By Tony Ademiluyi
Before Nigerian independence, the youths played a vital role in wrestling political power from our erstwhile colonial masters. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe established the Zik Group of Newspapers with the West African Pilot as it’s foremost in the group in 1937 at the age of thirty-three after a three year stint in editing the African Morning Post in Accra, Ghana. It revolutionized the newspapering industry and was the most nationalistic while still maintaining a modest modicum of financial success in its three decades of existence. Chief Anthony Enahoro edited the Southern Nigerian Defender one of the newspapers in the Zik Group in 1944 at the age of twenty-one straight from the famous Kings College Lagos without any university education. He went on to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1953 at the age of thirty. Chief Bola Ige became the organizing secretary of the defunct Action Group at the age of twenty-three. Ambassador Matthew Tawo Mbu became the minister for Labour at the age of twenty-three in 1954 before he went to the United Kingdom to study law. Mazi Mbonu Ojike spearheaded the cultural nationalism with his famous ‘boycott the boycottables’ in his early thirties after his educational sojourn in the United States and became the Deputy Mayor of Lagos long before he turned forty. The list is endless of youths who achieved a lot in pre-independence Nigeria.
Tragically, the twin combination of military and civilian misrule ensured that youths were relegated to the background in post independent Nigeria. They have been so economically strangulated that they have been reduced to hewers of wood and drawers of water who eternally struggle for less than crumbs in their own motherland.
It was with joy when the then forty year old Yahaya Bello was elected Governor of Kogi state in 2015 under the banner of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). Even though the circumstances of his election was rather controversial as the party ticket which was supposed to have been given to Hon. James Abiodun Faleke who was the running mate to the late former Governor and Gubernatorial Flagbearer, Alhaji Abubakar Audu was unfairly given to him, the people seem not have minded despite Faleke’s going to court.
The Igalas have been the dominant rulers of the state taking advantage of the fact that they have the largest population size. There has been a clamour for power shift which Yahaya Bello, an Igbirra man got. The controversial Senator Dino Melaye even supported Bello despite the fact that they were from different political parties as the handlers of the latter sold him to Kogites as a man who will herald a breath of fresh air in the Lord Lugard House.
No sooner had he settled down to the daunting task of governance than Kogites were hit with buyer’s remorse. He emerged as a reincarnation of another former youthful Governor of Edo state, Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion whose maladministration was so legendary that his father, Sir Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion subtly acknowledged it publicly while pleading to the electorate to give him a second chance.
He was worse than a Governor do nothing as he did nothing to improve infrastructural development which would have generated jobs. The state civil service was practically grounded as salaries were being owed for upwards of twenty-four months. It was so bad that a serving director, Edward Soje committed suicide due to his inability to meet his financial commitments.
While the civil servants wept and gnashed their teeth, the young, man about time Bello did nothing to alleviate their plight and was alleged to have constructed a choice property in his hometown of Okene.
He went on to have a war of attrition with his former deputy, Simon Achuba. The now impeached ‘spare tyre’ alleged that his entitlements were withheld by the Lord of the Manor who wasted no time in getting the pocketed House of Assembly to hurriedly impeach the rabble-rouser.
The Federal Government sent a bailout fund of about ten billion naira and the best thing the modern day dictator could do was to buy a Rolls Royce Phantom for the Attah of Igalaland for his re-election bid. How cruel and insensitive when the people he governs are groaning under the weight of terrible leadership!
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party sadly didn’t field a sturdy candidate who could take Bello headlong. The flagbearer, Musa Wada has no known political antecedents and his campaign is rather lacklustre as its devoid of issues. His lack of grassroots appeal may also greatly work against the party’s bid to return to the Lord Lugard House come November 16 this year. Some pundits opined that the controversial Senator Dino Melaye would have given Bello a run for his mandate because of his great grassroots appeal. Whether or not that assertion is true is debatable as the powers that be clearly didn’t want him to fly the flag.
The tragedy of the Nigerian polity is that performance of candidates rarely matter in the election or re-election of leaders. We remember the famous ‘It’s the economy stupid’ slogan of the then Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton which got the extremely popular George Bush of the Gulf war fame out of office in 1992. Such issues based campaigns is lacking in Nigeria despite our two decades of democracy after the military interregnum.
The hunger in the land is an artificial creation by politicians to keep the masses to vote for them in perpetuity in exchange for a few morsels of rice which is now out of their reach no thanks to the recent border closure.
The proletariat isn’t ready for a revolution as envisaged by their abandonment of Sowore to his fate when he called for one on August 3rd which led to his incarceration. The Kogites may not be an exception as the hunger that blows in Lagos is the same that blows there.
In the murky waters of Nigerian politics, one plus one isn’t necessarily two. Will Musa Wada play the tribal card of the large population to defeat Bello? Will Bello suppress the electorate with perishable items as is typical of the average Nigerian politician? Will the masses surprisingly revolt and kick GYB out of the government house?
Time the greatest purveyor of suspense will surely tell.
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos