Opinion

2023: Yahaya Bello plays the truant

By Paul Ade-Adeleye

Egged on by sycophants, opportunists and merchants of fortune, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, may soon turn a dreamy eye to Aso Villa. It is not immediately clear if he will try to campaign for the presidency, especially as he has done the politically correct thing of publicly saying he is currently more focused on developing Kogi than mulling 2023 presidency. That reaction, however, meant that the governor may very well fancy his chances of vying for power. He has also kept a close watch on the American stage and has watched Joe Biden going about his business after the effective drubbing of Donald Trump. More, he has beheld with gleeful eyes the appointment of Kogi indigene, Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo, as an Associate Counsel to the president-elect.

Felicitating with her, he said many sweet things and celebrated her “wealth of knowledge and experience” hoping that it would be of some use in bettering Kogi state. Funny he should mention that, seeing as many people have asked him what he, the state’s governor, has done to develop the state. Some Kogi citizens have accused him of following the book of his predecessors by sidelining the Okun people and community, one of the ethnic tripods upon which Kogi State rests, in favour of the more prominent Ebira and Igala people in the state. Badejo, with whom he now fetes publicly, belongs to the Okun group of people. Now, if he cannot run an inclusive government in a state such as Kogi with only about nine ethnic groups, what well of ideology or experience does he want to draw from when he finds himself in charge of 253 ethnic groups?

Beyond his perceived lack of success at running an inclusive government, the governor has been accused for years of bumbling about with policies, yet having nothing to show for it. One of his more recent policy scandals is the now-forgotten bread levy plot. After scratching their heads and shrugging confoundedly, the public let the matter go and both Mr Bello and his administration heaved a sigh of relief and buried the case. Close shave. His loyalists know this; they cannot anchor their calls for his presidency on anything concrete, so they surfed doltishly on the virtually spent tidal wave of the recent EndSARS protests to compel him to declare his intention to contest for 2023 presidency. Forming a nebulous association called GYB2PYB, which some believe was orchestrated and sponsored by the governor himself, they stormed the Kogi State Liaison office in Abuja where they were received kindly and amiably, and issued a 14-day ultimatum to him.
Hear their blather: “We are aware that Kogi State today is the government of the youths, by the youths and for the youths. We are aware that Kogi State today has over 90 percent of its appointees from the youth group, both men and women. We are aware that in Kogi State today, all the 21 Vice chairmen are all women. We are also aware that in Kogi State today, all the 21 council leaders are women. We are also aware that all the secretaries to the council chairmen in Kogi State today are youth council coordinators. And, we have discovered that if Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, is doing all these wonderful things in Kogi State, Nigeria deserves to have a feel of what Kogites are currently enjoying… We want to give him a 14-day ultimatum to give us a positive response else the Nigerian youths are ready to shut down this nation. We are sure the governor would not want to witness a repeat of protest similar to the #EndSARS protests that happened in this country in October, last year.”

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The witless claims for a youthful president to messianically retire the older generation from power must not tempt the governor, who may not know how little his support base is outside of a few toady men in and around Kogi State. Merit and character, not age, qualify a person for office, as Nigerians have learnt. Nigerians have also learnt that the next best option is not necessarily the best option — a mistake they made to usher in the current floundering government. Before directing his gaze to the presidency, where former and allegedly reformed military dictator, President Muhammadu Buhari, currently sits in anonymity, he must direct an inward eye to introspect and consider his phantom legacy in Kogi State. Would anyone want a governor with no tangible record of achievement or sound judgement and evidence of a solid ideology for his state to man the country’s helms? Would anyone want a man, who left his office in Kogi to go to Abuja and line up to welcome the President’s son when he returned from surgery following a speed bike accident, as president? Would anyone want a governor, who still denies the presence of coronavirus in his state despite the federal government’s claims that all states have been affected, as president? It is doubtful. If he, however, choses to boil the ocean and contest for presidency, he will learn the hard way what he should have learnt by patient meditation — critics and analysts may be more truthful than fawners in politics.

FG’s insouciant approach to vaccine

Since the production of the COVID-19 vaccines in both the United States and the United Kingdom, something or someone is believed to be confounding the counsel of the federal government, and this with great success. That the government did not lift a finger towards grabbing the bull by the horns and charting a clear, workable policy says a lot. The COVID-19 pandemic was the sort of global distress that Nigeria could have capitalised on to attract fame and glory. Despite the weakened state of healthcare and pharmaceutical development in the country, Nigeria is inherently equipped to deliver when called upon.

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Where the Nigerian government has gallivanted in the woods, Dr Nevers Mumba, Zambia’s President, has come out strong, blazing a trail and setting a clear path for Zambian action. He has declared that the constitution of the vaccine will be subjected to strenuous verification. Zambia may be poor, he declared, but the country is not stupid. It would have been sensible if the Nigerian government or its overstretched Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 had been the ones to take such a firm and responsible stance on the vaccine. But they didn’t. NAFDAC is tentatively gearing up to do the needful, but the PTF has not seemed to reckon with their role in the vaccine importation and distribution. The country chose instead to fling N400 billion at the vaccine, not knowing what exactly they were procuring. Who spends that much money on a product they have not seen?

N400 billion is a scandalous amount to spend on the procurement of vaccines, but more mortifying is the federal government’s sharing formula which dictates that Kogi state, which has denied the existence of the virus within its borders, gets more vaccines than the Federal Capital Territory and 10 other states. Lagos state, meanwhile, the epicentre of the virus, gets lesser number of vaccines than Kano State. Did the federal government cast lots? State governors’ only objection to the sharing formula was that they were not consulted. They did not think that where the federal government failed in taking charge, they should have stepped up. Where the blind leads the blind, both will roam endlessly.

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Paul Ade-Adeleye is a journalist,he writes from Lagos.

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Musa Tanimu Nasidi