Yahaya Bello: Jejune politics of a head boy
Perhaps the best way to identify Alhaji Yahaya Bello to any resident of Okene, Lokoja or indeed, Kogi State is to ask of Fair Plus. That was before January 27, 2016. On that date, Bello’s name and fortune changed: He became the Governor of Kogi State.
By June 18, the Kogi State helmsman would be 41. That does not make him the youngest governor in the present dispensation. But there is no governor in the country presently that can boast of Bello’s experience in politics and plodding. Bello has been in office for a mere three months, yet he has dominated public discourse as if he had been in office for a long time.
Though Alhaji Bello had an early life leadership experience of serving as class prefect and school head boy in his local primary school at Agassa, his campaign to be governor began and stalled as an aspirant. He lost the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) governorship primary to former Governor Abubakar Audu.
He was also known to have traded in stocks, having trained as an accountant and business administrator. However, if Governor Bello ever trained as a gambler, it is not known. But his voyage in politics, especially in the politics of Kogi State reads like the rise and ramble of a gambler.
Less stress had been laid on the allegation that shortly after losing the APC governorship ticket to the more popular Audu, Bello experimented with ideas of defecting to the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and working for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), against the electoral success of Audu.
However, not long after the unthinkable happened and Audu died midway to breasting tape in the November 21 governorship race, Bello’s name popped up like the cork of champagne. And with that sudden re-emergence on the Kogi gubernatorial contest and political arena, the bubbles of troubles have never ceased.
Even as questions were being asked as to who or what killed Prince Audu at the threshold of victory, nobody expected Bello to volunteer an answer. Yet, when the argument came up as to who should inherit the votes already garnered by Audu before his decease, Bello pointed in the direction of APC leaders. He argued that having been warehoused from the governorship primary, the window of substitution opened by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and the Independent National Electoral Commission; favoured him.
Like mysterious player, Bello continued to mesmerize the system and Kogi State, such that in the supplementary election of December 5, 2015; Fair Plus became the APC flag-bearer, replacing the dead Audu and supplanting Audu’s running mate.
Not that alone, Bello went into history as the first ‘governorship’ candidate to contest election in Nigeria without a running mate. This was partly because by the time election was announced, those who threw him up as the custodian of a dead man’s votes failed to provide him with a running mate and the deceased flag-bearer’s running mate, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, refused to play second fiddle to “a stranger” to the governorship ticket.
However, tending to prove that all is fair in love and war, including electoral battles; Fair Plus went ahead and ‘won’ the election ‘single-handedly’. From there, he went to other victories: Alhaji Yahaya Bello was sworn into office without a deputy on January 27, 2016. And the second phase began.
Having settled down to carry out his functions, the Kogi governor filled the vacant position of deputy. But it was in the process of filling that critical constitutional void that Bello set off billows of fair and foul fire.
In the House of Assembly, the argument began that it was politically incorrect to have the governor and Speaker, Hon. Momoh Jimoh Lawal, hail from the same constituency. Forgetting that no two wrongs can make a right, the Kogi lawmakers that wanted to humour Bello, never cared to ask themselves whether the governor and the speaker belonged to the same political platform. Or even if the two belonged to different political parties, whether Bello’s emergence followed a happenstance or the dictate of man.
As finger-pointing took over, Governor Bello denied having a hand in the power play in the House of Assembly. Then as five out of the 25-member legislature sacked the speaker, fifteen lawmakers disclosed that the governor was adopting the Ostrich manifesto, stressing that Fair Plus has given unfair advantage to the five to foul the legislative order and rules.
It was evident that either Bello was mistaking the position of governor for that of a school prefect or that he was equating the functions of a speaker with that of a head boy. And determined to whip up sentiments, the governor remembered his days in stock trade and took turns playing the Bull at one time and the Bear at another.
Having figured out that the game of number was tilted against him by virtue of the fact that his party parades 10 as opposed to 15 PDP members of the House of Assembly, he manipulates the power of incumbency and the use of carrot. If the situation in Kogi could be likened to a game of chess, Fair Plus is glad to be the Pope. He is at the centre of the game.
In the attempt by the National Assembly to instill legislative sanity into the Kogi State House of Assembly, the Governor remembers that Hon. Faleke, is still interested in the dead man’s votes he inherited. Prepared to call the bluff of Faleke’s colleagues, Bello went for the federal might and procured the AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN; to make another pronouncement, similar to the former advisory to INEC that provided the testament for inheritance.
Waving the correspondence of the AGF, Bello succeeded in getting a reprieve to have his budget passed by nine out of 25 and the Police looked askance.
As a trained accountant, it is expected of the Kogi State governor to know that statements of account do not lie unless the accountant decides to fiddle with the figures. Even as governor Fair Plus should know that five is less than fifteen. But the simultaneous equation in Kogi State has refused to balance mainly because the Headboy insists on interfering with the processes.
A fortnight ago, the Kogi State chapter of APC passed a vote of no confidence on the governor. Part of the party’s grouse with Bello is his penchant for taking decisions without the input of the party leaders. They also accuse the Prefect of robbing APC to pay PDP through his appointments.
The young Alhaji has shot back to his party men, telling them that as governor, the constitution empowers him to appoint anybody from any party. What Governor Bello knows that his APC colleagues do not seem to grasp is that the Fair Plus wishes to continue his governorship odyssey from where it stalled at the point of APC primary election.
Despite being subsumed by the clatter from the House of Assembly, NASS and the APC, the Kogi Sate Governorship Election Petition Tribunal is still sitting in Lokoja. Fair Plus believes that even if his APC colleagues forsake him, he could find solace from PDP, especially if the Tribunal revisits the inconclusive scenario that sparked off the whole scenario.
There is no doubt that from headboy, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has grown in stature to a political blacksmith that has also become adept at releasing fair and foul smokes. If to the pure all things are pure, to the impure all things would also be impure. A lot of arbitrary things have been given effect in Kogi State as such the current upsurge in arbitrariness could either tame the foul smoke billowing from the place or further confound it. With FairPlus at the centre of it all, it would be fair if at the end, democracy is not fouled.
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