It is easier to cure the shortsightedness of the eye than that of the mind. But in both, the victims are not to blame. Perception is a creative product that must be worked on.
As the Gatekeeper of the image of Alh. Yahaya Bello, I know a lot of misconceptions are woven around his person and work as the Chief Executive of the State.
While some could be pardoned for not knowing enough about him; many are dancing to ethnic beats by tribal champions or political sentiments by career jobbers, even if they are cantankerous to overall State interests, they don’t care.
For 24 years, Kogi was on the brinks of ethnic suspicion, disunity and characterized by the political class to brew divisions to their political advantage.
At the end of the “unsilvered” 24 years, our State was battered by the agents of division and disfigured by the sore stabbing of sectional agents on the slabs of mediocrity, egocentric leadership and a style that could best be described as “negative benevolence”. The State was at the mercy of a few who represented interests of a few to the detriment of the larger population of Kogi people.
When you emerge from a situation as ours, reawakening is the key. Here was a State where majority of teachers were traders who move from Onitsha to Lagos instead of being in the classrooms. We experienced monumental corruption in the civil service. A Secondary School Certificate Holder was made a Medical Officer to treat patients! We saw how a teacher of 28 years experience couldn’t speak simple English Language. It was terrible, damaging and hopeless.
On assumption of Office, it became obvious that a good number of things must be addressed. Through his appointments and spread of projects, the Governor spoke loudly through his body that ethnicity is no more in vogue. He’s still threading the lane; no doubt he is a fair leader.
But his fairness alone would not solve the rot in the Civil Service. Many didn’t know how deep rooted the corruption was. Many big Kogites had “Primary Schools” with over fifty teachers in those primary schools. Because those schools didn’t exist, “salaries” were diverted into accounts of the big men! The Governor knew the battle he was to face if sanity must be brought back to the civil service. He confronted the cabal and embarked on a Staff Verification Exercise. The cabal used the media and even the unsuspecting public to attack the exercise. A lot was indeed done to ensure the exercise didn’t succeed. But today, we have an efficient civil service that is ready to contribute to the development of the state. Government has also deployed technology to ensure civil servants stay at their duty posts.
The previous administration knew it would not be re-elected. Haven frittered away the resources of the state and showed disdain for the grassroots people, they were sure their days were numbered. As a result, it set booby traps to ensure its successor was destabilized. One of them was the free issuance of appointment letters to undeserving beneficiaries even when they couldn’t pay salaries of the already over bloated workforce. The present administration has also resolved that amicably.
Billions of Naira meant for the development of the state were “invested” in non-yielding projects. Those projects swallowed billions of Naira and remained uncompleted. They do not add any economic value to the state even as we continue to service the loans with which they were executed. It was a double economic jeopardy.
To address this, GYB has decided to sell those properties and use the proceeds to execute projects that will have direct bearing on the people.
In the present administration in the state, premium is placed on connecting with the grassroots. After many years of gross misrule, it was expedient to restore people’s confidence in the people who lead them.
Government officials buy and distribute food items and fertilizers to the grassroots. The Government Food Security Initiative has targeted the poor in the rural areas and the Indigent Fund has been extensively used to address the dire health needs of the indigent. Today, there is a big connect between the government and the led. Government officials are no more super humans. They are servants who work with their people to enable democracy dividends percolate to the grassroots.
When you are on minus three, your first three positive steps will still bring you to zero. It is not that you are not making progress, but the progress will first remove you from the pit before you start enjoying fresh breeze.
We were all in this state when the then PDP administration collected 2 billion Naira meant to empower our youth through Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. But rather than use it to empower them, they pocketed it and had the guts to tell the world they had no record of their ghost beneficiaries. Their Python swallowed the 2 billion Naira.But today, they are accusing us of not creating jobs for the youth. They were in Lugard House for 13 years and couldn’t create jobs. We are in Lugard House for 24 months and have created thousands of jobs through agriculture and entrepreneurship; yet, they claim we have not done enough.
Yes, we know we have not done enough. The New Direction Team under the dynamic leadership of Alh. Yahaya Bello has a target of making Kogi the epicenter of development in Nigeria.
A few weeks ago, we signed a deal with the NNPC on bio-energy that will greatly improve our Cassava cultivation in the state and reward farmers handsomely. The deal will employ about 2 million people directly and indirectly.
ChinaPower has also signed an agreement to provide 3000MW here in Kogi State. This will surely stimulate industrialization and crash the cost of production and by extension, the cost of goods and services.
Omi Dam is already a huge success and similar projects are near completion in Osara and Idah. We know where we are going.
Our opponents are scared of these facts. They are more convenient with the salary narrative to whip up sentiment. They will not tell the world how Kogi is gradually becoming the industrial capital of Nigeria.
Every worker deserves his wage. This government is committed to that. Prompt payment of salaries help greatly in motivating workers. But will they also tell the world that 35 of the 36 states in Nigeria are struggling to pay salaries? To them, it is not a convenient narrative. They will not also tell the world we are a leading Foreign Direct Investment Destination. We didn’t say so. Reputable organizations did. The influx of investments to the state is a product of excellent security and wonderful business environment.
The wind of change has blown in Nigeria and Kogi State. 2019 is our litmus test and we have no doubt that Kogi will choose to remain in safe hands.
Kogi State is our state. Let us join hand to build it together. A PDP chieftain sent me a text in the aftermath of the NNPC deal. Let me quote it here:
“Tell your Governor this is a good development. I am Cassava farmer and I know I have to produce more now as we now have a ready market. These are the things we want in our state. He didn’t take it to Ebiraland but to Okunland. This is commendable. My regards to him”.
I was thrilled by the message. What is good will always be good to those who want the good of the land.
And Then The Ekweremadu Thing
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has been an interested party in the politics of Kogi State. He has chosen, expectedly to be on the side of the Senate powers against the people of Kogi State.
His latest statement was his threat to stop the Governor of Kogi State from returning in 2019. Quite interesting. But that won’t lure the Kogi State Government into an unnecessary battle with the Enugu-born politician.
The State Government condemned in strong terms, the violence in Kogi Central. It was quite unfortunate. The Governor also dispatched a high-level delegation to Kogi Central to plead for calm. Normalcy is back in the central part of the state. This is the information we have for the good people of Nigeria.
We understand why Senator Ekweremadu has been so confrontational and offensive. Kogi is in safe hands.
The Deputy Senate President should sheath his sword and reserve his energies for 2019 when Nigerians will surely seek to have true statesmen in the Senate. We have tremendous respect for that institution that have members who are people of high integrity and credibility.
God bless Kogi State.
Fanwo Kingsley is the Director General on Media and Publicity to the Kogi State Governor