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Kogi: Gov Bello’s last-minute actions raise dust

As the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello counts down to his last days in office, several actions he has taken have been generating controversy within…

As the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello counts down to his last days in office, several actions he has taken have been generating controversy within and outside the state.

Governor Bello assumed office on January 27, 2016, and barring any unforeseen development, he is expected to hand over to his anointed successor, Usman Ododo, on January 27 this year.

But since the governorship election on November 11, which was won by Ododo, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the governor has made drastic decisions that have ruffled feathers at different quarters. There are concerns on how his actions might play out for his successor, especially as it relates to the traditional institution.

Apart from paramount rulers, some of his decisions also affected members of his cabinet and stakeholders of his party, over an alleged betrayal and involvement in partisan politics.

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While many people eulogised him for taking such decisions, others questioned the wisdom behind them, particularly as his administration is winding up, others said the governor, as a self-confessed disciple of the immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, should have borrowed a leaf from his political godfather who left sensitive decisions for his successor.

Daily Trust Saturday noted that the reason behind the governor’s recent drastic decisions stemmed from events during the last gubernatorial election in the state.

During stakeholders/party members meeting few days after the election, the governor was reported to have lampooned members for betrayal and deviation from the interest of the party despite emerging victorious.

He was said to have vowed to fish out those who worked against the party and ensure that appropriate punitive measures were melted to them.

It was said that he indicted a senator and some members of the House Representatives, as well as key figures in his cabinet and critical stakeholders for lackluster performance at the poll.

To make good his threat, the governor was said to have directed the Abdullah Bello-led executive members of the APC in the state to set up a committee to investigate such party members perceived to have played inglorious roles in the said election, with recommendation for stringent punitive actions against those so identified.

The committee, co-headed by the Commissioner for Mining and Natural Resources, Abubakar Bashiru-Gegu, an engineer, submitted his report to that effect on January 10, with stern recommendations to deal with identified erring party members.

Daily Trust Saturday observed that while the report of the committee is awaiting implementation, some critical stakeholders were no longer visible at the state functions since the post-election chastisement by the governor, fueling the speculation that those concerned must have been indicted.

The deputy governor, Edward Onoja, the chief of staff to the governor, Jamiu Asuku, accountant-general of the state, Jimoh Jibrin, and a host of critical stakeholders, have not been visible at state functions; and there has not been any official explanation for their action.

But when Senator Jibrin Isah Echocho, who was alleged to have betrayed the party at the poll, was manhandled recently at a function in the Government House by hoodlums, the governor openly condemned it and six suspects were arrested on his order.

The big stick against traditional rulers

The dust of the event at the stakeholders’ meeting was yet to settle when, on January 8, the governor announced the removal of four traditional rulers for alleged violence and partisanship. He appointed replacement for the stools immediately.

Among those deposed was one of the frontline traditional rulers in the state, Abdulrazaq Isah Koto, the Ohimege-Igu Koton-Karfe, who was also the chairman, Lokoja/Kogi Local Government Area Traditional Council.

Others include Sam Bola Ojoa, the Olu Magongo of Magongo; Samuel Adayi Onimisi, the Obobanyi of Eman and Boniface Musa, the Onu-Ife in Ogori/Magogo, Okehi and Omala local government areas respectively.

Except Boniface Musa, the Onu-Ife, who was suspended indefinitely, the three other monarchs were deposed and banished from the state to Rijau, Salka-Magama and Doko-Lavun local government areas of Niger State.

The governor had said his decision to remove the four first class rulers from office followed traditional and chieftaincy laws, rules and regulations and all the due processes it entailed.

The newly appointed traditional rulers have since been turbaned and have resumed duties despite protests by some of their people. For instance, shortly after the proclamation, Kotonkarfe was rocked by protest, which disrupted vehicular movement on the Lokoja-Abuja highway for hours.

While some residents said the decision to remove the paramount ruler of the community was hasty and harsh, others welcomed the development.

A youth leader in Kotonkarfe, Ibrahim Aliyu, said although the new Ohimege Igu was loved by his people, the last had not been hard on the issue.

And true to Aliyu’s assertion, kingmakers of the Ohimege Igu stool, on Monday rejected the proclamation of the governor, describing his action as sacrilege on the Igu traditional institution.

The spokesperson of the eight ruling houses, Kolo Yakubu Ameh, said the purported coronation of another person as Ohimege would not stand.

“This is injustice. We have never selected our king by political appointment,” he said.

In the central district, which appeared relatively calm over the choice of a new Ohinoyi, feelers revealed a picture of majority taking the governor’s decision with a pinch of salt.

“We have no choice, the government has spoken, but that choice may not go down well with many people for now,” said Abdulazeez Jimoh in Ajaokuta. He added that his uncle contested but lost.

A source also said stakeholders in the area had been putting heads together and they would make their position known at the approximate time.

As stakeholders of the APC were trying to grapple with the fear of the unknown, particularly as the election committee has submitted its report and the news of the sack and appointment of traditional rulers were still cascading, Governor Bello announced the dissolution of his cabinet and reappointment of some of them.

The governor’s axe also fell on some aides and heads of agencies/ parastatals, including those hitherto considered untouchable. For instance, Jibrin Momoh, the former accountant-general of the state; Jamiu Asuku, the chief of staff to the governor and many more that wielded heavy influence in the administration were dropped in the last minute cabinet change.

Consequently, the governor brought new faces on board in an apparent move to hand over a clean slate to his successor.

Among the new breeds called on board is Habibat Oyiza Tijani, who was appointed as the new accountant-general. She is the first female to occupy the position since the creation of the state.

Also, the former chief of staff to the deputy governor, Sunday Faleke, was elevated to become the deputy chief of staff to Governor Bello.

The governor also appointed caretaker chairmen for the 21 local governments in the state following the expiration of the tenures of those who occupied the positions, on December 15, 2023.

The governor said his decision was “in accordance with the re-enacted law of Kogi State, outlining the establishment, composition, structure, finance and functions of local government areas, 2023.”

But according to some stakeholders, the governor may have erred in law. They recalled that two former state chief judges, Justice Umaru  Eri and the late Justice Nasiru Ajana, had declared in their separate judgements in the past that appointment of caretaker chairmen for  the third tier of government was unconstitutional and an abuse of law. Equally, the move was condemned by the executive director of Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), Idris Miliki Abdul.

Commenting on the development, a community leader and politician from Ibaji in Kogi East, Enefola Augustine said, “The magnitude of betrayal, backstabbing and blacklisting or blackmailing witnessed from key figures in the government preceding the last election was enormous and embarrassing.” He added that it almost ruined the chances of the party, especially in Kogi East and it was not expected that Governor Bello would let it slide.

In the same vein, Salmanu Atolagbe said the recent drastic decisions of the governor “boiled down to the simmering grudges fueled by bottled-up anger, vaulting ambition, as well as collapse of trust and failed gentleman political agreement.

“Bello appears to have been jolted by the behaviour of many of such loyal party members, majority of who were his confidants in his administration.

“As some of the gladiators redefined their ambitions outside their master or party’s interest, the game of betrayal and victimisation became the order of day. So, some of us are not surprised at the turn of events, decisions or actions at the last days.”

Daily Trust Saturday reports that tongues are wagging in many quarters, particularly from the Kogi East senatorial district, over the actions of the governor.

A group under the aegis of Kogi Youth Frontier (KYF) has been fuming over an alleged shortchange in appointments during the last-minute cabinet reshuffle.

“None of the commissioners from the east was recalled as he did in other districts. Kogi East with 9 local government areas has five appointments; Kogi West with seven has 12 appointees, while Kogi Central with five has 16, including key appointments,” The chairman of the group, Comrade Danjuma Ibrahim, noted in a statement

As the governor-elect, Ododo prepares to take over from Bello, analysts and political watchers believe that the actions of the governor may turn out to be a banana peel that might either affect the new administration or cause a major strain in the relationship between a godfather and his godson.

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