2023 Presidency: At last, Yahaya Bello throws hat in the ring

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State

Richard Elesho

The sustained suspense over the presidential ambition of Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello has come to an end.

Bello, on Saturday 2nd April, a day which incidentally marked the beginning of this year’s fasting for Muslims, and continuation of Christian lent, declared that he is in the 2023 the presidential race. The jamboree took place at no less a venue than the Eagle Square in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

For the aspirant and his crowd of supporters, it was a date marked for wild jubilation. Can drinks and light refreshments went on without let or hindrance in an atmosphere of no social distancing. Religious and medical traditions were not the only concerns, though.

In a way, Bello’s declaration is a defiance of zoning tradition in his political party. The All Progressives Congress, APC, on which platform he seeks nomination has zoned its much coveted Presidential ticket to the south.

Irrespective of arrangements to streamline the contest however, the Governor pulled the good crowd together to tell them his credentials for the job. He said Nigeria is in a delicate period that required someone with his gifts to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari and sustain his efforts beyond 2023.

The Governor pointed at his youthfulness, physical and mental alertness as factors that give him advantage over others and with which he would lead the country to greatness.

He listed courage to lead the country as another selling point he has over others, said his decision to stand alone when it mattered most has vindicated him aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, promised to take courageous decisions that would move the country forward.

He claimed to have achieved security, unity, peace and prosperity in Kogi State and promised to replicate same all over Nigeria if elected President. Bello said Nigeria’s path to greatness lies in pulling its citizens out of poverty, promising to change the narratives.

“The Buhari administration has a target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by the year 2030. A Yahaya Bello presidency will have an additional target of creating 20 million naira millionaires by the same year 2030 with the aim that each of them will empower five other citizens.”

To add flesh to the skeleton of the aspiration, a 15-member Presidential Campaign Council was also appointed to drive it. Notable on its membership are Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, National Coordinator and Chairman, Femi Fani-Kayode, Deputy National Coordinator and Hafsat Abiola-Costelo Director General. The council has eleven Directors, at least two of which are from Kogi, while Halim Idris will serve as Secretary.

Zwingina, who was campaign DG to late Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12 1993 presidential election annulled by the military, in an acceptance speech extolled the virtues of Bello. He described his aspiration as a product of wide consultation by concerned Nigerians and promised to work for its fulfilment.

Moses Okezie, the Campaign Council’s Director of Research and Development said that 2023 would no longer be business as usual.

“Nigerians need to know that in 2023 Presidential elections it will not be business as usual. This is not the time to vote sentiments, this is not the time to vote tribe, this is not the time to vote anything but what we as Nigerians need and what that is, security and unity, peace and progress. Those are the things Bello represent.

Aside members of the Campaign Council, dignitaries at the flag off included APC National Assembly members from Kogi, lawmakers and Local Government functionaries, Commissioners and participants mobilized across the country.

Bello had severally claimed that Nigerians from all works of lives have been begging him to join the presidential race. At a time, a youth group handed him an ultimatum. In fact, Bello’s 2023 campaign posters first appeared in April 2020, about three months into his second tenure as Governor of Kogi State. He denied the posters, then insisting his focus was on his job as Governor. Saturday’s declaration is a definite halt of the hide and seek game.

The Governor is the first aspirant in the APC to have made a public declaration of his ambition. He is also the only one from the north thus far who has indicated interest in the foremost Nigerian job.

National Leader of the APC and former Lagos Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been in frenzied consultations following his visit to the Villa in which he told Buhari about his intention to succeed him as President. The Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi similarly met Buhari on his desire to step into his shoes. The President advised both men individually to intensify their consultations.

Campaign posters of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor Godwin Emefiele, Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and his Transportation colleague, Rotimi Amechi have also been on display in many parts of the country.

Other APC Chieftains believed to be in the presidential race are Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, former Abia State Governor Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, former Imo Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha and Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs.