By Comfort Obi
Let me start by asking for a favour that would send a message to all arrogant, political emperors.
Irrespective of party or religious affiliation, the people of Kogi State owe Nigeria a duty. They owe democracy a duty. And it is a sacred duty. Please, throw Yahaya Bello, your Governor, out of office. Deny him a second term in office.
In the history of our wobbling democracy, only a few Governors have been denied a second term in office, either by the people or, their political parties. On this November 16, the day of the Kogi State Governorship election, Yahaya Bello should join this exclusive club of “One Termers”.
I don’t know where Bello was when Nigerians were fighting for democracy. I don’t know where he was when many of them trooped to the streets to fight for democracy. I don’t know where he was when many were forced into exile. I don’t know where he was when many were herded into jail on trumped-up charges. I don’t know where he was when many lost their lives – all for the sake of democracy. I mean, I never heard his name, not even as a foot soldier. But, this, I know: Bello is destroying everything that was fought for. And he is doing so in a brazen manner.
For me, here is the irony. When Bello was drafted to reap where he did not sow, I knew it was untidy. I had no doubt in my mind that the process which produced him stank to high heaven. There was no capable shadow of doubt that when Abubakar Audu, the APC candidate, who had already won the election, suddenly died before the result was announced, his running mate, Hon. James Faleke, ought to have stepped into his shoes. But, in politics, especially here, nothing is straight. It has to be crooked at some point. So, Bello, inexplicably, stepped in.
Yet, I didn’t quite condemn him, publicly.
Here is why.
I am a fan of not-too-young to run. So, I looked at Bello. Young. Good looking. Energetic. Full of life. Cosmopolitan. And, I said to myself: Why not? Let him be the face of the youths. But my disappointment came too soon. It is, really, not my business, but I was taken aback when I heard he had about three wives, or more. And, I was like: What time will he have for the state?
Then, stories began to hit like claps of thunder. There was so much work to do, but Bello was always out of Lokoja. Abuja became his main base. And he was like a visitor in the State. He declared President Muhammadu Buhari his father. No problem.Given the Nigerian way, The President is the father of us all. But Bello feels he has more claim over the President than even Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state. He, always, was by his father’s side, and had little or no time for Kogi. Lokoja remained what it was since my primary school. Confluence town. The meeting point of two great rivers. But no development.
Bello left the state infrastructure-deficit. The people complained no end. Nothing is working. But Bello is a success in one department. He succeeded in becoming an all-conquering Emperor, intolerant of any opposition, or criticism. He crushed the opposition. A number of his loyalist jumped ship. And told the world: “the state is gasping for breath”. Contracts claimed to have been done were fictitious, they claimed, just on paper.
At a point, Bello descended on the Judiciary. The Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Nasir Ajanah, became his target. His Lordship, forgetting Bello’s status as an Emperor, tried to exhibit some kind of independence. Bello took an exception to that. He decided to throw Ajanah out. He succeeded, almost, but His Lordship was saved by the NJC.
Now, Yahaya Bello has descended on Nigeria’s Constitution. And has just rubbished it. He has, in defiance of the Constitution, thrown his Deputy, Simon Achuba, out of office. In connivance with a lilly-livered House of Assembly, he impeached Achuba. In his place, he swore-in Edward Onoja. And, shamelessly, Onoja’s first pronouncement was to “thank God for Achuba’s mistakes” which paved the way for him to become the new Deputy.
Achuba had a running battle with his boss, Bello. The House of Assembly served him an impeachment notice. The Chief Judge, Ajanah, set up an investigative panel to look into the many allegations levelled against Achuba. It was headed by John Baiyeshea, SAN.
The panel sat fully and, courageously, gave Achuba a clean bill of health. The Assembly, the Panel said, could neither prove its case, nor present documents. There were no witnesses. Four charges were not substantiated. Two pleadings were abandoned. Achuba was discharged and acquitted. Still, the House impeached him, and cleared Bello’s nominee, Onoja. Inexplicably, Chief Judge Ajanah swore Onoja in. Friends, now?
But, here’s what Section 188 (8) of Nigeria’s Constitution says:
“Where the Panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings should be taken in respect of the matter”.
For the records, I am not in support of Achuba. I am not a lawyer. But, I’m still wondering why Achuba was not found guilty by the panel. Perhaps, because, the House took things for granted, and did not care to defend its case. They knew the Emperor-governor would bully his way through. Otherwise, to me, Achuba is as guilty as hell.
I listened to him each time he was interviewed on Television. I read him in the print media. I think he suffers from a diarrhea of the mouth. He over-spoke, and also mis-spoke. He held nothing back. He accused his boss of incompetence. He said his boss had no capacity for the job. He said the state was at a standstill. He talked about contracts, allegedly, given, money paid, but not done. Meaning: Fictitious contracts. He talked about salaries and allowances owed him. He talked about killings and violence in the State. And, at one point, almost, pointed accusing fingers at the governor over such killings.
Everybody knows that Deputy Governors in Nigeria are anonymous. They are decorations. They are only as powerful as their governors make them. The Governors’ Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries to the Government are more relevant to them than their Deputies. Indeed, in some states, some Commissioners are more relevant than the Deputies.
So, if you are a Deputy, and you don’t like the situation, you should quit. I don’t know how Achuba expected to still be working with Bello after running his mouth ever so often. He was no longer loyal. A ship has only one Captain. Not two. You cannot remain in office, and fight your boss.
Achuba should have quit on his own. In Bello’s shoes, I wouldn’t keep him. I would have booted him out. But legally.
Bello is under attack because he brazenly breached the Constitution. Once the Panel did not find Achuba guilty, he should have been left alone, and be treated like the outcast he reduced himself to. Don’t invite him to meetings. Don’t consult him on anything. Pay him his entitlements but, reduce him to reading newspapers in the office.
Bello had endured Achuba for almost four years. To respect the Constitution, it wouldn’t have killed him to endure Achuba a couple of months more. The election is on November 16. In February, the winner will be sworn-in. Whether Bello wins or not, Achuba wouldn’t be there. So, why slap the Constitution with impunity?
It is for this impunity that Bello should be shown the way out of office. If he wins, he would do worse than what he has been doing. He will become an Emperor of the worst order. He could wake up one day and sack the State Assembly. No jokes. Did he not try to sack Chief Judge Ajanah illegally? And that’s where His Lordship has surprised me.
This same Chief Judge set up a Panel to investigate the allegations against Achuba. The Panel he set up turned in a-no guilty verdict. Yet, Justice Ajanah swore-in Onoja. Has anybody written a petition against him yet? I hope so. The NJC should take note. And so should the Police Authorities.
Achuba says the Police in Kogi treated him like a common criminal. He alleged he was kept under house arrest, and his water and power supply cut-off, while the Police supervised. Nobody could gk out or leave his official quaters. When he put on his power generating set, it was also cut off. Under whose order? IGP Adamu should ask questions.
Bello, the Chief Judge, and members of the House of Assembly all swore to protect the Constitution.
Yet, they thought nothing of desecrating it. The Police should help keep the law. Not help to break it.
Those who should shudder choose to remain dumb. Only the NBA, some SANs and well, the PDP are talking. What is President Buhari’s stand on this? Or, is it a family affair? I think not. It is a slap on the Constitution.
Achuba has gone to court. It may be of no use. The case could take the next five years. Nobody cares.
He should ask Sir Jude Agbaso. He was illegally impeached as the Deputy Governor of Imo State within two years in office, under then Governor Rochas Okorocha. Unlike Achuba, Agbaso was loyal. He never ran his mouth. Just a victim of power-play. So, he went to court. It’s been six years, and the case is still in court. It’s frustrating.
In the instant case, only Kogites can rise in anger. They owe that to democracy. The state is theirs. They should vote out impunity and arrogance.
On November 16, they should send Yahaya Bello home. He deserves it.
Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source Magazine