By Tunde Olusunle
For the many awards he has won in recent weeks, I should begin by felicitating with Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State. Yes, last month, he was conferred the “presidential award on security” for ensuring minimum security breaches within the space and span of a geopolity bounded by nine states and the federal capital territory, (FCT). And more recently, just last week in fact, Kogi State under Bello’s leadership was also bedecked with a three-layered neckwear by the World Bank, under the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability, (SFTAS) Programme. According to a report presented by the state commissioner for finance, budget and planning, Ashiru Idris to the state executive council, Kogi State reportedly embraced the scheme in 2018.
It “seeks to improve and strengthen fiscal management and entrench transparency and accountability mechanisms that ensure effective utilisation of public funds for improved public service delivery.” The document posits that Kogi State government received three awards for impressive performances in three categories, namely: “fiscal transparency and accountability,” “debt sustainability” and “domestic revenue mobilisation.” The awards must mean a lot to the Bello system, owing to the ear to ear grin which Idris the state’s exchequer has been wearing in the last few days. Our expectation and prayer though, is that these laurels and souvenirs translate into substantial and tangible reflections in the individual economies of our people, and their buying powers in the marketplace.
Governor Bello will surely be going into the yuletide season which is already at our doorsteps, a happy man. Yes, the imminence of Christmas is reinforced by sprouting decorations around the Abuja metropolis, even as hawkers on the streets thrust sundry merchandise into our faces at traffic intersections. Age-old Christmas tunes are also being played in public facilities, while in instances, dressmakers are rushing to meet deadlines. This is despite the fact that sartorial accoutrements are not primary concerns for the mass of 133 million Nigerians, relegated to abject poverty by the incumbent administration. All of these, however, reaffirm the inevitable approach of that season when christendom, indeed the world commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.
As Bello savours the festive season with family and friends, there are homesteads which will not have the luxury of marking the period. This is particularly so when they reminiscence on the absence of people very dear to them. At a time like this, one’s mind calls up the memory of a consummate media and communications practitioner, a prolific playwright and prominent Ebira son, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo. He left us in the evening of Sunday March 5, 2017, while returning from the celebration of Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo. Onukaba alighted from the vehicle he was travelling in and ran into the bush, to avoid armed robbers who had taken over the Ilesha-Akure highway, that evening.
A vehicle which escaped from the marauders, lost control and landed ferociously on him, on the spot he found refuge in the bushes. That was how we lost one of Nigeria’s most committed, most insightful writers and intellectuals. Governor Bello visited Onukaba’s family in Ihima, Kogi State, for the “third day” Muslim prayers. He was informed at the event, that Onukaba who he had long known by reputation, and who was his elder brother within the African context, died without a home of his own. Exasperated and concerned, Bello promised to address the matter, expeditiously. The governor indeed requested to be promptly advised on accommodation options for the family of the late Onukaba.
A team from Dr Onukaba’s group of friends, drawn principally from the membership of the Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba Endowment Fund, set out to work. The group was chaired by Mallam Yahaya Yusuf, a retired Director from the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, (MFCT), who is both kinsman, to Bello and the late Onukaba. Other members of the group included: Prof Maxwell Gidado, SAN, OON; Dr Umar Ardo; Mrs Franca Aiyetan; Mallam Sadiq Ibrahim Adaviriku; and I. By every stretch of imagination, this is a very distinguished and respectable assemblage. The team toured several housing estates in Phases 2 and 3 of the Abuja developmental layouts and came up with suggestions and recommendations forwarded to Bello.
I was in Lokoja early June 2017, on the invitation of the Kogi State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ). Fortuitously, Governor Bello attended the same event and I had the privilege of sharing the high table with him. Presidential spokesman, my colleague and friend, Garba Shehu; Former Kogi State Commissioner of Police, AIG Wilson Inalegwu, (Rtd), and Secretary to the Kogi State Government, (SSG), Dr Shade Ayoade, were also on the distinguished table. The event was held at the Confluence Beach Hotel on Ganaja Road. I slipped a small note to Bello, and followed him to his car when he was departing the venue of the event. I managed to extract a sentence from him to the effect that his “Chief of Staff,” (COS), who at the time was Edward Onoja, “will fix an appointment” for Gidado, SAN and I to see him in Abuja.
June 2022 made it five full years since we’ve been expectant of the materialisation of the Kogi helmsman’s promise. March 2023 will mark six years of Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo’s departure. It is usually convenient to accuse, blame, castigate, upbraid people in authority for not delivering on their own very pledges. Circumstances precipitating such forgetfulness are rarely sufficiently distilled before aspersions are cast. People in high office deserve our collective understanding, sympathies and assistance. To the glory of God, I’ve been privileged to have served three state governors and one president in professional capacities. I should therefore have a fair understanding and insights on the issues.
To be sure, I was Director of Information and Public Affairs to pioneer civilian governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, back in 1992. I equally served his two subsequent successors, Paul Omeruo and Bzigu Afakirya as Chief Press Secretary. I’ve equally been opportuned to work with Nigeria’s first President in the fourth republic, Olusegun Obasanjo. I’ve found in these various instances that people in top public offices can do with our appreciation of their limitations and are deserving of our support and encouragement.
From the manner Governor Bello spontaneously rallied to the aid of the family of the police outrider, Aminu Salihu, who died on his convoy on Monday March 15, 2021, he is a potentially compassionate person. Bello paid a condolence visit to the departed Salihu’s family Saturday March 20, 2021. He did not only provide immediate monetary palliatives to the family, he promised to provide two houses for the family of the deceased, who left a mother, two widows and five children behind. Bello equally committed to providing scholarships for Salihu’s children. I’m told the Kogi chief executive has since delivered on his promise of accommodation for the late police inspector’s family. He procured two houses for them in Kubwa, a satellite town in the FCT. Salihu was from Katsina State.
Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo left behind a young wife, Maimunat, and young children, namely Asuku, Ebikere and Onyeche. He also adopted Zulaiha, his paternal niece as his daughter, and she was an integral part of his nuclear family, whether he was in Nigeria or on holidays abroad. Courtesy of the Adinoyi-Ojo Onukaba Endowment Fund established and substantially funded by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, GCON, the education of the children has proceeded seamlessly. Asuku who will be 20 next February, has been on a fully funded, 100% scholarship at Atiku’s American University of Nigeria, (AUN), Yola, owned by the presidential flagbearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP). He is in the 400 level class, studying software engineering.
Ebikere his immediate younger sister, who will be 18 in July 2023, was christened after her late maternal grandmother from Edo State. Mama died in an automobile accident between Okene and Lokoja, in 2005, while travelling to Abuja to check up on her daughter, Ebikere’s mother, who was carrying Ebikere’s pregnancy at the time. Ebikere was born in the US and has activated her status to this effect, courtesy of her maternal uncles, Festus and Kenneth Ogirri, who both live in Houston. Ebikere is in college, preparatory to a switch to the university system. Onyeche, the baby of the family will be seven on Christmas Day! In Yorubaland, Abiodun, (born during a festivity), would be her spontaneous name. She was barely one when her father died. Zulaiha is at the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State.
Onukaba’s family has relocated, nomad-style, from one rented accommodation to another, from one district of Abuja to another, in the past six years. Such regular disruptions are not good enough for children growing up. They can easily be destabilised with regards to cognitive growth, mental balance and academic performance. Onukaba was an uncharacteristically spartan personality. He devoted his life and career to the focused pursuit of his profession and the happiness of others, to the detriment of his minimal material comfort. Knowing that Governor Yahaya Bello’s good heart as practically demonstrated when a police outrider died in his convoy, I’m confident he can surprise the family of his kinsman, Onukaba, this Christmas season. Nothing will be more heartening and gratifying to the memory of our departed brother. For “Christmas girl Onyeche,” there can be no better birthday present! Should this happen, there will be no need for the renewal of the rents of the family’s present accommodation, due December 31, 2022.
I’ve engaged on a number of occasions with Ashiru Idris, Governor Bello’s very zestful and hardworking finance commissioner on the subject. Ashiru, my younger brother back home in Isanlu, a core loyalist and untiring defender of his principal, has been very accessible. Onukaba’s family and I will be glad to work with him to execute the Kogi governor’s mandate to this effect. It will be Bello’s pleasant honour to present the keys to the house to Onukaba’s family, to public aplomb.
Congratulations once again, Mr Governor, on your outpouring of awards and recognitions, this season!
Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author, is a Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE)