By Joseph Egbe
That it is no longer news that newly sworn-in second term Governor Yahaya Bello moments following his maiden speech dramatically announced the names of designated cabinet members and very senior officials. The move sparked off reactions not only at the venue but sent reverberations across the rest of the country, especially for state governors as well as the public yearning for visibly prompt demonstrable acts by people in leadership.
Many in Gov. Bello’s position including second termers elsewhere take ages to appoint aides citing excuses but Bello demonstrated the reverse prompt action is possible for those who have spent time long preparing to lead in government. Several State Governors attending the impressive event heard the loud applause that greeted Gov. Bello. The unspoken outcome of Bello’s action is many in Nigeria including various communities and sections see what benefits they get in who they know in government or who represents their interest. The emphasis is on their interest and interest only. Bello’s previously unscheduled announcement literally brought the otherwise eventful swearing-in to an abrupt happy ending in the midst of celebrations by various groups seeing their interest in the appointed officials.
The people of Kogi state got a glimpse of the pace and focus that would define Yahaya Bello’s second term in office as he was recently sworn-in on Monday, January 27. One of Bello’s first steps as governor, which clearly expressed his intent on quickly commencing with his functions, was the announcement of seventeen commissioner-designates.in his government’s new team.
While some observers considered this a first in any state and a step that stalls the usual consultations that would offer positions as rewards for political support, some others suggest that this step is a political masterstroke because of its unconventional nature and the fact that it shows the readiness of Bello to hit the ground running as he commences with the task of governance.
This is not the only proof of Bello’s new direction for the state. His nearly two hours inaugural speech, in which he outlined his government’s objectives and vision for Kogi State in the next four years, gave clear details about his approach and the areas of focus that would serve his government’s goal of uniting, in his words, “the rich human and natural diversities of Kogi State into a progressive and cohesive force for good”.
By his words, Bello has clearly carved his path and obviously has a template for the development of the state. In spite of the criticisms he faced in the last four years, Bello’s trajectory seems to have brought some key changes to governance in the state, and this is recognised by many.
Bello’s admission of this reality, expressed in a very lucid and heartwarming acceptance of his lapses, is one of the key highlights of his speech. In his words, “We are not ashamed to admit that we lost the propaganda war during our first term, but neither are we shy to say that we won the battle for Truth, which is more important. Today, we are defined, not by the lies which uncharitable people have told about us to the nation, but by the many infallible proofs of governance which we were able to produce and deliver to our people across the state.”
There are several distinct features about Bello’s new term in office that will stand it out from the previous four years and any other administration in the state. One is his Deputy governor, Edward Onoja. Unlike the previous deputy governor who, observers say, had become more involved in surreptitious political plots than on governance, Bello’s new deputy is already showing his mettle in governance, clearly focused on entrenching administrative competence that would ensure results.
Beyond team competence, Bello’s focus on development is clearly expressed. He says his target remains further building on the achievements from the previous term, which cut across security, education, health, agriculture, industry, building infrastructure and social development schemes.
As he puts it, “our overall mission in this second term is to develop Kogi State into Nigeria’s foremost and most secure emerging commercial hub through optimization of the state’s geographical location, natural endowments and human resources for a sustainable future.”
He adds that his government “shall embark on large scale urban renewal projects to further transform Lokoja into a resilient capital city with modern utilities, and that the “beautification project will extend to at least one major town in each Senatorial District”.
Bello stresses on his government’s determination to sustain focus on Agriculture to ensure “improved food security, mass employment and increase in Internally Generated Revenue.” the target areas will be Rice, Cassava, Cashew, Aquaculture and Livestock. In addition to the state-owned rice mill at Ejiba, he says his government will create the enabling environment for private capital to invest in more Rice Mills, increase land under cultivation with rice and facilitate off-taker agreements for local growers. The commencement of the Confluence Rice mill is a good start and an indication of Bello’s commitment in this area.
Other significant steps in strengthening the state’s agricultural base mentioned by Bello include adding 500,000 new cassava farmers into the government’s initiative; building the nation’s largest ethanol plant in Kogi State for the production of ethanol fuel from cassava.
Outside of Agriculture, Bello says his government is also going to pay greater attention to human capital development by investing more in training people “for enhanced relevance in a technologically evolving future”, working towards facilitating some youth “with the relevant cognates and competencies” to acquire further education in Information and Communications Technology at leading institutions abroad.
As Bello explains, an updated New Direction Blueprint, outlining the path that his government intends to follow, would be out within the next 90 days.
What many have identified as most significant in Bello’s speech is the fact that, even with the continued attempts by his traducers to denounce his efforts, he has continuously solicited the support and cooperation of genuine believers in the development of Kogi state. He reiterated this when he called “on all and sundry, friends and perceived foes, to put aside all differences of politics, ideology or affiliation and join hands with us to give Kogi State the best of governance”.
For keen observers of Bello’s administration, the zeal to further expand on the achievements of the last four years has been articulately laid out, giving many people confidence that the government is fully aware of its responsibilities and the necessary steps that must be taken to achieve its goals.