Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State, recently declared his intention to seek reelection to members of the state executive committee, hinging his decision to throw his hat in the ring to tremendous progress that his administration has made in the last three years.
“I would like to inform the good people of the state, the APC family and supporters from the state, the local government Areas (LGAs) down to the wards and polling units, as well as various stakeholders, opinion molders, families and friends of my interest to run for a second term in office as the executive governor of the state,” he told members of the executive committee.
However, investigations have shown that not many of the citizens would agree with the governor, who has been at loggerheads with major stakeholders in the state, that the state has witnessed remarkable achievements since he assumed the leadership of the state over three years ago.
Specifically, recent developments, typified by his stance both on minimum wage and proposed local government autonomy could serve as the Achilles heel for the embattled governor.
The civil servants have been loud in their cries over nonpayment of salaries and pension, a development that has virtually left the workforce in the state demoralized.
To this end, they are pockets of the opinion that the recently approved minimum wage would be an impossibility for the governor who has not been able to pay the old rate of N18,000.
Similarly, they content that recent moves to grant the local government financial autonomy by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, would deny the state government access to the state local government joint account, a development, they argue would further incapacitate the state government.
But the state government would not budge, claiming it has met and even exceeded the expectations of the people of the state.
Kingsley Fanwo, director general, media and publicity to the governor, said Kogi State Government owes its workers only five months salaries as against 13 months allegedly claimed by some people.
Fanwo, in response Sunday INDEPENDENT inquiry noted the “governor has not in any way interfered with local government autonomy, and that Kogi State Government will pay the approved minimum wage.”
On alleged militarisation of the state as well as lack of infrastructural development, he said, “It is not true. The Governor has shown an unprecedented commitment to security. We have intervened in 375 primary schools across the state, upgraded our health infrastructure and have completed some road projects and other infrastructure in the state. The 92% per cent completed rice mill at Ejiba is the second largest in Northern Nigeria. He has done very well in providing infrastructure to the people.”
But many people would not agree with Fanwo, as they claimed that construction of even metropolitan roads have been abandoned, while armed thugs are terrorizing the people.
For instance, they wonder why the governor had not felt it necessary to prevail on the president for the revitalization of Ajaokuta Steel Complex located in the state.
After recently rejecting the infamous Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari must now begin the process of privatising the behemoth, say experts.
“Privatisation should simply be the next move,” said Friday Ameh.
The senator representing Kogi central senatorial district, Ahmed Ogembe, recently expressed disappointment over the refusal of President Buhari to assent to the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Bill.
The bill had recommended that $1 billion should be sourced from excess crude account to revitalize the moribund steel complex.
According to him, the reasons given by the president for rejecting the bill was not sufficient considering the importance of the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Complex to the industrialization, economic growth and development of the country.
It was further gathered that apart from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, other aspirants from APC are warming up to battle the governor.
In fact, while some notable Nigerians and corporate organisations were chiding him for not paying attention to payment of salaries of workers and pensions, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Kogi chapter, last week joined the swelling number of disenchanted organisations, calling the governor to do all it could to address the issue of staff salaries, pensions and gratuity.
In a church service to mark Easter Celebration, Dr. John Ibenu, Senior Pastor of Chapel of Freedom appealed to the governor to quickly resolve the unpaid salaries and pensions to ameliorate the suffering of the people even as he urged him to dialogue with the judiciary staff to end lingering staff action occasioned by non- payment of their salaries.
According to the clergyman, “We call on Kogi Government to do all it can to address the issue of staff salaries, pensions and gratuity, judiciary and other pressing issues to ameliorate the suffering of the people of the state.”
The CAN chairman, who described Easter as the celebration of the highest sacrifice made by Christ by accepting to die for mankind, begged governor Yahaya Bello to emulate Jesus Christ to pay workers and pensioners their salaries.
In the same, Chairman of Congress of Northern Christians and the state Secretary of Young Progressive Party( YPP), Reverend Charles Aina, described the government of Yahaya Bello as an accident as the man who was at the cusp of winning the election died.
He stated that the governor has been a slap to the youths, Kogi State and the nation at large, stressing that the youths have lost a reference point because of his abysmal performance.
He added that without bias youths in the state celebrated his inauguration with the belief that he will add value to governance.
The clergyman cum politician lamented that the ill handling of the workers verification turned out to be albatross of workers as many of them were sent packing from service and those that were left could not access salaries as at when due .
He bemoaned that instead of the government accepting her failures, kept telling the world that he is up to date with salaries, which the workers said they were owed for upward of seven to thirty months.
He explained that the government may be deluding herself with the maligned concluded elections in the state, noting that the result of Presidential and National Assembly and State Assembly elections were not the true reflection of the choice of the people.
“They may be planning to build on the tactic used in the last elections to win the forthcoming elections. Yes, they have been boasting that they have been winning elections without paying salaries. A part from vote buying, guns were freely used by government officials to snatch boxes. Yagba East and West were pointers as gunshots were heard everywhere for two days to the election to instill fear in the electorate.
“My candid advice for them is that it takes two to tango. In the last elections, it was only the APC that fought but this time around other parties are determined to defend their votes at all cost. My prayer is for God to intervene to avert looming crisis.
Aina decried the worsening situation of infrastructural development across the state, ranging from the decay in health, agriculture, and education sectors.
“Imagine how a responsible government will allow 84 doctors to leave the employment for lack of welfare packages. In the tertiary institutions, professors and PhD holders were sacked for demanding better working conditions. In primary and secondary education, it is too bad that in some schools, one teacher to a school and the governor is pretending that all is well with the state,” Aina noted.
He advised eligible voters in the state to be revolutionary in their approach to the coming elections to save their children and the generations yet on born from the clutches of Yayaya Bello’s maladministration.
On the issue of new minimum wage implementation, the man of God dismissed the government’s ability to pay with a wave of hand, saying the government that cannot pay the old rate would not pay the new wage regime.
The Christian leader urged aspirants to make his lackluster performance on all development fields as their campaign pitch, advised the people never to take governor Bello and his team with kid glove as they have mastered the art of election brigandage to snatch victory from the people.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the state’s Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Onuh Edoka, had at the 7th quadrennial delegates conference in Lokoja, taken the government to the cleaners even as he described the pathetic lives of civil servants as worse than beggars on the streets.
He decried the perennial non-payment of salaries and pensions in the state, which he said has reduced the working class to destitution, hinting that most workers have lost their places as fathers since they could not afford basic necessities for their families.
He pointed out that the organised labour, which is hugely impacted by the ineptitude government, would not fold its hands and allow a government that care less for its welfare to continue in office.
The NLC boss called on the government to expedite action on the modalities for the immediate payment of the new minimum wage regime.
Ibrahim Idris, former governor of the state stated recently that his preoccupation is to get governor Bello out of the government house and advised politicians across party divide to forge a common front to rescue the state from the locusts infesting the state.
According to a politician from the state, who pleaded for anonymity, “Time they say will tell as the people are set to square up with governor Bello in the forthcoming governorship election.” (Sunday INDEPENDENT)