Six years ago, a graduate of accounting from Northern Nigeria’s premier university, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Yahaya Bello, became one of the youngest Nigerians saddled with the of responsibility of governing a state, and people had high expectations of him when he was sworn in.
Although there have been reports of poor governance, high level of poverty, corruption, and insecurity all through his tenure, no one would disagree that he has raised the level of his game since he revealed his desire to run for the presidency.
Last month, he convinced the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN), and Northern Consensus Movement with their Chairmen from all the 36 states of Nigeria, to reach an agreement to end the food blockade to the South.
On 28 February 2021, Bello met former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and briefed him on his plans for the future.
Governor Yahaya Bello has also done very well in his capacity as the man in charge of APC’s mobilisation for the membership revalidation, and recruitment of new members. On 8 February 2021, he made some daring moves to bring back to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani Kayode (FFK).
However, some Nigerians still believe the chance of the Kogi Governor picking the coveted ticket is quite slim. Others feel he is scheming just to remain relevant in the next dispensation.
Observers reason for Bello to even convince party faithfuls in his north-central geo-political zone to support his ambition, he needs to showcase what he has achieved as the Governor of Kogi State.
He also has to convince Southern politicians on why they should support him, after the eight years tenure of a fellow Northerner in the person of Muhammdu Buhari.
However, Nigeria’s politics is exceptionally unpredictable. Governor Yahaya Bello may surprise the country and clinch the party ticket since he has started early.
Interestingly, Bello has the political elites of his state behind him. Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, has been quite consistent in projecting Governor Yahaya Bello, as the best person to lead Nigeria come 2023.
Recently, Kolawole led seven of his colleagues to solicit the support of stalwarts in Ebonyi State.
He explained to them that the North-Central and South-East regions deserve to produce the next President and Vice President of Nigeria as they were the most marginalised since the return of democracy in 1999.
According to him, a combination of Bello as President and Umahi as Vice President was all Nigeria needed to build on the achievements of the current regime.
The Kogi speaker also made a similar trip to Kwara where he interfaced with state lawmakers and Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on the need to support Bello to become Nigeria’s president, come 2023
While some will under-estimate Yahaya Bello because he is just 45 years of age, others reason the strength of his youthfulness could appeal to many voters.
Those rooting for Bello say he is young, vibrant, and agile and as such will be able to steer the ship of the country with all the vigour and energy it deserves, unlike the incumbent president, who once acknowledged that age has weakened his ability to discharge his constitutional responsibilities.
Bello becoming the president will align with the silent agitation of the Nigerian youth. But are Nigerians ready to elect a president younger than 50 years in 2023?
Another factor that stands Bello out positively is his gender-sensitivity especially in terms of distribution of appointments and political offices. It was during his term in office that a woman was appointed for the first time ever in the state as Secretary to the State Government. Bello is also the first governor in the state to appoint a female chief press secretary during his first term in office. His current Aide-de-Camp is a woman too.
The vice-chairpersons in all the 21 local governments in the state are female, which is also a first-time occurrence in the state. Some commentators said the governor deliberately persuaded his party to pick women as deputies to the chairpersons.
A United Nations body, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, recently commended Mr Bello for facilitating the election of women as deputy chairpersons of all the local councils in the state.
In a commendation letter dated 26 January 2021 sent to the governor, UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey, described the appointment as a ”bold effort” on the part of the state government.
Lamptey, in her letter, asked the governor for a meeting with him on how the body could help Kogi State in promoting issues that have to do with the female gender.
A non-governmental organisation, the National Council for Women Societies (NCWS), as well conferred an award on Bello for promoting gender inclusiveness in his cabinet.
It is noticed both online and in public discussions that good numbers of Nigerians do not appear to take Bello seriously. He is regarded as someone who is just passing time, and not ready for the real business of governance.
Regrettably, this negative perception is beginning to assume a life of its own as it is often said that in politics, perception is reality.
Many political analysts strongly stand by the view that Bello’s Presidential quest is a ruse. They feel his real desire may be to become the running mate to whoever his party picks from the South, having realised it is only fair for power to return to the zone in 2023 in the spirit of equity.
While these perceptions persist, Yahaya Bello is not relenting in pushing to convince his party, APC, and Nigerians that he is a determined contender who has what it takes to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.