would and further expand the use of green fuels in Nigeria given that climate. He also added that outside agriculture, his administration would also pay greater attention to human capital development by investing more in training of the people for enhanced relevance in a technologically evolving future.

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However, the governor’s first tenure was characterized by a series of controversies, which affected governance and development. Firstly, there was the protracted legal tussle between Bello and the former running mate to late Prince Abubakar Audu, James Faleke.

Secondly, the staff verification exercise embarked upon by his administration shortly after his inauguration also generated a lot of misgivings. Labour had accused the governor of trying to illegally lay off its members from work. In the ensuing controversy, the workers had alleged non-payment of salaries for several months. But that incidence appears to be history with the restoration of payment of salaries to workers in the state’s civil service.

The governor was also accused of sidelining his party men from participating in the governance of the state. These party members had engaged the governor in a fight until the November governorship election. Some of them had called for outright disqualification of the governor. But with his victory, all that has been put to rest. However, stakeholders in the state have said Bello’s second term would be less problematic and less controversial with the resolution of some of the issues, which hitherto gave Bello a tough time in his first tenure.

While speaking with The Guardian in Lokoja, Dr. Tom Ohikere, who was at a point working at cross-purposes with Bello, said Bello would work more for the people in his second term. According to Ohikere, the learning process in governance for Bello was over, assuring that lessons learnt in the first tenure would be applied by the governor to advance speedy development of the state. He maintained that aside the distraction with certain issues, particularly the face-off between the governor and some party leaders and the prolonged screening exercise, the governor did well in terms of provision of critical infrastructure and laying a solid foundation for the unity of the state, which he said had become a past issue.

“The re-election and continuity of the government of Bello and his deputy, Edward Onoja, are only proceeding to implement their campaign promises, which we know is based on a blueprint of doing more.”He stressed that the second term of the governor would be consolidating on the gains of his first term and it would further make for the re-engineering of the state.

The recent move by the governor’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Jamiu Asuku, aimed at wooing key stakeholders in the state to the fold of the governor, is seen by many as another positive step that would give Bello’s second term a smooth takeoff. Asuku told journalists recently that no government could succeed without meeting the yearnings and aspirations of its people, assuring that Bello’s second term would be all inclusive to enable it move the state to the next level of development.

Asuku made the assurance against the backdrop of his visit to prominent leaders of the state shortly after the governorship election. While speaking at the Nigeria Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) Press Centre, Lokoja, shortly after he was elected as the state chairman of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Alumni Association, Asuku said no matter what a government does once the people say their yearnings are not met, such government had failed.

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“For us to succeed as a government, we definitely need people and for you to win people to your side you need to initiate peace,” he said. “Every human being needs recognition and for us to succeed we have to give recognition to the good people of Kogi State irrespective of their political affiliation, tribe or religion.

“In the build-up to the governorship election, we went round the state to campaign to the good people of the state to vote for Governor Bello and we thank God that it has been achieved.“And for us to meet the yearnings of the people we need to recognise them. No doubt, we are servants to the people, who gave us the mandate to serve them and as such it behooves on us to move or meet the people wherever they are in order to know their feelings and deliver good governance to them.

“That was the basis of my visit to the elders of the state irrespective of their political affiliation and they all agreed to the leadership style of Governor Yahaya Bello and they said that they don’t have any reason not to support him to succeed.“We met former governors and other stakeholders; they gave us their word and assurance that they were ready to support us. It is factual that some people laid the foundation of governance of the state and for us to succeed, we just have to recognise them by going to them and that was what we have done to foster peace in the interest of Kogi State, which is above any personal or group interest.”

With the restoration of prompt payment of salaries to the state’s civil servants, the incessant squabbles between labour and government would be reduced to the barest minimum in Bello’s second term. A labour leader who would not want his name in print, told The Guardian in confidence that since salary was now regular, the problem would only be limited to the new minimum wage. But he, however, said the government was already in talks with labour for its smooth implementation.

He noted that the governor would have to work hard to win the confidence of the local government workers, who he said were on a ridiculous percentage of salary payments for several years running. The labour leader, however, said the percentage salary payment to council workers in the state predated Bello’s first tenure, who was yet to address it frontally.

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Another issue that the governor would have to contend with in his second tenure is that of insecurity in the state. Though the governor had recorded modest success in his first term in the area of security of lives and property, recent occurrences had shown that those gains were almost being eroded. There’s resurgence of kidnappers, armed robbery, bandits’ attacks, particularly the attack on Tawari community, which left several people dead, while property worth millions of naira were destroyed. The incessant face-off between farmers and herdsmen in the state are issues that would redefine the new government in the months ahead.

The cheering news would suggest that the governor is fully aware of the challenge and has promised to face it squarely. Bello’s participation the North Central Security Summit is perhaps a pointer to how serious he considers the security threats to Kogi State. He recently warned that his administration would deal ruthlessly with all criminal elements, saying he would not negotiate with bandits. Bello stated this during at the security summit held at Ta’al Conference Centre Lafia, Nasarawa State, to deliberate and strategize on how to overcome insecurity through community policing. 

Bello said with the cooperation of the security agencies, traditional rulers, and citizens, the state would deal with insecurity, which had become commonplace before his administration and had assumed frightening dimensions in Kogi, otherwise one of the safest states in Nigeria. He said criminals who refuse to turn a new leaf should not be negotiated with, assuring the Inspector General of Police that the regional governors would stand with him in the fight against criminal elements in the society. 

Bello, however, said some bad elements amongst the herdsmen, who want to distort the peace of the region and the nation at large should be dealt with severely. He said the North Central states’ governors and governments would collaborate in terms of security intelligence gathering and form strong synergy to flush out bandits in the region. 

He also urged citizens and community leaders in the North Central region to play leading roles in identifying bad elements in their domain and reporting same to security agencies with a view to routing criminality out of the region.Speaking also, Bello’s media aid, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, said the first tenure of the governor witnessed a demonstration of quality leadership and commitment to deepen development. According to Fanwo, Bello had revolutionized education and agriculture, insisting that he had taken healthcare to all, including the poorest of the poor.

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