Yahaya Bello: Opportunistic Rise And Fall Of A Tyrant

Yahaya Bello, Kogi’s Tormentor In Chief Crashes Mighty As He Runs From Prosecution Over Massive Corruption

*Unknown Bello (R) benefitted from the death of Prince Audu (L)

Ogbonicha-Alloma in Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State was expectant with political developments foreboding good omen. The atmosphere suddenly turned from frenzied celebration to weeping and mourning in the evening of Sunday 22 November, 2015. The most illustrious son of the community, former banker and pioneer democratically elected governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu had died suddenly and mysteriously after coasting to a sweeping victory in the previous day’s two-horse governorship election in the state on the platform of the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).

At the point of his demise, Prince Audu was on the verge of making history as the first person in Nigeria to be democratically elected (not re-elected), thrice as governor. His formal declaration as the valid winner of the election by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) was still being awaited by the time his death was made public. His family suspected foul play, alleging that his death was not natural, as he started complaining of stomach cramp, minutes after eating a meal.

His sudden death threw the state and the entire nation into a quandary as constitutional experts were divided on the position of law as to the non-envisaged situation given that the constitution had no explicit provision for the scenario. The 1999 constitution, as amended, was silent on what happens when a candidate dies or withdraws from the race while voting is in progress or before a winner is declared by the electoral body. The lack of clear-cut provisions to take care of the logjam gave rise to different opinions that were converging to form a cloud of uncertainty in the state.

Opinions were sharply divided on whether it would be Prince Audu’s running mate, Hon James Faleke from Kogi West, the incumbent governor, Captain Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was the runner up in the election, or an unknown quantity in the APC, one Yahaya Bello that should lawfully fill the void. Conversely, the option of a re-run election was weighed by some analysts.

The entire country was watching the unfolding drama in the Confluence State. Captain Wada, a former pilot and the PDP candidate as the runner-up in the election had those rooting for him. Similarly, Hon Faleke, the running mate to late Audu as a former Ikeja Council Chairman in Lagos before his elevation to the House of Representatives where he was representing Ikeja 2 Federal Constituency was seen by some as the logical successor. Thirdly, Yahaya Bello, a political neophyte, lacking in pedigree was the least qualified to be governor among the available options.

Indeed when all the serious aspirants had stepped down for late Audu in the APC governorship primary, but the untested and inconsequential Yahaya Bello was ignored as an unserious fellow when he did not step down and proceeded to lose the primary contest woefully to Prince Audu. Some reports had it that he was on the verge of defecting to the PDP after losing the primary. He was only roused to relevance following the death of Mr Audu with the rumored backing of the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari.

*The emperor before his fall

But soon after mounting the governorship seat at Lord Lugard House, Lokoja, Yahaya Bello forgot his humble background. He became a power drunk emperor and started dreaming far beyond his capacity. At a point, he vigorously nursed the ambition of becoming president of Nigeria at the expense of more qualified and grilled gladiators. He mobilized the entire government apparatus of Kogi State including members of the state House of Assembly and traditional Rulers to endorse him and join in the wild goose chase. Anyone who opposed him in the state did so at the expense of his political or economic survival or even his dear life.

He crudely suppressed political opponents and egregiously imposed his tribesman and lackey, Usman Ododo as his successor. The move defied all democratic and moral barometers. Kogi is a multi-ethnic state comprising three senatorial districts. Although Kogi East, the homestead of the majority Igala ethnic group constitutes over 50 percent of the population of the state, the same cannot be said of Yahaya Bello’s Kogi which makes up just about twenty percent.

Yet Yahaya Bello forced his Ebira kinsman down the jugulars of Kogites as governor in the 11 November 2023 election. Not done with the infamy, Bello is now taking on the nation’s foremost anti-corruption agency, the EFCC. It’s like he is aiming to dislodge the pillars upon which the nation financial discipline and transparency rests. But for the first time, a procedural push back and a rash of public angst is swirling against Yahaya Bello. He is at the receiving end with his political profile ebbing speedily. The self-styled white lion has suddenly turned tail by going underground, dodging and hiding from prosecution over sundry criminal charges ignominiously dangling on his neck like manacles.

But the question is, for how long can he run and hide? He will surely be smoked out as a drenched white cat and made to answer to charges of corruption and money laundering preferred against him. A Federal High Court in Abuja will on 10 May will rule in the suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Yahaya Bello who is facing a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering, breach of trust and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N80.2 billion.

* Yahaya Bello and godson Usman Ododo

And rather than allow the law to take its course, Yahaya Bello’s successor and political godson, Governor Usman Ahmed Ododo has been aiding him to escape appearance in court to respond to the array of charges. On Wednesday 17 April Usman Ododo foiled an attempt by the EFCC to arrest Yahaya Bello, at his 9, Benghazi Street, Wuse Zone 4, Abuja residence. Operatives of the anti-graft agency had stormed the street around 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday and laid siege to the former governor’s residence, preventing both human and vehicular movements. The EFCC operatives were, however, prevented from entering the compound by armed policemen dressed in black, with the inscription ‘Special Forces’.

The stalemate continued for hours as the EFCC operatives refrained from forcibly entering the house to avoid a looming bloodbath through violent clash with other armed men guarding Yahaya Bello. The intention of the EFCC was ostensibly to maintain the siege for more hours or days to wear the hired guards out before storming the residence. But then Governor Ododo, arrived at the scene, alongside several security operatives and hired political thugs to thwart Yahaya Bello’s arrest.

Ododo who was ushered into Yahaya Bello’s residence by his security details and the former governor’s guards, drove out of the residence with Yahaya Bello hiding inside one of the governor’s tinted cars in the convoy.

Since that shameful escape of Yahaya Bello with the help of Governor Ododo, the former governor has gone underground with his whereabouts unknown to anyone except Ododo. Equally, that ignoble act has further dragged Yahaya Bello and Governor Ododo’s names in the stinking mud. How has the mighty fallen? A year ago, the man who styled himself as the White Lion but who I have chosen to call the Tormentor-in-Chief of the people, Yahaya Bello was strutting and looming large.

He had dismissed the time-honoured aphorism that power is transient and had assumed that he would be at the centre of power for life. But alas, the white lion like an indulgent cat that licked the pot of soup of its owner has gone into hiding, sneaking and squatting under every available object to avoid the dire consequences of its criminal indulgence.

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