By Shitile Mbayansa, Abuja.
With suppressed laughter, journalists attached to the nation’s seat of power listened to Kogi Governor, Yahaya Bello , regal them with the incredulous story that it was his ghost that did the second Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registration.
The journalists briefly exchanged glances, some bowed their heads, racking with suppressed laughter and told the story, that is being described in the Villa as “Tales by Moonlight”, a network television programme where children are told folklores.
Bello, who came to the Villa for his Friday Jumat prayers, as has become traditional with him, said: “I travelled on 19th to Dubai for a brief break and I saw the press release and I was taken aback that I did double registration on 23rd. Probably it is my ghost that has done the double registration. I think INEC has earned itself a very high reputation and I think and I am very confident that the leadership if INEc will not allow some elements in INEC to drag the name of the Commission into the mud. Surely that’s a falsehood I did not do double registration of permanent voters card.”
Kogi civil servants had last week erupted in celebrations when it first emerged that the Governor was caught in an alleged criminal act, hoping it would lead to his removal and their getting a “messiah”, who will clear the backlog of salaries reaching, in some cases, 17 months.
Little did many know that a Governor cannot be tried for a criminal offence, because he enjoys immunity until he serves out his term. Except, of course, if he is impeached by the State House of Assembly. But the assemblymen have said they will not impeach him.
Recall that INEC last week alleged that he registered twice as a voter, first in Abuja six years ago and again last month in Lokoja.
Below is a transcript of the interview with journalists in Aso Villa:
The resolution by the governors forum to clear salary arrears and pension backlog with the remains of the Paris club Refund. How realistic is this and are you people (Govs) sticking to the plan?
Issue of salary arrears is a very worrisome problem to all of us. The governors and Mr. president and then with the other tranch of Paris club that will be paid to all the states now. We all met and we resolved to make use of substantial part of that refund to clear some of the areas that are being owed workers so it’s very realistic.
APC not being on ground in Kogi State with so many factions and groups. What’s your reaction to this.
APC in Kogi State is one and indivisible, no faction no division and by the grace of God we are all strong and united.
What would you say to the attacks by Dino Melaye and his group?
Honestly Speaking when a human being is talking then I will respond. surely I don’t see anything coming out of that and I don’t think I have to waste my time in responding to whatever side distraction. Honestly speaking I am too focused to be distracted.
Kogi state has suffered for over 25 years before I came on board and the good people of Kogi state are really appreciative of the efforts we are putting forward to make sure that Kogi state is well developed, so any side distraction is not something I should pay attention to because the people are with me.
You are a member of the governing All Progressive Congress. What is your assessment of the Buhari Administration so far?
The Buhari Administration has recorded an excellent result. When we look at where we are coming from and where we are today and where we want to go to. Going by the rate of achievements and successes recorded by the Buhari Administration, surely we are going to get to the promise land in no distant time from now.
Prominent elders of Kogi State asked the state Assembly to impeach you because you have not recorded any success in Kogi State. What are your scores so far?
When you talk of prominent Kogi People, I don’t think there is any prominent person in Kogi State that would say anything like that. So far so good there are many achievements from security to infrastructural development to civil service reforms and pension reform scheme to job creation. You see that there is whole lot of multilateral Agencies, Ambassadors are all visiting Kogi State. It is owing to the development and the efforts we’ve put forward to put Kogi state on the development map that’s why you see them coming over.
Go to Kogi state website you will see what we have done in 15 months that we have been in the office.
You are accused to have registered twice during the voters registration excercise. How do you react to this?
I travelled on 19th to Dubai for a brief break and I saw the press release and I was taken aback that I did double registration on 23rd. Probably it is my ghost that has done the double registration. I think INEC has earned itself a very high reputation and I think and I am very confident that the leadership if INEc will not allow some element in INEC to drag the name of the Commission into the mud. Surely that’s a falsehood I did not do double registration of permanent voters card.