Wednesday Column by Israel A. Ebije
[email protected] | @ebijeisrael.com
Kogi state has been on the news for negative reasons since Alhaji Yahaya Bello was selected by powers that be. His emergence is as nauseating as his discharge of duty. Like a toddler before a sensitive document, he started by destroying structures of historical importance with no idea of its consequence against its aesthetic and historic value. He left no one in doubt how disastrous his emergence as first case of unelected governor would be by his endless screenings of civil servants and pensioners. He quickly built up backlog of salaries after failing to pay. Pensioners die while on endless recertification queues. It is true leadership has always been the bane of Nigeria development but for Kogi, it has a direct correlation with death of many.
Reflecting on how Bello happened on the state, one cannot but blame those manipulating the country from the center with dire consequence on lives of people. Alhaji Bello was forced on the people, he owe them nothing. Power play brought him in after Abubakar Audu died. Rumors on the street was that vested interests didn’t want James Faleke, a lackey of Tinubu to emerge as governor. According to the forces who altered the system, the need to have Kogi as their vassal informed the battle of ridding Tinubu of a new fiefdom, which would have extended his political tentacles to the north-central. I wonder how those who assisted Bello can sleep at night.
A review on how Bello came on board only proves the hypocrisy on the All Progressive Congress (APC) in their alleged fight against corruption, impunity. Before the doctrine of necessity, which gifted him to the party, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisted Alhaji Bello registered twice for the permanent voter card (PVC) in violation of the Electoral Act. This was made public by Solomon Adedeji Soyebi, National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Information Committee. He intimated that Alhaji Bello acted “illegally” to have registered for voter’s cards in Abuja and Kogi. He said INEC could not take action against him because he was constitutionally protected from prosecution while in office, according to provisions of Section 308 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
It grieves me to join well meaning people of Kogi state and indeed Nigerians to denounce unbridled mal administration in Kogi state. It saddens me that a youthful personality is drawing seething loath across board at a time Nigerians are craving for a shift in paradigm of leadership. Alhaji Bello’s leadership has returned the state to stone age, where citizens scavenge to fill their hungry stomachs while those burdened with sickness die painful deaths without medical succor. I really worry for those who may take their own lives like the recent case of 54 years old Edward Soje, a Director in Kogi state. He was owed 11 months salaries, with his wife birthing triplets, responsibilities mounted, he found the easy way out by taking the option of light out on himself.
Standard of living in Kogi state has hit rock-bottom for many. The state is civil servant based, meaning most employed people with “white collar” jobs are largely dependent on salaries from government. If the state has a population of 5,000 (not real figure), those depending on the few working will run into millions. It is therefore succinct to state that the few working take care of the rest. They plan their lives on the little they get, sharing with relatives, and those in turn go to the market, which keeps business going. It is indeed a vicious circle of money exchanging hands from the point of salary payment to the market woman/man in exchange for goods or services. Level of suffering is expressed in the way almost all salary earners withdraw everything from their account once monies are paid.
From the foregoing, it is quaint to submit that a state like Kogi will grind to a halt once salaries are not paid. Aside the sad trend of pensioners dying on endless queues, the sick dying on account of lack of funds to treat themselves, the case of robberies, prostitutions forced on youths whose parents cannot take their bills soar. Life expectancy has smashed precariously to its lowest in Kogi state. Sadly, it appears nobody has solution to the problem of the people. We however know it is dearth of leadership, we all know its all about misplaced priorities, but no respite for the hapless citizens of my state Kogi. After senators donated bags of rice for civil servants, it was quickly followed by ‘sponsored’ protests, the worse can be expected from Kogi.
The only option available to people of the state is to engage in sustained industrial action. Civil servants must partner with the Nigerian Labour Union (NLC) to shutdown the state. Bello and his henchmen cannot be above the people. He may not owe them anything but posterity will remind him of debt of service, which he has failed to deliver albeit his unpreparedness. Kogi state people must rise and bring back their rights to work and earn salaries, they must rise above dehumanizing situations yoked on them by constricting policies of the Bello administration.
Ebije can be reached via: [email protected] or @ebijeisrael