By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Less than one year into his second term as Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello has been nursing presidential ambition for 2023. The governor assumed his second term in office on January 27, 2020.
Bello had said during his swearing in that “The “Let’s Do More” mantra of my electioneering campaign stood on three operating principles of Partnerships, Progress and Prosperity which will underpin my new term of office.
“We shall embark on large scale urban renewal projects to further transform Lokoja into a resilient capital city with modern utilities attractive to residents and tourists alike.
“Though upgrading the sights and sounds of looking will be paramount, this beautification project will extend to at least one major town in each senatorial district.’’
Shortly after he took over power, less than one year, the governor abandoned his ‘Let’s do more’ mantra. He abandoned the State and is gallivanting about to become president in 2023, despite fact that Kogi State is one of the poorest states in Nigeria. Development in Kogi has been at the lowest ebb, yet its governor has been distracted by an inordinate ambition to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Bello first flew a kite when lawmakers in the Kogi State House of Assembly called him out to contest the 2023 presidency. The 25-member house made the unanimous call at plenary on December 2, 2020 in Lokoja. It was day after Bello presented a budget proposal of N130.5bn for 2021 to the lawmakers. The document was expected to gain attention of the lawmakers when they reconvened Wednesday.
They, however, chose to delve into the uncertain waters of 2023 Presidential politics, asking the governor to throw his hat into the ring. The House in its plenary described Bello as fit for the office in view of his outstanding performances as Governor and in view of the fact that the North Central Zone has also not had the opportunity to be President. They therefore urged him to seek a higher Office in 2023.
The House in a unanimous motion further urged that the office of the nation’s Presidency or Vice be zoned to the North Central Zone of Nigeria.
In the last few months or so there have been tremendous agitations over a shrouded presidential ambition. In fact some months after his second inauguration his posters for the 2023 presidential election appeared in Lokoja. Although it was debunked, the State has not known any dull moment since then.
The governor went as far as sponsoring youth group to demand that he vie for the presidency in 2023. The group, under the aegis of GYB2PYB issued a 14-day ultimatum to Bello accept its call on him to contest the 2023 presidential election,threatening that it would mobilize Nigerians to occupy the streets if he delayed to accept its request.
Members of the group marched to the Kogi State Liaison Office in Abuja, where they presented letter of their request to the governor. Speaking on their behalf, National Coordinator of the group,Amb. Oladele John Nihi, said their call was necessitated by what he referred to as the “exemplary leadership of the governor in Kogi State.”
Bello, through his commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, said he was being pressured to run for presidency in 2023.
The governor’s ambition for 2023 is affecting things in the State. This informed a group lamenting the decay in Kogi State.
The group, Kogi State Youth Renaissance (KSYR) raised an alarm over what it called the extreme poor governance in the state under the watch of Governor Yahaya Bello. The group maintained that the quality of life has been reduced to its poorest state under All Progressives Congress-led administration in the past five years.
Chairman of the group, Hassan Mohammed, noted that “Governor of Kogi State in his insensitivity slashed the salaries of poor workers to as low as 30 per cent while he continues to flaunt his expensive lifestyle to the faces of deprived people of the state.
“Under Governor Yahaya Bello, healthcare has completely gone moribund with the Federal Medical Centre under lock and key after the attack by hoodlums suspected to be agents of the Bello administration. This administration has continued to pay lip service to health challenges in the state including the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to unexplained deaths.”
Former Senator, Dino Melaye accused Bello of deceiving and distracting people of the State, while cautioning Nigerians against taking the presidential ambition of Bello seriously.
The former lawmaker said Bello was using the presidential ambition to shield attention from the alleged looting of the state’s funds and failure of his government.
In a tweet, Melaye wrote: “Gov. Bello is deceiving and distracting all those who take him seriously on the phantom presidential ambition to shield attention from the colossal and unprecedented stealing and failure of his wasted years in Kogi State. At the right time we will burst his bubble.”
The Director of Research and Documentation, Peoples Democratic Party in Kogi State , Mr. Dickson Ocholi lamented that the persistent calls on Bello could be described as mere distractions which would not allow Bello to concentrate on state affairs between now and 2022 when presidential primaries will be conducted across the parties.
Ocholi pointed out that the governor has enough work begging for his attention in Kogi rather than seeking higher office for now, calling on him to sit down in Lokoja, the State capital and restrategise in the interest of the people of Kogi State.
Yahaya Bello’s ambition seemed to gain more impetus during the APC revalidation and registration exercise as he was the chairman of the exercise. He used that period to subtly drum support for his ambition as he was everywhere. He even announced the coming into APC of critic, Femi Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode is now the chief proponent of the Bello’s 2023 ambition. He has been following the governor around. In fact, Bello visited him in his house. Bello has also succeeded in drawing Fani-Kayode to Aso Rock where both held a press briefing on the blockade of food to the Southwest by northerns. Bello used that period to score cheap political goal. He and Fani-Kayode mediated in the crisis and it was resolved.
To further show that he is still pursuing his ambition, Fani-Kayode tweeted on Friday, March 26, 2021, saying Bello is unstoppable.
— Femi Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) March 26, 2021
Political pundits are of the view that Bello, though qualified, is going nowhere near the presidency in 2023 as he could never get the ticket of the APC. Many asked Bello to pay more attention to the work he has been elected to do as a governor so that the people of Kogi would not suffer. Critics are saying that Bello has not done much for the State when compared to other governors.