IT was a warring argument between two gentlemen on the row before mine on a plane flying to Lagos; arising from a sneaky headline on one of the national dailies. They were not only separated by the colours of the clothes they wore which were in sharp contrast, but also their opinions on security in Nigeria. The man in white was so worried: “What is our nation drifting into?”, he asked. He was miffed by the fact that the nation is not decentralizing policing in such a way that the state governors could make good use of them to combat the rising tides of insecurity in the nation. “Your view on this is parochial”, the man in black angrily retorted. “Did the Federal Government give the Kogi governor the powers to control security agencies? Why is Kogi combating crime like no one? Why are these governors running to Abuja to go and complain about insecurity in their domains? How many times has the Kogi governor gone to Abuja to cry? Instead, the criminals are the ones crying in Kogi State. I did not like that man but how can I continue to hate someone who is doing his primary job?”
But the man in white won’t go down cheaply. He put forward another argument. “Don’t bring that Kogi governor into this issue. That one that said there is no Covid-19. What insecurity is greater than exposing the people to health dangers? Moreover, Kogi is a small state now”. “Here you go again”, the man in black said. “Kogi should be the state crying. It was a terrible state before 2016. I witnessed serious criminality in that state when I was rendering some services to Dangote Cement Company. I knew people who were kidnapped. Some never came back before I left that state. It was sad. Even the governor experienced it for about one year before he took his destiny in his own hands and stood up to fight for his people against the well-established criminals. Kogi should be the worst hit state. Ten other states share borders with Kogi.
I think that is why NCDC are not happy with Kogi State. We live in a digital era. Are there strange deaths in Kogi? Are people dying as a result of Covid-19 in that state? Are we getting such news? I no longer hate Yahaya Bello. He has been fearless. I am not a medical expert, so I can’t say if he has been right or wrong. But where are the proofs he is wrong on Covid-19?” At that point, many people on the flight picked interest in the conversation. All believed Kogi has been the standard for measuring success against insecurity in the nation. Many others saw him as a hero in defending his state against the “ungodly” management of Covid-19 in the country but a few still saw his stance on COVID-19 as “dangerous” while a woman referred to the situation as a “time bomb”. But for me, it must be a patient bomb. We were told it would explode seven months ago. But it has refused to explode. Many felt right there that there is actually no bomb anywhere to explode as far as Covid-19 is concerned.
As we got off the plane and heading to the arrival lounge, the two of them decided to harmonize their positions. I went close to them because I wanted to get the full story. They both agreed that Kogi has set a standard for others to emulate in the area of security but they still didn’t agree on the management of Covid-19. As I journeyed back to Lokoja from the Abuja Airport, I ruminated on the intellectual attrition between the two gentlemen and realized how much of a national discourse Yahaya Bello has become. I also realized Nigerians know their leaders. A few weeks ago in Lagos, the Uber driver that took me from my hotel to Oregun heard me “blowing” my beautiful Yagba language on phone. He took interest in me and told me his wife hails from Kogi State. “I didn’t know much about your governor before the Covid-19 controversies started. But I must commend him for being steadfast. We know what he is saying about Covid-19 is true. These people are just punishing us”, he said in a rather helpless tone. But like Professor Sylvanus Ekwelie (my best teacher ever) would say, “questions are maps, when you know how to ask them, you can never get lost,” I decided to engage the driver more. I asked, “why do you think Covid-19 is controversial?” He replied with a hilarious laugh.
“You people thought because we are drivers, we do not know what is happening. All these protocols they are talking about are deceptive. They just want to pocket our money. That is why we see Governor Yahaya Bello as the hero of this generation”. I became enamored with his depth of knowledge on the issue of Covid-19. Truth is known by many, but only few are audacious to say it.
I was then reassured that Governor Yahaya Bello has a big responsibility as a generational Messiah. He has become a hero that the entire nation is looking up to and a man who has come out of his own protection to protect those without protection. The call on him to become president in 2023 is part of the good troubles he has to cope with. It is the price you pay for proving your mettle.
Having united a socially, culturally and ethnically splintered polity like Kogi, Nigerians are calling on him to bring the beautiful dance to the center. Having defeated insecurity in Kogi State through a hugely successful security architecture and attitudinal change, Nigerians are calling on him to come and secure the nation and defeat the security challenges confronting Nigeria. He is indeed, in a good trouble. Some journalists have asked me to respond to Chief Edwin Clark’s statement on Covid-19 as it relates to the position of Alh. Yahaya Bello. And my response is simple: Chief Edwin Clark is an Elderstatesman. Simplicita. Nothing more, nothing less (praeterea nihil aliud).
As Governor Yahaya Bello battles the good trouble that comes with success, I wish him the best in the years ahead.
- Fanwo is the Kogi State Commissioner for Information and Communications.
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