Kogi Govt: Active, Indulgent and Retrograde, By Idowu Akinlotan

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KOGI State under Governor Yahaya Bello is probably the most feverishly active state in Nigeria. But it is also probably the most incontestably retrograde of states, full of paradoxes, and heading fatefully in the wrong direction. There is of course the legal conundrum the state is yet to untangle, a huge moral burden occasioned by the brazen usurpation of both election victory and justice perfected by forces almost wholly outside the state. The witless Mr Bello is just a pawn in that unfortunate game. But there is an even more horrendous problem the state will battle with as long as justice eludes the state over the last governorship election won conclusively, despite the election tribunal ruling, by the duo of Abubakar Audu and James Abiodun Faleke. That horrendous problem is the open and indisputable clumsiness of the governor.

Though a famous pastor recently visited the governor and described his assumption of office as divine, perhaps in the same way the emergence of Adolf Hitler and other dictators and bloodthirsty rulers in history were divine, it is also true, if not truer, that Mr Bello assumed office emotionally unprepared and without a developmental programme of any kind. His inaugural address, as this column noted after he was sworn in, was kindergarten, and his delivery burdened by the troubled conscience of someone making away with another man’s goods. He is beholden and besotted to Abuja from whence his legitimacy derives, and indifferent to his state where he imposes his practiced and consistent tomfooleries. When he took office in January, the superstitious Mr Bello swooped on the main arterial road in Lokoja, the state capital, particularly the roundabouts, and uprooted them, supposing them to be demonically possessed.

Then he took on the House of Assembly, and with the brilliant mathematical support of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the military and the police, subverted that citadel of lawmaking by emplacing five legislators over 15 of their colleagues. Mr Bello has, in short, proceeded from one fumbling policy to another, desultorily, hesitantly and braggingly. It is estimated he has collected about five allocations of about N2.5bn each from the central purse and added that to some N20bn first tranche from the bailout fund Abuja made available to mendicant states. He then added these to a fair amount of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of about N500m, and thereafter inflated himself with the illusion of wealth without responsibility, splurging on birthdays and official cars in the most spendthrift of manners. Despite these sizable sums, it was only two weeks ago or less that he reluctantly paid some of the outstanding salaries to some (not all) workers, some of whom he paid 30 percent of their salaries. Civil servants have not been paid.

Even the simple task of paying what he owed to a few has become a very complex and challenging problem to him. He wrecked the screening process through which he aimed to discover ghost workers, and has now attempted to herd primary school teachers and local government workers to open accounts with Access Bank, and civil servants to patronise Zenith Bank. A confirmed and exuberant polygamist still thirsting for more, the 41-year-old is generally despised in the state as incapable of managing the state’s affairs, especially with his coterie of sybaritic fortysomethings in the cabinet.

Worse, because some of the Kogi workers were reluctant to open these new accounts, the banks themselves went ahead to perform the operations on behalf of the workers. Other banks are protesting the government’s unorthodox practices, just as organised labour has also embarked on strike. The state is not only frothing with instability under Mr Bello’s administrative, legislative and bureaucratic excesses, it is also enduring the governor’s untrammeled penchant for travelling. Despite the state’s ethnic configuration and the thin-ice politics upon which they cavort, it is doubtful whether his ethnic group would feel proud to have him as their representation in the salutary dynamics of power shift. Nor is it clear his imperious and obstinate federal supporters, some of whom could very well become his in-laws, would feel exultant to have such an undignified and vacuous politician become their pawn in the convoluted chessboard of national politics.

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