By Silas Momoh
At all levels of the Nigerian federation, the Constitution thrust the management of security of lives and property on the president, governors and local council leaders.
Specifically, Article II of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria vested the executive power of the state in the governor and charges them with the execution of state law. In view of the foregoing, the primary responsibility of any governmemt is first the security of lives and property.
The current administration in Kogi State, under the leadership of Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello, inherited a state that is divided into religious, tribal, and class lines, which culminated in a lot of security concerns. He inherited a state where division, oppression, deprivation and injustice were the order of the day.
In terms of geography, Kogi is not only the hinge that holds the southern and northern parts of Nigeria together, Lokoja, the state capital, occupies an enviable place in the historical trajectory of Nigeria, having served as the first administrative capital of Nigeria.
Still standing on Mount Party, 1500 feet above the sea level, is the First Governor General Lord Lugard’s Guest House, where the British Journalist with Times of London, Flora Shaw, suggested in a newspaper article, that the place around the River Niger be named Nigeria.
Also, not only is the state a melting pot of the Nigeria nation, it is bordered by nine states of Nigeria. The states of Edo, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Ekiti, Benue , Kwara, Enugu and the Federal Capital Territory borders Kogi. This scenario and it’s delicate ethnic balance make Kogi vulnerable to all manner of crimes and criminality.
True to expectations, Kogi became the epicenter of security concerns. In fact, pre 2015, all the three senatorial districts became a hot bed for kidnapping, political thuggery, armed robbery, youth cultism, herders-farmers clash, ethnic clashes, Boko Haram terrorism etc. Criminals had field day because of its accessibility through multiple points.
At the time, Kogi was daily in the news for every wrong reason. The government at the time was overwhelmed and helpless as security agencies could practically do nothing to remedy it. Kogi was a lucid example of a near-failed territory. Not to mince words, Okene, one of the major towns in the state used to be the operational base of ISWAP and other criminal elements.
Then comes Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, a youngman considered by the political establishment as an underdog, lacking experience, guts and clout. Frankly speaking, many political leaders underrated him. Some even derided him to his face. As at the time he was sworn-in be on 27 January, 2016, some pundits and political bookmakers gave him six months to wear out.
Bello first took his battles to two purveyors of conflicts: the traditional Institutions and politicians. He sounded a clear note of warning to the traditional rulers, mandating them to do everything to secure their domain, while vowing not to spare them, if they are found culpable of fomenting troubles.
He also read a riot act to politicians in the State, that irrespective of their political persuasions, the heavy and long arms of the law will not spare anyone, found to be involved in act that could cause crisis in the State. This strategy worked like magic. Since then, many local council leaders, traditional rulers have paid prices for security breaches in their domains.
Less than three months after he took office, the tides began to turn.Those who had earlier underated him began to feel the heat. Those who think that they owned the State and that without them, nothing can work became jittery. Even criminal gangs, who were celebrating because a supposed inexperienced governor had emerged began to adjust.
Two things worked effectively for Governor Bello: the purity of his motives was not in doubt and courage to dare the powers behind the criminal enterprise in the State. He drew the red line for those who cared to take him serious. He began tightening the noose around kidnappers. His team went all out for their establishments. Their hideouts were invaded. Any house, suspected to belong to a kidnapper or kidnapping gang, were pulled down under his supervision.
One of the problems with fighting criminals in Kogi State before Bello, was the lack of courage to met out punishment to apprehended culprits. Bello’s style has no regard for sacred cows. Soon, the young men, who had settled in the believe that crimes pays faster than hard work, realised that they are out of jobs. They were put to flight. They dispersed in all directions to the bordering States. Suddenly, huge relief began to permeate the land.
Okene that was the den of ISWAP, soon came under Bello’s artillery. That’s where he hailed from but the heavy hand with which he descended on criminal hideout there, sent a clear message to the undesirable elements that the honeymoon was over. Having successfully set example with his own people, it wasn’t difficult for other area to ‘get sense.’
Apart from motivation for security agencies in the frontline, with logistic and other supports, the Kogi Government in partnership with the Nigeria Police Force also established two Mobile Police Squadron Bases along Obajana-Kabba road and in Okene. He also facilitated the location of a Naval Base in Lokoja, established to ensure adequate security of the waterways in the confluence state.
He personally commissioned the Nigeria Navy Ship Lugard and Navy Barracks.
In recognition of Governor Bello’s astounding performance in the security sector, he has been honoured with several prestigious awards from around Nigeria and beyond, amongst which is: President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, 21 October, 2022, at the presidential villa, Abuja, honoured him with a distinguished Nigeria Excellence Award in Public Service.
One of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, Blueprint, honoured Bello at it’s 2021 Annual Public Lectures and Impact Series/Awards, the award was in recognition of his “outstanding leadership qualities and decisive handling of the security situation in the state.”
Also, the Nigerian Police honoured Bello for his unparalleled achievements in securing Kogi, the only State in Nigeria, that borders about 10 States.
He also won the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) ‘Torch bearer of Security’ award.
Similarly, the Association of Nigerians in Diaspora, bestowed its “Icon on Security” award on Governor Yahaya Bello in 2021.
Given the prevailing peace in Kogi state today, at a time other parts of Nigeria is in security turmoil, we can only but say thank you to Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello, for that will serve as spring under his feets to do more.
—Momoh is a security expert based in Idah.