Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who is aspiring to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, next year, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in this interview spoke on the problems of the country, how he would tackle them if elected, and his chances among others.
On his philosophy and why he is running for presidency
I will be running on a broad political philosophy of progressive activism through social action and political reforms.
We are so blessed as a nation and yet it does not always seem so. I am running to restore hope by providing firm guarantees of security, unity and progress to all Nigerians. Our focus will be proper management of our great diversity so that it can really be an advantage. We will foster more cooperation and integration among citizens and make sure that progress is made steadily across all sectors and indicators.
Building on Buhari’s achievements
Despite the dire challenges facing Nigeria today, no one can deny that President Muhammadu Buhari has given our country the greatest achievements in public works, government housing and social services since this Fourth Republic began. In addition, this administration has invested heavily in our national security. The war against insecurity may be taking longer than earlier expected but President Buhari has ensured that we have the combat resources to keep hitting our foes hard until victory is achieved.
It can also not be denied that under this APC government, Nigeria is pushing forward the most comprehensive proposals for restructuring since Independence. The sum of government policies, the Electoral Act and other statutes enacted and the ongoing amendment of our Constitution are fundamentally changing the way we do things.
For instance, the average Nigerian Governor has more powers today over matters of security, public transportation, taxation, fiscal federalism, mineral and agro resources, electricity, etc than at any other time in our history. These are the legacies of Mr. President. They will help the next president take longer and easier developmental strides, provided Nigerians make sure he is succeeded by one who is not out to discredit but to consolidate. I have proven time and time again that I am the only such successor in the APC’s line-up for 2023.
I am running for President because I see a bright light shining at the end of the tunnel for our nation. I am not one of those who only see doom and gloom. It is my intention to take custody of that light, to illuminate every gap in our nationhood and to fix them. I will ensure that this light is handed over in due course to successors who will be trustworthy stewards of the great future which a federal government led by me will build for our nation
On why he thinks he has the capacity to do the above
Kogi State is a microcosm of Nigeria and possesses the same diversities that, often mismanaged, have caused us so much trouble in Nigeria. However, I mobilised my people and together we are working through our differences. The brutal personality cults, tribal clashes, farmer/herdsmen conflicts and religious upheavals we inherited have ceased.
One of my most outstanding achievements as Governor, and one that I am very proud of indeed, is the dismantling of these age long dichotomies. Another is the elevation of inclusivity as a cardinal point in the compass of governance.
We have achieved the 35 affirmative action thresholds for women, and 54 Nigerians from every state and the FCT have been appointed into our government ranging from cabinet seats to clerical and administrative positions.
When we talk about inclusivity within the Nigerian context, our next leader must also recognize that it cannot be fully functional without Cooperation and Integration.
Nigerians must be able to live and contribute anywhere in this nation with the guarantee that they will not be called strangers there one day. To achieve this we must make sure that place of origin’ gives way for ‘place of domicile’ in determining who is a son or daughter of the soil. Our citizenship must no longer be diminished by indigeneship. This is the next level in what it means to be a Nigerian which I will actively champion as President.
If elected, I will ensure Nigerians of every extraction know what it means to be free of the principles of exclusion that currently demeans our very existence. All of us deserve to belong in our country without discrimination or marginalisation and to receive our full and valuable parts in the national scheme of affairs. I am Ebira and as a person who overcame the ‘minority syndrome with much difficulty to be where I am today, I want every Nigerian, especially the youth, to live in a country where no tribe or religion or gender is ever considered a minority again.
A Yahaya Bello presidency, like his governorship, will be tough on crime. Crime is crime and all crimes are inexcusable and I have demonstrated strong capacity to neutralize crimes and criminals in Kog State. Most Nigerians probably do not know this, but we went from being the state where violent crime was most endemic in 2015 to become one of the safest states in Nigeria from 2017 to date. Our crime rate has been one of the lowest in the country for years now. Terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and other violent crimes will not be tolerated when by the help of God I am Nigeria’s President and Commander-in-Chief.
I will not tolerate non-state actors who take up arms against the nation whatever their grievances but I will be willing to listen to all sides and address all agitations fairly, especially those which are borne out of genuine imbalances in the treatment of citizens by the system. I will put a stop to existential mistreatment of any people among us, provided that agitators are willing to give peace a chance and threats of harm to the Nigerian Nation and People are not brought to the table as leverage.
On how he will create jobs and fight poverty
The Buhari administration has a target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. I will have an additional target of creating at least 20 million naira millionaires by the same year 2030, with the aim that each of them will employ or otherwise empower at least five other citizens.
In this regard, we are going to learn a lot from the South-East. The apprenticeship model by which a boy, from an indigent or affluent background, is taken, trained and turned into a millionaire businessman in as little as 10 years is one we have to understudy and invest in. Harvard University already studies it and the Nigerian Government must do no less. I have personally observed that this model works on average 50 per cent of the time with a least five out of 10 boys who apprenticed with various Igbo friends of mine are millionaires today in their own rights. I also observed that it is not the line of business but the underlying principles and practices that work so well. This is because this amazing phenomenon is repeated sector after sector whether they deal in vehicle spare parts, electrical, pharmaceuticals, clothing or even foodstuffs, etc. This means it is a system that can be replicated. We will explore methods to do so.
On what he would tell his supporters if he is edged out of the race for the APC presidential ticket via consensus
I chaired the registration of youth and people living with disabilities in our party and till today I’m still the ambassador for youths and the younger generation in the party, and in the government. They believe in me and that was why we were able to mobilise over 41 million Nigerians into our party and we are still counting. I’m sure you saw what happened on April 2, when we declared publicly.
Again, APC is a party of peace. APC is the party that will produce the next government after President Buhari. APC would want to win all elections. APC is a party that is strategic. As a party, we must succeed. As a party, we must be solid. As a party, we need that person or leader with historic memory of the evolution of politics and governance in Nigeria. As such, we require such an experienced personality irrespective of where he or she comes from.
I, therefore, don’t want to speak about zoning. What is important is that man who will be a leader and put the party ahead. And that quality was found in Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Now, coming to the presidential election, APC would also win the next election. APC is a party with nothing less than 41 million members. And APC is aware of the man who mobilised 41 million members into the party and the mobilisation or membership of the party cut across the six geo-political zones.
APC knows the body language of the nation today. APC is aware that the youth and women are clamouring for that person who is detribalised, who is coming to solve the insecurity challenges we are facing today.
If consensus is going to be the option, I don’t think APC would go outside Governor Yahaya Bello. And even if other considerations are put forward that are either indirect or direct primaries, Governor Yahaya Bello is the man to beat. I am confident and I trust God Almighty and trust the judgement of the leadership and members of my great party.
This time around is the time we must get over sentiments of where someone comes from. It is time to bridge that gap and cement that relationship and values that unite us more than what divides us. You have a man that has practised it and it has become part of our system in Kogi State and by the special grace of God, I have put myself forward to be that man that is going to champion the new Nigeria where all sentiments of ethnicity, religion and gender do not matter any longer. I don’t think we should continue to dwell on that which divides us. I happened to be an Ebiraman, I happened to be a Muslim and I happened to come from Kogi State or the North-Central or the northern part of the country but most importantly, I am a Nigerian.
Are you not scared about the big names like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, VP Osinbajo and others that are also in the race for the APC 2023 presidential ticket?
The answer is no because I trust myself and my capacity. I believe in my records and what I am going to do for the party and I know that I will win. I believe in my capacity, I respect the founding fathers of this great party starting from President Buhari who is the leader of the party, down to Senator Tinubu, one of the founding fathers of our party, among others.
They are the foundation-laying fathers and members of this great party, one cannot ever have a building without a foundation and at the same time, that building will never be completed without roofing because the foundation alone is not a complete building. A beautiful building consists of a foundation, and roofing. We are building on what they have laid on the ground.
I am confident that at an appropriate time if they cherish what they have started, they will look for the right young man who has a capacity for what has been laid down and I fit perfectly into that particular choice.
Also, I know there are other champions in the race. If one wants to be a champion, the person should get ready to beat a champion. I believe I will beat other champions to become a champion. Politics, generally, is a game of numbers that includes democracy. I represent the majority as far as the politics of democracy is concerned.
I represent the majority of the Nigerian youth, that is why they are saddling me with the responsibility to lead this great nation. It is not by mistake that the party chose me to lead the committee that drove over 41 million members into the party, which is also part of the record for us.
We have recorded over 21 million Nigerians with their PVCs who are ready to vote GYB into the presidency for 2023. The records are there. These are facts that are verifiable. I don’t think whoever possesses these credentials and more will then be afraid to go into a contest. We are in this race to win, and restore hope to Nigerians.
Our porous borders and entry points have been a major lapse in our security architecture. How do you intend to protect and police the Nigerian borders if voted to office as president in 2023?
Securing our borders and lands will require technology, operations and reinventing our system. We are going to ensure that everybody lives up to their responsibilities. Just a while ago, I gave an instruction to some of our people back in Kogi State and the response has been so wonderful. If you permit me, I will just narrate it to you.
I sent a message to a local government chairman and told him that his job is at stake if criminalities continue in his domain and that it will not be tolerated again. I told him that he is the chief security officer of the local government, if he can’t secure it, I will take over the job and secure it.
I wrote to him that he has 72 hours only to do the needful and the time starts counting now and this is applicable to all other local government executive chairmen. I said this is the very last warning and that before you cause embarrassment to our government and stain our good record, I will take decisive action against you. This will not be different when I become the president and commander-in-chief.
What do you say to reports in some quarters that some workers and civil servants in Kogi State are yet to be paid and that the state chapter of the NLC is not in sync with your administration over workers’ welfare?
I think we are about the only state that has published our financials from 2016 to 2021. All are published online, payment of salaries is contained therein, and every individual worker’s account including payrolls is there. Please do that as an assignment so that we don’t sound as if we don’t do our work.
I chose to dwell on this particular issue because as a governor, I am not just a governor that is coming to take care of salaries alone I have a responsibility of managing the financial, human material even the spiritual resources of the enclave called Kogi State. That is what we have been doing and we are getting all the successes and achievements in Kogi State.
Even on the issue of payment of workers’ salaries, sometimes in 2017, this particular ugly incident about the utilization of our first N20bn, we went as far as taking the centerspread and some pages of the newspapers and published the utilization down to the last kobo.