We are here again, on a very familiar turf. The quadrennial governorship contest is here again and the usual loud noise is becoming deafening in the confluence state. Illustrious but lost sons and daughters of the state rush to the state with plenty grammar in a bid to govern the state. They parade their credentials and life achievements as reasons why we should elect them as governor of Kogi state. They also try to leverage on the ethnic dichotomy in the state promoting either ‘Igala Agenda’ or ‘Power Shift’. We can only chose one out of the legion that shows up every four years. In most cases, the losers disappear forever from the political space. That has been the cycle.
The most disturbing part of this quadrennial contest is the sad trend of a ‘better yesterday’.
Created in 1991 from parts of Kwara State and Benue State, Kogi State has produced four democratically elected governors; late Prince Abubakar Audu (January 1992 – November 1993) under the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), he was re-elected under All Peoples Party (APP) which later transformed into All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 1999 and lost re-election in 2003. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris ruled between 29 May 2003 and January 2012. He was succeeded by Captain Idris Wada who ruled between January 2012 and January 2016 when he lost his re-election bid. By stroke of fate incumbent Alhaji Yahaya Bello inherited Prince Audu’s votes and assumed office as Governor on 27th January 2016.
The genealogy of Kogi state governors showed a sad pattern in the recruitment process of Kogi electorate – we have always elected a governor that is worse than his predecessors. The curse of a better yesterday.
When Audu helds sway, we complained about his attitude towards civil servants, his flamboyancy and tribalism. He was accused of high handedness and running a government without ‘human face’. Kogi electorate cried out and leaders came together to help ‘push him’ out of Lugard House. A great sign of relief greeted his loss at the polls in 2003. We have been liberated at last!
Ibrahim Idris, a Sokoto/Abuja based hotelier, stepped into office. He paid workers salaries and ran a government with ‘human face’ as demanded by the people but infrastructures began to decay under his watch. The 5-star Confluence Beach Hotel built by Audu crumbled. Sub-standard roads were constructed, political thugs reigned supreme across the state, political appointees built hotels and filling stations in the face of dwindling economy among citizens, local government chairmen spent council funds that was far above workers wage bill on frivolities, there was no control or proper management of human and financial resources. Audu had built state university and a polytechnic so Idris cannot replicate same. Audu has built state library and government owned newspaper firm, Ibro cannot build same. Aside International Market and Greater Lokoj Water project, Idris could not execute ‘legacy’ projects like Audu. We started looking back to a better yesterday.
Idris Wada, a foremost airline operator and successful captain took over in 2012. He was the most educated Kogi state governor at the time he assumed office. He listened to the people and discouraged activities of political thugs. He continued with his predecessor’s style of prioritizing workers salaries but could not replicate same with local government workers who had to endure years of percentage salaries. He placed much emphasis on completing inherited projects and seemed clueless on ‘his own projects’ until the twilight of his administration when he flagged off the remodelling of aged Kogi Hotels, construction of Modern Terminal for trucks, Diagnostic Centre, KSU Teaching Hospital, Ganaja-Otokiti bypass dual carriage road and the Welcome to Lokoja – Nataco road. Mid-way into his administration, people started complaining about his lacklustre style of governance. We looked back, again, and celebrated a better yesterday. He lost his re-election.
Incumbent Yahaya Bello assumed office in controversial circumstances and had to battle with legitimacy issues. He embarked on bold staff verification exercise that has now become the albatross of his administration. The exercise failed woefully as confusion and sorrow trailed the three years old exercise. Salaries and pensions are owed in unimaginable sums. Some workers have not received a dime since Yahaya Bello assumed office in 2016. I have written a lot on this. Aside owing backlogs of salaries and pensions, Bello has been a clueless governor. He embarks on projects on impulse and lacks the discipline to see it through. He has been rated as the worst governor in the history of the state. Of course, the curse of a better yesterday is still potent in Kogi State.
As we approach the November 16 governorship election, there is doubting the fact that Kogi electorate cannot wait to kick Bello out of Lugard House but the biggest worry is who will take over from him. As usual, dozens of aspirants have shown interest in the governorship election all promising to offer better services than Bello but how can we select one among them who will guarantee a better tomorrow, instead of a better yesterday?
This is a defining moment for us in Kogi state and we must ask the right questions before making a choice. We cannot afford to elect a new governor that make us look back to a better yesterday.
Anambra state complained about Chinwoke Mbadinuju but got it right with the election of Peter Obi as governor and has not looked back. Lagos keeps on electing performers as governors. We must identify how other states are choosing their governors and do same here on November.
– Adamu Ojonugwa writes from Lokoja.