Yahaya Bello’s EFCC Comeuppance  


“This is a vile and detestable vermin who should never have been allowed to get anywhere close to governance, much less be a governor. He is an excellent specimen of how not to be a governor—or, in fact, a human. I have not the littlest drop of sympathy for him”.


I am not from Kogi State, but I have strong opinions on former Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello—as most Nigerians do. There is no doubt that few politicians in Nigeria are as universally reviled and despised as Yahaya Bello because of how he turned governance into a violent infant play, denuded it of even the faintest pretense to sanity and respectability, and developed an uncanny capacity to incite raw rage in people.

That’s why there is mass excitement in Nigeria over his current travails with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Most people see his fate as a richly deserved karmic retribution for his eight years of incompetent, anger-arousing, profligate, and terroristic governance in Kogi State, the consequences of which transcended the bounds of Kogi State.

He began his tenure as governor as the symbol of hope for youth inclusion in governance. But he soon became a byword for recklessness, malfeasance, ineptitude, incivility, violence, and the greatest betrayer of the youth constituency. He shouldn’t have been governor—or, for that matter, anything in politics.

He had no guardrails on his tongue. Like a spoiled, over-indulged, ill-bred, and uninhibited child, he blabbered whatever inanities caught his febrile fantasies with no care for consequences. He insulted elders at will, humiliated traditional rulers who dared to show some independence, ridiculed civil servants, and terrorized opponents with full-strength viciousness— as if he would remain the governor of his state forever.

He even nicknamed himself—or was nicknamed by his flunkies—as the “white lion.” But when the EFCC came calling, the “white lion” transmogrified into a pitifully frightened, yellow-bellied chicken. Now the white-lion-turned-chicken is fluttering and hiding like he has gone insane.

A wanted notice has been issued for him by the EFCC, the Inspector General of Police has withdrawn all police officers assigned to guard him, and the Nigerian Immigration Service has placed him on its watch list. I can’t wait to see him brought to justice for all the crimes he committed while he held sway as the governor of Kogi State.

In a 2022 article, I described him as an ignorant, incorrigibly petulant child who was trapped in an adult’s body, who was destroying the littlest semblance of decency left in government in Kogi State, and who thought he could democratize his infantilism nationwide by seeking to be president.

According to several Kogi State civil servants, Bello didn’t pay full salaries for most civil servants for most of his tenure as governor, yet he is being hunted by the EFCC for allegedly laundering up to 80.2 billion naira, presumably the money he should have used to pay the salaries of workers.

Bello signaled from the inchoate stages of governorship that he wasn’t in it for anything other than personal enrichment and aggrandizement. In less than one week after he was sworn in as Kogi State governor on January 27, 2016, according to a May 13, 2016, Premium Times’ investigation, Bello approved N250 million naira for himself as “security vote” and another N148 million to “furnish” and “renovate” his office. At that time, Kogi State workers hadn’t been paid their salaries for months.

Bello’s spokesman at the time by the name of Kingsley Fanwo said the raiding of the state’s treasury in the name of security was justified because Kogi had become the seedbed of crime as a result of its location.

“It is public knowledge that Kogi State has been contending with serious security breach for the past 10 years,” Mr. Fanwo said. “As a result of the location of the state as gateway to many states of the federation, the state drifted into a criminal hotbed. Also, years of gross maladministration and blinding embezzlement has left the youth bare, exposing them to all sorts of criminal activities to survive. Kogi became a haven of robbers and kidnappers.”

That was the start, which most people ignored. Everything went downhill from there. The man didn’t even pretend to govern. He presided over a stealing bazaar.

In 2020 when COVID-19 raged and most people were caught in a complex web of uncertainties and anxieties about the new infectious disease, Bello chose to become an abhorrent, ignorant conspiracist and the conduit for all sorts of wild, crazed, dangerous, fringe chatter about the disease.

Yet, although he openly questioned the existence of COVID-19, he fed fat on it like the vampire that he is. The Premium Times of March 26, 2021, reported that Bello spent 90 million naira in 2020 to purchase COVID-19-tracking software that cost only 30 million naira.

“The software, approved by a COVID-19 sceptic, Governor Yahaya Bello, was for tracking coronavirus cases in the state,” Premium Times reported. “However, the software is no longer functioning as the developers said they had a contract to host it for only one year.”

It’s impossible to chronicle Bello’s in-your-face financial malfeasance in a newspaper column. Not even a book-length narrative is sufficient to do justice to how much Bello financially bled and sucked the blood of Kogi State.

The man’s daring electoral terrorism is another issue that has earned him well-deserved loathing in Nigeria. This is a man who commanded his toadies to dig deep ditches on roads (that were built with billions of naira) just to stop voters from a part of the state he knew won’t vote for his candidate from being able to cast their votes.

According to Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, at the time the senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Kogi central, “We woke up this morning to the news that Yahaya Bello has instructed the excavation of all access roads to my hometown. My hometown is cut off from Obangede community; it is also cut off from Eika. And right now, I am in front of another road which was just excavated, thereby cutting me out of travelling out of my hometown.

“What this means is INEC would not be able to [access] certain communities, especially my hometown. What this also means is if Yahaya Bello and his APC goons decide to attack me and the good people of Kogi central in Ihima community, it will be impossible for the DPO to get across to this place. That means I, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, my fellow candidates, and supporters are trapped. We have no way out because Yahaya Bello has dug gullies.”

This is a vile and detestable vermin who should never have been allowed to get anywhere close to governance, much less be a governor. He is an excellent specimen of how not to be a governor—or, in fact, a human. I have not the littlest drop of sympathy for him.

Given the peculiarities of the Nigerian political environment, it seems likely that he is in trouble with the EFCC only because he has fallen out of favor with the president or his henchmen. I honestly don’t care.

More than anything, though, Bello’s troubles exemplify the transience of power and the imperative for humility when you wield it.

…Prof Farooq A. Kperogi can be reached via Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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