By Rotimi Akinsanya
I have observed with much dismay, the recent drama or altercations between Governor Yahaya Bello (GYB), the youngish, ever-smiling, gap-toothed, cerebral, focused and courageous leader of Kogi state and the anti-graft agency, EFCC over the alleged diversion and secretly stashed N19.33 billion bailout funds for workers salaries released to the state years back.
The EFCC claimed the N19.33 billion was domiciled in a fixed deposit account with Sterling Bank PLC, bearing the imprimatur of “Kogi State Bailout Account.” However, the Kogi State Government has insisted, it has no such accounts domiciled with the bank at the center of the controversy. The narrations make the saga more interesting. But it has placed a heavy burden of clearing the incidental conjectures generated by a tale crafted and circulated by the anti-graft agency.
More intriguing, the EFCC suddenly made a detour by withdrawing the suit filed in court seeking to establish the source and ownership of the about N20 billion bailout funds domiciled in Sterling Bank PLC. I find it completely, incongruent, the EFCC’s multiple explanations of freezing, unfreezing, discontinuation with the case and the return of the said amount to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
I am more scared and suspicious that the EFCC , through its spokesperson, Mr. Willson Uwujaren suddenly expressed the commission’s public disinterest in exposing the source and ownership of the funds, but felt accomplished that it blocked the exit of the funds. Except the EFCC has invented new laws or operating now on the basis of personal discretion, why is it necessary to back out from such a sensitive investigation of a presumed “executive fraud” after the media blitzkrieg on the matter?
Exposure of financial crimes and its sources assist in deterring others. But in this instance, the EFCC wittingly denied Nigeria this opportunity by arm-twisting itself and pleading that the controversies be laid to rest with the CBN’s custody of the money, persuading itself feebly that it “is expedient for the instant suit to be discontinued and the account unfrozen”.
I suspect grandeur hatchet job of some covert political antagonists’ at play against GYB to tarnish his public image. It appears to me these politicians are desperate to portray GYB as a corrupt politician, governor and leader before the Nigerian public since he is seeking the 2023 Presidency of Nigeria.
Can any one of us reasonably imagine that a State Governor could disown such humongous amounts in this period of severe economic crunch? It’s incredible! Ask Rivers State Gov. Nyemson Wike, who instantly claimed ownership of huge sums of monies, in different currencies, the EFCC discovered hidden in a building in Lagos state. He didn’t take a breath before claiming the discovered monies belonged to the people of Rivers state.
Is GYB a different personality? Is he being blackmailed or given a bad name in order to smear his reputation and halt his rising political profile in the race for Aso Rock in 2023? Since Nigerian youths officially adopted GYB as their next President, to continue with the marvelous works of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Kogi Governor’s shadows are shuddering many political camps; penetrating rare places ; receiving frantic endorsements from all stakeholders and the Youths throughout the country. It has caused some extreme anxiety in some persons.
Precisely, GYB’s political outings are causing nightmares to many opponents including traditional politicians and perpetual powermongers in Nigeria. Could it be the reason for the recent attempt to demean his person and administration on the plank of the EFCC?
Methinks, EFCC’s latter conflicting narratives of same incident and its sudden lack of enthusiasm gives more credence to these obvious conspiracy theories against GYB, pointing to his 2023 Presidential ambition as the main target.
Therefore, as a public affairs analyst, I am compelled and indeed, finds it expedient to add my voice to the discourse that someone, somewhere is afraid of the rising profile of Gov. Yahaya Bello. I can vouch that the EFCC’s baseless hounding of GYB is an apt expression of the morbid fear in some powerful political forces. Certainly, some persons are not comfortable with the 2023 Presidential aspiration of Gov. Yahaya Bello who is being generously called upon to step into Nigeria’s main leadership fabric to continue with the good legacies of President Buhari.
Why I’m I this assertive on this angle? Such huge sums of money deposited with a commercial bank these years would yield amazing interests in millions or even billions of naira. How much did the fix deposit yielded on the account discovered by the EFCC, in addition to the original sum of N19.33 billion? It’s unrealistic that only the deposited money was recovered. Besides, the operationalization of fixed deposit accounts is for a fixed period. EFCC’s backout against the case would have also explained to Nigerians lucid details such as the terminal date of the deposit account where the N19.33 was found. But it declined.
So, the unassailable truth by EFCC’s poor outing is merely to cushion the path for GYB’s detractors who are apparently against his giant strides in the development of Kogi state, in order to frustrate the intervention of investors, development partners and sow a seed of discord between the Governor and the good people of Kogi state, as evidently, “The Kogi State government had disbursed its bailout loans for the purpose of which it was granted as of October 2019.”
We can baselessly drag the personality and reputation of GYB into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Nonetheless, what is indisputable is his manifest beneficial leadership to the people of Kogi. He has worked hard to make Kogi State one of the most peaceful and devoid of all manner of security threats plaguing other states.
Before his divine rescue mission in the state, Kogi was a haven for appalling armed robberies, kidnappings and an extension camp for Boko Haram terrorists who found the alluring mountains, forests and caves of the confluence state, convenient for habitation. Kogi state served as the transit camp for Boko Haramists and Lokojo State Capital provided the shield in their quest to make an incursion into Southern Nigeria.
For years, the forests of Kogi State were Boko Haram’s chambers for manufacturing Improved Explosive Devices (IEDs) on a large scale, which were exported to other parts of the country. But GYB has positively changed the narrative of insecurity in the state, as no traces of the heinous and violent crimes he inherited are found anywhere in the state now.
I know like most Nigerians, the conducive security atmosphere in Kogi state has promoted agriculture in the state, further amplified by GYB’s active and exceptional support to farmers. He has inspired and supported young Kogites into massive farming through orientation, subsidy inputs, fertilizer supplies, supply of seedlings, ceaseless trainings and mechanization support tools.
It is the success story of Kogi state under GYB these years, in virtually all the sectors. I am not astounded that opponents who initially, (ignorantly though), touted GYB as a failed state leader, are wounded internally and have their outer pride gravely bruised that the Governor has conquered leadership at the state level and scheming to saunter into national limelight with a shot at the Presidency in 2023. It is the only sense I can glean from prodding the EFCC to baselessly bark at GYB.
But such scare tricks are not new to us. Alhaji Adoza Yahaya Bello has done his best for Kogi State. And based on popular demand, those who transverse the length and breadth of Kogi State have called on him to sustain the efforts of the Buhari Presidency. So, we expect dissenting voices and deadly plots in the camp of the opposers as experienced now.
In any case, Nigerian youths who are actively backing GYB for Nigeria’s 2023 Presidency have concluded that the scare tricks employed by detractors are too puerile to derail the popular agenda of the masses. The first stumbling block on GYB’s path to success has crumbled independently. With this sign, those insisting on throwing the proverbial banana peels on his path must be joking and living in self -denial or on some delusional exploits.
Straightforwardly, let me end this analysis by pointing out two scenarios’ likely playing out in this macabre dance. It’s either someone is out to destroy the good reputation of the EFCC by that shameful outing on GYB. Or, some persons are desperate to destroy the country by coming forward to challenge a candidate selected by the Nigerian Youths to fly the flag of the Presidency in 2023 and expectedly, coast victoriously into Aso Rock.
And my honest advice to the antigraft agency is that it must avoid the temptation of chasing shadows in Kogi simply because some persons want to stop Gov. Yahaya Bello, as it won’t work. Such actions should also not be contemplated in any other state or on any other leader, as it is capable of eroding public confidence and credibility in the operations of the EFCC.
Akinsanya wrote this piece from Bariga, Lagos.