‘Kogi: Gov Bello Deserves Second Term’

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Abdullahi Bello is a former Speaker of Kogi State House of Assemby. He speaks about the forthcoming governorship election in the state and why the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello deserves a second term. CHARLES AIDOGHIE met him

Your party, the APC, will soon be going into Governorship election in Kogi State but there are insinuations that Governor Yahaya Bello may not be given a second term ticket. Do you think he has done well enough to deserve the ticket?

Let’s give gratitude to God for giving us the grace to witness this moment. Yes, it’s quite true that my state will soon be faced with the challenges of electing our governor, and therefore the usual noise around election period is here again.

As you mentioned, there are insinuations that Governor Yahaya Bello will not be given ticket for second term.

Whenever I read this in the media, I just laugh and waive it off. Sometimes, people do ask me just as you did ask here as to whether the governor will be given ticket by our party, APC.

My answer has always remained positive and solid, to the effect that in as much as we are not asking for automatic ticket without party primary election process, what if His Excellency, Alh. Yahaya Bello wins the forthcoming APC primary election, will anyone deny him the ticket, having won?

From the legal point of view, no part of our nation’s constitution, or that of the APC bars the current governor from participating in the forthcoming APC primary election, so the assertion that our party may not give him ticket is laughable and based on lack of understanding of politics.

To me, it will not only be harmful and detrimental to our party to stop the incumbent governor from taking part in the party primary, it will in addition be unlawful.

Let all party faithful who are qualified under the law pick form and compete with Governor Yahaya Bello. We are not afraid of competition. GYB as he is popularly called in Kogi State will defeat his opponents in the forthcoming APC primary election in Kogi State without stress.

Whatever option to be adopted by NWC of our party, i.e whether direct or indirect, we’re battle ready.

All others are simply afraid of defeat which awaits them, that’s why they all ran to Abuja seeking unavailable victory through the current blackmail. All these will fail.

What is your honest assessment of  his performance?

Performance is a relative issue. There are many factors which to me may shape one’s opinion in matters of performance.

Governor Yahaya Bello outperformed the government of PDP led by Capt Wada, which he came to replace in many areas.

Fisrt, from my Local Govt perspective, Gov Yahaya Bello has done excellently well.

Okene is in peace. Road construction are on going with modern expansion and round about. I have personally inspected the Agassa/Upogoro/farm centre bye-pass new road constructed by his govt and I’m impressed about this among many others.

Okene Water works expansion/rehabilitation is almost completed, with a new recreational centre under construction.

So many key appointments were given to my People, and it may interest you to know that during the previous governments, these appointments were exclusive preserve of the other people whose voice are most loudest now against the Government of Gov Yahaya Bello.

When I look further into the remaining 4 other local governments which formed the Central Senatorial District in Kogi State, this government has performed well.

The huge attention Gov Yahaya Bello has given to us in the last three and half years was unprecedented, and I commend him for that.

I’m aware that so many roads has been constructed in  the other two Zones of Kogi State. Ankpa, and  Idah township roads and many more has been completed. This Govt also achieved much in the area of MDG across the State.

Comparatively, this government well ahead in the area of security, spread of infrastructural projects and appointments to deserving citizens of Kogi State and Nigeria.

I have been in various  Governments in Kogi State in the past.

You see, on many occasions as a sitting Honourable Member of the State Assembly, I have  proposed many road projects within my constituency, ie Okene and it’s so funny that the previous Governors will simply tell me year in, year out that no money to construct any of my road, but today Governor Yahaya Bello is constructing some roads in Okene/central senatorial district and therefore can’t score him low.

Kogi used to be the hot-bed ofkidnapping and armed robbery, but due to this government’s heavy intervention in the area of security, Kogi roads are now relatively safe compare to other parts in our country.

The government is said to be owing about two years salaries. Don’t you think this may be an albatross for the party?

The lingering salary issue no doubt has almost cast a huge dark cloud over the shining part of Governor Yahaya Bello’s more than three years in office.

First, how much does the govt receive every month as income?

Second, whether the above amount if confirmed is enough to pay the civil servants?

Thirdly, did his government inherited backlog of outstanding unpaid salaries? And if yes, how much?

I want state it very clearly that I do not accept the humongous figure being bandied by the opponents/critics of Gov Yahaya Bello’s government as being the total amount the government of Kogi State has received and utilized in the last 38 months. I do not align my opinion on hearsay and or online video rhetorics, which in most cases are coloured with ethnic and political flavours.

Rather, I am of the view that what Kogi State received every month is inadequate to meet our needs and in any attempt to undertake infrastructural projects, the government is further plunge into deeper financial agony.

There’s always a terrible competing struggle between having to build roads, providing other needs of the State and paying the State civil servants. In a nutshell, I don’t  support any maltreatment to the civil servants if any, but it’s strange when these civil servants who complained of percentage or non-payment come to office every days of the week and months. I do not believe that they are not paid and yet still come to work.

Workers know what to do if their monthly pay is being toyed with. I’m one of many who believed that salary issue has become a blackmailing tool in the hands of some people in Kogi State.

I have earlier said in the cause of this interview that I refuse to be on the side unsubstantiated claims. Do you know that sometimes in February this year upon my investigations a woker who complained to me of being left out many months of payment was to be blamed and not the State government?

The said worker submitted a report of the screening committee to me which he intend to help his case, but when I went through the report, I discovered that this man never attended all the three screening opportunities and the committee’s recommendation against him was that he is probably dead, and govt should trace his next of kin in order to pay his death benefits. The man couldn’t explain to me why he chooses not to present himself for screening. Yet many of them like this are vocal about nonpayment of salary spanning many months.

I also discovered some who are in double employment ie working and receiving salary in both Kogi State and in other places. Many are complete ghosts.

The problem here remain the fact that most of these defaulting civil servants were not formally terminated, and I hope the Government will do the needful by issuing formal letters of disengagement in order to fulfil the process and lower the noise of nonpayment if not totally eliminated.

The remaining genuine workers be properly right sized for better productivity, while efforts be geared towards liquidating any outstanding as regard the salary matter.

I foresee more trouble with many State Governments in the year ahead, especially as it concerns workers welfare. Income remain too low as against expenditures in most of the State. And as long as this continue without urgent action taken to think out of the box in the area of revenue generation, we’ll continue to grope with the question of no salary for State workers not only in Kogi State, but in most States of the federation.

Is it  that the federal allocation to Kogi State  cannot conveniently take care of  workers’ salary? Where a government collects less than three billion after deductions from previous debts incurred by past governments, and still have to pay salary and construct roads, provide security etc, then this kind of misunderstanding and conflicts are to be expected.

The Governor should personally take a look at this sore point in respect of the civil service reforms/intervention, and provide a total healing of the minor injuries which resulted from the various screening exercise.

What is your take on plan to scrap joint account?

I’m in total support of the move to give complete autonomy to all levels of government in Nigeria. And the Local Government Areas being the level which is closer to the masses, the idea of paying directly to the 774 Local Govt councils in Nigeria is welcome relief, but trust Nigeria, don’t be surprised if the check being proposed is abused, and thwarted as soon as it become operational.

What is your appraisal of the INEC in the conduct of the last general elections?

INEC to me still has some set backs in some key areas which need improvement. Logistics get mixed up ,and manual results collation should be looked at before the next election. We must embrace information technology in our future election so as to avoid unnecessary cost, suspicions and delays during the conduct and declaration of election results. This in my opinion if done will ease operational efficiency of INEC and add credibility to the end results.

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