KOGI AT 25: CELEBRATING KOGI’S SILVER JUBILEE, SILVER LINING AND SILVER BULLET BY GOV. YAHAYA BELLO
Happy Silver Jubilee, Kogi State!
Almighty God Alone deserves all the Praise today. Without the help of God, we will not be marking this day. For keeping our Nation Nigeria and for keeping our State Kogi, I thank God with all my strength and from the bottom of my heart.
I felicitate with each Kogite on this important milestone. The journey has been long, and the road was not always smooth but you stood your ground. You did not let challenges diminish your allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria or your devotion to a united, peaceful and progressive Kogi State. Happy 25th Anniversary, Great People!
I cannot hide my admiration for my father and mentor, President Muhammadu Buhari. I said as much in my Inaugural Address and I repeat same here today. I admire his ironclad will that saw him contest against incredible odds for the Presidency of Nigeria and win on the fourth attempt. Mr. President’s unbending determination to rid Nigeria of corruption continues to provide me with much needed example in a political terrain that is nearly barren of heroic personalities. On this 25th Anniversary of my state, I celebrate my boss.
On 27th of August 1991, Kogi State was created, along with Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Taraba, and Yobe States. It was the joyful reunion of a people who shared historical roots dating back to the defunct Kabba Province in the old Northern Region.
I was about 16 years old at the time and I still remember how Kogites erupted in spontaneous celebration wherever the glad tidings reached them. Everyone was excited by the promise of a new dawn. We were confident that with faith in God and handwork our new state would achieve unparalleled heights in Nigeria.
Kogi State appreciates former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida during whose tenure as Head of State our dear state was created. Every Kogite owes the colorful General whom Nigerians fondly call ‘IBB’ an undying weight of gratitude. Today as always we hail his remarkable courage, especially that singular exercise in which he carved out Kogi State from parts of Kwara and Benue States where we had been completely neglected. We wish our benefactor a long and happy life. May he live to see the emergence of a Kogi that justifies his founding visions for it. Allah Ya kara maka lafiya.
Many sons and daughters of Kogi State, too many to mention individually, also contributed beyond belief to the efforts that led to her creation. I speak of such eminent founders and fathers as General Salihu Ibrahim (former Chief of Army Staff), Alhaji Aliyu Attah (former Inspector-General of Police), and Retired General Theophilus Jemibewon (a fine officer and gentleman).
Others, equally as distinguished, include Late Chief Sunday Awoniyi (consummate technocrat), Late Dr. Stephen Makoji Achema (politician and community leader), Late Pa C.H.N Lapini (elder statesman), Chief P.S Achimugu (elder stateman) and His Excellency, Late Prince Abubakar Audu (First Executive Governor of Kogi State). The list is inexhaustible. I honor their collective achievement today.
Geographically, Kogi State is strategically located as the intersection of all parts of the country. We share borders with 9 States and the Federal Capital Territory. This makes us the gateway to the heart of Nigeria. The mighty Rivers Niger and Benue enter Kogi as individual flows only to find Confluence in our land. Likewise, Nigerians from diverse background find connectedness in Kogi, either as residents or travellers.
Demographically, there are about 3.5 million wonderful people currently living in Kogi. This large population help create multi-sectoral business opportunities, especially in agriculture, trade and commerce. With alluvial plains along the riverbeds and fertile uplands Kogi is a farmers’ haven, and modern Agriculture for the cultivation of numerous crops have proved very lucrative.
The State also boasts some of the most extensive solid minerals deposits in Nigeria. Our Tourism potentials are almost limitless. Innumerable historical sites, wonderful geological features and the incredible biodiversity across the State make it a very attractive tourist destination.
On August 27, 1991, our dreams of steering our own destiny became a reality. We accepted responsibility for our own success and our journey to discover greatness began. Everyone was full of great hopes for the future. Kogi State, with her massive endowments had no reason not to become a 21st century industrial and agricultural powerhouse, even without crude oil earnings, so our optimism was not foolish.
I would love to report today that Kogi State has lived up to her potentials. Truly, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have the privilege of speaking to you today on how Kogi achieved greatness. Unfortunately, if I tried to tell you that Kogi State, after 25 years of existence, is where any patriotic Kogite dreams it would be none of you would believe me for a moment. In fact, you would laugh at me and dismiss me for a liar.
I am saddened by what we could have become. I imagine the long journey to statehood for Kogi State and the sacrifices of those who fought for that vision. Many of them, some of whom I have recognized above, laboured to plant this tree knowing they will never get to sit in its shade. Others are alive today, but unsung. It would be most disrespectful to them all if I claimed that the Kogi State we live in today is the one they envisioned. It is not.
The sad reality is that we are well below the expectations and capabilities we started out with. Some argue that Kogi State is not alone in that sad corner of under-performance. They would say it is a general reflection of the nation we live in. I disagree. It is time we owned up to our mistakes. We must stop the practice of comparing ourselves to any other under-performing states as an excuse for low achievement.
Fellow Kogites, it is far better to admit the harsh realities on ground so we can get creative about changing them than to live in denial and continue to wallow in squalor. Somewhere along our journey to greatness we were derailed, not by a mechanical fault but by deliberate acts of sabotage by those entrusted with the job of driving us to our desired future. The missed opportunities in Kogi State, and all over Nigeria for that matter, are traceable to poor and uninspiring leadership of the past.
We cannot be glad that we are not doing well like others. How is it any consolation to a wiseman that he is in the same leaky boat with others? If the boat sinks, everyone perishes. It is my belief that every state in Nigeria has had a chance to chart a course for herself different from the malaise of bad governance which permeated the nation, particularly in the last 16 years. Some states actually did and today they are way ahead of others in critical socio-economic indices.
The painful thing is that Kogi State did not join this league of visionary states. We seemed unable to find leaders who loved Kogi above self, family and friends. Thus successive Administrations posted lackluster performances leading to severe underdevelopment of the state and increased poverty among our people. If they had been merely incompetent their failures would not have been so terrible. Instead they added corruption and criminality to the mix. Simply put, some of our past leaders were utterly godless. They stole us blind.
This malaise is of course not limited to Kogi State alone. Nigeria itself was on life support when President Muhammadu Buhari came to Office. As it is, the President is still working hard to move it out of the Intensive Care Unit. Most Nigerians know this but only a few will admit it. A christian cleric recently reiterated the deep-seated wickedness shown to the people of this country, including Kogi State, by those who held power before the All Progressives Congress (APC). He lamented as follows:
‘Our past leaders, no, not…leaders, our past looters…embezzlers…have eaten the cake of this country and now everybody is suffering it…All the money voted for road constructions (and other public utilities) were swindled, eaten. Many of them became millionaires and billionaires in Naira, in Dollars, in Pounds, in Euro. Billionaires, when they have no workshop, no business centre. Somebody who has nothing he’s doing, yet he’s a billionaire, because he’s a politician…they succeeded in removing the liver, kidneys, and cardiovascular systems of this country…paralyzed the neurological organs and handed over to Buhari, the new president, shambles, skeleton almost, a nation that is (comatose)…Kidnapping was a child of the past administration. They delivered that ugly baby, and that baby resembled them…’
I am one of those who believe that the The truth must be told as bluntly as possible. I am saying it this way now so that when I am no longer Governor, posterity can have my words today as a precedent to judge me. I want Almighty God and Kogi People to judge me harshly too if I follow the same path of wanton corruption and criminality while in Office. I want us to recall the past correctly so we can drop it in the trashcan of history and move on to capture the greatness which has eluded Kogi State for 25 long years.
The Change which swept the nation with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari presented us with an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and make great strides in Kogi. Mr. President’s commitment to the Change Agenda in Nigeria provides us with a role model for Change here. We are assured of Mr. President’s support as long as we act with probity and accountability.
This 25th Anniversary is therefore an opportune time to unveil a new epoch of greatness for Kogi State. Accordingly, it is my utmost pleasure to introduce the New Direction Agenda of this Administration once more. This is especially for the benefit of our esteemed guests here who may be hearing about it for the first time today.
When I began to nurse the aspiration to run for Governor, it was clear to me that Kogi State needed more than body fillers. A lot of engine work was necessary too. The state called for overhauling and thorough servicing to get it running effectively. Once that was done, it must be turned around completely to travel in a new direction. This simple premise became the foundational philosophy for our New Direction Agenda, and it remains the basis on which we have designed our Governance Blueprint.
We are convinced that good governance is a catalyst for quick development of our communities. The New Direction Blueprint, as promised during our Campaigns, is a Marshall Plan, an actionable proposal, for how we intend to reinvent Kogi state and activate all of our potentials. Beyond that, it is our roadmap to lifting at least One Million Kogites out of the National Poverty Index during the tenure of this Administration.
The needs are many and the resources lean which means we cannot possibly do everything. The Blueprint focuses on 5 thematic areas, namely, Education, Health, Job Creation and New Ventures, Infrastructure and Utilities, and Productive Public Service and Pension Reforms. These five focal points are designed to interlock. Each Ministry, Department and Agency of Kogi State will find that one or more, if not all, of these five focal areas provide direction for their work.
My dear people of Kogi State, The New Direction Blueprint was designed with you in mind. It is not needlessly complex nor is it full of obscure, diversionary concepts. It is simply an inventory of priority projects with estimated dates of delivery. In fact, most of the projections came from your responses in the Questionnaires sent out by our New Direction Blueprint Team and your contributions at the LG Town Hall meetings.
To enhance access to the Blueprint by everyone, we will place reference copies in libraries, schools and other public places. It will also be uploaded online. Government will rely a lot on your feedback to monitor compliance with the Blueprint by functionaries at Local Government and other levels. Accordingly, we are working to set up a Call Centre directly under my Office through which you can make inputs. It will be manned by Special Assistants properly trained in Customer Care and appropriate etiquette.
As I begin to conclude, let me say that my considerable business experience has taught me to take the resources available per time and do my best with it. I will always provide the political will for this Administration to consistently do the right thing. We will continue to ensure the totality of Kogi’s resources work for the totality of Kogi’s People.
There is no time to enumerate all our accomplishments over the 7 months we have been in Office. I will mention a few in order to give an idea of our commitment and our momentum. On assumption we focused on workers welfare. Over the space of two months, even before we got the the bailout funds, we managed to pay 3 month’s salaries. More has been paid since the bailout came. For the records, we have only accessed 40% of the Bailout Funds approved for us by the Federal Government. We will pay more as we access more.
We commenced a staff screening and verification exercise which has removed over 18,000 unintended beneficiaries from the the state civil service payroll. This will save the state N16.6bn per annum at the rate of N1.3bn per month. Affected individuals have also been afforded the opportunity to present their cases to an Appeal Committee. No genuine worker or pensioner affected for any reason will be denied fair hearing.
The screening exercise also revealed the level of complicity in the rot by all strata of the society. It was a conspiracy to rob the state. The involvement of clerics of both major faiths in these rackets was perhaps the most disappointing. I warn that people who by their calling are meant to be societal role models must endeavour to live above board. We will not hesitate to hand them over to law enforcement if need be.
We are now better able to focus on the welfare of genuine workers. I have directed the Commissioner for Finance and the 21 Local Government Administrators to pay at least 3 months’ salaries to all workers before the Sallah Holidays. In line with our resolve to ensure our payroll caters for only bona fide workers, it goes without saying that only those who passed the screening exercise will be paid.
Once again, and I cannot repeat this enough, any person who believes he or she was was unjustly screened out should please reach to the Appeal Committee at the appointed times and places and present their case. Schedules have been sent out several weeks ago to all Local Government Secretariats and the State Secretariat so people can avail themselves of this opportunity.
In June, 2016, I trimmed the number of ministries in the state from 20 to 15, appointing the same number of commissioners. This eliminated the duplication of roles, cut the cost of governance and increased productivity.
In order to grow our Internally Generated Revenue, we granted autonomy to the Kogi State Board of Internal Revenue, moved them to modern premises and strengthened their operational capacities. There is currently a perceptible increase in our Internally Generated Revenue. It will surely grow.
We abolished the State and Local Government Joint Account, granted financial autonomy to the Local Government Areas and strengthened oversight of their activities. This is a way of boosting this administration’s resolve to govern with transparency and accountability.
We commenced construction of rural and township roads in the three senatorial Districts of the State. Some parts of the state which had been in darkness for 5 years or more have been provided electricity with several of such projects awaiting commissioning.
This Administration resuscitated the monthly sanitation exercise and it has gone a long way in cleaning up our cities and banishing the mountains of refuse and other health hazards which dotted everywhere when we came in.
The State Ministry of Environment spearheaded the planting of thousands of trees all over the State as part of efforts to protect our environment. This is part of a greening initiative that will ultimately see millions of trees planted during the tenure of this Administration. With lessons learned from the devastating floods of 2012 our flood and erosion preparedness measures are in top gear. We are confident that the steps we are taking today will help us manage natural disasters easier and make every part of the state safer for residents.
We came into office on 27 January, 2016. The Security Agencies informed me of 18 recorded incidents of kidnapping and numerous armed robberies in that month alone. We immediately prioritized security and took the battle to the criminals. By end of February we had only 5 incidences of kidnapping along with a reduction in armed robbery. We will not relent in this war. Any such criminal remaining in Kogi State is aware that he has signed his own death warrant.
I salute the gallant men and officers of our security forces – police, military, and paramilitary for their exceptional bravery. Also worthy of honorable mention are members of our revitalized Vigilante Services. Together, we have continued to checkmate the perpetrators of violent crime within our boundaries.
I am overwhelmed with the massive support we continue to receive from His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari in this area of security as well as others. His Excellency directed his Security Chiefs to render me full support in securing Kogi State. These officers have also gone over and beyond the call of duty to respond.
General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotum Idris, took this directive very personal and have availed us of both their physical presence and the elite resources of their respective services.
I must at this juncture appeal to community leaders, parents and guardians to take deeper interest in the escapades of their children and wards. Mischief very easily crosses over into criminality if young ones are left to their own devices. We again admonish young ones to refrain from physically engaging security operatives on or off duty. By their training, law enforcement agents will perform their constitutional duties as circumstances may require. People, including youth, who do not have respect for the law will find to their bitter regret that the law is no respecter of persons.
We cannot grow Kogi unless we attract genuine business people and provide the climate they need to thrive. Security is key to creating such an investment-friendly state. This is why we have purchased over one hundred Police Patrol Vehicles to assist the agencies in combating security challenges within the state. These vehicles were commissioned before all of us not long ago as part of activities marking this Anniversary and distributed to the various Law Enforcement Agencies.
Kogi is open for business. The Administration is revitalizing bi- and multi-lateral relationships with international development partners as well as collaborations with Nigerian businesses. We have a preference for Public Private Partnerships and similar private sector driven investment portfolios. We are committed to fostering a business climate that attracts and retains all viable investment options.
Just this week I signed an agreement with a US consortium for agro-allied investments in Kogi State that will eventually exceed the billion dollar mark. In similar vein, an automobile assembling company doing business in Nigeria displayed the prototype of one of their SUVs to me in Government House today. They will be assembling those in Kogi State before the end of 1st Quarter of 2017. Soon my people, we will have ‘Made In Kogi’ vehicles!
Today, and as always, I celebrate the life and times of Prince Abubakar Audu, the 1st Executive Governor of Kogi State. He laid a good foundation in Kogi State and is the architect of this Change that we see today. I am here today because of his labours. ‘Allah (SWT) is the Protecting Guardian of those who believe; He leads them out of the darkness into the light.’ [Qur’an 2:257]. May our leader continue to rest in peace.
I have severally extended my hand to my opponents in the elections that brought me in, seeking their brotherhood for a greater Kogi State. We are Kogites first and foremost. We must be guided by her best interests. Without prejudice to the cases in court, I repeat that gesture again today.
I urge those whose desperate resort is to foment trouble to rethink their actions. I guarantee them that misusing the media in vain attempt to paint my Government as corrupt or clueless has absolutely no effect on me or the Administration. A clear conscience such as I have, fears no accusation. They may unsettle some of the People some of the time, but the majority of Kogites have subscribed to the New Direction Agenda and can see such antics as the childish tantrums they really are.
We do not invite any media to do any cover ups for us. Conversely we will not tolerate further fake advertorials on non-existent sleaze against us. We have drawn the absolute last straw and are very willing now to test criminal and civil laws in this regard, notwithstanding any retraction.
We support a free Press, but we will no longer condone an irresponsible one. I sincerely hope that going forward our friends in the media will give factual reportage of events in Kogi State. I still believe that media ethics transcend financial rewards. A reputable media house ought not to publish anything that is an obvious lie, irrespective of the amount to be paid.
Dear Kogites, and all our Distinguished Guests, I am excited because today our celebration is three-fold – Silver Jubilee, Silver Lining and Silver Bullet. On this Silver Jubilee the New Direction Agenda constitutes a Silver Lining of Hope tearing apart the black clouds of longstanding misgovernance and using the New Direction Blueprint as a Silver Bullet to slay the monster of backwardness confronting Kogi State.
Today is not just a time to Celebrate, but also a time to Contemplate. In Psalms 90 verse 12 The Bible says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When we take out time to contemplate and think over our lives and our choices, we can plan for the future better. It will be an abomination for our children to grow into adults and on the Golden Jubilee of our state find themselves face to face with our failure to prepare for their future.
In the Qur’an, Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Allah said: ‘The son of Adam hurts Me by abusing Time, for I am Time; in My Hands are all things and I cause the revolution of night and day.” (Bukhari 6/351; 9/583). May we be wise not to hurt Allah Himself by abusing the time entrusted to us.
We must start today to prepare for the next 25 years by doing the right things now. It is my prayer that if God wills for us to be alive to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kogi State, the foundations we lay together in this Administration may contribute to making that day the Golden Jubilee of a vastly improved, truly developed and heavily industrialized Kogi State.
Once again I wish Kogi State Happy Silver Jubilee!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God bless Kogi State.
27 August, 2016.