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Yahaya Bello: The burden of Will – Sam Aina



Governance is not a burden, good governance is.

Especially in a country like Nigeria, where almost everyone expects you to enjoy “your time” and eat your share of the “national cake.” The divisive rhetoric that has surrounded governance in Nigeria has left many people without hope for the future, and yet, even amid the rubble, diamonds are found.

That is the hope that I, as a lover of Nigeria, thrive on. The uniqueness of the Nigerian people is evident in every sector they find themselves in all around the world. There is nothing we dabble in that we do not excel at. Nigerians are breaking age-old records in Universities around the world, have taken over Art, Tech, and many other areas where a typical Nigerian, by nature of upbringing, should struggle. That passes a strong message.

The Nigerian youth need an enabling environment.

Nigerians have shown that they are capable of doing well in a working environment. What a leader that cares for his people should do is create the desired ambiance for his/her people to thrive. We are called the “giant of Africa” not because of size, but by the sheer strength and ability of our people. We must maximize that fully. Thankfully, our problems are deep-rooted but curable. However, we must realize that the buck starts and ends at the feet of the sort of leaders that we allow to rule us.

It starts from the top, and I mean the Presidency.

I want to believe that I have lived long enough in Nigeria to be able to understand some of Nigerias problems. If the long-established strongholds fail me, the current problems should not pass me by.

It is difficult to think about what has served as a division amongst us without speaking of nepotism, tribalism, religious disunity, and class divide. Tools that have been put to such good use that it has become the norm for spineless, aspiring rulers. Whenever you see someone in the position of authority without a plan, check closely, and you will see him/her wielding this effective rhetoric to splendid effect.

This is the major issue we have with our dear country. It pains me to say that we have nurtured some elements to enviable heights in the Nigerian political space, such that they have been able to bring down governments in the past when these “tools” are employed. Going forward, the unity of the Nigerian people has to be of utmost importance. After all, ghosts will not ply asphalted roads just as much as no one will be able to call himself “President of Nigeria” if there is no country to rule in the first place.


If you, the reader of this piece, are not tired of these sort of leaders, then permit me to be tired on your behalf.

We need leaders with character. Leaders with the ability to read the room and handle the pressing needs of their people. Leaders with empathy, determination, and drive. Leaders that can challenge strongholds and emerge with results. Leaders with the greatest quality which I think is capable of effecting change.


It remains, at least to a very large extent, the beginning and end of every successful government. The Nigerian political system has remained stagnant over time due to the lack of this most important trait. We currently possess thousands of politicians holding positions in government and lacking the political will to better the lives of their people. Some even get into government with a lot of grand plans, and within a short period of “seeing the light”, disperse every semblance of hope imparted upon those whose backs they rode to get to their lofty positions.

Anachronistic tendencies experienced so many times that it has become the norm.

Contrary to popular opinion, I feel for those who fall within this bracket. I do not, like most people, feel certain scorn for those who have thrived off the gullibility of their supporters. What I feel for them is a deep sense of pity. It takes guts to go against the evils that others have normalized, building bridges and fostering unity in the process. Weak leaders push for division because togetherness exposes the scornful.

Possessing a determination to establish legacies is a difficult attribute to inculcate in Nigeria. Everybody wants to “chop and clean mouth”, so when you initiate discussions that go against the benefits that they have longed for, you become the enemy. You are painted black and blacklisted amongst your colleagues, and in many other cases, denigrated. Only the strongest of minds can withstand this and do more because willpower never gives immediate recompense.

It is scathing and ruthless, unending and most times, unappreciated. Still, you must continue to push through, as willpowers only assurance is a time in the future when only positivity will radiate at the mention of your name. Willpower pushes the boundaries to set positive trends and results. Willpower solidifies legacies.

Willpower creates change.

When I look at Nigeria and her current battles, all I see is a lack of political will and a system saturated with cowards who have nothing to offer but discord and hate. I see grown men struggling to create a barrier within their people, knowing that the unification of the Nigerian people will spearhead the beginning of new, long-standing discussions that will revolutionize sectors that leeches have turned into fertile ground. They play the same cards repeatedly, so much so that almost everyone sounds like a broken record. It is either tribe, religion, class, or gender. If a typical Nigerian is not swayed by religion or tribe, he/she will fall in line with your divisive rhetoric on class or gender.

A sorry state.

As 2023 looms, here we are replaying what is supposed to be a forgotten myriad of events. Think about it, has there been any election season that comes along without these same stories of tribal and religious friction? Have there ever been actions preceding the electioneering season whereby these drawbacks have not made more headlines than the competency of the aspirants themselves? Do we not learn? Are we satisfied with the way politics in our dear country, Nigeria, has pitted Alhassan against Lekan, Chukwuka against Ufouma and Mariam against Ruth? Offspring of a mother giant forced to take a stand against each other for the benefit of a select few?

Traumatizing, to say the least.

At the moment, Nigeria is suffering from an all-out attack from every known vice. Tribalism, Insecurity, and Nepotism placing whatever improvements that were made in Infrastructure and Education at the back end. Who will enjoy the road you built when everyone is getting killed or kidnapped? Who will have the courage to shout “One Nigeria” when they know that their rights are not taken seriously? What will become of the future of the youth when there remains, outstandingly, no respite in sight for her teeming, unemployed population?

I am honestly tired.

Unfortunately for Nigeria, she is at a point in history where she has more weak leaders than those who possess the inner desire to do good, hence the barrage of bad news daily. Even amidst the latter, only one name stands far above the rest like a beacon.

Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello.

Martin Luther King often communicated his words with precision, drive, and passion, and it is important to use that same energy into inspiring a mental change going forward. He said on an auspicious day that “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you are a man, you take it.” Wise words spoken by one of the greatest orators the world has ever seen. We cannot make a change right at this moment, but we can begin to prepare assiduously for 2023 by singling out those who have displayed characters that will suit the Nigerian story going forward.

Luckily for us both, Yahaya Bello is such a man.

I say this boldly because I am backed up with facts.

This is a man who rose into prominence as the youngest Governor in Nigeria, riding on the waves and aspirations of millions of youths to inspire a change through sheer will, grit and determination. After all, the same vices that I earlier mentioned have been, for many years, put to very good use for years in many states across the country, and for Kogi, injustice had become, over time, the status quo, and to stand up to these ills, he faced a battle which many would have balked at. He has, to this moment, been able to unite his people through actions which even his greatest enemies have been unable to disregard. He did all this within six years, and I will tell you how.

Within a year of his stay in office, Yahaya Bello knew that there was no way Kogi could make any meaningful progress with the way it was run by previous administrations. He identified the Civil Service as a major loophole through which evil people had siphoned billions of Naira and set to put that right immediately. Through the Civil Service reforms that took place in 2016-2017, thousands of “ghost workers” were identified and removed whilst those that had developed the habit of collecting three to four salaries were suspended. Leaders had come and gone, and instead of putting that right, they benefitted from it indiscriminately. Rather than toe the line, Yahaya Bello reconstructed it and Kogi currently possesses one of the smoothest, most transparent Civil services in Nigeria.


Without a doubt, Kogi was one of the most divided states in Nigeria pre-2016. There was no love lost between the Igalas, Okuns, and Ebiras: The three major tribes in Kogi. Her people were divided along ethnic and religious lines, and being at the peculiar position of Nigerias epicenter made it a ground for hundreds of tribes from all over Nigeria to settle. What followed was a spurn of numerous tribal wars that claimed thousands of lives. Not one tribe felt carried along by the other and many others simply lost hope and moved to other places within and outside the country.

Yahaya Bello showed his mettle within an hour of his inauguration, as he immediately set to breaking records hitherto unheard of in Kogi State. He became the only Governor to appoint a Chief of Staff from another tribe, and the first Governor to appoint a woman as his Secretary to the State Government; another major appointment from another tribe. Through the EBIGO agenda, he promoted inclusiveness and togetherness. Soon, it became evident that he intended to share available government positions to credible individuals in an even spread through the tribes in the state. He publicly outlawed any form of tribalism and religious disunity, and like a true leader, promoted these through his actions.

He enthroned Kings from tribes who had made a home in Kogi State, as apart from Traditional Titleholders from the three major tribes in Kogi State, Kogi crowned Yoruba, Igbo, and Tiv Kings. These Kings were also bestowed with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their subjects and charged with the blame if anything were to go wrong in their domain. Quick question, when was the last time you heard about a tribal war in Kogi State?


Yahaya Bello inherited a state that was, at the time, a hub for all sorts of insecurity. Banks, churches, residences, mosques, and many more became a target for incessant attacks. Attacks were carried out on the DSS office in 2015, whilst the State recorded over 15 bank robberies from 2011 to 2015. At a point, the Boko Haram group had a thriving cell in Kogi State which manufactured IEDs and trained members. In the three Senatorial Districts of Kogi State, kidnappings became a daily occurrence. Kogi Central, Kogi West, and Kogi East recorded 167, 42, and 39 kidnappings within two years.

To tackle this, Yahaya Bello established the Kogi Vigilante Service (KVS), training over 6000 personnel, primed to gather information at the grassroots and assist the traditional security operatives. He supervised the destruction of houses belonging to well-known kidnappers in Kogi East, supervised the clear-out of Boko Haram cells in Kogi Central, commanded a 5-Meter clear out of all bushes on both sides of the road for visibility, and mandated checkpoints within 5 Kilometers on all state and federal roads. Within a year of making these moves and many others, Kogi recorded zero kidnappings, zero bank robberies, and zero Boko Haram activities. What is that again?


In Kogi State, women had often held figurative roles in governance despite their highly regarded level of competence nationwide. Many times they spoke up, and their appeals fell on deaf ears even as the state was falling into economic and infrastructural obscurity. Yahaya Bello came into power and changed the story. To give an illustration, within a few days in office, he conferred one of his highest portfolios on a woman, Dr. Mrs. Folashade Arike Ayoade, the Secretary to the State Government of Kogi State and the only female in her position in Northern Nigeria.

He currently possesses the only female Aide De Camp to a Governor in Nigeria whilst all the Heads of Services during his reign have been women. He has women superintending over the State-owned University and Nine (9) other ministries in Kogi State. Not stopping there, Bello supported women into getting all the 21 Vice Chairmen positions in Kogi State, 35% of all the councillors in the Local Government Areas and all the Legislative council positions, alongside many other Special Advisors and Senior Special Assistants at the state level. Can you keep count? I guess not.


Bello met the States Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) struggling to amass 300 Million Naira per month. With the economic crunch ushering him into office, he understood that the IGR will be vastly important towards meeting and even exceeding expectations. Through prudent spending and the stringent methods that were applied, Kogi started to generate over 1 Billion Naira per month, generating, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, over 17 Billion Naira in 2020, and according to Statisense, topped the states with reduced domestic debts as at the end of 2020 from a cumulative N132Billion Naira to N73Billion Naira.


A man with the drive and energy to provide change and a country in dire need of a New Direction sounds like a match made in Nigerian political heaven, but even he, and you the reader, must know that it will not be easy. Nigeria has been designed to fail horribly, and unless we take steps to curb the current trajectory, disaster awaits.

We will not allow that to happen.

Nigeria, as I said earlier, has big yet curable issues; thankfully, similar problems were encountered and resolved with astounding ease and precision by Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello throughout his time as Governor of Kogi State. We are at a particular stage in our development as a nation. Word of mouth is no longer enough to satisfy our longing for unity and prosperity. We need action.

We must arise and take what is ours. We must create the Nigeria of our dreams, where everyone will matter irrespective of his/her tribe or religion.

You and I know this.

David Crowley accurately put my thoughts into words when he said that “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Yahaya Bello has proven his competence through his actions and is waiting for you and I to democratically put things right, by supporting and eventually electing him into office come 2023.

He is ready for change, the question is, are you?


Follow Samuel Aina on Twitter @ainoorh and Facebook @Sam Aina

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