The Kogi State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary held on August 29, 2019 was an easy win for the incumbent governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Adjudged by observers to be transparent, free and fair, the primary election conducted under a peaceful atmosphere, saw Bello convincingly defeating nine other aspirants cleared for the contest by the party, to emerge as the APC candidate for the November 16 gubernatorial election in the state.

Of the 3,596 delegates accredited to vote, Bello polled a total of 3,091 votes, leaving Babatunde Irukera with 109, Rep. Hassan Baiwa 44, Yahaya Audu 10, Sani Abdullahi Lulu 7 and Abubakar Bashir 3. Blessing Ekele, Hadiza Ibrahim and Yakubu Mohammed and Mr Danlami Mohammed scored zero votes. Fifty-four votes were declared invalid.

Most members and chieftains of APC in Kogi State have continued to express joy over the triumphant outing of Kogi Governor at the primary poll, believing that with his candidature the party’s victory for the forthcoming governorship election is guaranteed.  Bello is seen as the only one whose candidacy can retain Kogi for APC among those that contested for the party’s guber ticket.

Senator Smart Adeyemi, a staunch loyalist of Bello, said the emergence of the governor as the flag bearer of APC for the November 16 guber poll, was the best option for the party. Adeyemi, the APC senatorial candidate for Kogi West in the last general election, who recently got the tribunal to upturn the victory of his political arch-rival, Senator Dino Melaye, noted that it was not surprising Bello won with such huge margin among other nine aspirants.

His words: “Governor Yahaya Bello will win the general governorship elections in the same manner he won the primary. Winning elections is not an internet affairs but acceptability by the people based on convictions by stakeholders across the political entity. Governor Bello is a man of covenant with God, such people will not be confronted by men with mere wisdom. Winning the November poll has become simpler with the governor holding the flag of the party in view of his sterling first-term performance.”

Jimoh Tiamiyu, a Lokoja-based businessman and APC stalwart, said the delegates at the primary election could not have done otherwise, knowing what Bello’s candidature holds for the party in the coming guber poll.

Tiamiyu believes that with Bello as APC candidate, the party’s victory on November 16 is sealed. He maintained that the governor has performed creditably well to deserve another term to consolidate on his achievements.

Hear him: “Governor Bello has done well to deserve a second term. His second term would be more of consolidation on the remarkable feats he recorded in his first term. He opened an avenue for all-inclusive government irrespective of tribe, religion and class, thereby giving a sense of belonging to all and sundry in the state. We have never had a situation where government appointments and projects are equitably spread across the state as witness in Bello’s government.”

Continuing, Tiamiyu said: “Bello’s performance can be seen in the area of security, agriculture, electricity, roads, health, education, rural water supply, youth empowerment and employment and civil service reforms. Look at the building of ministry of transport, MDG building Complex, Kogi Press House (Graphics Building) Complex, renovation of Government House, completion of Diagnosis Medical Center with Equipment waiting for Commissioning, Kogi Hotels almost Completed, the Revenue House, cleaning of Lokoja township road by Gee Money, renovation of State Secretariat and Assembly Complex and the formation of Kogi Vigilante Service which engaged over 5000 Kogi residents. Jobless youths are now gainfully employed and making life meaningful for themselves.”

However, there are those who are of the view that by the emergence of Bello as APC guber standard bearer, the party has surrendered Kogi to the opposition. For them, APC has done the greatest mistake that would lead to its fall on November 16. They anchored their position on what they described as his (Bello’s) total failure and apparent display of ineptitude and cluelessness in the governance of Kogi State.

For instance, in the buildup to the APC guber primary, Mustapha Audu, son of late ex-Governor Audu and an aspirant screened out of the race, had said APC will lose Kogi if Bello was given the party ticket.

According to him, “Everyone who knows what is good for Kogi State is aware that the current government is in charge of the highest rate of suicide the state has ever faced. The state government is in charge of non-payment of salaries of about 40-41 months. Kogi State is a complete disaster at the moment… The fate of youths in Kogi State is also at stake. If we don’t get it right with the youths in Kogi State, no Nigerian (youth) can ever aspire for leadership position in this country because they will use Kogi State as the reference point for failure.”

The leading opposition party in the state, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was thrilled with Bello’s emergence as Kogi APC governorship candidate. For PDP, the coming election will be a walkover, on account of Bello’s poor performance and inability to deliver dividends of democracy to Kogites.

In a statement by Kogi PDP publicity secretary, Bode Ogunmola, the party said: “PDP has long been praying for the APC to make the mistake of re-presenting Bello for the governorship poll. It is a well-known fact that the governor cannot win any local government in Kogi due to his poor performance, and the way and manner the resources of the state is being massively looted. His desperation to return is to save himself from going to prison over looted funds. That was why he had to spend hugely to get strong contenders (for the APC ticket) disqualified. If he succeeds in fooling the leadership of his party and the delegates, we are confident that he cannot fool Kogi electorate who are victims of his monumental misgovernance.”

But Edward Onoja, the Chief of Staff to Bello, argued in a piece that those criticizing and rating Bello low in performance are detractors who had at one time or the other failed the state and are standing judgement in their own matter.

In the words of Onoja, “Anyone who can find the humanity to blind sentiments and judge from with the fear of God and in the interest of the people cannot but arrive at the inescapable conclusion that Governor Yahaya Bello and his New Direction Administration have started a long-awaited renaissance in our dear Kogi.”

Highlighting the ratings which, according to him, really matter and display Bello’s milestones in office, he said: “In 2017, less than 2 years into GYB’s tenure Kogi was rated one out of only 4 states in the federation deemed success stories in the SDGs by the United Nations. We were invited to the 72nd UN General Assembly where we made a presentation. Governor Yahaya Bello inherited a Kogi state that was the kidnap capital of Nigeria with over 250 kidnap cases in 2015 alone. Less than 6 months into his tenure, it dropped drastically.

“In fact, for a 6 month period from July of 2017 to early January of 2018 we recorded no kidnaps at all. Till today, we only record random and isolated cases. We officially became the 2nd most peaceful state in the federation after Osun, and the most peaceful in northern Nigeria in 2018, as rated by the National Peace Index (NPI). In the same 2018 we were rated the state with the second lowest crime statistics after Kebbi by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Our enhanced security came at the cost of a governor actually spending his security vote and other appropriated funds on the provision of security for his people. Over 200 and 500 brand new 4WD vans and motorcycles were purchased and distributed to all the security agencies in addition to other gadgets and financial support.”

Onoja further stated that “Our internally generated revenue has grown from about N350m monthly to over N1bn simply by eliminating corruption and improving collection. This 2019, we have been rated the 7th top performer among all the states and FCT in basic education by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Over 375 basic education schools have been renovated or constructed from scratch across the state. Our secondary schools have enjoyed the administration’s magic touch too, especially in enhanced learning materials. Several tertiary institutions were upgraded to the point they have received long outstanding accreditation for critical courses. Still in 2019, the NBS rated us one of the only 9 states which reduced unemployment at a time the rest of the country slid further into it. Even the vexed salary arrears have become history as the governor kept his word to pay up all arrears as soon as the bailout funds become available. They bailout has come and the governor has paid.”

Michael Jegede, a media professional writes from FCT, Abuja

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