Experts provide insights on the ongoing prosecution of a former Governor of Kogi State by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Experts are currently deliberating on the true motives behind the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) allegations of misappropriation of N80 billion against former Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello. The timing of the alleged crime, purportedly committed four months before Bello assumed office, has raised questions about the EFCC’s intentions.

The EFCC recently amended a charge, FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022, before the Federal High Court in Abuja to prosecute Yahaya Bello, who vacated office on January 27, 2024. The amended charge quotes September 2015 as the period during which the offense was allegedly committed.

Former Governor Bello assumed office as Governor of Kogi State in January 2016.

In a statement released last Tuesday by the Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, the government raised concerns and accused the EFCC of collaborating with “criminals masquerading as politicians” to tarnish Bello’s reputation.

The statement criticized the EFCC’s actions as “laughable” and portrayed the agency as being infiltrated by individuals whose motives contradict the noble intention of the President to combat corruption in Nigeria.

“The fact that the EFCC, in charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/550/2022: FRN V. 1. Ali Bello 2. Dauda Suleiman, currently pending before Honourable Justice J.K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division further amended the amended charge to include in the counts the name of H.E Yahaya Bello, describing him as being at large, is ridiculous, laughable, and portrays the EFCC as an agency infested with persons whose intents disagree with the noble intention of Mr. President to defeat corruption in Nigeria.”

Since then, many anti-corruption Civil Society Organisations have come out to condemn the alleged use of the EFCC as a tool for settling political scores, warning the new EFCC boss, Ola Olukoyede, to beware of “cankerworms of the previous administration.”

This is because both the state government and well-meaning indigenes of Kogi State have also made it clear that the governor has done exceptionally well and no one complained that the state’s money is missing.

A medical doctor and indigene of Kogi State, Dr. Irene Adebola, said no one could fault the fact that Yahaya Bello recorded so many achievements in his eight years in office.

“Those Nigerians that choose to believe what the opposition is telling them should pay a visit to Kogi State themselves and see things, first hand. The man really transformed the state and I am proud to be an indigene,” she said.

However, it is often said that boldness welcomes any suffering that comes from doing what is right because it will produce a greater power of performance. And honour is given to those who are bold in the face of provocations and persecution. This seems to be the case of the former Governor.

Yahaya Bello doesn’t fit the typical image of an admired figure, but those who interact closely with him often have positive anecdotes to share. He also exudes a natural aura of national recognition that many unsuccessfully attempt to emulate.

According to individuals interviewed, while many hold him in high esteem, there are some who vehemently oppose him. Others neither harbor affection nor disdain towards the former Kogi State Governor but are simply unable to tolerate his formidable political presence.

One of his aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, likened him to an octopus – a creature known for its high intelligence, often underestimated.

Observers noted that Yahaya Bello’s triumphant reception in his hometown, despite finishing his tenure, indicated that political adversaries would likely unite to undermine him in future political endeavors.

In what was described as a commemoration of “eight years of remarkable progress,” residents of Okene in Kogi State turned out in large numbers on Sunday, January 28, 2024, to welcome Yahaya Bello back home after his two terms. They honored him with a grand homecoming ceremony in Okene, his ancestral town.

Amid enthusiastic cheers, grandeur, and elaborate displays, the delighted residents showered the former governor with accolades for his performance in office, while various clans showcased their masquerades amidst the bustling crowd filling the streets.

Prior to Bello’s arrival in Okene, a throng of residents from Lokoja, the state capital, gathered along the highway connecting the former governor’s residence, bidding him farewell after a successful handover to Usman Ododo as his successor.

Upon Bello’s convoy halting to acknowledge their greetings, several individuals expressed admiration for the former governor, highlighting his significant accomplishments in the Confluence State.

As the convoy progressed deeper into Okene, the town erupted in joy, with the former governor’s kinsmen adorned in ceremonial attire, accompanied by lively drumbeats and trumpets, dancing through the streets, praising Bello for elevating Okene and Kogi State to a commendable status.

In response, Bello said, “I am filled with joy over this overwhelming show of gratitude, happiness, and love. It further attests to the impacts our government has made in the lives of Kogites. I humbly return all thanks and praises to the Almighty God. He alone is the Doer of everything we can lay claim to have done in office as a government. Without His enablement, we would have been both helpless. To God be the glory.

“Now, we can live with a clear conscience, confident that we did our best for Kogites within the time and resources available to us.

“I have successfully handed over to Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo. Ododo will need our support to succeed in the overall interest of the state. Once more, I want to thank you for this honour.”

He had not left Okene when news filtered in that some posters had surfaced in Abuja, announcing his decision to contest for the position of National Chairman of the ruling party.

Not a few keen observers knew that these could have only been planted by detractors to create confusion and cause disaffection.

“An archaic way of playing politics. But some gullible Nigerians still fell for it even when no one announced a vacancy,” Mr. Ade Adeyiga, a Peoples Democratic Party member said.

Yahaya Bello emerged on the state’s political scene in 2015, contesting the gubernatorial primary election under the APC banner, ultimately ascending to the position of Kogi State’s governor on January 27, 2016. The subsequent years have seen him leave an indelible mark on the state’s history.

Having entered the political arena, Yahaya Bello demonstrated remarkable leadership, achieving notable success during his eight-year tenure and solidifying his legacy.

Despite facing significant challenges upon assuming office as Kogi State Governor, including staunch opposition, Bello adeptly navigated through various obstacles and emerged triumphant, leaving behind a legacy of numerous accomplishments.

Upon his inauguration on January 27, 2016, Bello’s administration, known as the “New Direction Administration,” outlined key focus areas including enhancing security, improving healthcare and education, implementing civil service reforms, and developing infrastructure across Kogi State.

Bello’s proactive measures in addressing insecurity, both within Kogi State and nationwide, earned him recognition from the then Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun. Bello became the first Governor to receive the Nigerian Police award for his outstanding efforts in combating insecurity, underscoring his commitment to ensuring the safety and security of his constituents.

In the realm of agriculture, Kogi State’s status as an agrarian hub is well-recognized. With a steadfast commitment to ensuring food security, the administration led by Yahaya Bello spearheaded the establishment of the largest Rice Mill in Ejiba. This initiative not only aimed to bolster food production but also sought to create employment opportunities for over 2000 individuals, particularly targeting unemployed youths to uplift them from street life. Additionally, the administration launched various agricultural programs as part of its overarching strategy.

Under Yahaya Bello’s leadership, the healthcare sector in Kogi State witnessed unprecedented advancements. Recognizing the significance of the populace’s well-being and aiming to reduce medical tourism abroad, Governor Bello inaugurated a state-of-the-art Reference Hospital in Okene equipped with modern medical facilities. Furthermore, the Prince Abubakar Audu University Teaching Hospital in Anyingba underwent rehabilitation efforts. The administration also prioritized the enhancement of General Hospitals in Adogo (Ajaokuta Local Government) and Isanlu (Yagba East Local Government), along with establishing a new General Hospital in Gegu (Kogi Local Government).

In tandem with healthcare, Yahaya Bello’s tenure also left an enduring impact on the education sector of the state, reflecting a dedication to advancing educational standards for the populace

In addition to establishing model primary and secondary schools across the state, Yahaya Bello’s tenure marked a significant milestone as he became the first governor to establish two universities within his second term in office. These universities are legacy projects that are expected to endure beyond his administration, leaving a lasting impact that will be remembered by many citizens.

Kogi State garnered international recognition at the 72nd United Nations Assembly for its effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While opinions about former Governor Yahaya Bello may vary, his leadership was characterized by a commitment to addressing systemic inequalities in Kogi State and fostering tribal unity, religious harmony, equity, youth inclusion, and the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

Many beneficiaries of his policies and programs hailed him as a transformative leader who uplifted individuals from humble backgrounds to positions they never imagined attaining under the new administration.

Beyond the borders of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello’s leadership extended to various assignments aimed at averting crises and fostering peace, particularly within the APC. He played a pivotal role in mobilizing young people into politics and the APC.

According to Abdullahi Bello, the state chairman of the APC, the party remained formidable in Kogi State, largely due to the administration’s comprehensive achievements across various sectors under Governor Yahaya Bello’s leadership.

Even members of the main opposition party, speaking anonymously, acknowledged Yahaya Bello’s remarkable contributions, particularly in the realm of infrastructural development, despite their differing political affiliations or personal opinions.

“After all these visible projects, not witnessed before since the creation of the state, for the EFCC to come out to say he has embezzled so much money, Kogi must really be the Saudi Arabia of Nigeria in terms of resources. This is a clear political witch-hunt, nothing more. And someone must call the agency to order,” he said.

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