Wednesday, April 25, 2018 12:45 pm
In Kogi State, rumor has become a favorite pastime of the citizenry in the midst of economic hardship
By Richard Elesho
For the Government of Kogi State, this may not be the best of times. Aside the daily challenge of maintaining law and order, among an ill motivated populace, it is assailed by a litany of grave forebodings. Workers in the state cry over unpaid salaries running to several months. Governor Yahaya Bello’s fall at the market square on Friday, 30th March refreshed the floodgate of the government’s current travails. That date, the governor had missed his steps, tripped and sprained his left ankle while alighting from one of the cars in his fleet- a BMW. An eyewitness claimed Bello was dragged for a while on the ground, before help came his way and was promptly rescued.
The Governor’s Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo in a statement said the Governor had been treated and confirmed fit to resume work immediately after the Easter holidays. Bello was however the cynosure of all eyes when the Tuesday after the fall, 3rd April, during a meeting between President Muhammodu Buhari and APC Governors, he appeared in Aso Rock limping and on crutches. For obvious reasons, the governor has not been a regular face at public functions since the unfortunate lone accident.
The Old Market incident, has added strength to the ever active rumour mill in the state putting it on auto drive, sort of. For about three weeks, government activities remained nearly paralyzed due to the Governor’s absence. But the period turned out to be the most fertile for rumor mongers to spread infantile tales. And such tales were many. First was the news of an accident allegedly involving Edward Onoja, Chief of Staff to the governor, and his family.
Initially, the matter was discussed in hushed tunes. However, by Friday, 6th April a private radio station in the state had carried it as a major news item. The social media was also swashed with accounts of the auto crash. According to the reports, while on the busy Abuja-Lokoja highway, Onoja’s SUV veered off the road, somersaulted several times before it finally plunged into the bush. According to the story, Onaja, his wife and baby only cheated death by the whiskers and were rushed to the hospital. A national newspaper also reported that worried by the seeming gale of disasters, a die hard Bello supporter and Administrator of Ijumu Local Government Alhaji Taofeeq organized a night vigil prayer session especially for the duo and the government in general.
Supporters and opponents of the government in their different camps and requests were still in prayers, when the unexpected happened. Sunday, 8th April, Onoja came on radio to deny news of the accident. The CoS, a right hand pal of the governor bluntly denied his involvement in any auto crash and blamed enemies of the government for cooking up the story. He threatened to institute legal proceedings against the media houses which spread the controversial reports with the speed of light.
The dust raised over the reported accident was yet to settle when the rumor machinery changed gear. As the governor remained largely out of circulation at public functions, words presently circulated that he had suffered at least, three other falls. In the second, they said he fell in the bathroom and was rescued by one of his security details, who was allegedly attracted by Bello’s shout for help! After some days though, the narrative changed. In the account of the third fall, Bello was said to have missed his steps on a staircase while practicing how to walk without crutches.
In the midst of the festering narratives, Bello made a brisk and brief appearance in Lokoja, the state capital. The governor arrived Sunday evening and departed for Abuja by noon of the following day. As his convoy drove into town, he was said to have been spraying money to pauperized and bewildered bystanders along his path.
Fanwo said those behind the rumors are people who wish him evil. He explained that Bello couldn’t go for treatment immediately because he was determined to receive the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his entourage who came to commiserate with him and the people of the state over the demise of Buba Jubril a former Reps member from the state.
According to Fanwo, “the Governor had to attend to the injury after his visitor left. He was treated and he took a few days to rest after which he started attending to his official duties. He is almost fully recovered now.” He added that “the governor is not bothered with the rumor by those who wish him evil. Governor Yahaya Bello is healthy and always ready to deliver the good governance he was elected to deliver. To those who wish him evil, he has forgiven them. He has never been found to abandon the people he was elected to lead. Governor Yahaya Bello is hale, hearty and rearing to go.”
With the government putting her acts together to confront the rumor smith and the people patiently expecting the king’s return to active service, one thing stands clear: This has become one fall, too many.