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LongRead…Gov Yahaya Bello: Outlaw, brat or confused patriot? Here’s what we found

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The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, is a study in controversy and likes to hug the limelight.

He is not one to shy away from issues that may place him at cross-purposes with the norm and such storms place him in the news, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

He has had his own fair share of run-ins with politicians from his state, including his famous spat with former Deputy Governor Edward Onoja, who he unceremoniously removed from office amidst allegations of age falsification and embezzlement, and his mortal enemy, former Senator Dino Melaye.

The controversies surrounding Bello seem like something out of the classic politician’s playbook, with many believing he creates some of these issues out of nothing to make himself relevant in the scheme of things.

He has been accused of massive looting of the Kogi treasury and using state funds to build a palatial mansion for himself.

Another controversy that rocked Bello was when he was accused of double registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the run-up to the 2019 gubernatorial election in Kogi.

Bello has also been accused of kowtowing to the Presidency and always doing the biddings of President Muhammadu Buhari, at the detriment of the state, as well as mortgaging the future of Kogi for his 2023 presidential ambition.

Often acclaimed as the youngest governor in Nigeria’s fourth republic, the 45-year-old accounting graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, could be said to have come with a lot of baggage which aptly summarizes his persona as the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But in the face of all these, Bello has always portrayed himself as the cat with nine lives, the victim who is being vilified for nothing, and the young man who is hated because of his gregarious traits.

So, how does Bello sit in the eyes of most Nigerians? We attempt a classification, drawing from all the literature around him, some having shown him as a brat, sometime a clown, and a confused patriot.

Bello the outlaw?

Yahaya Bello

In 2020, a human rights group in Kogi State accused Bello of looting the state treasury when he allegedly made a transfer of N8 billion using a proxy named Abdulsalami Hudu, from the State Statutory Revenue Account between January and December 2018.

In the petition, the group said investigations had revealed that the proxy was an operator of a Bureau De Change.

Breaking down the transfer, the group said different tranches of funds were transferred in instalments into Hudu’s account over a period of time and were all traced to the governor.

Though Bello vehemently denied the transactions and threatened to sue the group, nothing was further heard of the allegations and there were rumours that the case was, once again, swept under the carpet after a meeting with the group leaders, an indication that there could have been a settlement of some sort.

Also in 2016, Bello was once again accused of diverting N10 billion he allegedly received for the state from the Federal Government meant for local governments.

This allegation was made by the Executive Director of the Centre For Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHCR), Idris Miliki, who challenged Bello to come out and tell the world how the money was spent.

Maliki further accused Bello of squandering the money that was allocated to local governments in the state in April 2016.
“The world is watching all the illegalities perpetuated by Governor Bello’s administration. The government is busy saying they don’t have money, but yet they collected N10 billion on behalf of local governments. What did they use the money for?
“Since they collected N10 billion on behalf of local government, what has Bello done in these local governments? Sincerely, there is something beyond the eyes that we don’t know which is going on in Kogi State.
“Governor Bello must give account for all these misappropriations going on in his government. He cannot operate outside the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Maliki had said.

Yet again, Bello denied these allegations and vowed to make sure Maliki spend the rest of his life in prison but at the last count, Maliki is still a free man.

His well-publicized confrontations with his former deputy also placed Bello on the brat chart as he openly vowed to deal with Onoja whom he accused of not only being disloyal but insubordinate and someone he could no longer work with.

At his instance, the State House of Assembly impeached Onoja on accounts of age falsification, embezzlement and not following the dreams and visions of the governor for the state.

Bello the clown?

Yahaya Bello

Yahaya Bello shot up on the clown scale when he created a somewhat laughable controversy at the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country by vigorously insisting that the pandemic was not in the state.

When the Covid-19 task force made known their intention to carry out intensive testing, Bello refused to grant them access and accused them of planning to infect the people.

Under compulsion, Bello was to later claim that no one was found to have contracted the disease.

“After one month of intensive testing by their workers and officials, not one single person tested positive. Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), ministry of health and my state incident management team went around.
“They went to institutions, market places, motor parks, streets, villages, towns and cities, and not one single individual was confirmed positive. When students are resuming schools, we carry out tests on both indigenes and non-indigenes, and there has never been one single positive test,” he said.

When the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines came out and state governors were scrambling to get their states involved in the distribution, Bello created another controversy when he said he would never take the vaccine.

Speaking on a live television programme, Bello said there was nothing medically wrong with him and that he won’t allow the people of his state to be used as “guinea pigs.”

Bello had said:

“COVID-19 is not our business in Kogi State. We have more pertinent issues and more pertinent matters that we are attending to in Kogi State.

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