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How Yahaya Bello opened search for Nigeria’s ‘futuristic’ President

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
18 April 2022   |   3:00 am
Flaunting the metaphoric banner of youths as leaders of tomorrow, he came with much hype and swagger. To some observers it was an early show. To others it was a bold attempt by an outgoing Governor of Kogi State to situate ...

Yahaya Bello. Photo/facebook/OfficialGYBKogi

Flaunting the metaphoric banner of youths as leaders of tomorrow, he came with much hype and swagger. To some observers it was an early show. To others it was a bold attempt by an outgoing Governor of Kogi State to situate his presence in a presidential race that is as colourful as it is befuddling.

But, in whatever perspective Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello’s recent presidential declaration is viewed, it came with much pluck, courage and gravitas. He must have left some lessons for other dithering presidential aspirants to walk in his steps. While others were contemplating and gazing the stars, he took a plunge.

The event at the Port Harcourt Stadium, where the current Minister for Transportation, Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, announced his interest in the contest, tends to bear credence to Yahaya Bello’s opening shot. But while Amaechi looked homewards, Bello took a neutral podium to declare, at a time stakeholders, particularly governors were mindful where to pitch tent. Had Bello turned homewards to Lokoja as venue, the confluence town would have experienced a quake in terms of influx of home crowd.

GYB, as his supporters call him, has, in defying the structure of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), decided to run on his own terms. It is left to watchers of APC politics to decide whether GYB’s presidential declaration simulates political indiscipline or a courageous appropriation of his democratic rights.

To a large extent, the Kogi State governor’s bold move has influenced a new thinking in the polity about the power distribution matrix in the country since its foray into the American system of Presidential democracy.

Coming from Kogi State, with its meagre resources, Governor Bello spurned concerns about who could bankroll his Presidential chase. Above all, he responds to the question on zoning by sustaining his stance that his geopolitical zone, North Central, is also deprived and has not tasted the Presidency since birth of this Republic in 1999.

GYB’s aspiration seems to have instigated Nigerians to start to count the years of Presidential governance by regions, such that Northwest is credited with 15 years, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Buhari.

Southwest has eight years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, while the South/South enjoyed six years of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, leaving Southeast, Northeast and North Central with zero democratic Presidency.

However, despite the bold attempt to discount the years spent by military heads of state, there is the temptation to ask why Bello is drawing strength from outside the Middle belt coalition, which has been nursing the Middle Belt aspiration for the 2023 Presidency.

Although the question, who is his backbone resonated in the air at the Eagle Square, there was no doubt that Governor Bello was sending a strong message to not only other zones, but also other Presidential aspirants, that it’s not only about fiscal resources, but human as well. He is counting heavily on youths across the country.

Yahaya Bello’s candidacy and the possibility of his eventual Presidency, would be intriguing, especially given that APC has produced its national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, from the North Central? That possibility is not very clear, even as some observers claim that Bello is being used to keep the hope of a northern President alive.

However, a lot of shifting of grounds has taken place ever since the Kogi State young governor made his public declaration. A ready instance comes from within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had remained transfixed with the idea of outright zoning of its Presidency despite electing its national chairman from North Central, in the person of Senator Iyorchia Ayu.

Speaking on the imperatives of zoning and the appendage of micro-zoning, the 2019 Presidential standard bearer of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in direct response to the Presidential aspirations of persons like Governor Nyesom Wike and his former Ekiti State counterpart, Ayodele Fayose, said he was prepared to drop his ambition if only the party micro-zones the Presidential slot to Southeast.

Citing fairness and equity as rationale for his stance, the former Vice President maintained nonetheless, that should PDP zone the Presidential ticket to the South, he will not withdraw, stressing, “Former President Goodluck Jonathan was President for six years. For fairness and equity, Wike should not contest, but he is contesting.

“Olusegun Obasanjo was President for eight years. For fairness and equity, Fayose should not contest, but he is contesting.  My region has not produced a President in this country, but I am ready to step down if PDP zones it to Southeast.

“If Wike and Fayose want fairness and equity, they should be fighting for PDP Presidential ticket to be zoned to the Southeast and not South.”

In the emerging dialectics, it is apparent that the North has its interest secured and therefore does not have anything to lose as the zone is sure to produce the Vice President in addition to chairmanship of the two major political parties.

Yet, from the articulations of the Fourth Republic Vice President, the impression has been created that within PDP, the South/South seem not to trust the Southeast, while the Middle Belt could be said to be totally ambivalent about the prospect of an Igbo Presidential candidate.

It is against that background that Atiku’s supporters contend that based on the 2019 results he (Atiku) rather than Governor Bello has a reservoir of at least 12million votes and as such, may stand as the best candidate against APC.

The Kogi State governor must have left a mark already in the conversations guiding the search for Nigeria’s futuristic President. Perhaps he chose the Eagle Square as venue of his public declaration to redound the crucial demands of choosing President Buhari’s successor.

The governor also had his eye on the critical demographic of youth inclusion. Those present at the occasion include his deputy, Edward Onoja, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase, a daughter of the late M.K.O. Abiola, Hafsat Abiola-Costello and a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode among other youth-minded political actors.

GYB, who dreams of becoming PYB (President Yahaya Bello) after the 2023 Presidential election, used the occasion of his presidential declaration to give insights into the negative media image his administration had been receiving.

He stated that powerful enemies, which he said control the media were responsible for “the bad press,” even as he challenged Nigerians to visit Kogi State to witness the unprecedented development taking place in the state.

In veiled allusion to the way he emerged as APC governorship candidate in 2015, Bello stated: “It is well known that we offended powerful vested interests on our way to power in Kogi State. Moreover, since we took office we have committed the unpardonable political sin in Nigeria, that is, refusal to have godfathers and kowtow to them.”

As a forerunner, Bello seems to know that he will be competing against other powerful aspirants on the basis of track record.
For instance, after explaining the shortcomings of his administration and without minding that the flipside of his promises would present as a critique of the Buhari era, Bello declared: “I am running for President because I see a bright light shining at the end of the tunnel for our nation. I am not one of those who only see doom and gloom. It is my intention to take custody of that light to pierce the dark spot in our past and present by eliminating every gap in our nationhood and fixing them.

“I will ensure that the light is handed over in due course to successors, who will be trustworthy of our great future, which the Federal Government led by me will build.

“I will be running on the broad political philosophy of progressive activism through social action and political reforms…I am running to restore hope by providing security…Our focus will be proper management of our great diversity so that it can really be an advantage.”

He remarked that although President Buhari has a target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by the year 2030. A “Yahaya Bello administration or Presidency will have an additional target of creating 20 million millionaires by the same year 2030 with the aim that each of them will empower five other citizens.”

Bello’s prescription for poverty reduction differs from World Bank’s strategies, which emphasises micro-credit, where lending is monitored in a variety of ways, including input, process and impact. Would Bello’s millionaires be products of wealth without work or portfolio investors that tap from government patronage?

There is no doubt that Nigerians are poised to questions when campaigns begin, but ever since Bello showed the way through his public declaration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, two members of President Buhari’s cabinet have joined the queue.

Apart from the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, who converted his thanksgiving programme to Presidential declaration, perharps in deference to Section 84 (12) of the 2022 Electoral Act, the incumbent Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, adopted a novel approach by declaring virtually.

While Amaechi, a former Rivers State governor, traced his political odyssey from serving as a two-term Speaker of the state House of Assembly, two-term governor, two-term Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and two-term Minister, Osinbajo said the past seven years had prepared him to step into the shoes of President Buhari as Nigeria’s next President.

And so, from Yahaya Bello’s beagle, more Presidential aspirants have started coming out in readiness for the public scrutiny that would attend their ambition, especially in the light of failed promises and current socio-economic challenges.