Re: Kogi’s Many Absurdities (a Rejoinder)

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Idowu Akinlotan of The Nation newspaper certainly is an above average writer. On a very good day he delivers delightful commentary on the Nigerian situation, warts and all, though _Palladium,_his column on the back page of the Nation on Sundays can be ponderous fare sometimes – a bit chewy, and overly redolent, like _bushmeat_. Ordinarily, and as far as the ethics of journalism go, Idowu should pass muster. Unfortunately, anyone reading _Palladium_ of Sunday, 21st February, 2016 will be hard put to agree with this assessment. That particularly lengthy shtick left no one doubting it was a hatchet-job gone wrong. All the angst and bile and mindless hacking of the pen assassin were in full play.

Fortunately, the intended victims – the people of Kogi State, their Governor and his Chief of Staff –were surrounded by the Force-field of Truth and barely felt the blows. In the end, apart from a bruising of reputations here and there, the vicious attack fell far short of achieving the intended carnage among victims.

Idowu may have been 'forming' that he didn't write the article, and was only expanding the frontiers of free comment and journalism by ceding his column to _'AN ARDENT READER WHO FEELS DISTRAUGHT…'_ about alleged events in Kogi State. Yet, like a drunkard reeking of alcohol and caked all over in his own vomit while making inebriated denials of drunkenness, Idowu's biases were in shameful display right from his introductory paragraph. In essence, he rode his hypocritical high horse into a mud-pit straight off the gate. Anyone with passable comprehension of the English language will immediately see what an active advocate of the half-truths and utter fabrications purveyed by the ultimately faceless 'Joseph M. Adeola' Mr. Akinlotan was. And that is why we hold him, not his possible _nom de plume_, responsible for the defamatory features of that article.

For the records and because the Yahaya Bello Administration in Kogi State swears by an Open Government and puts much store on the free flow of (factual) information to citizens, we offer here a brief rejoinder. It is intended to set the records straight for any reader of Mr. Akinlotan's column who, reading last Sunday's _Palladium _(and despite his decisive posture to the contrary) still wondered with the rest of us if there was, perhaps, another side to the story. To such fair-minded people, we make the assurance that there is.

Idowu Akinlotan is categorical that the _'YOUTHFUL GOVERNOR…IS UPENDING COMMON SENSE IN THE STATE…'_First, one does not fail to notice how he spits out '_youthful'_ here like it is a bad thing, especially when paired with _'Governor'. _That is understandable, not everyone believes there is any use for the young in Nigerian politics except, of course, as thugs. The moment one of them dares to be Governor, all hell breaks loose. Second, wisdom is a bag, each man carries his own. The vast majority of Kogi people believe different from Mr. Akinlotan when it comes to the import and impact of their young

Governor even as his first month in Lugard House starts to wind up.

While it is early days yet, the prevailing mood among relieved Kogites wherever the Governor and his Team has gone is, 'finally, at last, common sense has come to Kogi State.' The average Kogi person just wants his Government to do right by him, the exact thing the Governor is keen, and very ready, to do.

This includes enclaves where the usual suspects predicted mass discontent after Governor Bello emerged Governor-Elect.

Idowu Akinlotan is also certain the novel electoral and legal events proceeding Governor Bello's swearing-in as Governor of Kogi State are _'A FARCE ORCHESTRATED BY THE RULING APC AND INEC.'_We are not surprised. It is a common skein of argument that runs through the spool of naysayers whose personal designs on the jugular of Kogi politics has been thwarted by providence.

Governor Yahaya Bello had a hearty laugh at being described as lacking _'THE EXPERIENCE, MATURITY, INSIGHT, SHREWDNESS AND ASTUTENESS REQUIRED TO GOVERN A STATE LIKE KOGI OR ANY STATE FOR THAT MATTER…'_ the fact that he has built up a multi-billion Naira growth enterprise with scores of employees and managed it to profitability does not count with them.

It did hurt His Excellency, a jolly good fellow if ever there was one, a bit to be described as _'…NATURALLY SELF-CONCEITED AND NOT REFLECTIVE '_ For goodness' sake, a journalist writing in person or endorsing another's writing still has a duty to his profession, a duty to ensure that truth defends justice always.

Fresh from its failed attempt to embarrass   Governor Bello on account of his unwavering focus on his duties, the article flies into a rant against several decisions of the new Governor aimed at kick-starting the process of reforming the Kogi State Civil Service. It alleged the fledgling Administration's attempt to screen the state's workforce for ghost workers was anti-workers' welfare.  Those State Governments which have undertaken the same exercise have recorded in reducing their monthly wage bills. It also does not matter to _Palladium_ that a successful screening will free up much needed funds to pay the actual workers as and at when due.

Security vote, that vexatious item of expenditure, was up next on their shopping list of calumnies. Unfortunately, in accusing the Governor of first taking his security vote before thinking of workers' salaries, the host-writer and his ghost-writer failed again to remember,  the widely acclaimed news within the last week that Governor Bello has forgone his security vote and donated it to the coffers of the state to meet the essential needs of the people.

After that the duo babbled into a lengthy and curious diatribe about Governor Bello's alleged frigid relationship with the Kogi State House of Assembly. It almost seems as if they were goading the Governor to exert undue control over the House with a view to subverting her independence. One thing is sure; the governor of the state does not interfere in the internal affairs of the Legislature of the state.

Like blood-sucking ticks, Governor Bello's attackers then changed tack and tried to burrow under his composure using alleged 'constitutional' breaches and 'impeachable offences' as their biting and sucking mouthparts. Basic analyses show their gripe amounts to no more than mishmash of murmuring against the Administration's first actions, both real and imagined.

There are relentless assaults, especially on the intelligence of a reasonable and thinking people like the residents of Kogi State. Even autonomy for Local Governments mooted by Governor Bello earns its share of their ire, bewailing it as illegal.

Messrs Akinlotan and Adeola conveniently skirt Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as other subsidiary legislation which, read in community, spell out the desirability and process of local government autonomy. Their deeds being evil, they noticeably had no desire to come into the light and be rebuked.

In a despicable low even for an article that has already hit the rock bottom of bigotry, this miserable edition of _Palladium_ proceeds to plumb the abyss of outrage with base ethnic sentiments.  With an intones, _'HIS HATRED FOR THE OKUNS IS BREWING AND MANIFESTING__…__'_If any part of their subversive tirade came close to annoying Governor Bello, it was this dreadful idea that he could harbour 'hatred' for any part of Kogi State or its people. How ongoing restructuring of key institutions of the state to strengthen responsiveness and as part of the New Direction he is charting came to be maligned as conclusive proof of his gubernatorial ill-will against a section of Kogi people?


For the records, before assuming office as Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello was a very successful transporter, with a fleet of vehicles that reached the nooks and crannies of Nigeria every day. In addition, he is heavily and profitably invested in the real estate and other sectors. Before that he was a very senior civil servant who voluntarily took early retirement from a very successful career in the Federal Civil Service in order to pursue his passion for private enterprise and politics.

Edward Onoja, His Excellency's Chief of Staff has a distinguished professional pedigree of his own. A banker who rose through the ranks to head Branches in two of Nigeria's leading banks, Access Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, he voluntarily resigned from Banking to pursue his own passion in politics. As far back as 2011 when many of his mates were still chasing elusive jobs.

Palladium _and other would-be traducers of the Administration should take the message home that Change has come to Kogi State, Governor Bello is the face of it and it is a face that is set like iron against all internal and external interests trying to mortgage the future of Kogi State to godfathers – both known and unknown.

Written by Williams Charles, a Public Affairs Commentator.

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