NO matter how hard a lexicographer tries, he will never be able to define the word ‘incompetence’ when it comes to categorising the administration of the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello. Beside the governor the word is diminished and disgraced. In him the word is twisted and rendered impotent. And after him, it will take a special dispensation to restore its true meaning. There is no other way to examine and explain the chaos introduced into the Kogi State system by Mr Bello but to ponder just how inadequately the word captures his flaws. Caesar Nero, who played the fiddle while Rome burnt? Not even close. So, who else in history comes close to the Kogi governor? Analysts will have to think very hard, and still fail to find a parallel.
But meanwhile, consider Mr Bello’s definition of generosity and patriotism. At a time when most states were hard up for cash and were battling to pay state and local government workers owed salary backlogs, the fiddling Mr Bello decided it was the best time to offer to host the 37th edition of the annual Federation of Public Service Games (FEPSGA) in Lokoja, the state capital, where thousands of athletes are participating in the games. Mr Bello has not paid public service workers for many months, some even more than a year, and others are paid only fractions, and judicial workers who are owed about five months pay are also on strike. The state civil service, bludgeoned into submission by the most reprehensible trickery ever instigated by any state government, has lost its soul and nerve and has completely given up hope of surviving the Bello government.
Last week, Mr Bello also put pressure on the Speaker of the House of Assembly to engineer the removal of the state’s chief judge. He got the Secretary to the State Government, Ayoade Arike, to both notify the legislature of the refusal of the judiciary to participate in the preposterous “ongoing table payment and pay parade in the state”, and to investigate what the state has described an impasse. Observers quickly deduced that the steps being taken by the state government formed the prefatory part of a plot to remove the chief judge, Nasir Ajanah. It was not surprising that on Tuesday, the Assembly dutifully obliged the governor by setting up a seven-man ad hoc committee to investigate the complaint.
But the judiciary is not ignorant of the devices of the state government. Its officials knew the objective of the state government. They, therefore, approached the courts to mediate the contrived stalemate. On Thursday, Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye of the High Court of Justice, Koton-Karfe, Kogi State, restrained the governor and the House of Assembly from doing anything injurious to the interests of Justice Ajanah and the Chief Registrar of the High Court of the State, Yahaya Adamu, until the case is determined. What is evident is that though the constitution is clear on the independence of the judiciary, Mr Bello is obviously not interested.
After subjugating the legislature, humiliating and starving the civil service, and depriving the state of any developmental projects, the rampaging and constantly travelling governor is bent on disembowelling the judiciary, perhaps the only arm of government left which can look him in the face and tell him to go to blazes. Such effrontery hurts his ego. There will be no election in the state until 2020. For Kogites, that is a long, long time. They have made up their minds to throw him out when the time comes, but before they do, the governor himself has made up his mind to completely humiliate them. But he is just one man, and he is transient. The state is, as it were, eternal, and legitimacy belongs to the people. They will see his back.
Mr Bello may have castrated the House of Assembly, given the way the lawmakers quiver before him and tremulously oblige his every foolish request. And he may also have starved the civil service into ghostly silence, reducing them to subhuman persons and beggars. He is, however, unlikely to successfully compromise the judiciary. They can still call their souls their own, and they will stand toe-to-toe with him, and look him in the face and call his bluff. They know that he does not know the law and is an incompetent administrator. They will therefore stand their ground.
In the end, Mr Bello will capitulate. He is after all an absentee governor, eternally rubbing shoulders with the top guns in the presidency, and doing everything possible to be the president’s zany. And because Aso Villa sets great store by loyalty than by competence, politicians and officials like Mr Bello will always get a welcoming in powerful circles. That is the tragedy of Nigeria, a tragedy underpinned by the country’s distorted presidential system, a system that tolerates and promotes fifth-rate politicians.