HOPE 2023 AND THE QUEST TO BRIDGE EXISTENTIAL GAPS IN NIGERIA’S BODY POLITICS
BEING TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE AT THE OCCASION OF HIS FORMAL DECLARATION FOR PRESIDENT IN THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS AT EAGLE SQUARE, ABUJA ON SATURDAY, 2ND OF APRIL, 2022
I am grateful to Almighty God who has blessed me so much – life, health, family, friends and well wishers. But for God, I would have no story worth telling at all, and no platform from which to tell it, but by His grace I am what I am. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve my country which I have been given so far. In spite of the difficulties we face today, the privilege of being a Nigerian is one I cherish dearly.
Dear friends and fellow patriots, I wish to declare my intention to run for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 General Elections. I will be doing so under the auspices of our great Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). I will be running on a broad political philosophy of progressive activism through social action and political reforms.
We are so blessed as a nation and yet it does not always seem so. I am running to restore Hope by providing firm guarantees of Security, Unity and Progress to all Nigerians. Our focus will be proper management of our great diversity so that it can really be an advantage. We will foster more cooperation and integration among citizens and make sure that progress is made steadily across all sectors and indicators.
Despite the dire challenges facing Nigeria today, no one can deny that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR has given our country the greatest achievements in public works, government housing and social services since this 4th Republic began. In addition, this administration has invested heavily in our national security. The war against insecurity may be taking longer than earlier expected but President Buhari has ensured that we have the combat resources to keep hitting our foes hard until victory is achieved.
It can also not be denied that under this APC government, Nigeria is pushing forward the most comprehensive proposals for restructuring since Independence. The sum of government policies, the Electoral Act and other statutes enacted and the ongoing amendment of our Constitution are fundamentally changing the way we do things.
For instance, the average Nigerian Governor has more powers today over matters of security, public transportation, taxation, fiscal federalism, mineral and agro resources, electricity, etc than at any other time in our history. These are the legacies of Mr. President. They will help the next president take longer and easier developmental strides, provided Nigerians make sure he is succeeded by one who is not out to discredit but to consolidate. I have proven time and time again that I am the only such successor in the APC’s line-up for 2023.
I am running for President because I see a bright light shining at the end of the tunnel for our nation. I am not one of those who only see doom and gloom. It is my intention to take custody of that light, to pierce the dark spots in our past and present with it, to illuminate every gap in our nationhood and to fix them. I will ensure that this light is handed over in due course to successors who will be trustworthy stewards of the great future which a federal government led by me will build for our nation.
I am not an unknown quantity. I have been the Governor of Kogi State since January 27, 2016. I invite Nigerians to assess my suitability to be president on the scorecard of my performance. Of course, I mean my real scorecard, of course 00- the verifiable, tangible basket of works that we undertook and are undertaking to improve the lives and welfare of our people.
I do not deny that false and evil reports against us have often filled the press but all of us know why. He who pays the piper dictates the tune, and those who control the media control their narratives. It is well known that we offended powerful vested interests on our way to power in Kogi State.
Moreover, since we took office we have committed the unpardonable political sin in Nigeria, that is, refusal to have godfathers and kowtow to them. Their anger has burned furiously against us and sadly they have often misled the media about us. As a result, we have had to work extra hard to receive fair comment, not to talk of accolades or credit for our many achievements.
Before now, we have not cared much for biased reportage. Actually, we have gone ahead to record huge successes in spite of it. However, the 2023 Presidential Election is actually a battle for the survival of Nigeria and I am passionate enough about my country to fight for the privilege of leading her. In this race, I am adamant that the truth and nothing but the truth shall count for any assessment of Yahaya Bello, as a man, as a Governor and as a presidential aspirant.
As part of our efforts to set the records straight we have developed an e-Compendium which is probably the first and the only one of its kind among Nigerian states. We have showcased what we have done in my New Direction Administration in Kogi State there. It is domiciled at www.kogipedia.net and covers the period 2016 till date.
Kogipedia is a rich resource for research into the claims of performance which we shall be making in the course of our presidential run. I have instituted a standing reward for anyone who can disprove any of the hundreds of projects we have done in Kogi State which are showcased there. More information about how we have led the Confluence State can also be found at our official state website at www.kogistate.gov.ng.
In Kogipedia you will see our strong efforts in Education, Health, Infrastructure and Utilities, Job Creation and Youth Empowerment, Civil Service and Pension Reforms, Agriculture, Security, Human Capital Development as well as our efforts in Cooperation and Integration.
Chimamanda Adichie warned the world about ‘The Danger of A Single Story’. She insisted, and I agree with her, that:
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break…but stories can also repair…”
To us, it is imperative that sincere Nigerians who truly love this nation are given every resource they need to make informed voting decisions ahead of the 2023 General Elections. The question of the next Nigerian President is way too important to fall victim to lies like in past presidential elections and the truth will start with fair and accurate assessment of all candidates. In Kogipedia, you will find us telling our own story, ourselves. It is likely to be an alternative narrative to what you have heard about us, but I assure you that it is the truth.
Let me itemize the most important qualities which I consider imperative in our next Commander-in-Chief. I invite Nigerians to rate all candidates by them if we want a country that will live up to our expectations come 2023:
Youthfulness. Natural force and physical energy cannot be abated if performance is to be elevated. I am 46 and a half years old and by the grace of God, I am fit in all physical and mental faculties.
Courage. A clear capacity to be zealously affected in a good matter and to lead with courage and foresight in the pursuit of the overall best interests of the people and the nation. The aftermath of the covid pandemic has vindicated me enough for the times I stood alone and insisted that Nigerians deserve better.
Security. Proven ability to enforce Security, Unity and Peace in a large territory with difficult terrain. Citizens must be safe in their homes and assets. We must be able to safely go where we want in Nigeria, when we want. What God has helped us to do in Kogi, I am persuaded He will help us to do in Nigeria.
Diversity. Our next president must possess excellent records in successfully managing diversity. We were able to take a polarized Kogi and forge it into a society that is both diverse and inclusive today. We genuinely demonstrated that every tribe, religion, gender, age, class and physical ability among us is unique and possesses intrinsic value.
We distributed projects and appointments fairly and made room at the table of government for everyone. Today we have a Kogi State where the youth are predominantly the ones in office, the women have crossed the 35% Affirmative Action threshold, People With Special Needs have adequate representation in government.
Kogi State is a microcosm of Nigeria and possesses the same diversities that, often mismanaged, have caused us so much trouble in Nigeria. However, I mobilized my people and together we are working through our differences. Is it any wonder that the brutal personality cults, tribal clashes, farmer/herdsmen conflict and religious upheavals we inherited have ceased?
One of my most outstanding achievements as Governor, and one that I am very proud of indeed, is the dismantling of these agelong dichotomies. Another is the elevation of inclusivity as a cardinal point in the compass of governance. Increasingly, the measure of an individual among us is their humanity and their merit, that is, the sum of their own character and contribution, nothing else.
I was pleasantly surprised recently when I learnt that we have achieved the 35% affirmative action threshold for women and that 54 Nigerians from every state and the FCT have been appointed into our government ranging from Cabinet seats to clerical and administrative positions. Moreover, I am gratified that these new Kogites continue to add incredible value to Kogi State.
When we talk about inclusivity within the Nigerian context, our next leader must also recognize that it cannot be fully functional without Cooperation and Integration. Nigerians must be able to live and contribute anywhere in this nation with the guarantee that they will not be called strangers there one day. To achieve this we must make sure that ‘place of domicile’ gives way for ‘place of origin’ in determining who is a son or daughter of the soil. Our citizenship must no longer be diminished by indigeneship. This is the next level in what it means to be a Nigerian which I will actively champion as President.
I promise that under a Yahaya Bello Presidency, Nigerians of every extraction will know what it means to be free of the principles of exclusion that currently demean our very existence. All of us deserve to belong in our country without discrimination or marginalisation and to receive our full and valuable parts in the national scheme of affairs.
I am Ebira and as a person who overcame the ‘minority syndrome’ with much difficulty to be where I am today, I want every Nigerian, especially the youth, to live in a country where no tribe or religion or gender is ever considered a ‘minority’ again, particularly by the things leaders do or fail to do in government.
Just like I have done in Kogi State, I will ensure that we apply a lot more empathy in how Nigerian society is run. Equity, fairness and justice must undergird government actions in the distribution of national resources and opportunities, including in the recruitment procedures of public entities. listen to all sides
As president, I will make sure that each and every Nigerian becomes mentally and physically empowered with the unshakeable conviction and practical proof that they are not inferior to any other person for any reason. I believe that such conviction, fully internalised, frees people in their own minds and allows them to grow to heights of achievement previously thought impossible.
Leadership can lead one into some lonely places where you may have to stand on your own against other people. I have had to do that aplenty in the course of my own journey as a Governor, for example, during the covid pandemic. If there is nothing at stake a leader can afford to be flexible but once the people and their welfare are involved, one must only do what is right without caring for acclaim or accusation. Hopefully time will vindicate you. Even if it does not, you still get to have and keep a clear conscience because you did your best.
A Yahaya Bello Presidency, like his Governorship, will be tough on crime. I believe that crime is crime and all crimes are inexcusable and I have demonstrated strong capacity to neutralize crimes and criminals in Kogi State. Most Nigerians probably do not know this, but we went from being the state where violent crime was most endemic in 2015 to become one of the safest states in Nigeria from 2017 till date. Our crime rate has been one of the lowest in the country for years now. Terrorism, kidnapping, banditry and other violent crimes will not be tolerated when, by the help of God, I become the President and Commander-in-Chief.
I will not tolerate non-state actors who take up arms against the nation whatever their grievances but I will be willing to listen to all sides and address all agitations fairly, especially those which are borne out of genuine imbalances in the treatment of citizens by the system. I will put a stop to existential mistreatment of any people among us, provided that agitators are willing to give peace a chance and threats of harm to the Nigerian Nation and People are not brought to the table as leverage.
The health or disease of our economy is crucial to the health of the country. According to a BBC News report of February 13, 2012 over 100 million Nigerians lived in extreme poverty during the PDP era. In 2018, with APC in the saddle that figure had dropped to about 87 million people, yet Nigeria overtook India as the poverty capital of the world. Just this month Nigeria, through the valiant efforts of the Buhari Administration, relinquished the ignoble title back to India, having brought the numbers down to about 70.6 million.
This means that as of today we have at least 70.6 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than N855 per day. It is therefore clear that our path to national prosperity lies in pulling tens of millions of Nigerians out of poverty. We must make our citizens our greatest resource for economic growth and wealth creation.
The Buhari administration has a target of lifting 100m Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. A Yahaya Bello Presidency will have an additional target of creating at least 20 million Naira millionaires by the same year 2030, with the aim that each of them will employ or otherwise empower at least 5 other citizens.
In this regard, we are going to learn a lot from the South East. The apprenticeship model by which a boy, from an indigent or affluent background, is taken, trained and turned into a millionaire businessman in as little as 10 years is one we have to understudy and invest in. Harvard University already studies it and the Nigerian Government must do no less.
I have personally observed that this model works on average 50% of the time with at least 5 out of 10 boys who apprenticed with various Igbo friends of mine millionaires today in their own rights. I also observed that it is not the line of business but the underlying principles and practices that work so well. This is because this amazing phenomenon is repeated sector after sector whether they deal in vehicle spare parts, electricals, pharmaceuticals, clothing, or even foodstuffs, etc. This means it is a system that can be replicated. We will explore methods to do so.
I have a vision of a Nigerian government and economy that is open, inclusive and honest. Leaders like me and governments such as mine have a duty to manage the economy so that it operates with a human face and transparent processes. Kogi State under my leadership has consistently led others in the World Bank’s States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) indices. It is a result I want to mainstream to the nation as a whole.
This is why, as President, I will foster an economy in which every citizen can maximize their potential as wealth creators and change agents. We will work towards a democracy of the economy which places equal access to the factors of productivity within the grasp of any citizen who is ready to work hard and to work smart in pursuit of their own dreams.
Being Nigeria’s youngest Governor comes with its own challenges, particularly the burden of being constantly held up as a yardstick to measure the past and predict the future of youth participation in politics and governance. The expectations are rife, and some are frankly unreasonable, but in the main, I am challenged to prove that leaders can be simultaneously youthful and useful in high Office. While my approach to resolving this conundrum may not be loud or popular, it has certainly proved effective.
A Yahaya Bello Presidency will pursue a clearly defined strategy on broadening the footprint of new technology in our economy. We know how important this is to youth enterprise in today’s world. In particular, we will set up a National BlockChain Taskforce (NBT) to develop a trailblazing policy for the nation in cryptos, the metaverse, NFTs and blockchain technology. This emergent field can certainly not be ignored and outrightly banned or completely outlawed. We must help our youth to keep pace with their generation in a lawful manner.
Dear friends, I am not running for President apologetically, but on a solid record of verifiable achievements in my current assignment as Governor of Kogi State. I have proven antecedents in the very areas that Nigerians crave for succour urgently, that is, Security, Unity and Progress. I would therefore say that I possess the academic qualifications and hands-on experience to be the Next Nigerian President on merit.
The slogan of our campaign is ‘HOPE…BRIDGING THE GAP’. All we want to do is bring Hope to our nation and people while bridging the gaps in our body politics. This is only possible with the support of my party and the Nigerian people.
This is why MKO Abiola of blessed memory once said, ‘People of Nigeria, our time is now. You are the repository of power in the land. Enough of square pegs in round holes…Enough is enough!’
Nigeria, believe me when I say, THERE IS HOPE! Indeed, there is great HOPE!
My name is Yahaya Bello, I am a Nigerian and I hereby formally declare for President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 General Elections under the All Progressives Congress. I crave your support, now and when I get my party’s ticket.
To God be the Glory.
GOVERNOR OF KOGI STATE
AND PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANT
ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC)