Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Traditional rulers in Kogi State on Wednesday told President Muhammadu Buhari, that they were no longer comfortable with the minister of state slot that their status in the federal cabinet had to be upgraded to a full-fledged minister. They specifically demanded the Minister of Finance post.
Led by the Attah of Igala, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Michael Idakwo Ameh Oboni, the President Kogi State Council of Chiefs, the monarchs who said they were in the Presidential Villa on a solidarity visit to President Buhari, also asked him to support Governor Yahaya Bello for his second term bid.
Governor Bello is seeking re-election for the second term amid speculation that he might not be endorsed by all traditional institutions in the state.
The Obaru of Kabba, Oba Solomon Dele Owoniyi, who addressed the press on behalf of the delegation, said they were at the Villa to also, congratulate Buhari for securing his own re-election in the last general election, and wished him well in the second tenure.
They equally thanked him for approving N30.8billion as the second tranche of bailout funds for Kogi so that arrears of workers’ salaries, pensions, and allowances would be settled before the November polls.
Owoniyi said: “We came for three basic things, one to felicitate with and congratulate him for winning the last general elections. We congratulated him because the election was so hectic and so many Nigerians were confused; they didn’t know what to do. But to God be the glory at the end of the day, the president came back for the second term and his mandate was revalidated by most Nigerians especially in Kogi State.
“Secondly, we came to pray for him because this last lap is very critical in the chequered history of Nigeria and it is our wish and prayer that all the aspirations of Mr. President will come to fruition without much rancour.
“Thirdly, like the chairman of the traditional rulers, Attah of Igala, said, we have come to upgrade what he called the shopping list. Since we voted for the president and as usual like Oliver Twist, we must demand our rights; we decided to upgrade the list of our demands from Kogi State. I’m pleased to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that Mr. President has graciously alluded to most of our requests and has told us to go home and tell our people that he has us at the back of his mind and that he was going to approach most of these issues as they come.
“Fourthly, we had to reintroduce our governor to the president. Some people on social media are already saying we are playing politics; we are not playing politics; we are being realistic. When you are realistic you say things as they are. We came to reintroduce our governor to the president and demand normal support since they belong to the same party; the issue of endorsement is not there; the people at home have already endorsed His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello for a second term, so we don’t need to re-endorse him in Abuja here; all we need to do is to represent him to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“So we are very happy that Mr president received us very well and the traditional rulers have reconfirmed their support for both the Federal and state governments. And we are happy to announce too because our governor announced it there, that the last tranche of the bailout of fund of about N30.8 billion has been approved. So the issue of salary arrears, allowances and pensions will be put to rest by His grace before the elections. So we are confident that with this Federal government, we are going to have a good deal with it and by the grace of God since we are supporting Mr. President, it is natural and normal for him to pay us back in the right coins. So, we are happy to announce to our people at home that Mr President has promised to treat us very well. Like the chairman of our traditional council said, we are not comfortable with Minister of State; so our status in the federal cabinet must be upgraded to a full-fledged minister and by the grace of God Minister of Finance.”
In his remarks, Governor Bello said he did not lead the monarchs to the Villa, but they had only sent him on an errand to secure an appointment with the president, so the visit was not his initiative.
He, nonetheless, thanked the traditional rulers for their overwhelming endorsement and pledged not to let the people of the Kogi down if they elect him again.