I had goosebumps.
Here I was, standing a few feet from the podium, listening with rapt attention, as were the other Nigerians in their thousands who had gathered at the Eagle Square in Abuja to witness the coronation of the candidate for the All Progressives Congress. For hours that night, I had complained incessantly about the poor sound at the square, leaving those of us that hung around the Kogi State pavilion struggling to hear the speeches of the litany of Presidential aspirants that swarmed to the stage to speak unconvincingly about their plans for Nigeria, with many of them eventually collapsing their structure for the eventual winner of the contest, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.
The moment Governor Yahaya Bello stepped on the stage, he caused a stir. He pointed his hand in the air in his regular display of the role of the divine in his miraculous ascension into mainstream politics and went on to deliver arguably the most moving speech of the night. The entire ground stood still. The sound which we had been complaining about seemed to have re-engineered itself as Bello’s voice reverberated across the ground.
The speech was commanding. It was enthralling. It was educative, open, and captivating. Bello deftly navigated the mood of the ground, moving from English to Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba all whilst highlighting the issues faced by the Nigerian nation and the solutions thereof being in the full glare of the public through his antecedents in Kogi state.
From Insecurity to disunity, poverty to the infrastructural deficit, Bello touched on Nigeria’s apparent problems and promised to provide the needed impetus which marshaled Kogi – which was plagued with the same problems and represents a microcosm of Nigeria with her diverse tribes, settlers, and religious inclinations – from the most insecure, disunited and infrastructurally deficient state in the North into the fastest growing State behind the FCT. A feat he was able to achieve after ensuring that Kogi was safe, peaceful, and on the path to progress with the massive projects that have sprung up across the state.
I was in the crowd and I was stunned by the precision and boldness behind the voice. Renowned writer, columnist, and PDP supporter, Gimba Kakanda later tweeted that Yahaya Bello “almost convinced him” with his carriage, confidence, and visible depth of knowledge on Nigeria’s current travails. He immediately started to trend on Twitter whilst people on Facebook weighed in on his outing. Nigerians had become witnesses of the brilliance of a man to which Kogi state citizens had grown accustomed.
As the speech wore on, I found myself drawn to his voice until I was standing just in front of the podium, amidst the crowd, feeling the pulse of the people and there was only one feeling that I had: Pride.
Yahaya Bello had made me very proud.
For the better part of the crucial primary election week, a Kogi state citizen had held the entire country spellbound with his actions. From his viral storm off at the meeting by the Northern Governors to his amazing display during the Channels TV outing to his interview after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari to his speech at the Primary elections itself; Yahaya Bello had ensured that his name remained on the lips of every Nigerian for three main reasons:
Yahaya Bello granted us, the young people of this nation, the bragging right to mention anywhere and everywhere that a young person can aspire to anything in this country and be considered amongst the best options it possesses by sheer audacity and drive, passion, and clarity of purpose.
Even more importantly for the significance it possesses, Yahaya Bello has granted us, Kogi state citizens, a seat at the table where crucial national decisions are being made. Past Kogi governors had, for lack of a better word, ‘killed’ our chances of development by retiring into their cocoons after their tenures in office. This had reduced any opportunity of Kogi to have a voice at the highest level of Nigerian politicking to advocate for her rights and privileges in discussions relating to the dredging of the River Niger, the Ajaokuta Steel Company, the Abaji-KotonKarfe-Lokoja-Okene highway and many other moribund projects whose rise would immediately revitalize the Kogi state economy and steer it in the right direction.
In one sweep, Yahaya Bello has put Kogi state back on the map, and his doggedness will ensure that it remains there for the foreseeable future.
In his own words, Yahaya Bello warned that “we might be playing politics, but let us think of the future of this country. We are the future of this country, the young people of this country.” It is the future of Kogi and Nigeria as a whole that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as we move towards a new dispensation post-2023, and it is men like Yahaya Adoza Bello who must form a part of that dispensation if we are to make any headway positively.
We have gotten used to making such statements for people from Kano, Lagos, Ogun and Bayelsa who have, in one way or another, shaped Nigeria’s future by their involvement. We can now say the same for Kogi because Yahaya Bello dared to dream.
He did not lose as the ballot portrays, he has only learnt how to win.
We commend you.
We appreciate you.
We love you.
We have tasted what it means to have a voice. We will not back down now.
This is a tribute to the Lion of Agassa.