Top among the most troubling electoral traditions of the average Nigerian electorate is to vote the highest bidder, or vote on the basis of religion or ethnicity. In 2023, if Nigerians choose a president as carelessly as they used to do, the president may rule to end the country, and may be the very last president of Nigeria. This is in view of contemporary social and political realities.
In considering a choice for Nigeria’s presidency in 2023, the importance of defying all factors to choose a leader who has what it takes to unify the country remains sacrosanct, especially that the three major component groups of the country – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa – have renewed their independent agitations for secession.
Even the North, a region which was believed to be dependent on the resources of the oil rich Niger Delta region, recently had its youths making statements of secession, saying that northern Nigeria desired its own independence.
If the people of northern Nigeria join the Western and Eastern Nigeria in the ongoing agitation for secession, we need no prophet to tell us that the current political geography known as Nigeria will fall to secessionist demands as being championed by popular Yoruba activist, Sunday ‘Igboho’ Adeyemo in the South-West and Nnamdi Kanu in the South-East.
Apart from the political instability that ushered in the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, the country has probably known no greater political instability than the various sectional bickering that has become the order of the day.
The Nigerian presidency will continue to exist only when the political entity called Nigeria is sustained. This is basic sense. No one needs a teacher to understand this fact. For this reason, it is very important to ensure the emergence of a leader who has what it takes to drive the continuous existence of the Nigerian State.
Historians who understand the processes of disintegration of states would agree that the inability of federal forces to arrest Sunday ‘Igboho’ Adeyemo or to quell uprisings against federal institutions in the South-East (such as the razing of INEC offices and police stations) shows that the disintegration of Nigeria may be underway, and could finally culminate in total collapse of federal control unless a strong leadership is in place to quell the uprisings.
Regarding the presidency of Nigeria, nothing is more instructional for Nigerians than the need to ensure the emergence of a leader who has demonstrated the ability to unite a divided people, especially a people who have been divided through misgovernance and maladministration, and through such channels as bad laws and leadership tradition that brew hatred among the people.
Until he lost the Kogi State All Progressives Congress governorship primary to the late Abubakar Audu in Lokoja, in 2015, this writer knew very little about Yahaya Bello. I never also met him as a private citizen or as governor till date, but anyone who knows Kogi State well would agree that a lot of things have changed for better even though there may be areas where, according to critics, his administration may have done better.
Having decided to dwell on the strategic importance of national unity in relation to 2023, this piece will not discuss other achievements of the Bello administration in other sectors.
Kogi State has three Senatorial Districts – Kogi West which is dominated by the Owe-speaking people; Kogi East which is dominated by the Igala, while Kogi Central is dominated by the Ebira. Looking at this structure, the state is a micro-Nigeria with various minority groups.
Those who know the history of the state will readily agree that until Bello came on board, mutual hatred and internal strife defined the relationship among the three senatorial districts.
It is pertinent to assert that such a man who has demonstrated acumen in solving problems and building bridges of love across three regions that had been at war for over a decade has what it takes to solve the crisis currently threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria.
The ability to politically undo the many years of disunity, evidenced by his victory at the polls as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission after the election, and later supported by the appellate court judgement which was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court judgement, shows the inherent ability of Bello to strengthen the bond among the people of Kogi West, Kogi East and Kogi Central.
There is no gainsaying that unlike his predecessors, Bello has been able to silence his opponents, not by force of arms or use of law, like some erroneously believe, but by the loudness of his capacity to govern. You cannot silence opossition or force civil servants to work without protesting. One only needs to assess the situation across Nigeria where governors had attempted to handle workers, for instance, with iron fist, and understand that the relative peace enjoyed in Kogi was duly earned.
When he came on board as governor of Kogi State on January 27, 2016, some well-known powerbrokers who used to control the political and financial resources of the state were so disappointed in the emergence of Bello whom they serially described as a political-no-body who had not served them.
Like the rage of slave masters, the old powerbrokers opined that he needed a ‘political address’ to effectively rule the state, meaning that they could make the state ungovernable if he did not pledge allegiance to the old blocks.
Today, many of the young boys who were used as battle tools against the governor have realised and repented. Most of them are now with him as friends and progressives who share in the passion of the governor to get things working in the state he inherited as a crippled political entity.
Love is contagious. The ability of the Yahaya Bello charisma to reverse the trend of hatred that boomed between the people of the various ethnic groups of the state is a paradigm shift that has led to sustained peace and stability in the state. Such a man, seeking such a larger troubled province as Nigeria should be acquitted of ambition and be encouraged to the saddle.
Today, travellers by road through Kogi State would testify to the safety of road users in the state. This was not the case before. Kogi State was a haven of dare-devil kidnappers before January 27, 2016.
The media has a role to play in verifying information needed by the electorate to make informed decision on whom to vote for in 2023. The ongoing arguments about the suitability or otherwise of Bello for the presidency in 2023 should be considered an opportunity for the Nigerian media to play their role in an unbiased manner, by independently conducting surveys among the different ethnic people of Kogi State on whether or not they still feel bitter against one another.
In itself, the new local government councils created by the Abubakar Audu administration did not stand the test of time as they failed to exist after various groups and peoples from Kogi Central and Kogi East led the agitation for the cancellation of the LGAs on the basis of lopsidedness.
Unlike Audu, the Bello administration has made a whole lot of difference, as no group has accused it of lopsidedness or unfairness in the allocation of various ongoing projects across senatorial districts in the state.
Such a leader who has been able to score essential goals for his state, in spite of all odds, will in fact, do more if given an opportunity to act on a higher pedestal.