Yahaya Bello: A Dogged Fighter for Truth and Justice
By Nafisat Bello
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”
– Martin Luther King jrn.
Courage is the core of leadership which enables all the values to work up to their maximum capacity like a heart in human body that pumps blood to all other parts and enables the whole body to function effectively.
Principled men don’t mind standing alone, they don’t mind doing the right thing even if the whole world is against them over a particular choice they have made. When brave and courageous men make controversial decisions and risk losing their once trusted and passionate crowd, they don’t relent, they hold on to faith and believe that time will come when they will be vindicated.
Those are the excellent attributes Governor Yahaya Bello has demonstrated since getting to office in 2016. And when a man on a mission is not propelled by greed or ego, but by patriotism and dedication to duty, he is bound to succeed. That is why all the battles the hard-working governor has embarked upon on behalf of the people of the state, he has conquered.
The recent clash with Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has followed the same pattern with the people of the state smiling at the end of the back and forth that lasted for over a week.
The issue was the ownership of the Obajana Cement Plant that is situated in the state but which the Dangote Group continues to claim ownership of. But following a resolution by the Kogi State House of Assembly that the Cement Plant should be shut pending the resolution of ownership issues, the Bello-led executive took Dangote Group to the cleaners with facts and figures to show the world that the company has been shortchanging the people of the state.
To counter Dangote Group’s claim that it owned the Cement factory, Kogi state government issued a statement to let the world know that Obajana Cement Company was solely founded in 1992 by Kogi State, which held 100 percent shareholding in trust for the people of the state long before the existence of Dangote Cement Plc (DCP) and the Dangote Industries Limited (DIL).
The state government disclosed that successive administrations had always invited DIL and DCP to prove that they paid a dime for the acquisition of Obajana and its alleged 100 per cent ownership, “but every time, DIL and DCP have woefully failed to do so.”
The Kogi state government argued that there is a difference between legal acquisition and asset grabbing, adding that the latter is what Dangote Group is involved in.
The State government disclosed further that it took a loan of at least 15million Deutsche mark to conduct feasibility assessments, which confirmed the existence of those ‘vast limestone deposits’ that DIL found so enticing years later. And sadly, it still struggles and labours to pay back the loan while DCP and DIL were posting profits from the operation of the Obajana Cement plant.
The State government asked Dangote to answer the following questions: “How come years after DIL and DCP claim they acquired 100 per cent of the equity and assets of Obajana Cement Plc, Kogi State officials were still listed as shareholders of the company, holding shares for and on behalf of the people of Kogi State in filings made by DIL and DCP at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)?”
The state contended that DIL and DCP could not deny that Kogi State once invited them to invest in Obajana Cement Plc, but that the company is lying and claiming that Kogi State allegedly abandoned her allotted shares and was subsequently kicked out of the company founded by them, thereby allegedly extinguishing all rights and interests of the State and her people in the operations of the company.
In other for things not to spiral out of control, a meeting of all government agencies connected with the acquisition of the cement plant was recommended to help resolve any form of differences whatsoever to forestall a situation whereby shutting down the factory for too long could leave many jobless and also affect government revenue.
To resolve the ownership dispute, Governor Bello said they would be ready to negotiate with Dangote Group once the firm was ready to admit that the plant belonged to the state and the decision to seal off the plant followed several petitions by members of the local community over marginalisation by the company. He disclosed this while presenting the document from the report of the Specialised Technical Committee on the Evaluation of the Legality of the Alleged Acquisition of Obajana Cement Company Plc by Dangote Cement Company Limited to back the state’s claim to the ownership of the plant.
“We received several petitions from the general public over this particular subject matter. In the past five to six years, all efforts to sit with the proprietors of the Dangote Conglomerate failed.” Bello added.
Also speaking on the face-off, the state Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, in a statement titled, ‘Dangote is distorting facts,’ noted that the state had all the relevant documents to prove that the purported acquisition of Obajana (cement plant) by Dangote was null and void.
“And we want to assure the people of Kogi State that, with God on our side, what belongs to the state shall be recovered, including all dividends and interests on profits from inception till date. The Dangote Group is just distorting facts to save its face,” Fanwo added.
The governor’s spokesman, Muhammed Onogwu, also had this to say on the issue recently: “Our God-given natural resources that have been taken away by some individuals under the leadership of those who never had the interest of the people at heart shall be recovered no matter how long it takes. You are all aware that a company registered by the Kogi State government and in Kogi’s name was fraudulently transferred to an individual who has been milking the state dry and impoverishing the people, causing all manner of environmental hazards and degradation with monumental destruction of our ecosystem. Yahaya Bello stands to win this case for the people of Kogi State again no matter how long it takes.
“Between 2016 and 2021, over 10 different companies have been established in Kogi state. This is a result of the government’s determination and commitment to providing security, a conducive business climate, a friendly available labour force and the cooperation of our people. The state is continually open to those genuine investors from around the world who want to invest their money in Kogi. We will continue to protect the state for the people and businessmen to carry out their businesses.”
While a presidential intervention caused a cessation of hostilities meant to lead to an amicable resolution, there is no doubting the fact that Kogi state will be the winner in this battle as all evidences in public domain show that the Dangote Group has not over the years covered itself in glory. It takes a man of courage dedicated to truth and justice to cause a big conglomerate like Dangote to swallow the humble pie, learn to treat people right and adhere to the rules of the game.
That is not the only instance this governor has shown that he is man of immense courage. He did that before, during after the All Progressives Congress (APC), presidential primary. Bello was the first to declare his interest to contest for the 2023 Presidency. He did so based on the conviction that it was the turn of the youths and women which was his constituency.
After running a spirited campaign and his aspiration was bought by all and sundry, pressure was mounted on him to step down, but he refused, stood his ground and insisted that he will not step down for anyone. Every attempt from high places to force him to step down was massively rebuffed
As I mentioned in my book, titled, “Yahaya Bello: 47 Narratives on a Change Agent,” the governor showed rare courage and resilience and contested the primary, made the best speech on that night and got more votes than any other sitting governor that contested for the ticket.
But courage is also knowing when to stop fighting, take lessons and prepare for future battles. The governor rightly congratulated the winner of the ticket, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, donated his campaign office to him, and has been working round the clock to ensure the APC candidate wins the election in February 2023.
That is the stuff of courage. The stuff of icons. The stuff of men who will be on the right side of history.