On November 11, 2023, Kogi State faces a pivotal decision as its citizens head to the polls to elect their next governor. Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo, the flag-bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is vying for the position with a vision of Continuity and Consolidation. The question then is whether the incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello’s achievements make Continuity and Consolidation in the best interests of Kogi people.
Read also: Kogi Central declares support for Ododo
In other words, when we set aside politics, tribes, and religions, and focus solely on governance and leadership, what compelling case exists after 8 years of Governor Yahaya Bello’s New Direction Administration for voters in the Confluence State to elect Alhaji Usman Ahmed Ododo, his preferred successor? What dividends of democracy can we point to that Kogi voters should protect with their votes? What can the APC show after 8 years to justify an electoral transition from the GYB years to the OAU years?
We will answer these questions firmly but objectively in the affirmative in a series of publications which will highlight the achievements of the Yahaya Bello administration in the core thematic areas that she set for herself. These are: Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure and Utilities, Security, Public Service and Pension Reforms, Agriculture, Human Capital Development, Youth Empowerment, Gender Equity, and Child Rights, with Agriculture, Cooperation, and Integration concluding the series.
Before 2016, all levels of the educational sector in Kogi State were plagued by decaying infrastructure, non-payment of salaries, labor strikes, a shortage of academic staff, and poorly structured curricula, among other obstacles to quality and affordable education in the state. In just over the last 8 years, the New Direction Administration of Governor Yahaya Bello has completely transformed the education landscape in Kogi State for the better, and the sector is today a far cry from the widespread dilapidations that prevailed when Governor Bello took office in 2016.
At the primary school level, the administration has constructed or reconstructed 1,767 classroom blocks across the state along with other infrastructure. These blocks are usually painted blue and white to distinguish them from the green and white structures built in counterpart funding with the federal government. Many schools in urban/semi-urban areas with internet access have also been equipped with ICT facilities in addition to adequate supply of learning materials and aids.
When the Yahaya Bello administration took Office in Kogi State, she inherited billions of naira in unpaid counterpart funding to the Universal Basic Education Commission, a situation which denied the state access to much of the support which states receive from the federal government for basic education. The new government quickly settled these debts and has prioritized payment of all counterpart funding obligations, thus unlocking untold benefits for the state. No wonder the UBEC has consistently rated Kogi State a top performer amongst the 36 states and the FCT in basic education funding.
The secondary schools in Kogi State have also enjoyed their fair share of attention from Yahaya Bello. They too have witnessed significant infrastructural enhancements across the three senatorial districts of the state. Modern classrooms, laboratories, ICT centres, and hostel facilities have been provided in many more schools. Notably, the administration’s efforts include the construction of GYB Model Science Schools in Adankolo, Ihima, and Kabba-Bunu. The total upgrade given to Government Secondary School, Ogugu led to her adoption by the federal government and redesignation as the Federal Science Technical College, Ogugu, one of the nation’s 104 unity colleges. Hostel facilities were also expanded such as the 50-bed capacity hostels at Government Girls’ Secondary, Obangede.
Beyond physical infrastructure, the administration has significantly improved the quality and quantity of learning materials, teaching resources, and human capital for primary and secondary schools in the state. Governor Yahaya Bello introduced free and compulsory education for all children from kindergarten to secondary school, removing the burden of early and intermediate childhood education from caregivers. This has resulted in Kogi State having the fewest number of out-of-school children among the 19 northern states. This is surely a legacy that the people of Kogi State would want to protect with their votes.
The case for Continuity and Consolidation in the tertiary education space is even more compelling. Governor Yahaya Bello has also taken giant strides in the tertiary education space in Kogi State with the flagship achievements being the establishment of 2 new state universities from scratch. The Confluence University of Science and Technology at Osara is focused on the STEM disciplines while the new Kogi State University (KSU), Kabba is a regular university founded to cater for both the sciences and the humanities.
These duo of tertiary institutions have widened available university education options for the children of Kogi State by at least 50%. Governor Bello explained that his motivation for setting them up came from the administration’s findings that even with impressive scores in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), Kogi State indigenes were still disadvantaged in the admissions processes due to cutthroat competition for limited spaces and unfavorable catchment considerations. With particular reference to CUSTECH, the Governor said:
‘My Administration was greatly disturbed by the painful experiences of hundreds of Kogi youngsters who were unable to pursue careers in Science and Technology due to very limited openings in universities outside Kogi State…Over the years, access to such programmes as Medicine and Surgery, Pharmacy, Architecture, Engineering and others in this category kept dwindling for Kogi secondary school leavers…we decided to take action by establishing a specialized university of our own, dedicated to science and technology.’
CUSTECH will be convoking her first batch of graduates in about a year’s time while Governor Bello has promised that KSUK which received regulatory approval only this year to commence will be matriculating her first batch within the same time frame. A promise which Ododo has reechoed in his manifesto and campaigns. This is an unprecedented feat and one struggles to find any other state in the country which has set up two universities under a single administration.
The Yahaya Bello administration has also been feverishly engaged in improving both the academic and non-academic facilities of every other tertiary institution in Kogi State. At the premier university in Kogi State, the Prince Abubakar Audu University (PAAU), formerly Kogi State University, Anyigba, infrastructural, curricular, and manpower needs have been met. Not only that, but the school, which used to have a vicious campus cult problem that claimed the lives of many students over the years, is now one of the most peaceful in the Federation. The Bello administration has decisively quelled the miscreants and established comprehensive security on campus and environs.
Also, the school is expected to receive accreditation soon from the National Universities Commission and the professional regulators in the medical field for her College of Medicine to commence. Again, it was Yahaya Bello to the rescue. His administration has built and equipped a world-class teaching hospital for PAAU at Anyigba, thus meeting the regulatory prerequisite that held her back for nearly two decades. It is also important to note that the teaching hospital facilities are also a grand boon to overall healthcare in the university town, and indeed the entire Kogi East Senatorial District.
Additionally, through the direct intervention of the Yahaya Bello administration, the school has also enjoyed uninterrupted academic calendars since 2017, apart from a short break during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is practically the only public university in Nigeria where students have graduated on schedule in the last 6 years. This is a legacy that Alhaji Ododo has unequivocally undertaken to sustain, while some of his opponents in this election are willing to do anything to get elected, including striking deals inimical to the non-aligned status of the university in matters of unionism and industrial actions. Voters must choose carefully.
The Kogi State Polytechnic (KSP), Lokoja, lies on the ever-busy Abuja-Lokoja-Benin Highway. It used to be nondescript, little more than a glorified secondary school to which no one paid any attention. Under the eagle’s eyes and with the generous support of Governor Yahaya Bello, it has transformed into a real center of academic excellence. It now boasts vastly improved infrastructure and highly expanded instructional capabilities. In June 2022, it received a historic 100% accreditation for all courses offered from all regulatory and professional bodies concerned, having met all requirements.
In February 2023, the school, which used to be shunned by students and their parents, matriculated a huge crowd of 6,387 students for her National Diploma and Higher National Diploma courses. The Governor used the occasion to reiterate his commitment to making Kogi State a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education hub in Nigeria. Today, the enhanced attraction of KSP to new students and the 100% accreditation for all courses that it has attained represent definitive progress, which can only be sustained if the next Governor inherits Bello’s passion and vision for the institution. This is another reason why the NDBT concludes that Ododo is the man.
The Yahaya Bello administration has also done great work with the state’s four existing technical colleges at Idah, Ihima, Mopa, and Ankpa, with extensive construction and renovation works still ongoing at the first two. The Kogi State Colleges of Education at Ankpa and Kabba also enjoyed huge attention from this progressive administration. Both have secured 100% accreditation for all courses offered for the first time in their history, like all the other tertiary institutions in the State. Again, the magic happened after the administration provided the infrastructural and instructional facilities demanded by the respective regulators.
The School of Health Sciences and Technology, Idah also shares the same testimony of Bello Transformation. The school gained 100% accreditation for all courses offered under this administration, after over 40 years of existence, and both infrastructure and equipment have seen major upgrades. This is also the case at the Kogi State College of Nursing and Midwifery, Obangede, which, in addition to the 100% accreditation feat it attained under Yahaya Bello, was in April this year approved to offer HND training and certification in nursing to students. The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) gave approval for the HND program to begin this year, convinced that the school has been given the infrastructural and instructional resources to do so excellently.
This administration has massively recruited instructors into her school systems at all levels and ensures that payment of teachers’ salaries is regular, and strong efforts to increase the amounts have been made severally. It also provides essential training and continuing learning for educators as crucial aspects of educational development in the state. Kogi State has also routinely dedicated 20 to 30 percent of her annual budget to education, although there are financial constraints to full performance. An Education Law made in 2020 codifies some of these reforms, but most will have to be sustained by a successor who truly believes long-term in what Yahaya Bello is trying to achieve in the education sector, hence Ododo.
Governor Yahaya Bello’s legacies in the education sector are truly monumental. He has made a significant impact on Kogi State’s education sector during his two terms in office, touching every level of education. His successor must be one who will continue and consolidate on his achievements. Ododo’s clear and ambitious vision for Kogi State’s educational landscape, as outlined in his manifesto, focuses on improving teaching and learning quality, expanding educational access, and reducing the number of out-of-school children. Importantly, he is committed to continuing and consolidating the legacies, including the policy of free and compulsory basic and secondary education introduced by Governor Bello.
In addition, Ododo’s leadership qualities and his deep involvement in Governor Bello’s New Direction Blueprint make him a highly qualified candidate for the role of Kogi State Governor. His unique position as the sole candidate in the race who can ensure the Continuity and Consolidation of the state’s progress sets him apart from the competition. In contrast, other candidates have yet to present clear manifestos or governance directions, with only a few days left to the elections.
It is now the collective responsibility of voters to ensure that his legacy lives on through Alhaji Usman Ahmed Ododo. As a voter in Kogi State, you have the power to shape the future of this state. It is not just about choosing a leader; it is about choosing the right leader who can build upon the progress that has been made. Your vote can either secure the gains that have been made in education and other vital sectors, or risk disruption by choosing untested alternatives. This is why you should vote for Alhaji Ahmed Usman Ododo and Mr. Joel Oyibo Salifu for Continuity and Consolidation on November 11, 2023.