Presidency 2023: Finally, Yahaya Bello throws his hat in the ring

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State

Richard Elesho

The sustained suspense over the presidential ambition of Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello has come to an end.

Bello on Saturday, April 2, the day which incidentally marked the start of this year’s fast for Muslims, and the continuation of Christian Lent, said he was in the presidential race for 2023. The jamboree took place in a place no less important than Eagle Square in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

For the contender and his crowd of supporters, it was a date marked for wild jubilation. Cans and light refreshments went unhindered in an atmosphere with no social distancing. Religious and medical traditions were not the only concerns, however.

In a way, Bello’s statement is a challenge to his political party’s zoning tradition. The All Progressives Congress, APC, on which he is seeking nomination, has zoned his coveted presidential ticket south.

Regardless of the arrangements made to streamline the competition, the governor gathered the right crowd to tell them his credentials for the job. He said Nigeria was going through a tricky period which required someone with his gifts to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari and continue his efforts beyond 2023.

The governor pointed to his youth, physical and mental alertness as factors that give him an edge over others and with which he would lead the country to greatness.

He cited the courage to lead the country as another selling point he has over others, said his decision to go it alone when it mattered most vindicated him after the COVID-19 pandemic, pledged to take courageous decisions that would move the country forward.

He claimed to have achieved security, unity, peace and prosperity in Kogi State and promised to replicate them throughout Nigeria if elected President. Bello said Nigeria’s path to greatness was to lift its citizens out of poverty, promising to change the narratives.

“The Buhari administration has a target to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030. A Yahaya Bello presidency will have the additional target of creating 20 million naira millionaires by the same year 2030, with the aim that everyone of them empowers five other citizens”.

To add flesh to the skeleton of the aspiration, a 15-member Presidential Campaign Council was also appointed to lead it. Its members include Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, National Coordinator and President, Femi Fani-Kayode, Deputy National Coordinator and Director General Hafsat Abiola-Costelo. The board has eleven directors, at least two of whom are from Kogi, while Halim Idris will serve as secretary.

Zwingina, who was campaign chief of the late Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election canceled by the military, in an acceptance speech extolled Bello’s virtues. He described his aspiration as the product of wide consultation by concerned Nigerians and pledged to work for its realization.

Moses Okezie, director of research and development for the Campaign Council, said 2023 would not be business as usual.

“Nigerians need to know that in the presidential elections of 2023, business will not be business as usual. This is not the time to vote feelings, this is not the time to vote tribe, this is not the time to vote anything but what we need as Nigerians and what that is, security and unity, peace and progress. These are the things that Bello stands for.

In addition to members of the Campaign Council, the flag dignitaries included members of the Kogi APC National Assembly, legislators and local government officials, commissioners and mobilized participants across the country.

Bello had repeatedly claimed that Nigerians of all walks of life had begged him to join the presidential race. At one point, a group of young people handed him an ultimatum. In fact, Bello’s 2023 campaign posters first appeared in April 2020, about three months after his second term as Governor of Kogi State. He denied the posters, then insisted he was concentrating on his job as governor. Saturday’s statement is a definite stop to the game of hide and seek.

The Governor is the first APC aspirant to have made a public statement of his ambition. He is also the only one from the north so far to have shown interest in the first Nigerian job.

APC national leader and former governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, held frantic consultations after his visit to the Villa during which he told Buhari of his intention to succeed him as president. Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi also met Buhari on his desire to put himself in his shoes. The President advised the two men individually to intensify their consultations.

Campaign posters of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor Godwin Emefiele, Minister of Science and Technology Dr Ogbonnaya Onu and his transport colleague Rotimi Amechi , were also exhibited in many parts of the country.

Other APC leaders believed to be in the presidential race are Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of ‘Imo, Senator Rochas Okorocha and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

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