By the time he is sworn into office January 2016, Yahaya Bello, at 42, would be the youngest governor in Nigeria. He says his emergence as governor is an opportunity for the youth to prove that they can provide purposeful leadership, better than what the country experienced in previous years. Mr. Bello said an average Kogi and Nigerian youth would be proud after his four years as governor.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Sani Tukur and Jaafar Jaafar cornered Mr. Bello recently in Abuja for a short interview. He speaks about his plans for the state, corruption, and his deputy governor-elect, James Faleke.
PT: Shortly after your victory was announced, you said your party, the APC, and yourself, would embark on a kind of reconciliation with all aggrieved parties. How far has that gone?
Bello: Thank you very much. Like you rightly said, reconciliatory moves were made by both the national headquarters of our party, at the state level and at my own end and the leaders of our party, and it has yielded tremendous results.
Leaders from the east, west and central have substantially – over 90 percent – accepted my candidature and eventual success at the poll. That is why we have been able to draw up a list of personnel of high repute to partake in the transition as well as inauguration programme that is ahead of us. So we are very much in good shape.
PT: Are members of the late Audu family, and your deputy, Faleke, also part of the transition committee?
Bello: All Kogites across the divide are well represented.
PT: James Faleke says he would not turn up for inauguration as your deputy. In the event he sticks to his pledge and refuses to turn up for swearing-in, what are your plans? Are you going to pick someone from late Audu’s family or the region Faleke comes from?
Bello: I have maintained this position, which I would still maintain, that as at the time of the vacancy of the governorship position, I was chosen and as at that time, there was a deputy governorship candidate as running mate. I am concerned about myself then as the governorship candidate and now the governor-elect. The party can better explain the position of deputy.
PT: But did you guys talk since after the election?
Bello: We speak regularly. Honourable James Faleke and myself are good friends. We maintain our friendship and the relationship is a wonderful one.
PT: Kogi is a unique state with a rich diversity, so, what are the specific plans you have for the state as soon as you are sworn in?
Bello: I always say that the state is bleeding as a result of mismanagement and wasteful way of doing things. We would correct all this. Going by the manifesto of our party of diversifying the economy of our country, we equally want to look inwards as a state by improving our IGR (Internally Generated Revenue). What are those areas that are currently being tapped and those that are not tapped? Is what is being tapped maximally utilised? We also want to block all leakages that exist now.
Agriculture is going to be of serious priority. We are also going to partner with the Federal Government as well as get foreign and local investors to tap into our mineral resources because we don’t have the exclusive right of tapping into these resources.
Kogi State cannot be sitting on a gold mine and we are where we are today. We also want to look into the educational sector because at present it is seriously down. We want to completely overhaul it. In the health sector, our women and children are dying, that is going to be taken seriously. As for job creation, we cannot continue to employ as a state government. We must create that enabling environment for investors to come in and as such a lot of jobs would be created.
We would equally encourage our teeming youth to partake in the agricultural programme we are going to have and the entrepreneurial skills that we are sure they are going to acquire.
During our campaigns, we got a comprehensive documentary of how our villagers fare, so we are going to look into that and we would also encourage the investors that are going to come to the country to take advantage of their social responsibility very seriously.
There would be social reform by making sure that there is optimal performance within the civil service to avoid redundancy and the like.
PT: What about the fight against corruption at the state level, because, as you are well aware that that remains a major problem in this country and the present Federal Government appear to consider the fight against corruption as a top priority. We don’t see that level of enthusiasm from the state governors. So, in your own state, how do you plan to fight corruption?
Bello: Like the president rightly said, if you don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill you. If Nigeria does not fight corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. It is the same thing with the states and local governments.
We would deliberately look at those areas where corrupt practices are taking place. This is our state, see where it is after creation 24 years ago. The question is are we desirous of a state in this nature? If we are not desirous of it, we would call on all those who are perpetrating those acts to desist and we would start from there and see how we would fix things.
PT: Late Audu had a plan for Kogi state because there were projects that he started when he was governor but was abandoned by his predecessors, what would you do with those projects and even policies?
Bello: Our leader, Abubakar Audu, may his soul rest in peace, was the first governor of our dear state and was as well as the second executive governor of the state. His developmental landmarks are still there. One way we can show appreciation for what he stood for is to ensure that his dreams come true by ensuring that we marry together almost all the developmental programmes he had and then embark on actualizing them aggressively. The state would be good for it.
PT: Earlier you mentioned the formation of a transition committee, but how much cooperation have you received from the present PDP administration in the state?
Bello: Immediately after my victory at the poll and emergence as governor-elect, His Excellency, Captain Idris Wada, the executive governor of Kogi state, called and congratulated me. He also told me that he would immediately put up his own transition committee members and urged me to do same and forward my own team members to him.
My team is being constituted now and within the week I am going to unveil, inaugurate and forward them to him. We are going to work harmoniously together.
PT: You would be the youngest governor in Nigeria by the time you are sworn into office, so what should an average Nigerian youth expect from your administration that is different from others?
Bello: Performance! By the grace of God I would have no reason not to perform excellently. I will break the record of even our president, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari. After four years, Kogi state will never be the same again. Expectations are high, and we know there are challenges out there, but we are going to move in aggressively to ensure we do well.
I will equally urge the youth to come on board, give us ideas to harmonize with ours so that we can build the state of our dream.
PT: Who is your Godfather?
Bello: Almighty Allah!
PT: I asked this because there are insinuations out there that someone must have pushed for you to be picked to replace the late Audu?
Bello: We looked at the state of Nigeria and realize that we desire this change. We supported our party and our president and we had it. On our own, as youth and young men across the state, and even across the country, then felt we needed to do it and we did.
Coming down, everybody knew that Kogi state is backward, and we can’t fight for change for the country, get it and we can’t fight for it in our state. Remember that the powers of the youth cannot be challenged. We have the voting population, we are vibrant and we have all the ideas. So, we were able to put ourselves together and say look lets tell those who held us to this level that they should let us free. God then crowned all our efforts with this success.
I would therefore, have no reason not to appreciate God by performing after I am sworn in. I would have no reason not to perform and justify the support that the youth and Kogi people gave to me. If I don’t do that, I would have disappointed God, the youth and even the leaders who assisted us in getting to the point we are today.