In his heydays when he littered everywhere with tangible traces of real governance, late political maverick, and bulldozer, Alhaji Abubakar Audu—the Adoja of the universe—was famously and boisterously called ‘The Prince of the Niger’. It was an appellation carved on the marble of reverence, prestige, and royalty. In his days as the executive governor of Kogi State when democracy was rebirthed in 1999, Prince Abubakar Audu was the rave of the nascent democracy, he shone so brilliantly that his traces illuminated everywhere in infrastructure, security, and prosperity.
He brought the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to not just Kogi State but Igalaland – Anyigba to be precise. Audu perhaps brought the first sitting president to Igalaland—Similarly, Governor Yahaya Bello Adoza just replicated this rare feat by bringing President Muhammadu Buhari to Okene—the headquarters of Ebira civilization. To a mere looker, this is a mere happenstance but for those with an appreciation of historical relics, this is a political statement. Like Audu, Bello just made a bold statement.
The narratives now will be a two-lane reality when Kogi political history is being dissected. Anything that brings a sitting president to any state is a huge reference to governance. Presidents don’t go to state visits just like that, they visit where serious things of national consequences are happening. For instance, when there are security breaches of great magnitude that lead to loss of lives and property, the president can visit the location to console victims and identify with those living in those states. In the case of Kogi State, the president did not visit Kogi for condolences but to commission projects of impact. Like Obasanjo to Anyigba, Buhari was in Okene.
What would make Yahaya Bello site the first reference hospital in north central Nigeria in Okene in less than eight years of his administration? The answer isn’t far-fetched. It’s the realization that he is a freeborn motivated by the impulse that the land that births him deserves the manure of appreciation. Only a slave distances self from the land of his birth; a freeborn draws rain of progress to his land. We have seen Bello’s traces of a ‘worthy son’ to his Ebira people.
President Muhammadu Buhari came close to emptying his saliva in praises of Governor Yahaya Bello when he was ushered into the Reference Hospital in Okene. Like Obasanjo, who danced to the tune of Tijay Bala when he came to commission the Kogi State University in Anyigba, Buhari jived in ecstasy throughout his visit to Okene.
Kogi State University was one of the signatures in Kogi State during Prince Audu’s reign. The university opened its vista of opportunities to students from not just the state but neighbouring states of Anambra, Enugu, Edo, Nasarawa, Niger, and Benue. It remains a melting point to date. Bello, like Prince Audu, wasted no time in establishing the Confluence University of Science and Technology in Osara. Now with the just commissioned Reference Hospital, the new school will take another lead in medical school complementing the one in Anyigba and the proposed medical school in the Federal University Lokoja that will use the Federal Medical Center, Lokoja as its teaching hospital. Indeed, Kogi is now the hub of medical schools in Nigeria with the three senatorial zones hosting medical schools. This is what vision and real love for a people do and Bello is a remarkable reference here. He didn’t build tourist abodes, he invested in healing abodes. All hail Bello, the new Prince of Niger.
All these modest and enviable achievements didn’t happen by accident, they came from an inclusive think tank anchored by his crack team of the New Direction gang, these people employed a bottom-top approach to building a template that has become a veritable compass for the Yahaya Bello government.
In his speech at the event, he summarized thus the magic behind his successes.
“Shortly after my inauguration into the office for the first time on 27th January 2016 I commissioned a multidisciplinary team of consultants to design a governance template for my administration drawing from our campaign promises and direct feedback from the people of Kogi State whom they interacted with in every nook and cranny of the state.
The outcome is what we call the Kogi State New Direction Blueprint which I like to define as ‘our roadmap for accelerated and proportional development of Kogi State in all her constituencies’. The New Direction Blueprint has helped us to steadily translate our mission statement into the reality that we now see in Kogi State, a few of which will be commissioned today.
Our performance matrix is rooted in an overall mission statement as an administration, which reads thus: ‘To develop Kogi State into Nigeria’s foremost and most secure emerging commercial hub through optimization of the state’s geographical location, natural endowments and human resources for a sustainable future.’
Whether we like it or not, Alhaji Yahaya Bello has redefined the governance template in Kogi State, he has moved the state from a family empire to an inclusive forte, and he has demystified political demagoguery and collapsed political dynasties. He has shown those with power before now that you can make your people a priority regardless of the tides or fortune. By the time power returns, we can be more purposeful with real governance like the era of Audu and Bello- the two inarguably Princes of the Niger.