Yahaya Bello: Did Politics Trump Good Governance? By ZAINAB SULEIMAN OKINO

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“If GYB had so much to show, why did he concentrate on politics at both national and state levels, to the detriment of his legacy of accomplishment? Why were all these, including another university in Kogi West and infrastructure in the state not given the needed exposure”.


Like every other human endeavour, it is now time for the world to critically scrutinize and assess the administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello (GYB), the immediate past governor of Kogi state. In the state’s peculiar form of political landscape, an objective evaluation of the former governor’s legacy is not likely because of primordial sentiments and the image of GYB in the minds and eyes of many people, his towering political influence in the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the way he projected himself in that context in the last eight years.

It is debatable if the former governor’s stewardship was more about his kind of politics and style of governance than concentrating on providing dividends of democracy. His antagonists pointed to his presidential ambition and foray into APC presidential primary election, his touted vaunting goal of becoming APC chairman, the Kogi governorship election that produced Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo which came with internal cracks and his and Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s courageous involvement in the near-ruinous Naira redesign policy of the CBN, which almost cost APC/President Bola Tinubu victory at the polls. Besides local issues of his controversial and long screening of the state’s workforce and the attendant sufferings did not go down well with a lot of people in and outside the state.

Again, like many pundits, I’d thought GYB was all about relevance at the top and strategic national recognition in politics (which is not an offence on its own) than delivering on the main mandate of good governance in form of provision of infrastructure and welfare. That perception changed recently when the state played host to the Nigerian Guild of Editors for their Standing Committee meeting from 23rd to 24th of February. To the surprise of everyone on the trip, the footprints of the GYB era were quite visible as were seen during a tour led by the commissioner of Information, Kingsley Fanwo.

Government is a continuum, and no administration can nip all the challenges confronting a state in the bud, but the transformation of the Muhammadu Buhari Centre and the facilities within has given Lokoja, the state capital, an exciting facelift. As a former political appointee who had a short stint with the previous government, I knew how dilapidated the township stadium now Muhammadu Buhari Centre was. I understand the old structure was brought down for the facelift befitting a state capital. From there to the GYB Model Secondary School, Adankolo, to Okene Specialist Hospital to the first flyover in the state and others in the offing, the initiative for the transformation of Kogi state has commenced in earnest. The hospital in particular was equipped with modern facilities; it also owns a gas plant that can serve the whole of North Central while six others, across the state were renovated and upgraded.

The Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara stands tall among the initiatives of the previous government. The 400-achre land of the university is a huge construction site for the various programmes and sections of the university. According to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdulrahman Asipita Salawu, besides other programmes that are already in session, such as faculty of science, faculty of computing and informatics, faculty of engineering, faculty of environmental sciences, faculty of engineering technology and faculty of management sciences, some highly sought after and needs based courses in CUSTECH will soon start. They include petroleum and gas, because Kogi is an oil-producing state; marine engineering because Kogi is a confluence state, and it hosts Nigeria Inland Water Way (NIWA), and material and metallurgical engineering because of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Itakpe Iron ore. The faculty of medicine will begin in 2025/2026 academic session, which prelude had commenced with physiology, medical laboratory sciences, nursing, anatomy medicine as precursors to medicine. With a TETFUND project worth three billion Naira, which the VC described as “unprecedented and the university, fast-growing and uncompromising” Professor Salawu said “CUSTECH is the university of first choice” for students seeking admission if such students meet their requirements.

The NGE president, Eze Anaba said the General Hospital would stem the tide of medical tourism even as it will serve neighboring communities and beyond. He commended the previous administration of Yahaya Bello and urged Governor Usman Ahmed Ododo to build on the legacy of good governance handed over to him.

Eze said: “Democracy is about the people and the facilities we have seen, including the network of roads and model schools are commendable and impressive”.

Intriguing as it sounds, the university’s location was known for notorious crimes and was also the den of kidnappers previously. However, the university’s answer to that is the use of local hunters who are familiar with the terrain to beef up security. The VC said so far, the safeguard measures are working because there has been no incident of security breach in the large expanse of land housing the university community, nearing completion.

The preponderance of opinions thereafter is: if GYB had so much to show, why did he concentrate on politics at both national and state levels, to the detriment of his legacy of accomplishments. Why were all these, including another university in Kogi West and infrastructure in the state not given the needed exposure. Seeing is believing is an African proverb that holds water in Kogi state. While it is hoped posterity remembers the GYB era kindly, for me, it is a revelation in how not to play politics with good governance. The two are mutually exclusive.

…Zainab Suleiman Okino is the Chairperson of Blueprint Editorial Board. She is a syndicated columnist and can be reached via: zainabokino@gmail.com

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