Inside Yahaya Bello’s unprecedented 8year reign and achievements as Kogi governor

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On the 27th January, 2016, former governor Yahaya Bello was sworn in as the fourth executive governor of Kogi State and led the state uninterrupted for a sterling period of 8 years which ended on the 27th January, 2024.

Bello handed over power to his worthy successor Ahmed Usman Ododo who emerged winner of the November 11 governorship election in 2023. Going back memory lane from the creation of the Confluence State and its leadership under the democratic system including the 8-year reign of former governor Yahaya Bello, one thing the people of Kogi State would attest to without mincing words is the fact that Bello was never a lethargic leader. Here, we present some of the key achievements of the Bello’s administration in critical sectors of the state to silence his critics and traducers.

CIVIL SERVICE REFORM

Right from the beginning of his first term in January 2016, he committed himself to the transformation of the State by reforming its machineries of government (Civil Service), its security architecture, and ensuring ethnic cohesion and development at all levels.

To achieve his goals, he assembled eggheads with unmatchable competency across primordial lines. Though, his first term was turbulently marred with unprec- edented litigations and the political battle which broke out immediately after he was sworn-in; he was not deterred in implementing his policies. As a pragmatic leader, he meticulously examined the situation and used his administration’s blueprint as a compass to address the pressing needs of the state.

The first problem he encountered in the course of governance was the civil service. It was rotten, corrupt and unproductive. Using the democratic and legal means to ensure an effective and productive civil service, the governor embarked on a screening exercise that ab initio generated an outcry from ghost workers and employment racketeers who were the target of the exercise.

After the completion of screening in 2018, the Governor gave a standing order for the civil servants’ salaries to be paid between the 24 and 27th of every month, an order that was sustained throughout his administration.

The unautocratic nature of Bello in policy execution boosts the morale of the workers and propels them to be productive and patriotic. Added to that is the fact that even in the face of the crippling national economy, he approved the National Minimum Wage Scale for Kogi civil servants. The gesture which was greeted with tremendous commendations from the workforce.

HEALTH SECTOR TRANSFORMATION

In addition to the Civil Service reform, Governor Bello’s utmost priority was the health sector. Consequently, he built the Reference Hospital, Okene as a medical cathedral to put an end to medical tourism by Nigerians. Other three state-of-the-art medical centres were built in Isanlu, Gegu-Beki and Eganyi in Ajaokuta local government area, while the Idah General Hospital was upgraded to o a zonal hospital to cater for the healthcare needs of the people. Today, every community in Kogi State can access basic healthcare delivery service within 2km radius.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE/ENVIRONMENT

Access to the healthcare facilities wouldn’t have been possible if the administration had not rehabilitated and constructed most of the roads in the state.

Before 2015, 70% of Kogi roads were death traps. Recent reports of the roads and beautiful projects executed by Bello’s administration stunned many of its critic to the marrow.

The images of infrastructural master- pieces adorned the state right from its capital, to Idah, Gegu-Beki, Anyigba, Ogugu, Okene, Kabba, and some other places are cherished by the people. Specifically these multi-billion naira projects that gave the State facelift include the Ganaja Junction flyover (which has brought the incessant traffic in the junction to an abrupt end), the 55 km Ejule – Umomi – Ugwolawo – Ajaka – Idah road, the Kabba township roads, Felele-Oworo road, the Okene township roads around Agasa GRA and Okengwe-Makaranta areas of the town, the 56km Ibana-Okpo-Ikeje-Emon- yokwu-Ogugu road, Ankpa township road, 38km Itakpe-Okene road, Agala-Ogane-aji road, Lokoja township roads and others.

In carrying out these projects, the governor was utterly and noticeably prudent. Through financial probity, accountability and transparency, Kogi State has been rated best by the World Bank and other financial and accounting bodies in Nigeria. With effective communication and strong relationships, Kogi under governor Bello collaborated with international organisations in curtailing the menace of life threatening gully erosions in the state. One of such collaborations was with the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP where the State has consistently paid its counterpart funds. This intervention has permanently addressed the erosion menace in Adumu and Ogugu, Olamaboro local government area, Agasa in Okene local government area and Ogane-aji in Dekina local government area respectively.

A NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR EDUCATION SECTOR

Prior to the current administration, the state of education in Kogi State lacked clear direction. A comprehensive 2017 survey conducted by ACTIONAID/PIBCID revealed critical insights into the education sector’s performance and challenges in the state. These findings highlighted deficiencies in performance and instructional delivery that hindered the achievement of critical goals: improving literacy rates, advancing Early Child Care Development Education (ECCDE), enhancing the quality of education from basic to tertiary levels, promoting girl-child education, and elevating ICT skills and STEM education.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in Kogi State organised the 2018 State Education Summit, known as the ‘Education Roadmap.’ This summit gathered stakeholders to devise strategies for the state’s educational development. Subsequently, the Kogi State Education Law of 2020 was enacted to provide guidance and regulation for the education sector’s operations in the state.

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, Kogi State has gone a step further by developing the State Education Strategic Plan (SESP) 2021-2030 and the State Education Operational Plan (SESOP) 2021-2027, which align with the Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) to address gaps in the education sector.

Under the leadership of His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the administration has transformed the education landscape from one marked by neglect and decay to one filled with hope, improved access, equity, infrastructure development, and enhanced service delivery.

One of the administration’s groundbreaking achievements in the education sector was the allocation of 30% of the budget to education in each fiscal year from 2021. This allocation exceeded the UNESCO-recommended benchmark of 26%, underscoring the government’s unparalleled commitment to education in the state.

To ensure effective utilization of this investment, the state government conducted training sessions for over 2,000 school managers, focusing on curriculum delivery, quality assurance, and enhanced efficiency in partnership with NTI, NPC, NERDC, and FME. Additional training sessions on conducting the Annual School Census have been provided to over 1,500 individuals by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.

To enhance the workforce in the education sector, the government recruited an additional 3,979 teachers in February 2023 from a pool of 22,342 applicants.

Before 2015, Kogi State’s education landscape was a cause for concern. The performance of Kogi students in national examinations like WAEC, NECO, and JAMB was disheartening. However, the BELLO’S administration ushered in a transformative era. Substantial investments in educational infrastructure and the welfare of of teachers and management staff have elevated the standard of Kogi students. This is a testament to the power of commitment and strategic planning.

According to statistics from the Federal Ministry of Education, the number of out-of-school children in Kogi State stood at 554,943 between 2014 and 2015. Through concerted efforts, the Bello’s administration has reduced that figure to 86,803, ranking Kogi as the 9th state with the lowest number of out-of-school children in Nigeria as of 2019. With the renewed commitment of the government under the leadership of Governor Yahaya Bello, it is anticipated that every school-age child will be in the classroom before 2024.

Achieving this involved investments in primary education, renovating 833 classroom blocks, constructing 1,800 classrooms across the state, and establishing GYB Model Science Schools in the state. It also involved training and retraining of teachers across all schools in the state.

Governor Yahaya Bello took a visionary and audacious step on September 21, 2023, by declaring free education from primary school to secondary school levels in all public schools in Kogi State. Furthermore, the government committed to covering examination fees for WAEC, NECO, and JAMB examinations, a testament to the leadership’s understanding of the importance of investing in the future.

Bello’s magic wand was also evident in putting an end to the incessant ASUU strike in the state-owned institutions in 2017 through strategic negotiation with stakeholders. The agreement therefrom normalised activities in the institutions and ensured prompt and regular payment of staff salaries. The development encouraged the governor to establish the Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara after obtaining approval from the NUC in 2020. The specialized institution took off in 2021 with 245 students. On February 12, 2022, the Kogi State government disbursed N6b to contractors handling projects in the university while construction of the college of medicine, Prince Abubakar Audu University,Anyigba for full medical accreditation was also getting final requirement. Another deft move in reshaping the education in Kogi State was the establishment of the Kogi State University, Kabba in 2023, making his administration the first to establish and nurture two-state-owned universities under four years. Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja; College of Education, Ankpa; and College of Education Technical, Mopa are not left out too.

GIANT STRIDES IN TACKLING INSECURITY

Insecurity in Kogi on the eve of Bello’s administration was intractable. Lives and property were lost through incessant bank robberies, kidnapping, highway robbery, and political thuggery, making the state to be notoriously christened “the kidnap capital of Nigeria.” For instance, in 2011, ISWAP established fortress in Okene, where most of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were made for terrorism in the Northeast. Attacks on worship centres were frequent occurrences. Worthy of note was the killing of 16 Deeper Life Church members on August 7, 2012. Military formations in the area were also not left out of the preponderant clandestine clannish crises that led to the deaths of many citizens. Charity, they say, begins at home. Governor Bello invaded the rocky caves of Okene and sacked ISWAP; the notorious kidnappers were identified and arrested and the proceeds of their nefarious activities were destroyed in broad daylight. The same actions were carried out in Kogi East and West where criminal elements were ransacked and arrested to make Kogi one of the safest states in the country.

AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY

In agriculture, the Bello’s policies have made Kogi the Food Basket of the nation. He brought about qualitative changes in the life of the farmers to increase food production and agribusiness by keying into the various agricultural policies of the Federal Government. The payment of counterpart funds by the State Government under Bello contributed in no small measure in facilitating the following: clearing and cultivation of 3000 hectares of land for rice cultivation and over 5000 hectares of land for cassava cultivation across the state. To improve the financial status of farmers, the Bello’s administration kept a goal of improving farmers’ income through subsidy on agricultural input, micro agricultural loans, allocation of agricultural lands and seedlings, etc., to improve agricultural productivity.

In 2016, Governor Bello established 1000 hectares farm in Omi, Osara, and other selected areas to enhance rice production. He procured 375 Ferguson Tractors and other multibillion naira agro-equipment to boost rice production. In addition to this, about 1500 tillers were distributed to small- scale farmers in 2021. This effort has so far created over 15, 000 jobs for the people of Kogi State and increased their living standard. Also, cassava has become the hottest agricultural produce in Kogi State as there exists a market equilibrium for it in the largest ethanol company (Unicane) in Lokoja whose major raw material is cassava. The company and many others were established in Lokoja due to the safety and conducive atmosphere created in the State by Governor Bello.

Satisfied by the agricultural revolution in Kogi, the Federal Government chose the state as the pioneer site for National Egg Production where over 135 youths are currently empowered with N4.2m each to support their poultry farming.

Another remarkable agricultural development in Kogi State under the Bello-led administration is the massive cultivation of river banks for rice production. Under this scheme, the state government harvested thousands of tons of rice in 2018 in addition to what it produced around the Omi dam.

The State-owned Confluence Rice Mill, Ejiba, with 36m kg yearly production capacity was built by the Bello’s administration. It is one of the most patronized mills in Nigeria today. The mill has generated over 2000 indirect and direct jobs through its Out-Growers empowerment program and milling activities. By establishing the Rice Milling Industry; the Bello’s administration has used one stone to kill two birds by fighting food insecurity and unemployment simultaneously.

CONCLUSION

From the foregoing, it is indisputable that in his 8 years’ reign, the immediate past Kogi Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello has waved a magic wand that eroded in most cases, and mitigated in few others, the difficult socio-economic challenges of the state. The critics of former governor Yahaya Bello are people who are known to the public as political merchants, self-serving politicians who think the resources of the state belong to the politicians and few elites and not the people but Bello changed that narrative for good. The critics and traducers of Yahaya Bello who are all out to blackmail and rubbish the sterling achievements of his administration should bury their heads in shame. Bello came, he saw and conquered!

DR ONUH IBRAHIM
NATIONAL PRESIDENT
FEDERATION OF IGALA ADVOCATE FOR PROGRESSIVES GOVERNANCE