By Shaibu Stephen Ojate
Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has never had it so good when it comes to public perception as majority of Nigerians have bad impression about him.
Many people, based on their individual assessment, have considered Yahaya Bello as the worst Governor in Nigeria.
The report of Kogi unpaid salary and uncompleted projects that usually littered the social media space really portrayed him in bad light in the eye of the public. The image of Kogi State in the mind of the populace is nothing other than total darkness.
Many people presumed that the State is totally messed up due to his incompetence and lack of leadership prowess to successfully manage the affairs of the State.
Many thought that the incumbent Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has indeed rubbished every good thing he met on ground and as such all are in shambles.
The erroneous impression many had about him adduce to the reason why commentaries of people about his administration on social media platform are always on the negative side.
Even though Governor Bello proponents have serially told members of the public that the young man is doing something, no care to listen and believe them.
Prior to the election, his opponents really dominated the social media space telling people that Governor Bello disappointed the people of the State.
They averred that he performed so ba to the level that even his village people in Okene have no pipe borne water to drink as they go to the stream to fetch water for their daily consumption. They reel out gale of stories on the sordid bad road network in Kogi central and Kogi State in general.
Owing to the above stories and bad news reports, many never for once pictured in their mind that Governor Bello is doing anything at all. Even those who supported him just like this writer did so on the ground of Ebira interest as he too has ill-feeling that he never utilized the opportunity given him well.
People like me supported him and canvassed that Ebira have long been short-changed in the headship of the State and as such Governor Bello should be forgiven and considered again. I declared that he should be given second chance to enable him use that to correct the mistakes he made in the first tenure.
While we were canvassing for his re-election, the gloom dark picture painted by his opponent on the sordid condition of people of the State could not be totally erased in our mind. We pictured that many are dying at home every day due to non-salary and percentage salary payment.
We pictured that there is dust everywhere due to unconstructed road network. We pictured that many serving and retired civil servants are emancipated and can therefore be regarded as walking corpses in the street due to maladministration orchestrated by Governor Bello.
When the writer of this article got home last December, he used that opportunity to move round the street to verify for himself on the true situation of things. Immediately I arrived my town in Ihima, I understudy serving and retired civil servants passing by to know if actually they are walking corpses as painted in the mind of the populace mostly those who reside outside Kogi State but rely on social media news updates on the happening at home.
To get proper evaluation, I headed to the Church during the Sunday’s service since we have good number of serving and retired civil servants who come to worship God. With a clear look at them, no one seems to be skinny or skeleton as we were made to believe on social media platform.
Even the look of youthful civil servants are not that bad in spite of their attestation that local government workers were paid percent salaries. Most of the low level civil servants at home are riding their own bike and the high ranking once moving around with their own vehicles.
On my day two at home, I move straight to Okene and put a call to a very good friend, a native of the town to take me round the street.
On meeting me at the front of the Access Bank in Okene, our first point of call was Waterworks where the State government has ongoing water project. On getting there, he explained to me that this very place was first constructed during the reign of late Attah, Ohinoyi of Ebiraland.
He pointed out to me that in spite of the effort of late Ebira paramount ruler to bring pipe-borne water to the present inhabitants of Kogi central, the water project was not maintained after his demise and everything crumble down.
He buttressed that the good look of the waterworks at the premise was done by Governor Yahaya Bello. To give my reader vivid picture of the place, there was well tarred road network that lead to the waterworks.
I saw water treatment tanks which was not just one but three in number. The place was cleared and opens up to the other side of the River in Okene Waterworks. It was a good tourist site for any visitor. I saw many engineers on the sites and women of various ages coming there to fetch water from the gushing tap-water.
At the adjacent side of the waterworks along Okene-Ege road, we marched straight to another gigantic recreational project being undertaking by Governor Bello which is 90% completed. The recreation centre has amusement park with children playing centre.
The recreation centre has more than 5 different halls suitable for different occasions. In one of the halls I entered, I could not believe my eye that I was really in Okene as it even surpasses the duo of Transcorp Hotel and Sheraton Hotel Halls in Abuja. This very hall I am talking about can take 2000 sitting capacity in any occasion.
Everything there was not a push over in any part of the world. The interior décor was superb and floor was glittering like mirror.
From there, we then move to Agassa and he told me point blank that this very newly hilly road I am seeing was constructed by Governor Bello. At this juncture, I felt surprised on what I see and exclaim “you mean Governor Bello did all these and we were made to know on social media platform that he did nothing as there are no single project under his name since he took over the affairs of the State!’’
From there again, we move to another location and I saw water engineer on the street with their equipment undertaking water pump network connection. He declared to me that Governor Bello truly wants to ameliorate water scarcity in Okene vicinity and everything I am seeing point to that direction.
In my tour around other local governments in Kogi central, I saw many renovated school buildings painted with light cream colour top and dark blue down with dark modern roofing sheet. The people I interrogated told me that all these were done by Governor Bello.
Moving round again, I came to realization that Governor Bello has newly constructed and renovated schools in every towns and villages. Even on my way to Abuja today, I saw many of such newly constructed and renovated schools too along Lokoja-Abuja road.
To sum it up, I don’t dispute the fact that there are areas that need improvement but on my general assessment, outcry on Governor Bello abysmal performance in the State is over-exaggerated as he has something on ground in Kogi State.
There are no walking corpses in Kogi State due to percentage salary payment as foodstuff are relatively cheap at home even if one receives N10,000 as salary every month. Two measure cups of beans in the market is sold for N50. Fish, Garri and Yam are very cheap too. I ate pounded yam throughout my stay at home owing to the cheapness of foodstuff with good soup to it.
When I visit people during the festive period, no one complained of not having anything to eat. The villagers are not rich and can therefore not be termed as extremely poor due to Governor Bello leadership. Many are able to afford the basic needs of life.
– Shaibu Stephen Ojate, a journalist and public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja.