For anyone who cares to listen, the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, will proudly thump his chest and say he is the godson of President Muhammadu Buhari. Since he assumed office, Bello made his subservient ways to please the president very overt. He is not ashamed to be at the beck and call of the president, even when his duties are not needed.
Bello somehow manages to worm his way through, positioning himself as the true son of the president. His frequent visits to Aso Villa were once seen as a political move to seek the hand of the president’s daughter in marriage.
As a Muslim who is already married, his intentions are by no means illegal. If anything, it will only be seen as a strategy to stamp his foot in the corridors of power. So far, that has not been the case.
Yet, Bello’s visits didn’t dwindle. Instead, he has taken the onus upon himself to declare himself the one who has the president’s ears. After all, it was due to his intervention that the president considered bidding for a re-election. His victory in the last election is a celebrated feat for Bello, who again blows his trumpet that he indeed delivered Kogi State to the president.
This is a blatant lie that his detractors, even those who work with him, make mockery of behind his back. But Bello is so full of himself that he is only focused on those who dared to challenge him publicly, particularly from the state chapter of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
More recently, he bragged that the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, respects him because he is known as the son of the president.
On more than one occasion, the president has demonstrated his viral slogan that he belongs to no one in his four-year tenure. His stance in supporting the people’s interest over the interest of friends and allies are evident in the recent sagas in Ogun, Imo and Kano states. This is a president whose best credential is not only that he does not like corruption but clearly detests it as shown in the body language and confusion in Kano State. On national TV, the president was reluctant to raise Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s hand even when he knew he would secure votes for him. His refusal to support Ganduje after the bribery allegations almost caused his defeat in the state.
Likewise, in Ogun, he refused to assist his former best friend from the South West to pervert the will of the people. When the outgoing governor, Ibikunle Amosun, at the rally tried to pressure the president to support his own candidate, the president raised the hand of the APC candidate, but told the people to vote who they think will be best for them. Buhari refused to bow to the vested interests of the party, or the vested interest of Amosun.
His former best and only political ally in South East, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, ran to Abuja many times looking for presidential salvation against the party. The president did not interfere.
Similarly, in Oyo State, the president did not spare his longtime close friend and political ally since the days of his former party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Adebayo Shittu. Shittu was also a former governorship aspirant of the party in Oyo before he was appointed Minister of Communication. From the first day, he gave the governor trouble, but because of his closeness to the president, Buhari showed his usual character of being steadfast to his friends and kept him as minister.
Soon, allegations of financial impropriety and not paying his assistants their salaries, something that Buhari has worked against in the states. But Buhari still stood with his friend after he confessed that he did not carry out his National Youth Service Corps obligation. Unlike the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who was asked to vacate her office, Shittu was not sacked because the president does not bow to vested interest.
When the primaries for the state came, Shittu was denied access. Those who were present at the screening said he didn’t qualify. The president didn’t come to his aid. The APC lost Oyo State because the president said the interest of the people should prevail.
Thus, it is quite alarming that the president refused to call to order Bello’s flagrant disregard of the will of the people. How come the president is not querying Bello on his inability to pay workers’ salaries for years or the squalor he has pushed most Kogites into due to the lack of development in the state? How come the president is not concerned about the untold hardship Bello has inflicted on the people? Is it that in Kogi the president chose politics over people? Is it that the cries and sickness from non-payment of salaries don’t get to the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja?
As the governorship primaries draw near, Bello is walking down the streets of Kogi, drumming support from those who are too scared to call him to order. He is raising his head and breathing confidently that he will return to power at the November governorship election. Never mind the tactics he will employ to achieve his goal.
The Buhari we know will not allow Bello to even contest primaries in Kogi. He will not be permitted. Buhari said “he does not know how governors go to sleep without paying salaries”, but Bello his ‘son’ is sleeping well without paying salaries. Is it because in Kogi, for the president, it is politics, not people? Or vested Yahaya Bello interest not people’s interest? Has the president given up the burden of the father of the nation in Kogi to make a choice to be father of Yahaya Bello? Is it that, everywhere, he is for all and belongs to no one, but in Kogi he is for Bello and belongs to Bello?
The president has a good opportunity to show example by denying Bello and telling him the truth. If he is truly a son, he will not disgrace and soil his father’s name, and so he should not contest. He should not contest not because there is fear he can win, but because there is fear the Presidency is behind him. He should not contest not because he can win, because he can never win. If only 10 people vote, Bello will still lose the election.
Openly condemning what Yahaya Bello has done and plans, denying him the ticket, is the only message from the Presidency and APC that can be loud in Kogi. It’s the only message that cannot be misinterpreted. It is the only message that can assuage the pain of many. It is the only message that can assuage the pain of the sick, and workers who have not been paid, some of them for years; the pain of children who have not been to school because teachers have not been paid and parents have not been paid so no school fees for private school; to assuage the pains and sorrow across Kogi. The president should prove that, like in Katsina, the interest of the people in Kogi is paramount and above the vested interest of Bello.
•Oyedepo writes from Lokoja, Kogi State