DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
BEING TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE TO THE PEOPLE OF KOGI STATE TO CELEBRATE NIGERIA’S 60TH INDEPENDENCE DAY ANNIVERSARY ON THE 1ST DAY OF OCTOBER, 2020
I will start this address by remembering the victims of a devastating petrol tanker fire at Felele last Wednesday in which we lost 28 valuable souls. We shall observe one minute silence to honour them and all those who have passed on between last October 1 and today. May the souls of the departed continue to rest in peace. Even as we mourn those we lost at Felele, we are working as a Government to ensure that the manner of their deaths, which has happened severally in the past, does not repeat itself in future.
I salute the great people of Kogi State and all Nigerians on this 1st day of October, 2020. Today marks the 60th Anniversary, or Diamond Jubilee, of Nigeria’s Independence from British colonial rule. We return all the Glory to the Almighty God. He alone has sustained and maintained our nationhood.
Every Nigerian will agree that our journey together has been a challenging odyssey. It is a credit to our unbroken will to succeed and our resilience as a nation of diverse peoples that we have made it thus far despite plenty of milestones in our history where we could have messed it up, or missed it totally.
Those who look at Nigeria and see a dysfunctional polity or as some irrationally say, ‘a failed state’, can only do so because they have refused or otherwise failed to acquire a dynamic understanding of our ongoing metamorphosis.
We are not great because we have gotten it right in all respects, because we have not. We are great because we have what it takes. We have been blessed by our Creator with an abundance of the human resources and natural endowments we need to become or to achieve anything we want. All that remains is for us to get our act together – in citizenship and civics, but more importantly, in leadership and governance.
Our first term in office ended on a high note on 27th January, 2020 when our second term commenced. In-between we saw an initial misunderstanding of our methodologies, followed by grudging acceptance of our reforms and finally some open admiration for our accomplishments. Our pledge is that we will continue to earn your trust by delivering strongly on our 2nd term campaign promise to do more. No opposition, no matter how fierce or unreasonable will derail us from that objective.
A foundational philosophy of our leadership is that once we do what we perceive to be right for you we are content to take the accolades or the attacks which follow with a clear conscience. After all, good governance becomes its own reward when it meets the target of improving life for the present or for posterity or both. Nothing else matters.
If we are to judge our acceptance among Kogites by the support they gave us in the various polls conducted during our first term, we would be inclined to rate ourselves high. In particular, our historic outings in the 2019 General Elections and the 2019 Kogi State Governorship Polls cemented our faith that we have a vocal majority standing with us.
My first term was heavily challenged by the absence of friendly federal legislators to help speak for Kogi State. Now that you have given us 3 out of 3 Senators, 6 out of 9 members of the House of Representatives and all 25 State Assembly members, we have no excuse left. Moreso when you also reelected the President and Vice President thereby ensuring that my Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), can push through her governance objectives.
I will however behave like Oliver Twist and still ask for more. The Kogi State Independent Electoral Commission (KOSIEC) has fixed December 12 for the Kogi State Local Government Elections 2020. I solicit your support and votes for all APC Chairmanship and Councillorship candidates across the 21 Local Government Areas. With my own people to interprete my policies at the 3rd tier of government in Kogi State, you have empowered me the more and I assure Kogites that this second term will be even better for our state.
Since the beginning of this year 2020 the whole world has been unsettled by one thing or the other, with the Covid-19 pandemic being the worst culprit. Earlier this week news broke that those who died of the disease are now over 1 million globally, with Nigeria’s death toll crossing over 1,111 as at yesterday.
Beside the shocking death-rate, the social disruption and economic devastation to nations cannot be fully quantified and will probably take decades to recover from. Here in Kogi State though, we adopted an unorthodox approach to manage the pandemic and God showed us mercy. We imposed no lockdowns and observed minimal and short-lived restrictions on public transportation. Our economy was kept open throughout.
Instead we heavily sensitised our populace on the Covid-19 protocols and trusted that everyone has the good sense to comply. Our methods worked and Kogi is today very free of the virus. We will continue to forge a synergy between science and common sense, medicine and governance in responding to this danger until it is utterly defeated.
To further improve the resilience of our people into the aftermath of this pandemic, we have developed the Bello COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (BELLO-CARES) as a homegrown programme of palliatives through which we shall assist Kogites across the 3 Senatorial Districts with various forms of succour. I am particularly excited by the Bello-Kogi Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (BELLO-KEEP), a sub-programme of BELLO-CARE through which we will help MSMEs in particular.
As the rains intensify around this time every year we experience heavy flooding of communities in 9 LGAs by the Rivers Niger and Benue. As usual, Government is prepared to give succour to affected citizens and residents. We have set up camps for displaced people where food, medication and other essentials will be provided. We urge those in at risk locations to preemptively take shelter in these designated locations. Please do not endanger yourself and your loved ones unnecessarily by leaving evacuation to the last minute. Climate Change is an unfortunate reality in today’s world and we will continue to adapt positively to it.
Our Public Service and Pension Reforms have been a huge success. Non-payment, late payment and percentage payment of salaries are becoming a distant memory to our workers. Prompt payment of salaries have become the norm now. Inasmuch as government revenues have always been tight since we took Office and Covid-19 has worsened matters even more, we will endeavour to keep meeting our wages obligations to the genuine civil servants of Kogi States.
However, Government will be taking legal action soon against some of those who compromised the system and fraudulently intercepted wages to which they were not entitled. Bringing consequences to those who compromised our workforce and payroll is one way we can forcefully deter such misconduct in future.
To give you an idea of the huge scale of this problem, let me inform you that this administration has had to clear over N50billion in salary obligations inherited from previous administrations. The bulk of that money was borrowed and along with our other debt obligations continues to impede our ability to free up funds for infrastructural and other development as we would like. Those who actions hurt our state and people must face a reckoning.
Security has remained permanent priorities for us from our first term to now. We have arrested dozens of armed robbers, kidnappers and other violent criminals and put them behind bars. Many others have been wasted in gun-battle when they dared to confront our gallant law enforcement agents and vigilantes. Be assured that we will never relent in our efforts to rid Kogi State of these antisocial and criminal elements.
Finance is getting tighter, especially the Federal allocation. We had grown our monthly Internally Generated Revenue by over 300% before the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out most of our sources, especially those from taxes, rates and levies. Nevertheless, we have recently plugged some huge loopholes and as life gradually returns to normal we hope to see an improvement in our account receivables.
We will continue to pay concerted attention to human capital development and economic diversification, especially via agriculture. Kogi State is blessed with plenty of land and water resources suitable for agriculture. Various programmes have also been developed to get willing and able Kogites to take up farming or any other branch of agriculture they may be interested in.
Our young people must realise that the stigma of rustic rurality associated with agriculture has long since evaporated. I own a farm and I can tell you it is a lucrative engagement. It is projected that agric billionaires are the next phenomenon that will sweep this country. We will also grow tech billionaires, but not as readily or as plentifully as those who will emerge from Agric enterprise. I urge every young person, do yourself a favour and join this speed train now.
On this anniversary of our Independence Day, it is important that we briefly advert our minds to our sovereignty as a nation and remind ourselves that if we lose that, we lose everything. Every Nigerian, particularly elected officials like myself have a duty to protect the Rule of Law and our Sovereignty as a people and nation. While we appreciate partnerships that deepen our democratic culture we must not tolerate meddlesomeness in our internal affairs, particularly those that assault and fray our social connection and cohesion, whether at state or federal level.
The recent Letter of Protest from the Kogi State Government to the United States of America through her Embassy in Nigeria was strictly in the service of our sovereignty and nothing more, or less. The Nigerian Judiciary up to the Supreme Court having ruled that the polls by which we were reelected were substantially compliant with our laws, we see no way a foreign country can contradict the Judiciary and in essence overturn her verdict and still claim to be acting in any good faith. The US action was therefore most unfair, an absolute overreach and we needed to let it be known that we find it unacceptable.
My overriding mindset as a leader is that governance is far too important to be reduced to a popularity contest. This is why my need to be liked will always come a distant second to my need to be a great and transformational Governor to Kogi State and all Kogites. It is also why my administration will continue to do what we consider best for our people and state without hesitation, fear or favour.
Vox populi, vox dei is a common parlance meaning that the voice of the people is the voice of God. This means that from the very beginning when we developed our New Direction Blueprint by listening to you, we have not stopped listening to what you have to say and considering how you feel when taking decisions concerning our state. We repeat our undertaking to do even more in service to Kogi State and Nigeria.
Once again, may I heartily felicitate with Nigerians everywhere on this Diamond Jubilee of the Independence we acquired on the 1st day of October, 1960. I pray that it may please the Almighty God to prove to us that Diamonds Are Forever, and grant us a enduring future of Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
Thank you, and God bless.
Happy Independence Day!
Long Live Kogi State!
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
To God be the Glory!
GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE
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