Kogi: Not dwelling in the past

In the course of my current job, but more so due to my innate interest as a concerned citizen, I have read various opinions, news articles and everything else in-between about governance in Kogi State under Governor Yahaya Bello.

The public domain is a fast-paced evolving one but one thing is for sure; if falsehood borne out of ignorance is repeated often enough, it soon begins to assume the status of truth.

This is why, in appreciation of the fact that sensationalism is necessary to sell today’s papers and garner nanoseconds clicks, I would simply like to put some facts in the public domain; let the people or at least have that in their possession, as they express their right to judge all governments.

I believe every Kogi indigene that means well for the state should have access to authentic information that will enable them appreciate the times we are in, and so, I will do the best I can to correct wrong impressions in this piece, especially concerning payment of salaries.

It is common knowledge that Kogi, like virtually all other states, is largely dependent on crude oil revenues, which have plummeted in recent times. That we must move away from that position is non-negotiable.

On July 4, 2016, Governor Bello convened a stakeholders meeting for a no-holds-barred open forum, in order to lay out the bare facts and figures on state finances, enabling everyone access to the raw data. He proceeded to take questions after his address and briefings from select government officials for the purpose of greater clarification, and it is our sincere hope that the knowledge garnered will be deployed positively as stakeholders go on to interface with their constituents and the wider public.

Kogi cannot remain enslaved by a bloated civil service workforce. Governor Yahaya Bello is not in the business of shirking his responsibilities, and the civil service is the responsibility of government. However, so is the rest of the population too. The enormity of the problem hits home when you realise that the salaries of a very minute percentage of the state’s approximately 3.5 million people completely wipes out government’s total revenues. This analysis is necessary so people will understand why the governor has made the screening exercise in the civil service a top priority, and why any resistance to those noble efforts should be deemed by well-meaning Kogites as anti-people and anti-progress. Plummeting revenues mean our people must be bold enough to admit that the status quo is totally unsustainable and that for Kogi to survive, something must give. The civil service must be leaner, and we must realise that ghost workers who have been siphoning money for decades will need prolonged, unrelenting screening to be unearthed and eradicated.

Information gleaned from the interim report of the screening committee evokes raw emotions when one sees that a total of 9,720 ‘workers’ on Kogi’s payroll did not turn up for the screening exercise at all, and this number does not include the thousands who will still not pass the actual screening. These are likely unqualified and ghost workers, who know they will be found out, and wisely declined to show up for scrutiny. Yet many of the beneficiaries of this scam continue to demonise a scheme that is one of the fastest ways to remove Kogi from something it has no business with – poverty.

Some civil servants are self-sabotaging the governance process. For a State that will be 25 years in existence in August, it is unfortunate how previous administrations mortgaged our commonwealth. Kogi State earned as much as N4.05 billion from FAAC in January 2015. In the last month of the Wada administration, N2.58 billion was what accrued to Kogi in January 2016. That 36per cent decline of almost N1.5 billion coincided with a time when Kogi’s already bloated wage bill was further increased, through questionable last-minute recruitment into the civil service by a departing governor; a move that was obviously intended to further burden the incoming government and set it on the warpath with labour if the new governor dared reverse those employments. This is a nationwide tactic, but its effects remain devastating to the minds of workers, who are used as pawns but suffer the most.

The past blights our future; that this administration chooses not to dwell on the past does not mean all Kogites are not suffering its consequences.

Kogi State is unarguably bereft of infrastructure, and the funds needed to develop them must be sourced from somewhere. Governor Bello has a mandate to fulfil, and he is expected to ensure government hospitals and schools are well-run, that the state’s 10 land borders are secure, and that Kogites have access to good roads, potable water and other social amenities. An overall enabling environment for entrepreneurship and industry must be created for the citizens to take full advantage of, and contrary to what the lecturers are demanding, fair taxes will play their part in boosting the state’s IGR.

At this point in time, Kogites who mean well for the state and for future generations should stand up to be counted. The voices of mischievous elements bent on truncating the goodwill enjoyed by this administration with misinformation and selected information must not be allowed to drown the voices of true progressives.

Governor Yahaya Bello has always said he does not want to be remembered as the governor who was only able to pay salaries; this is the basest obligation a governor must carry out, and is nothing worth news headlines. Rather, the long-term focus is that Kogi has massive potentials, which must be exploited and put to optimal use for the benefit of Kogites, and this is where His Excellency would rather make greater strides in.

  • Onyegbule is the Senior Special Assistant on Electronic Media to Kogi State Governor.