All is not rosy between Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello, and deputy governor, Simon Achuba. Ahead of the November 16 governorship election in the state, Mr. Achuba has chosen to come out of his shell to let the world know how terrible things have been for the North-Central state in the past four years.
Only recently, Achuba accused his principal of mismanaging a total of N294 billion even though salary arrears of workers accumulated up to 38 months. In a guest appearance on Channels Television breakfast show, Sunrise Daily monitored by this correspondent, the deputy governor said he chose to speak up having failed to convince Governor Bello to amend his ways.
He also alerted Nigerians to alleged plot by the governor to eliminate him for his principled stand on good governance, adding that like the ordeal that has befallen civil servants in the state; his salaries, allowances and several emoluments totalling about N800 million were yet to be paid by the state government.
Asked to comment on his relationship with the governor, Achuba said for quite sometime, their friendship has been rough, saying “the state of affairs is not very smooth; it is rough because of the disposition of the governor of Kogi state. For everyone elected to the offices of governor, deputy governor or whatever position; one is expected to deliver on promises and on the well-being of the people and effect changes. These changes are not forthcoming in Kogi state. As deputy governor and one who has been part of successive governments, I have tried my best internally to ensure that the right things are done. And for that sake, I am hated, denied my rights and as a result, he (Bello) wants me off the earth. And that was why in my last press interview, I cried out to the world and to the law enforcement agents, calling on them to focus on Kogi state in view of the level of violence being perpetrated by the sitting governor.”
Why we fell apart
Achuba argued that his grouse against the governor stemmed principally from his failure to spare a moment of thought for civil servants who have done everything humanly possible to remain peaceful amidst despicable working conditions.
“The second issue is that of payment of salaries to workers. If you are elected as governor, paying salaries to workers is not an achievement. It is the duty and responsibility of anyone who is in power to do so. As it is in Kogi today, paying salaries has become an achievement. It got to a point that it was believed by the governor that civil servants were nobodies and were of no effect and I said if they were not useful to us, we should take them away and see how we could function.
“Salaries of civil servants are kept away. I have details for 38 months till February this year. The total sums of money that came to the coffers of Kogi state (Statutory allocation, Excess Crude Account and Value Added Tax, VAT) was N132 billion. The estimated total revenue to the state, that is, Internally Generated Revenue was N51 billion. The total monies that came to the local governments was N111 billion. When you put all these together, it will give you N294 billion.
“From what we have put forward as the wage bill that we met, which is both state and local government, we had N5.8 billion as salaries. Now, if you multiply this by the 38 months, you will have N220 billion and N74 billion as monies left. This is if there is no screening at all but with screening, they said they have saved N1.4 billion. And the total emolument for both state and local government workers has fallen to N4.4 billion. If you multiply that by 38 months which is as at February this year, that is N167 billion and if you take this away from N294 billion, you will still have N127 billion,” he stated, adding that with statutory allocations alone, it would have been convenient for the governor to pay a significant chunk of the salary arrears with ease.
“What I have said does not in any way include Paris Club Refunds. It does not include the bailout. With statutory allocations, it would have been convenient for the governor to pay half of the overhead to itself and do projects,” he added.
Much as he tried to convince the governor to amend his ways, Achuba said he met a brick wall which eventually culminated in the breakdown of communication between them. According to him, “communication broke down at a point when it became very glaring that he was not following the path of good governance. When you access the government of Yahaya Bello from day one, it has been fighting and fighting. Anyone that has a different opinion from him becomes an enemy. Anyone that says anything that is not praise (sic) to him, he goes ahead to attack the person. In governance, you must give room for criticisms whether good or bad. As a leader, you learn from criticisms and those who criticize you are not necessarily your enemies. There could be individuals who want you to do well but in his case, it is not so.”
Achuba is not alone in this tale of lamentation against Bello’s administration as the lawmaker representing Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye Thursday told newsmen how his stand against the governor caused him untold hardship in the hands of immediate past Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
“I am vindicated by the statements of the deputy governor. I have been battered and humiliated by the former Inspector General of Police and the ex-Justice minister because of my stand in demanding good governance and salary payment in Kogi State. Today, I’m in 12 courts on frivolous charges by the federal government and Kogi state government.
“I was arrested 18 times last year and survived four assassination attempts. I spent over 100 days out of 365 days in a year in police custody. I shouted about imported army uniforms and arms, it was intercepted by the Senate, yet items were released to the governor with requisite approval. Today, all I have been saying has been fully corroborated by the deputy governor. I’m vindicated. I raised a motion on the floor of the Senate that the governor was raising a militia in Kogi, but I was ignored,” said the Senate Committee chairman on Aviation.
N30 billion bailout controversy
For Victor Adoji, a governorship aspirant in the state on the platform of the PDP, the decision to release the sum of N30 billion to the governor by the federal government recently is suspicious. With only a few months to the election, Adoji noted that the sums could be deployed for electioneering purposes; a development that would put Bello in a vantage position ahead of his co-contestants.
“I don’t see that money going into the use it was allotted for in the first place. It is ill timed, improper and immoral. While I feel that the timing was wrong in terms of making those funds available, I am equally very happy that it will help people who are dying and they are going to have reprieve if the money is used appropriately. I’m happy that people will get their money so long as they use it for the purpose it was allocated for,” he added.
Allegations frivolous, baseless – State government
Responding on behalf of the state, Director General, Media and Publicity to the governor, Kingsley Fanwo, told this medium that Achuba is doing the job for the enemies of Bello.
“Elder Simon Achuba has been recruited by the enemies of Kogi state for a hatchet job that is headed for doom. The allegations and figures bandied are politically woven to achieve an impossible end. The allegations are not only false but also ludicrous, unintelligent and not unexpected of a fellow who has been contracted to ensure the defeat of APC ahead of the election,” he said.
With barely a few months to the election, the electorate has a decision to make on whether to continue with a man who has promised to make his second stint count for them, or choose to place their destiny in the hands of another party for the next four years.