WHAT EXACTLY DOES THE KOGI EAST ELDERS COUNCIL (KEEC) WANT FROM GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO?
We are the 'apex' youth organization in Kogi East Senatorial District. We expect no one to be surprised that we have used the word 'apex' to describe ourselves. If people who have done nothing to improve Kogi East, or anywhere else for that matter with all the high positions and official influence they have held in Nigeria and Kogi State even before our birth can meet in Abuja and arrogate 'apex' to themselves, we too can do same from Lokoja where we live and work and contribute.
We owe ourselves a duty to reply the Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC) allegations against the person and government of Governor Yahaya Bello, and we will do so shortly. It is of primary importance that we first dispel the impression which KEEC has created that they were set up by the traditional institutions of Kogi East or by the popular demands of her people. We know the socio-cultural organisations in Kogi East which our people embrace, and KEEC is not one of them.
The Kogi East Coalition for Good Governance does not care who is in Lugard House. We only care that our state is governed well, and as far as we are concerned, Alhaji Ahmadu Ali and his Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC) CANNOT be counted among those who once provided or currently stand for good governance in Kogi State. They are at best an elitist cultural troupe or social club who periodically perform in public for the sole benefit of her members.
It is still within living memory how Alhaji Ahmadu Ali and some of his co-travellers in KEEC today are the same people who used their powers as chieftains of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party to cut short the efforts of Late Prince Abubakar Audu to develop Kogi State. They deployed their federal might and bottomless pockets to recruit attack dogs against him until he lost his second term bid. With that loss, Kogi State lost her best chance to leapfrog into the future developmentally in the last 16 years. It may well have been forever but for the coming of Governor Yahaya Bello.
Just like in their present war of attrition against the current administration, their favorite minions against Prince Audu those days were also drawn from the press and the unions. Their syndicates dogged Adoja's every step in Office with misrepresentations. They sold outright lies against him to the populace before finally ousting him from office through controversial elections which installed their lackeys. In 13 years of Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada, Prince Abubakar Audu's projects remained the only visible signs of quality development Kogi State could boast of.
Senator Ahmadu Ali and his ilk not only remained silent throughout the years of the locust which he helped unleash on Kogi people in the form of the last two administrations in the state, but he joined in the destruction, either directly or by proxy.
Can he deny that his sons and relatives were not favored beneficiaries of choice appointments and contracts in this state and in this nation when the PDP held sway? Didn't at least one of his sons serve for 13 years straight as a favored appointee, right through Ibrahim Idris' first tenure till Idris Wada was sent packing by Hurricanes Buhari, Audu and Bello about two years ago?
So, we know what we are saying when we insist that a man who helped install underdevelopment and socio-economic backwardness in our state when he had all the influence to do better for us, cannot today find the temerity to style himself an 'apex' leader of our state or senatorial district, and begin to cook communiqués on our behalf. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We cannot be fooled twice.
Gentlemen of the Press, before calling for this Press Conference, we took time to research the career of this so-called Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC). Contrary to their touted altruism, they have never intervened to strengthen the security, peace or prosperity of the state.
The one thing which stands tallest and sacrosanct in their periodic forays into the affairs of Kogi State are the ignominious and unscrupulous political interests of the convener and his co-travellers. Their provocative words and vengeful interpretation of every action of government are crafted to cause maximum disaffection amongst the populace. They tend to display open disregard for the truth and the decorum with which wise elders build bridges among diverse interests.
We are now going to itemise and X-ray the specific charges which KEEC has brought against Governor Yahaya Bello and refute them with easily available evidence. We will also show that they are lies spun to ensnare us into avoidable conflict with government, particularly in Kogi East Senatorial Zone.
1. When KEEC sheds crocodile tears over ‘the deplorable and deteriorating condition’ of Kogi State, we wonder what lens they saw through in the last 13 years when both Senator Ahmadu Ali and Arch. Gabriel Aduku bestrode the political landscape and commanded the attention of the then occupants of Government House, Lokoja?
2. 13 years were not enough for a National Chairman of the ruling PDP and a Federal Minister under it to raise a hue and cry about the systematic looting and destruction of our State and Nation going on under their party but less than two years of the APC and Governor Bello has become more than enough for them to be issuing self-serving communiqués up and down?
3. Throughout her interventions and communications, KEEC displayed abysmal ignorance of the policy and implementation template for Civil Service and Pension Reforms embarked upon by government. One would have expected members of a body which clothes herself in the self-righteous rags of a watchdog for good governance to at least familiarise themselves with the policies they intend to attack.
4. KEEC obviously could not be bothered to do her homework well. No wonder their PDP earned the sobriquet ‘clueless’ from Nigerians right before she was unceremoniously kicked out of power.
5. For the records, glaring examples of their ignorance include:
a. KEEC’s claims that Government ‘rebuffed’ her moves to secure reinstatement for lecturers of the Kogi State University (KSU) who were sacked for holding the lives and destinies of thousands of students of the institution hostage through a 7-months strike. KEEC lied when they said government owed the lecturers salaries for the duration of the strike. We found that salaries were paid to them as they were cleared in the Screening Exercise.
b. When the situation of the students at home became too dire, Government voluntarily jettisoned some of the stricter aspects of the screening in order to facilitate clearance for lecturers so they could be paid. With their salaries substantially paid, some lecturers still did not resume work, daring government to do her worse.
c. The Attah of Igala himself visited KSU with Governor Bello to plead with the lecturers to resume work but they disdained our royal father and ignored the several ultimata to drop the strike and resort to negotiations to settle outstanding issues until government was forced to proscribe activities of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in KSU.
d. The gains of those reforms are already evident in the steadier payment of salaries, predictable academic calendar, structured recruitment of staff, upgrade of infrastructure, etc ongoing in KSU.
e. The Kogi State University, Anyigba is in good administrative hands. It has grown from strength to strength in the last two years. All its current academic programmes are fully accredited by the National Universities Commission and the lecturers are paid up to date.
f. We know that KEEC may not respect objective ratings from reputable institutions, but it might interest them to know that the National Universities Commission (NUC) has ranked Kogi State University, Anyigba as No. 42 among the best universities in Nigeria for the year 2017. The same KSU was ranked No. 85 in 2015 and 2016.
g. KEEC is now free to do the analysis and tell us whether Governor Bello's reforms are working or not. They ought to have known better than to work with assumptions and guesswork.
h. KEEC may wish to dismiss these gains as nonsense, but it is nonsense like this that has seen schools like Unilorin deliver her graduates on schedule for over a decade now. We want that for KSU.
6. INSECURITY. His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello is the most resounding success story in security right now in Nigeria.
a. Under the last PDP administration in Kogi State, many notable Igalas were murdered in cold blood. The veteran journalist Isah Edime who helped found Radio Kogi Ochaja, the only radio station in the entire Igalaland was one of them.
b. In 2015 alone, the same year Edime was gruesomely murdered, Kogi East recorded 10 high profile killings including 2 lecturers from the Kogi State University, Anyigba. Expatriates and high-ranking government officials were routinely kidnapped including Mr. Steven Maiyaki, a serving commissioner for Lands and Housing, and several High Court Judges.
c. However, in less than one year of Governor Bello he turned Kogi State into a no-go area for the kidnappers, armed robbers and terrorists who proliferated like cockroaches under Ahmadu Ali's PDP. Lokoja and other Kogi cities have even rediscovered their night economy.
d. KEEC’s description of the ‘state of insecurity in Kogi’ under Governor Bello as ‘unacceptable’ is therefore laughable. Even the dead know that they are much safer in Kogi State under Governor Yahaya Bello, how much more the living?
e. The Bello-led administration provided over 160 patrol vehicles and thousands of other gadgets for the various security agencies in the state, immeasurably boosting their ability to checkmate crime.
f. The Inspector-General of Police was so impressed with the security revolution in our state that he bestowed a special award of best governor in security governance on Governor Yahaya Bello, the first award of its kind from the topmost Police hierarchy.
7. UNPAID SALARIES AND RELATED MATTERS.
a. KEEC does not know, or pretends not to know that the administration of Yahaya Bello has successfully ended the staff verification exercise with the startling discovery of over 1000 certificate forgers and about 4000 other cases of serious offences.
b. It is interesting that KEEC sees this Administration's determination to rid our Civil Service of what they aptly identified as ‘monumental corruption’ as a ‘fixation’ to be condemned. This is the clearest indication yet that the group has not cast off her affinity for the rampant corruption of their PDP years. They actually believe an institution which consumes about 75% of Kogi's resources should continue to be swept under the carpet for ‘peace to reign’.
c. KEEC also considers the various committees set up by government to afford all uncleared Civil Servants every opportunity to regularise their positions as unnecessary. In order words, the thousands who have been assisted to cross over to the cleared list should have been sacked outright when the first committee completed her work around April, 2016 so that government can beat her chest for doing a quick work.
d. KEEC remained unmoved by news that over 1000 academic certificates sent for verification were returned from various tertiary institutions as forged, most of them from Kogi East.
e. This frightening statistic ought to have given KEEC food for thought, but it did not but she still suggests that government focus on soft-landing instead of allowing the law to take its course.
f. If KEEC really cares for Kogites, she will not be impeding the government's effort in Civil Service and Pension Reforms at this time. There is a time to play politics and a time to join hands with whoever is the incumbent to rescue, rebuild and restore a society.
g. Arc Gabriel Aduku seemed to have had a brief epiphany into this when he once praised Governor Yahaya Bello as a ‘courageous leader’ and declared himself 'satisfied' with the 'necessary reforms' in the Kogi State Civil Service. Unfortunately, he seems to have lost his courage again in the face of peer pressure and no longer wishes to stand by the truth which a fact-finding team he led saw for themselves.
8. ACCOUNTABILITY. KEEC reels out a long list of numbers alleged to be incomes to the State from various sources. We know the Administration has periodically taken out paid advertorials to render public accounts at the end of key final milestones. Bailout funds. Paris Club refunds. Statutory Allocations. Internally Generated Revenue. These account takings are abundantly in the public domain. Rather than throw random numbers at us, we expect KEEC to address the various accounts rendered and point out the discrepancies. Until they are able to do that, we shall remain unmoved by their antics. It is simply another severe case of disconnection fever.
We must now make clear our points about the KEEC's deceit in order to unmask their sectionalism and bias. To do that we have to scrutinize the three recorded public interventions by KEEC in Kogi Affairs, all under the Yahaya Bello Administration. We aim to uncover their motives and see for ourselves how pure or how putrid they truly are.
KEEC's first advertorial can be found on page 3 of the February 3, 2016 edition of The Graphic newspaper. It was an attempt to further unsettle a polity still reeling from sudden power shift caused by the death of Prince Abubakar Audu from the Eastern Senatorial District and the emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello from the Central Senatorial District as Governor.
If one was expecting KEEC to be statesmanly so early in the life of the 4-day old administration, one was disappointed. KEEC fired first in what was to become months of spiteful media exchange involving the two main tribes in the state. That KEECdvertorial was full of innuendos, menaces and insinuations. She did her best to further an agenda of distrust between Kogites.
In the end, all they accomplished was elicitation of a like response from another tribal group. Before long it became a media free-for-all as different, equally amorphous groups like KEEC waded into the fray. Kogi had never been so embattled. It took Governor Bello's adept leadership to prevent skirmishes in the streets.
Nobody heard again from KEEC for a while, then they wrote a letter to the Governor dated 29th September, 2017 wherein they chronicled every major reform undertaken by the government and denounced them. We make bold to say that the arrogance and disdain KEEC directed at Governor Bello in that letter would not have been tolerated by any of our kinsmen who has governed Kogi State at any time. One would imagine that Ahmadu Ali was dressing down one of his flunkies rather than addressing his Governor.
Governor Bello however smiled at their venom and invited KEEC to parley. Arch. Gabriel Aduku led the KEEC team which met the Governor and key aides at Government House, Lokoja. We are told by reliable sources that the Government Team presented irrefutable proofs of their stewardship. After that meeting, the Vanguard of 18 October, 2017 reports the former Minister of State for Health as commending Governor Bello for being a 'courageous leader who has been fearless in fighting corruption…'
Last week, KEEC released another press statement in which Alhaji Ahmadu Ali, Arch. Gabriel Aduku and their followers in the Kogi East Elders Council denounced the Government in what is perhaps her harshest use of English yet. It was as if Arch. Aduku and his fact-finding teammates did not exist. They simply ignored their own documented media comments and would have us believe that their honest estimation is that the administration has failed so far.
This last communication by KEEC was the last straw for us. We now realize that silence is no longer golden. It is clear that far from being a group of penitent persons who are trying to make amends for lives wasted in the opulent corridors of power without any benefits to Nigeria or to us in Kogi State, the KEEC is all out to secure political domination of our people again through deceit.
They are up to their old games once more, tossing Kogites up and down like a yo-yo in preparation for leading the electorate astray again in the next elections. A people who do not learn from history, especially its mistakes, are bound to keep repeating them.
We have had four elected Governors in Kogi State since 1999. Two of them, Audu and Bello have dared to be their own men. In both cases, Ahmadu Ali donned the toga of the conscience of the state and derailed us. The other two were content to be remote-controlled from outside Government House and they never had any trouble with Ahmadu Ali, even while they stole us blind in his full view.
Like he did with the PDP against Late Prince Abubakar Audu, Colonel Ahmadu Ali has assembled another malevolent force in the KEEC and they are out to poison minds against the government of the day. They want to hoodwink us so they can snatch power again with our cooperation before sending us into the wilderness for another long season of fruitless wandering.
This time we have decided to put on our thinking cap.
Why is it that any time an administration comes along which refuses to be hijacked and rendered useless by self-appointed godfathers of Kogi politics, the Ahmadu Alis and Gabriel Adukus of this world suddenly discover their voices as 'apex elders' and advocates of good governance?
Why is it that each time God gives Kogi State a Governor who has the guts to undertake the difficult reforms necessary to purge our state of the baggage weighing her down, this same agglutination of old politicians who were characterized by corruption and non-performance in their own heydays will float to the surface and try to trick us into disowning our own Change?
In the same period that these men have held Kogi State down, other states whose leaders refused to be the worst enemies of their people have started and progressed far on their own difficult reforms. They are now enjoying relative pride, peace and prosperity in their territories while Kogi is yet to start the journey. Are we doomed to remain like this? Not if we can help it.
We clapped for Tinubu, Fashola and now Ambode in Lagos as the Civil Service and every other public and private sector structure was turned inside-out and renewed. They set up critical agencies which tackled the excesses of residents. Lagosians learnt to queue for buses and services and to drive like humans.
Oshodi and other settlements were demolished and rebuilt into modern communities. Private businesses learnt to pay taxes and people began to keep their environment clean. They 'suffered' over those 16 years, but today they have a more livable state than Kogi.
In Kogi, we are yet to start.
In Anambra, Dr. Chris Ngige started a renewal which was continued by successive administrations after him despite the efforts of Ahmadu Ali's contemporaries and proteges in the PDP to truncate it. Today, the Civil Servants, pensioners and citizens there are enjoying the incremental benefits of about 15 years of hard but sustained socio-economic reforms.
In Kogi State, we are still refusing to start.
We watched El-Rufai storm Abuja and reform it. It was painful then but full of gains today. Civil Servants in the FCT have better work ethics than in most states. They own the bulk of government homes in choice areas where even billionaires could not afford Boys' Quarters before el-Rufai's coming. He has started with Kaduna again and we are cheering him on while resisting Governor Bello at home.
What has lured us into this self-defeating behaviour?
If we agree it is okay to sack 24,000 teachers in faraway Kaduna who failed aptitude tests, why is it not okay, if we are to believe the KEEC and others, to sack lecturers who absconded from duty for 7 months despite government's genuine efforts to keep paying them unearned salaries?
Why is it not okay to sack Civil Servants whose alma maters have confirmed the certificates they used to join the service as forged?
Why is it not okay to deal with Civil Servants who ran foul of the Public Service Rules in the manner prescribed by those rules?
In other states offending Civil Servants are terminated without notice for lesser offenses than those we have seen exposed by this administration's Staff Screening and Verification Exercise. People there understood the punishment was necessary to maintain the integrity of the system.
In Kogi State, Governor Bello gave over one year and at least 3 distinct chances for affected people to clear themselves and some still cannot. Yet the KEEC and their cohorts in organized labour want them to remain in service out of solidarity while tens of thousands of us with genuine certificates and willingness to work are roaming the streets years after graduation.
It appears that in Kogi State, we have become like the child who is late for school but not willing to start bathing because it is harmattan and the water is cold.
There is a price which MUST be paid for wholistic and sustainable development and it will hurt, especially the evildoers in the system. However, it will hurt more if we continue to refuse to pay those prices today.
Worse, because the Ahmadu Alis and Gabriel Adukus and other 'apex leaders' like them in Kogi State refused to pay those prices on our behalf in the past, we their children are face to face with the grown debt of today. If we still refuse to pay it in our own turn, our children will have to, with interest.
At this juncture we must dispel all doubts about whether Governor Yahaya Bello has done anything to justify KEEC's unwarranted hostility and subversion of his administration? Did he perhaps marginalize Kogi East Senatorial District in the distribution of appointments and projects? The answer is of course a resounding NO.
At least 60% of Governor Yahaya Bello's appointees are from Kogi East Senatorial District, including the Deputy Governor, and the Chief of Staff to the Governor. Other key appointees from Kogi East in Yahaya Bello's administration include 6 Commissioners out of 14, 2 Director-Generals of agencies/Bureaux out of 3.
Others include 11 Special Advisers out of 25, 24 Senior Special Assistants out of 63, 4 Special Assistants to the governor out of 8, 9 full compliments of administrative team in the 9 LGAs in the East, and over 100 Chairmen, members of various board, agencies and Tertiary Institutions.
Similarly, the region received the bulk of of projects constituting a similar percentage of the aggregate number of projects and monies spent by the administration. They include rehabilitation of the 55km Ejule-Idah road, the 79.9km Ankpa-Enabo-Ofugo-Abejukolo road, 32km Ibana-Okpo-Ogugu-Ete road and the 52km Shintaku-Gboloko-Odugbo-Dekina road all in the heart of Kogi East.
In addition to the aforementioned roads, the rehabilitation and asphalt overlay of the 50km Idah-Iyano road with a spur to Odogwu-Unale road, construction of 16km Odenyi-Oguma/Sheria road have been awarded. The Ajagumu-Odu Ogboyaga road and Etutekpe-Oganenigu road in Dekina Local Government Area are soon to be awarded.
The era of artificial darkness masterminded by the maladministration of the PDP years came under attack from the New Direction administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello when he launched ‘Operation Light up Kogi East’ at the palace of His Royal Majesty, the Atta of Igala, Michael Ameh Oboni II in the middle of this year.
Oleji, Agbenema communities, Abejukolo in Omala Local Government Area, Ajichekpa, Opada, Ajomakoji, Obakume have all been completed and the people are enjoying electricity supply for the first time since the creation of the state 26 years ago.
Advanced Rural Electrification projects are currently ongoing in Araba Salifu, Ajonugbelegu, Emewe Opada I & II communities and Abocho while the stepping down and installation of transformers at Odu Ochele, Afele, Odu-Ate, Odu-Ofomu, Odu-Gegeli and Odu-Anana all in Dekina Local Government Area are ongoing.
The Bello Administration has provided portable water to over 100 communities in Kogi East so far. These are mainly communities which have never had any source of water outside ancestral streams, ponds and rivers. None of the PDP wastrels who 'led' us in the past thought it expedient to bring the water just beneath these communities' feet to the surface for them.
Governor Bello is gradually delivering our people from fighting with livestock and wild animals for drinking water, and the KEEC thinks that is a bad thing? By next year the administration has another 1000 boreholes planned across the state and Kogi East will get the bulk of them. We want KEEC to wait small so they can have sufficient things to wail over.
It is now clear that the Kogi East Elders Council (KEEC) is a self-serving group who do not have the mandate or support of either the traditional institutions or the people of Kogi East Senatorial District. They must be ignored and forgotten.
We join our voices to those of irate students years ago to scream, ALI MUST GO! KOGI MUST BE FREE! May the heavens hear our voices.
We also hereby declare a Vote of Confidence on Governor Yahaya Bello and his New Direction Administration. We want His Excellency to know that his reforms are in order and MUST be brought to a logical conclusion. We urge him to sanitize as many aspects of our socio-economic life as he possibly can. The future begins now.
ENEMUNEME! Let no one threaten us with 2019 because we all have PVCs, and we will meet those who want to deny us development at the right time and place.