The Thought Of Yahaya’s Absence And The Dark Speeches Of His Deputy

The fact that Kogi State thrives in controversies and rumours of negative reports about its leaders came to the fore once again with speculations trailing the recent unannounced trip of Governor Yahaya Bello, outside the country.

With the trip shrouded in mystery, the rumour mill, which for some time has been inactive, came alive with speculations that the governor had died in a German hospital. He was said to have collapsed in Abuja and rushed abroad with some of his cabinet members including his personal physician.

The rumour, mostly peddled by scaremongers, did not come as a surprise judging from the fact that a similar one was also peddled during a foreign trip embarked upon by his predecessor, Idris Wada, towards the last year of his tenure.

For a state noted for elevating strange events to a level of public consciousness, the rumour refused to die even after attempts were made to clarify the situation from the governor’s media team.

In the previous case of Wada, his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi, rose up to the occasion in defense of his boss describing insinuations of his deteriorating health in an Indian hospital, as not only baseless, but a figment of the imagination of mischief makers.

He had said, “Though the governor traveled, other senior government officials and myself are constantly in touch with him. I spoke repeatedly with him yesterday (Wednesday). The governor is doing well and in high spirit. I wonder how wicked some people could be to peddle rumor of the death of a man who since assumption of office as governor has remained committed to the growth and development of the state. The governor is due back in a few days time to continue to steer the ship of the state.”

The voice of Awoniyi came so handy because he was in charge while his boss was away and a letter was transmitted to the then House of Assembly.

But in the present scenario, the voice of Bello’s deputy, Simon Achuba was not heard all through the period confirming that he may not have actually been in charge as the people were made to believe.

The argument among media analysts was whether any official letter was transmitted to the State House of Assembly and whether the Deputy was actually empowered to hold forth. At least if these were done and made public, it would have foreclosed any space for rumors.

This could also be compared to President Muhammadu Buhari’s medical trip abroad when his Special Adviser on Media, Femi Adesina, informed the public that the President would proceed on a 10-day medical vacation to London from Monday, June 6, 2016, during which period he is billed to see an E.N.T. specialist for a persistent ear infection.

Buhari had, before leaving the country, written to the National Assembly to inform the federal lawmakers of his medical trip. He had indicated in the letter that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo would take charge in acting capacity.

Though there were criticisms over Buhari’s trip for abandoning Nigerian hospitals in spite of his promise to look into the excesses of Nigerian politicians and their perchance for seeking medical attention abroad, there were no rumours of death or uncertainty over his whereabouts.

While the president was away, Vice President Osinbajo took charge and government business did not suffer. Osinbajo carried out several state functions, among them a meeting with a Senate delegation to discuss issues related to the 2016 budget.

However Bello’s media team rose up in defense of the governor saying a letter was actually transmitted to the House of Assembly but not on the floor as it was not immediately made available to the press.

Some political analyst said if the governor had actually transmitted a letter to the House of Assembly intimating them of the need for him to travel abroad on health grounds, the lawmakers should have read the letter on the floor of the House and told the people of Kogi State through the media, that their governor would be away, and that the Deputy Governor would be Acting Governor.

They said ordinarily as human and number one citizen of the State it is his right to seek medical help abroad but it was wrong of him to hide his health condition from the people he governs.

Spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Bode Ogunmola, however said there was need for proper communication to the public on the part of government to avoid creating rooms for speculations amongst the people.

He said, for a man that is only 41, it will be foolhardy for anybody to wish him dead especially when he is the governor. “The position of the party has always been that as the governor of the state, he should try and do well. We don’t wish him dead as a party. The normal thing for a governor, if he is going out of the country, is to hand over to his deputy. We wish him well but he should do the proper thing as a governor. If you are traveling out, you should hand over to your deputy.”

Ogunmola challenged the governor to always do the needful adding that they pray for him even though they are not certain he is sick adding, “We hope he will come back to face what the electorates have elected him to do.”

In a swift reaction the Director General, Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr Kingsley Fanwo refuted the rumors that the number one citizen was attending to any health issues adding that he is hail and hearty.

Fanwo explained that the governor traveled abroad for some kind of holiday away from the bustling of office work after overcoming hordes of litigation threatening his election especially the suspense at the Supreme Court.

In his words, “I want to state clearly here for the avoidance of doubt that the rumor lacks any iota of truth. It is a reflection of the depth the enemies of Kogi State have gone in their desperate angst against fate.”

Explaining further, he said the governor in line with the Constitution, had earlier transmitted a letter to the House of Assembly of his intention to go on a two-week break and that all urgent state matters should be directed to his deputy.

A copy of the said letter dated October 25, 2016 and addressed to the Speaker of the Assembly reads:
“I wish to hereby notify you by this letter of my intention to travel out of the country for 14 days commencing on 26th October, 2016. While abroad, all urgent state matters should be forwarded to my Deputy, Rt Hon Simon Achuba.”

Many critics however described the purported letter as an after thought wandering why it was not released to the public until the rumour started making the round more than one week after the governor traveled.

A media practitioner who spoke on condition of anonymity said rather than always putting the blame on the media the government should rise up to the occasion by being transparent in the discharge of government duties by taking their own story to the people rather than allowing other persons to tell it.

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