Beyond the razzmatazz of the campaigns, the elections that took place in Kogi and Bayelsa States on Saturday 16 November, and the announcement of the winners thereafter, here are problems Yahaya Bello and David Lyon must must solve.
Richard Elesho/ Lokoja and Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The day was Friday, 24 October at the 30,000 capacity Confluence Stadium, Lokoja. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was billed to flag-off its campaign for the Kogi State governorship election. As early as 9 am, party supporters and stalwarts had started migrating to the venue.
In no time, the environment had won the aspect of a political jamboree as hundreds of supporters started singing and dancing, in anxious expectation of the candidate Engr. Musa Wada and running mate, Hon. Bamidele Aro. Suddenly, humming sound of a band of bees rented the air. In no time, the unruly animals flit into the area with people scampering for safety. The intruding insects were eventually brought under control and the programme held without further incidence.
The following day, Saturday, 26th October, it was the turn of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC to begin its own campaign. The party chose Idah, the ancestral headquarter of all Igala as venue of the exercise. Yahaya Bello, governor of the state and candidate of the party was scheduled for a chieftaincy title from Dr. Michael Ameh-Oboni, Attah Igala and chairman Kogi State Traditional Council of Chiefs. Honoured with Bello were his deputy and running mate Edward Onoja and Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Ayoade Arike.
After his coronation, Bello commissioned some renovated projects and laid the foundation stone of a six lane bridge on the River Niger, that will link Idah town with Agenebode in Edo State, to flag-off his desire for a second term. Apart from its poor organization and minor safety infractions, a major take-away from the event was the presentation of a Rolls Royce phantom to the Attah Igala. The white automobile was allegedly purchased for the Attah by Onoja and other Igala sons/ daughters in Bello’s government.
The election along with that of Bayelsa State, held on Saturday, 16th November. Some 23 candidates/ political parties participated in the exercise. Others include newly vindicated Barrister Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party SDP; Ayodele Raymond Ajibola of Peoples Redemption Party, PRP; Sheik Jubril of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Mohammed Abdullahi of Accord Party, AP; Aisha Audu of Young Peoples Party, YPP; Abdulmalik Adama of Hope Democratic Party, HDP; Abdulrazaq Baba Emeje of United Democratic Party, UDP, Musa Leslie Muhammed of National Action Council, NAC and Jimoh Ahmodu of Mass Action Joint Alliance, MAJA.
In the end, Yahaya Bello was returned. Below are the challenges he must face head-on in the next four years.
Unity, peace and security:
The election witnessed so much acrimony along the length and breadth of the state. The blackmail, intrigues and disorderliness that characterised the electoral process had no forerunner. The Kogi electorate were balkanised along ethnic lines at the peak of the electoral campaigns. The triangulation along the three major groups of Igala, Okun and Ebira generated tension, bad blood and waves of mutual and multiple suspicions among indigenes of the state.
Since the creation of the state nearly three decades ago, at no time had the people been that divided. The frosty relationship between the Ebira and Igala became threatening when each of the tribes issued warnings and counter warnings banning members of the other race from campaigning in each other’s territory. Guns and other dangerous weapons were freely deployed as campaign tools. Violence broke out randomly even as men suspected of being fake operatives carried out law enforcement duties unhindered.
If the Kogi people must enjoy dividends of democracy in the coming dispensation, then whoever wins would first need to engender peace and unity in the land. As a matter of urgency, the governor must devise a means of retrieving the guns, ammunition and other dangerous weapons that have strayed into wrong hands. The governor would need deliberate and vigorous steps to rebuild love and brotherhood among the different groups in the state. This must be taken beyond the realm of rhetorics.
Civil service records and salaries:
A daunting task ahead whoever wins the election will be how to ensure adequate and regular payment of salaries both at the state and local government levels. For the better part of the last four years workers and government have been singing discordant tunes on this. The Yahaya Bello administration embarked on an unending staff verification and screening exercise which sent many workers out of the payroll. Many workers who have not been paid since the assumption of Bello, insist they are being punished unjustly.
Whoever becomes governor in January will need to take a second look at the civil service, the amount owed workers and how to avoid owing salaries in the future. Closely related to this is payment of entitlements of former political office holders. In the same vein, the new administration will need to address the issue of about 100 senior lecturers and professors summarily disengaged from the service of Kogi State University, Anyigba. Although, the matter is in court, analysts advocate quick out of court settlement of the issues. Making the civil service work again should be a priority of the government.
– Completion of on going projects: Uncompleted projects to which substantial amounts have been committed by previous administrations are scattered all over the state. Some legacy projects in this category include Kogi House (a 12- storey edifice in Abuja), Ganaja – Otokiti by pass, Zone8 – Mount Patti road, dualization of Welcome to Lokoja-Zango- Otokiti road and redesigning of Kogi hotels and Confluence Beach Hotels. In spite of the great economic and other benefits of the projects, work have stopped on some of them for up to seven years. To avoid money already spent on them going down the drain thereby leaving the Kogi people at the loosing end, the new government must resist the temptation of ignoring the projects.
Joel Abdullahi a resident of Lokoja while speaking with this magazine cautioned against abandoning projects started by previous governments. “The money of the state have been committed to those projects. Since the projects are in the interest of the people, the best thing for the incoming administration is to see them to completion so that the people can benefit from their usage.”
Intervention in Ajaokuta-Itobe and other roads:
Ganaja-Ajaokuta-Itobe is a major federal road that connects Kogi State to the South East of the country. The stretch from Ganaja to Ajaokuta was in very bad shape until the Ibrahim Idtis administration constructed it to federal specification. The federal government eventually made refunds to Kogi State under Governor Bello. However, the less than 10km stretch from Ajaokuta Steel company gate to Itobe bridge is an undulating bed of potholes and ridges. Travelers loose time and energy travelling on that portion of the road, which is also the only route to Kogi East. Not a few persons have expressed concerns about the shame the road brings to the state. Commentators unequivocally called on the state government to make the road a priority.
– Infrastructure development:
The new government will have its hands full with issues relating to decayed and decaying infrastructure across the state. Roads, health facilities, schools, electricity and water are begging for attention everywhere in the state. Township roads are begging for attention and people expect the governor to hit the ground running in order to change the narratives.
In Bayelsa State incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP will end his second and final tenure on 14 February next year. He is not called Velentine Governor for the fun of it! He will hand over, next year to the winner, the All Progressives Congress, candidate, David Lyon. The following dominates the expectations of people from the incoming government.
Insecurity and youth restiveness:
The incoming Governor of Bayelsa State certainly has enormous problems to grapple with. Top on the list is insecurity and youth restiveness. To demonstrate how grave the situation is, only recently the entire state was cut off from telecommunication services. It was later discovered that two major telecom providers in the state, MTN and Glo were suddenly shutdown by Ijaw youths. They accused the telecom companies of powering their masts with diesel supplied by contractors outside the state. They demanded that until the contract is handed over to them to allot to chosen indigenous contractors, the masts would remain shut. The Ijaw Youth Council IYC, while releasing the items seized from the companies hinted that it would take more stringent actions in future.
Not too long ago, the same Ijaw youths stopped table water companies popularly called “pure water “producers outside the State from bringing in their products into markets in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital because the owners are not Bayelsans.
Aside the formal agitation for economic control by the IYC, kidnappings and piracy have also taken centre stage in the state. The waterways are unsafe for business and transportation. The state government is viewed as silent coconspirator as there had not been noticeable attempts to stop the anti-private investment actions by the youths.
The new governor would as a matter of urgency need to devise means to rein in the large army of restless youths in the state and cut their excesses. Dr Ekiyo Welson, Executive Director, Coalition for Development and Democracy in Bayelsa State, CDDB, told TheNEWS in an interview that the actions of the Ijaw youths was not only a height of irresponsibility, but a direct affront to private investments in the state. He advised the in-coming administration to focus on youth restiveness as a priority.
Investigations revealed that the Successor of Governor Seriake Dickson has to adequately fund the state owned Security architecture codenamed, ‘Doo Akpor” mainly manned by the members of the Rivers State Police Command for them to tackle insecurity, which is clearly underfunded.
Enabling environment for business to thrive:
Besides the inclement weather the Private sectors operate due to relative insecurity, there is also the issue of low purchasing power of inhabitants. Their pockets are controlled by the fallouts from the state government. Bayelsa is a Civil Service state.
Whoever wins as Governor must as a matter of urgency create an enabling environment for private investments to thrive. He has to resuscitate Bayelsa State Plastic Company that was already into the production plastics, PVC pipes and employed hundreds of Bayelsans during the administration of former Governor Timipre Sylva, but was later abandoned by the current government. More idle hands would have been reabsorbed and more revenue generated for the state.
Civil Service and proper salary scale:
The state civil service, which is the engine room of the workforce of the government is in dire straits due to ‘unusual and arbitrary’ reduction of salaries, stagnation in promotion of workers as at when due. The new Governor will have to apply a great mastery of governance and statecraft to rejuvinate it because civil servants are distraught and in their lowest ebbs.
A Senior Civil Servant who does not want his name in print told our Correspondent that “although the current Governor pays salaries regularly, Civil Servants’ salaries were reduced arbitrarily. For instance, a Civil Servant on grade level 16 and in the next two years will be promoted to level 17 but because of arbitrary reduction of salary steps in the Civil Service. He earns less than N200,000.
“When I was on level 15, l was earning above N200,000, but now that I am on level 16, I earn less than N200,000. This challenge goes across board in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.
It stems from the current scenario that the Bayelsa Civil Servants are disgruntled and would require urgent attention.
Another is the issue of perennial flooding that plagues the state because it is bordered by rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. The new governor will need to put on his thinking cap for an effective and sustainable disaster control initiative.
In spite of being an oil producing state, the people of Bayelsa live in abject poverty. They are mainly rural dwellers and lack adequate transportation, healthcare facilities, education and other infrastructure as a result of decades of neglect by government at all levels and the oil companies. A recent research projects that the state can generate at least N5 Billion naira monthly by well motivated Internally Revenue Board. The lighten the burden of poverty respondents urged the new governor to explore that direction.
In the area of power, analysts called on the new Governor to partner Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution to ensure regular power supply. Most Communities in Bayelsa lack power supply. Sometimes the entire state can be out of power supply for three days to one week even when it is one of the largest producers of gas.
Bayelsans and residents of Yenagoa depend on Public water vendors for potable water. Ironically, there is a State Water Board saddled with the mandate of providing water for the people. But, it lacks water always. Residents of the state expect the new administration to put the right policies and facilities in place for regular water supply.
On the monthly transparency briefing by the current governor, respondents hinted that it is not as as transparent as it is being painted. For instance, the new Governor has to investigate the proceeds from the Atala oil company owned by the state government which are never mentioned during the monthly briefings.