When news filtered into town Friday last week that the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, fell from his car and got injured, there were mixed public reactions to the unconfirmed report. Many had wondered how such an accident, if indeed it happened, was possible, considering the mien of infallibility that always fills the carriage of a governor. People close to the governor who witnessed the incident had kept mute over the humbling event.
The social media soon became awash with discussions on the ‘great fall’ with some commentators claiming that the severity of the injury sustained by the number one citizen of the Confluence State had incapacitated him. The issue then became a major topic in Lokoja, the state capital, among mockers and sympathisers.
The governor’s media managers had no option but to open up on the incident on Tuesday, apparently upon a realisation that the governor was going to attend the meeting of the All Progressives Party (APC) with President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Villa, Abuja, clutching crutches.
In the past few weeks, the governor had developed a pattern of making people who lined the major roads for him whenever he passed happily. His convoy would slow down and the governor would show his benevolence by throwing some naira notes at the hailers. What always followed was a scrambling as people helped themselves competitively to the money.
The benevolent action of Bello was said to have started last year on his way back from Abuja when he saw a mentally challenged woman around Paparanda Roundabout. The governor was said to have pitied the woman and given her N250,000 in five packs of N500 notes. Many were convinced that the money would turn the woman’s around. They were shocked when, two days later, she returned to the spot to continue her “show.”
Since that incident, the governor had formed the habit of throwing money at people anytime he was on the move. The last time he visited men of the Nigerian Army drafted in the state for the “Ayam Akpatuma” race in Irepeni, Adavi Local Government Area of the state, Bello made many villagers along the Lokoja-Okene Road happy. He stopped in about three villages to throw money at the inhabitants who momentarily began to fall over one another to grab as many notes as they could.
However, last Thursday was a different stroke for the governor in Lokoja, the state capital. He was returning from one of his usual trips to Abuja and had reached the popular Old Market area of Lokoja to the admiration of the usual beneficiaries of his largesse. The convoy had characteristically slowed down and Bello made to alight and do ‘his thing’ when the unexpected happened – he missed his footing and fell hard to the ground.
The governor, it was gathered, had ridden in a BMW SUV which was about the smallest vehicle in the convoy. He had attempted to use the step board which is available to the other cars but which that particular BMW does not have. He fell to the ground and got dragged for some meters before being rescued by his security men, his convoy having not come to a full halt as of the time of the misadventure.
The governor injured his left leg in the incident and was said to have been given a first aid treatment. Up to that moment, his aides and appointees were still hiding the incident from the public, saying the governor was hale and hearty. However, when the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, came to condole with the state on the death of the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Buba Jubril, the governor remained seated throughout the visit. He did not see off his guests.
Against the background of this development, social media users in the state went to town, especially on the WhatsApp platform, with various stories about the health status of the governor.
The stories flying about regarding the “incapacitation” of the governor led to a statement by his spokesman confirming that the governor actually fell and injured his leg. He ruled out any incapacitation on the part of his principal.
The Director General, Media and Publicity to the governor, Kingsley Fanwo, said, “We wish to refute rumours that the Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, is either hospitalised or otherwise incapacitated.
“The governor missed his footing last Friday, March 30, 2018, while alighting from a vehicle and injured his left foot. He was treated by his doctors, who bandaged the leg and discharged him.
“We thank all the governor’s supporters and well-wishers who reached us to inquire after his wellbeing. His Excellency is doing very well and will be at work as usual after the Easter holidays.”
Although the statement claimed that the leg was only bandaged, Bello later on Tuesday appeared at the Abuja meeting in crutches with the leg wrapped in Plaster of Paris (POP).
Many are wondering why the governor chose to move around on crutches, at meetings of the party where he could have been represented.
As the buzz over the accident continues, the Kogi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on Governor Bello to come clean with his health status following the insinuation that he is incapacitated.
The Kogi PDP, in a statement signed by its Director Research and Documentation, Dickson Achadu, argued that there was the need for Bello to fully declare his health status, saying “if a fully fit Governor Bello can plunge the state into debt, hunger and poverty, we wonder why he will not proceed on a compulsory leave and hand over to his deputy.”
The PDP lamented that governance in the state had reached its lowest ebb under Bello with the state now in a reverse gear. The PDP called on the governor to, in the interest of good governance and transparency, truly disclose his health status, saying the people deserved to know.
The party added that since the governor is being treated with tax payers’ money, the people of the state should not rely on hearsay, urging the governor to come to equity with clean hands, disclose his current health status and proceed on leave on health grounds.
The PDP said, “Under the present dispensation, with no visible infrastructure to show for the huge resources received, the only achievement of the governor is uniting the citizens with poverty.”