VOTING, ordinarily, should be a very simple exercise. It should be as simple as choosing the best candidate on the basis of pedigree, achievements or positive personal attributes. But it will not be that simple for the electorate in Kogi State as they troop out to elect their governor today. They are faced with the unenviable task of choosing between the rock and the hard place.
There is no disputing the fact that the election is a two horse race between the sitting governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engr. Musa Wada. Bello, being the incumbent governor and vying for a second term, it should be easier for the people of the state to decide who to vote for, if only he can point to his achievements in the more than three years he has remained in the saddle. But if there is anything he would point to as an achievement, it is the misery he has foisted on the populace, particularly workers and pensioners, some of whose pays are in arrears of 12 months or longer before it was reported recently that the government had cleared some of the backlog.
For more than three years, the governor has acted in a manner that now makes it seem a grave error that a 40-year-old was given the chance to become governor. An incident that illustrates the despondency and disillusion that have become the lot of the people under Bello is the widely reported case of Edward Soje, a director in the state’s civil service, who committed suicide in October 2017 by hanging himself on a tree because he could not pay the hospital bills of his wife who had just been delivered of a baby.
The circumstances in which Bello became governor should have told him that good fortune is an ingredient of human existence that no right-thinking individual should take for granted. But it would seem that Governor Bello learnt nothing from the anti-climax that became the lot of former Governor Abubakar Audu’s bid to return as the governor of the state for a record third time. His (Bello’s) electoral victory coming at a time the clamour for greater involvement of the youth in leadership had assumed a deafening dimension, well-meaning Nigerians expected that the governor would pursue an agenda of high performance, if only to prove that the youth indeed deserved a chance. They were wrong.
In climes where there is a place for conscience in politics, Governor Bello would not bother contesting today’s election, knowing full well that it will amount to insulting the collective intelligence of the electorate. But the big question is: what is the alternative to Bello? It is certainly not the rapacious PDP that had governed the state for 13 odd years with nothing to point to as an achievement.
Bello’s failure at the poll today will not necessarily translate to a better future for the state, given the options that are available to the electorate. As things stand, the voters in the state only have a choice to make between two evils. It is the tragedy of a state that was carved out of Kwara and Benue states by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration in 1992 in the hope that it would checkmate the neglect suffered by the population of Okun (Yoruba) and Igbira people in Kwara State and the marginalization experienced by the Igala and Bassa population in Benue.
The idea was that the people from both states would come together to form a state where they would experience the development that had eluded them in their former domains. Sadly, close to three decades after it was created, development in the state remains yet an illusion. From Abubakar Audu and Ibrahim Idris to Idris Wada and Yahaya Bello, the state has been a victim of mediocre leadership. If Audu is ranked the best among its past leaders as people are wont to say, it is because in the city of blind men a one-eyed man is automatically the king.
As Bayo Osiyemi opens another chapter
I had never met or spoken with him until a day in July 2017. The editor of this paper had proceeded on annual leave and it fell to me to hold the fort as the deputy editor. The Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, Mr Victor Ifijeh, called me to his office and asked if I knew Hon. Bayo Osiyemi, a former Chairman of Mushin Local Government Area.
I told the MD I had never met the former local government chairman one on one, but I was quite familiar with the name, not only because of his erstwhile portfolio but also on account of his closeness to the elder statesman and Second Republic governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande. “Please call him now; he wants to start writing a column in the Saturday paper,” the MD said in a voice that barely concealed his excitement.
Of course, I knew nothing about Hon. Osiyemi’s writing prowess, but I know that Mr. Ifijeh as a stickler for excellence, and the enthusiasm in his voice as he broke to me the news of a new columnist, I knew we had caught a big fish.
His first few installments confirmed my suspicion. He wrote with dignified wit on national issues and unassailable authority on issues that bordered on Lagos State. His beautiful and jocular pieces were spiced with rich Yoruba adages that vastly edified the mind.
It was therefore a mixed grill of joy and disappointment when he signed out his column penultimate Saturday. While it is gratifying that he signed out his column because he needs to fully concentration on his new assignment as the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Chieftaincy Affairs, it is somehow disappointing that I must now learn to get used to not reading his This Life column on Saturdays.
But like they say, 20 children cannot play together for 20 years. It is only natural that a talent like him did not escape the prying eyes of a talent hunter like Governor Sanwo-Olu for too long in his bid to take Lagos to the next level. One can only wish him the best that luck and hard work can bring in his new endeavour.