Editor’s note: Abdullahi O. Haruna, a public affairs analyst and commentator, writes on the recent face-off between the Kogi state government and the Dangote Group, noting that the grudge of Governor Yahaya Bello was not against the person of Aliko Dangote, owner of the enterprise.
When providence beckoned on Alhaji Yahaya Bello to become governor of Kogi state in 2015, on the podium of his inauguration, he made a solemn pledge that read:
“My administration shall exist for the sole purpose of serving the superseding interests of the people of Kogi state to the very best of its capabilities. We also undertake to never lend our capacities to servicing the avarice of anyone or group–whether from Kogi state or elsewhere.”
This was his pledge to the people of Kogi state and stoically, he has stuck to this vow. Part of this is the demand for fairness, truth and justice in the utilization of the state resources either by government, organisations or individuals.
Since becoming the governor of Kogi state, Bello has demonstrated uncommon bravery numerous times, doing the unimaginable and upsetting the status quo. Overall, he performs his duties with such tact, covert calmness, and absolute grandeur that even the more experienced politicians who were present prior to his entry are completely awestruck and fascinated. Governor Bello is a man who does not fight for no genuine reasons. Being a brave man, he only starts a fight when it’s necessary to dispel numerous myths. How he managed the COVID-19 imbroglio is still well-remembered by many. Kogi did not experience the socioeconomic upheavals associated to the crisis management approach employed by other governors because he protected the Kogi people from the COVID-19 onslaught. Bello kept his cool and breezed through. Unlike many of his governor colleagues who could not resist the fragrance of dollars from international donor agencies, Bello stood firmly for Kogi people as he refused to be dragged through the mud.
Governor Yahaya Bello has recently made headlines once more, giving him another chance to show off his uncommon bravery. This time around, the Kogi government which Bello superintend, is in a face-off with the Dangote oligarchy, which is arguably one of the most powerful corporate-capitalist entities in Africa. In addition to defending the law, Bello often aligns his interests with the desires of the Kogi people for whom he fights. He was Nigeria’s sole governor who was COVID-19 resistive. He would not succumb to the allure of money because for him, COVID-19 was a fraud and a ploy to siphon off state monies. He did not leave his people while the plague raged; he stuck out to be seen and physically counted.
Many commentators compare the tense standoff between the Kogi state government and Dangote to Governor Bello’s unconventional handling of the COVID-19. The face-off between the Kogi state government and Dangote is already generating hot media reactions from different quarters. As expected, there are many paid propagandists who have been recruited to shape public opinion in favour of Dangote Group. One of such persons is one Festus ‘Babiyalla’ Adedayo, an Ibadan-based journalist and lawyer. Festus Adedayo may have been forgotten by many people. A simple reminder suffices. He is that perennial political appointment seeker who the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan dropped from consideration as special adviser on media, after the news of his appointment had flooded the media space. He has finally gotten a job. His new responsibility is to execute a hatchet job for Dangote Group by spreading false information on Governor Yahaya Bello and the Kogi state government.
A misnomer being perpetrated by the Dangote Group in Kogi is being lauded and sustained by people who ordinarily should be the pulse of conscience but deadly subsumed by the avarice of belly food – for how do they survive if not from running errand for their oppressors. Adedayo fell so cheap to the porridge that comes from a capitalist lord and decided to turn truth on its head. Even with facts poking in the face, he looked away and decided to paint white the grotesque traces of Dangote Group in Kogi. It should, however, be noted, that those who turn truth to lies will be referenced in the hallmark of shame and infamy.
In Adedayo’s hasty errand, he muddled logic and shot his paymaster in the foot when he wrote that ‘on paper, the plant belongs to Dangote Industries Limited. Formerly known as Obajana Cement Plc, it changed name to Dangote Cement Plc in July, 2010, becoming a subsidiary of the Dangote Group. Obajana Cement, before the acquisition, was solely owned by the Kogi state government, having been incorporated in 1992. In 2010, it got listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The company said that between 2007 and 2012, its founder, Dangote, invested the sum of US$6.5 billion into the company and cement production and trading constitute a large chunk of the Dangote Group’s core businesses. if this was the case, how did a company wholly founded and 100% owned by the Kogi state government long before Dangote Cement Plc came into the State become a sole entity of the Dangote Group? The concession that gave sole mining right to Dangote Group recognized the shareholding structure of the state on the board of the Group, what then happen to these legal rights? The obliteration of the existing legal rights of Kogi state in the new acquisition by the Dangote Group calls for concern but rabid undertakers like Adedayo are blind to this.
In trying to justify the unfair exploitation of the Dangote Group, Adedayo went to the blackmailing lane by stating the production capacity of Dangote Cement Plant in Obajana, what he failed to state is how deprived the people of Obajana are, how the plant has impoverished them and the menacing effect of the factory telling severely on the health of the people. While the writer whips up sentiment on the four deaths recorded in the unfortunate flood disaster, he failed to tell the world how Dangote’s truck drivers have sacrificed countless lives of Kogites to make billions of dollars for their company. People who utilize the roads in Kogi are aware that Dangote truck drivers are solely focused on getting cements delivered promptly and are not concerned about the safety of other road users. Kogi state has seen a high number of fatalities as a result of the location of the cement factory in Obajana.
The media space is deluge of many reports of how Dangote trucks have sent many Kogi people to their early graves. A lot of people, including Adedayo, are asking why Bello is acting now, having spent seven years as governor of Kogi state. Let me ask, is there a wrong time for doing the right thing? Dangote Group is no doubt, one of the most sophisticated corporate entities in Africa, and the Obajana Cement is one of its biggest investments in Nigeria. Asking such an enterprise to do the right thing requires tact and strategy. Rather than being reprimanded, Bello should be applauded for standing on the side of justice and Kogi people. As a courageous leader, Bello deploys his tact whenever he thinks is the most appropriate. If successive governors, as alleged by Adedayo, “always get from every bag of cement that comes out of the Obajana plant,” then Bello has once against demonstrated, just like he did during COVID-19 debacle, that he is for Kogi people rather than his personal pocket.
If you want to know how Dangote Group treats Kogi state and her people with disdain and contempt, just pay a visit to any of the tertiary institutions in Kogi state, including Kogi State University (now Prince Abubakar Audu University), Anyigba; Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja, College of Education, Ankpa, Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara, among others; there is nothing to show that the Dangote Group is socially responsible to Kogi people. Kogi people deserve reciprocal respect in corporate social responsibility like he has done in Bayero University, Kano, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The goose that lays the golden eggs deserves a habitable shelter.
Without sounding like the mouthpiece of Kogi government but a bonafide scion of the state, I thus conclude by saying, what the present Kogi state government under the leadership of Governor Bello is simply saying has nothing to do with the person of Alhaji Aliko Dangote or restricting investments but asking to know when, how a entity and mining licenses, C of O belonging to Kogi state and her people became wholly Dangote’s and by what consideration? This isn’t too much a demand for a business guru like Dangote to answer. Clearly using the media to keep a clean posture can’t bury this obvious rip-off of the good people of Kogi state.
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