Why I Am The Best Man To Succeed Buhari —Yahaya Bello

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Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, in this interview with journalists recently, speaks on insecurity, zoning of 2023 presidency, other contestants for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives congress (APC). The economic figures are not kind to the APC government. How do you intend to tackle and reflate the dwindling economy that has fueled Nigeria’s poverty rate?

I have promised that I would build on what President Muhammadu Buhari promised in ensuring that not less than 100 million Nigerians are pulled out of poverty by 2030, which is about seven years from 2023. The question would be: how many millionaires have we made in Kogi? I will make bold to tell you that within the limit of our resources, coupled with various challenges and demands on our resources, we have been able to make nothing less than 2,000 millionaires in Kogi within this short period. That aside, President Buhari is spending billions and trillions on various social investment programmes. I will give you some statistics. A millionaire must not necessarily be Aliko Dangote before you call yourself a millionaire. And our government, by the special grace of God, will create that enabling environment that even if you have N1 million in good time, you should be able to turn it around and multiply it. I will give you one of the figures for $300 billion that was spent on a project. If you divide $300 billion by 20 million, you are going to have about $15,000. Multiply that $15,000 by the current exchange rate, you will have over N8 million.

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Are you not scared about the big names like Senator Bola Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and others that are also in the race for the APC 2023 presidential ticket?

The answer is ‘no’ because I trust myself and my capacity. I believe in my records and what I am going to do for the party and I know that I will win. I respect the founding fathers of this great party, starting from President Buhari, who is the leader of the party, down to Senator Bola Tinubu, one of the founding fathers of our party, among others. One can ever have a building without a foundation and at the same time, that building will never be completed without roofing because the foundation alone is not a complete building. A beautiful building consists of foundation and roofing; we are building on what they have laid on the ground. I am confident that at an appropriate time, if they cherish what they have started, they will look for the right young man who has a capacity for what has been laid down and I fit perfectly into that particular choice.

Also, I know there are other champions in the race. If one wants to be a champion, you should get ready to beat a champion. I believe I will beat other champions to become a champion. Politics, generally, is a game of numbers. I represent the majority as far as the politics of democracy is concerned. I represent the majority of the Nigerian youths; that is why they are saddling me with the responsibility to lead this great nation. It is not by mistake that the party chose me to lead the committee that mobilise over 41 million members into the party, which is also part of the record for us. They saw the founding fathers and saw we the builders of the party and Nigerians found it very interesting and they have decided to heed our advice and calls. They are seeing the performance of the man that was leading or championing the drives and the performance of APC-led by President Buhari.

Sometimes, a report is different from reality; the records are there for all to see. We have recorded over 21 million Nigerians with their PVCs who are ready to vote Governor Yahaya Bello into the presidency for 2023. The records are there; the data is there; these are facts that are verifiable. I don’t think whoever possesses these credentials and more will then be afraid to go into a contest. We are in this race to win; we are in the race to restore hope to Nigerians.

It appears your focus is on young Nigerians and you are leaving out the older ones. Is there any explanation for this?

Though there have been the likes of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, let’s look at this analogy, as fathers, we pray that we grow old and our prayer as fathers is that our children should succeed us and do better than us. I know surely that reasons will prevail on our elders and fathers that we the upcoming ones are ready to build on their legacies if given the opportunity, so that Nigeria will actually have hope and a future. Of course, governance is not an easy task. Aside from experience, one needs energy, not only energy to sleep and eat, but the energy to move, to be where things are happening, and take proactive steps.

Do you compare notes with your colleagues in the North-East and the North-West on how you have been able to stem insecurity in Kogi?

As for the issue of tackling insecurity in the North-East and North-West, as I have said earlier, issues of insecurity can never be discussed openly.  No serious administration comes before the media to divulge the strategy and tactics it is going to use. But sometimes, what happens physically that we see and call insecurity is just an end product of the process and procedure of all the plans that were cracked before they were hatched. My strategies, tactics, and methods will not be disclosed openly. What I can assure is that if we can achieve it in Kogi State which is a lot more difficult than in the North-East, we can do at the national level; Kogi is even more difficult and complex than the whole country. There are certain sections of the country that are homogeneous; even a senatorial district that is so heterogeneous along various sublimes, we were able to fix it. We did not only name and shame sponsors of terrorists, which is not enough, we dealt decisively with those who sponsored terrorism, crimes, and criminalities, and it will not be different when we assume as president and commander in chief come 2023 by the grace of God.

We saw how the national convention of your party, APC, was conducted and how the candidates emerged. If the body language or you are not the consensus candidate of the APC, what are you going to tell your supporters across the country?

I don’t want to speak about zoning. What is important is that man who will be a leader and put the party ahead. And that quality was found in Senator Abdullahi Adamu. And the party would not do anything that is going to disturb his emergence and to the glory of God, we had a rancour-free convention and we have a solid leadership ably led by Distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu. In order to come from North-Central, what we want is certain qualities to keep the party together.

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Now, coming to the presidential election, APC would also win the next election. APC is a party that is in search of quality. APC is a party with nothing less than 41 million members. And APC is aware of that man who mobilises 41 million members into the party. And the membership of the party cuts across the six zones. And APC knows the body language of the nation today. APC is aware that the youth and women are clamouring for that person, who is detribalised, who is coming to solve the security challenges we are facing today. They are aware that the man is coming to build on the modest achievements of President Buhari. They know who Nigerians are clamouring for and they know who is accepted both by the North and the South; both Muslims and Christians, even non-believers. They know that man that is coming to turn the fortunes of the country around.

If consensus is going to be the option, I don’t think APC would go outside Governor Bello. And even if other considerations are put forward that are either indirect or direct primaries, Governor Bello is the man to beat. I am confident and I trust the God Almighty and trust the judgment of the leadership and members of my great party, the APC. This time round is the time we must get over sentiments of where someone comes from. If today we are crying over the evils that are living in the country, yet we still look at ourselves as different people, not Nigerians and we still look at ourselves as Muslims and Christians. It is time to bridge that gap and cement that relationship and values that unite us more than what divides us.

What are you going to do differently to secure Nigeria if you become the next president?

I will start from where I am so as to look into where I want to be or what we should expect when I become the commander-in-chief. Kogi State used to be the crisis capital of the country before our administration came on board. Today, the reverse is the case. One of the key elements of this widely talked-about achievement is that I refused to politicise the security of the state. Take it from me today and I won’t mince words, President Muhammadu Buhari is a man who loves truth and reality. He loves those who tell him the truth at all times. He is my president, my father and our leader. At all times, I always tell him whatever I observe. Mr President loves this country. No past leader loves this country more than Mr President. Let me mention some of his achievements, I’m sure we wouldn’t have gathered in Abuja if it were in 2014/2015 because of insecurity, especially in Abuja and even in the North-East. At a point, we were even afraid in Lagos because of possible bombing. But that is no longer happening.

Number two, the insecurity is not the making of Mr President, even though we shouldn’t pass the buck because that is why he came on board or we all came on board. It is the failure of various past administrations and let me remind us once again that certain military and police hardware were last purchased by the administration of President Shehu Shagari, even crash helmets. After the detonation of bombs at Ejigbo in Lagos State, did Nigerians ask whether those arms and ammunition that detonated and killed people were replaced? They were purchased by certain people. Have we ever asked whether they were replaced since then? Now, Mr President spent a lot of money to replace some of the arms. Boko Haram has been pushed to their enclaves, though we are still having some existential challenges of kidnapping and different attacks. But, Mr President will not sit in the Villa and use AK-47 to protect people.

But he is the commander-in-chief and should be held responsible…

Yes, he is the commander-in-chief, but Mr President will not sit in the Villa and also be the one to form guards and protect people on my roads in Kogi. Some of the crimes that we see today are more than the way we are looking at them on the surface. Yes, there are some lapses on the part of state officials, but you can ask yourself when last was the police or the military really got any training, equipped, their welfare and what have you. It was during President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration that allowances and salaries were reviewed so many times. Even down to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) allowances were also reviewed. I will never come out here and point out the failures of Mr President; I will never do that. Whenever I observed any loopholes or lapses, it is between myself and President Buhari. I will never be that governor that will come here and tell you that President Muhammadu Buhari has not come to secure my state, did not come to secure my schools or highways, I will not do that. That is why as the Chief Security Officer of Kogi State, I ensured that I brought the rate of crime down more than it was before in my state. And Mr President is assisting me to succeed in that area and I’m sincere about fighting crime and criminality in Kogi.  If each and every one of us as chief executives is doing our job the way it should be, Mr President’s job would have been reduced drastically. But as the next commander-in-chief, by the special grace of God, I will ensure that chief executives of the various security units sit up and do their jobs. I will not tolerate lackadaisical attitude or passing the buck to the centre. I will ensure that the various units are strengthened, so that they can take responsibility for whatever happens in their states.

Don’t you think technology is the way out from the recurring security issues in the country?

I agree that technology needs to be deployed and embedded into our security architecture. And I can tell you that Mr President is doing his best to ensure that technologies are deployed. But some of the crimes we face today are politically motivated, especially the recent ones. Issues of security ought not to be discussed in the public, else you expose the country to danger. Sometimes, the way and manner the press or the people want issues of security to be discussed outside, we can’t do that as security officials or a commander-in-chief. No government will come out and tell you that one particular big man has been called to order or certain IEDs or plans to attack and disrupt the society has been foiled. What I’m saying is that reporting all the threats or information about insecurity would frighten society. That is the reason nobody really wants to come out. In fighting insecurity, there are so many things that no responsible government would come out to report to the public. Let’s get that in mind. I agree with you that a lot still needs to be done. As the commander-in-chief, I will give responsibility. If I give you a task, I will monitor you and supervise you. I will give you credit when you perform and at the same time, I will punish you if you don’t do your job. In Kogi, I ensured that every citizen is a law enforcement agency of themselves. They are intelligence agencies unto themselves. The police, the army and all other law enforcement agencies you see in Kogi are not manufactured or imported. We didn’t import them outside to come and secure the state. They are still the same Nigeria Police; the same Nigerian army; the same Nigerian Navy; the same Nigerian Directorate of State Service (DSS) or Civil Defence. We as a people have chosen to live in a peaceful environment, because we as a government opened our books. We brought government close to the people. They own it and they decided to protect the government and secure themselves. That is why any crime that takes place in Kogi, in less than 24 hours, we don’t just detect it; we make sure we bring the culprits to justice. There are so many things that take place that everybody would not know. But, what is important is to let our people be secure and live in peace. Mr President, like I said, is a man that accepts and believes in truth.

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