The primary duty of any responsible government is the protection of life and property, being the most visible expression of social contract between the government and the governed.
It is the most critical indicator of the effectiveness of any government given its function to promote the safety of lives and property.
Successful administrations in Kogi State made concerted efforts to tackle the security challenge bedevilling the state with little or nothing to show for their efforts.
The State was dreaded by many, including its citizens and itinerants, as kidnappers and armed robbers ran riot and laid complete siege on the state.
According to data from the Nigeria Security Tracker, between 2012 and 2014, violent attacks and crimes by non-state actors resulted in the death of 114 people, in addition to hundreds of kidnapping cases.
Further check revealed that about 16 robbery incidents with devastating impact involving commercial banks were witnessed in the state between 2011 to 2015.
The state also witnessed bloody attacks by suspected killer herdsmen who went on killing spree; the most devastating of these attacks occured in communities in the Dekina local government area of the state in March 2015, claiming at least 22 lives.
All these made unimpressive and negative headlines in the news across the entire landscape.
Residents and travellers across the state had different tragic stories to tell of their encounters with armed robbers and kidnappers who were determined to make the state their stronghold.
The highways as well as communities and towns within the state were unsafe and insecure. Also was the case of youth restiveness and thuggery which had become a miasma.
However, the narrative took a new turn after Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was inaugurated as Governor of the state on January 27, 2016.
From the first day in office, Gov. Bello knew the state needed a new attitude and approach, having suffered the pang and effect of kidnapping following the abduction of his late mother, who spent 93 distressful days in the den of her abductors.
He admitted that the kidnapping of his mother provided the impetus to work hard to rid the state of all forms of criminality and make it safe for the citizens.
“Upon my assumption of office as executive governor of Kogi, I saw it as a divine opportunity among others to rid the state of all crimes and criminality.
“To achieve this goal, we decided to take a simple step to frontally tackle crime in our society.
“Some of which is highway vegetation control by clearing six metres in either side of the highway across the state.
“This simple initiative improved visibility for travellers and eliminated high impulse of kidnappers that usually pound on unsuspecting travellers around blind spots of the highways to execute their nefarious activities,” he said.
On assumption of office as governor, he vowed to deal decisively with criminals and criminality, adding that his administration will not be distracted from its avowed commitment to serve the people no matter the ploys of any disgruntled persons.
Bello immediately demonstrated a clear commitment to give the State a purposeful and people-oriented leadership by aggressively clamping down on criminals with several arrests and demolition of property with links to the societal deliquents.
Pained by the appalling security situation and dwindling socioeconomic disposition of the state, Bello rolled up his sleeves and got down to work by commiting huge resources into strengthening the security architecture in the state
In order to achieve his plan, Bello declared full-fledged war on armed robbers and other criminal elements operating in the State by using security apparatus to pursue kidnap kingpins in the State who were earlier seen as untouchable.
He launched the ‘Operation Total Freedom’ security outfit to drive fear into the criminals, and invested heavily in communication gadgets and training of security operatives.
Governor Bello personally led several offensives against the criminals in demonstration of his commitment to free the state from the grips of men of the underworld.
He also showed uncommon leadership traits and ensured the operation began from his hometown, Okene. He followed them to their hideouts until they were made to meet their waterloo, while others flee the state.
No fewer than 50 houses and other property belonging to armed robbers, kidnappers and their sponsors were reduced to rubbles.
The youthful governor procured over 200 patrol vehicles equipped with communication gadgets which were distributed to all security agencies in the state to enable them embark on vigorous daily patrol and tackle security threats and challenges.
To identify and arrest criminals and other trouble-mongers in the bid to tackle security challenges, Bello instituted the Whistleblower policy which compensates informants whose information can lead to the arrest of anyone deemed to be a security risk.
The administration also provided Free Toll Lines to encourage citizens in giving information about criminals and crimes to security agencies.
Besides this, Gov. Bello recruited, trained and deployed over three thousand youth, men and women, as vigilantes in their various local government of origin to handle security breaches and strengthen a seamless intelligence gathering process, especially in the rural communities.
In addition to this, the governor also purchased over 500 motorcycles for security operations to allow security agents access to the hinterlands where most of the heinous crimes are committed. The local security outfit use the motorbikes to access difficult terrains where criminals reigned as terror lords since those locations are not easily accessible.
Not satisfied with its efforts, the State government equally embarked on the clearing of bushes, 40 metres on both sides, along all highways in the state for enhanced visibility for commuters, and curb Highway Crimes.
Another landmark achievement of the present administration was the establishment of the Nigeria Army Forward Operations (NAFO) base at different locations across the State to enhance the security of lives and properties of the people.
Being a consistent advocate of strong connection with the grassroots as a way of curbing insecurity, Gov. Bello also empowered local community chiefs and elders to have formidable vigilance groups around their communities.
Taking cognizance of the fact that insecurity is a fallout of poverty, the Bello administration empowered the youths, as a strategy to redress and redeem the situation.
It’s one strategy that has worked wonders in the state which he proudly preaches to his colleagues to replicate in their respective states.
The administration also engendered inter-religious unity and harmony, and economic growth in the state since he became governor.
Gov. Bello also embarked on several human capital development policies and projects capable of ensuring that the teeming youth the state were gainfully engaged and are not attracted to crime.
He also embarked on the training of able-bodied youths as Forest Guards to protect the forest resources from pilferers.
In order to avert Farmers/Herdsmen clashes, the State Government started a dialogue platform for a free flow of communication between the Government and the herdsmen on one hand and the Communities and herdsmen on the other hand.
This excellent relationship has ensured both farmers and herdsmen are living peacefully together in Kogi State.
Poised to find lasting solutions to the hydra-headed menace, the governor consulted and interfaced widely with critical Stakeholders such as Traditional rulers and religious leaders.
There is no doubt that the sustainable peace and security enjoyed by residents of the state in the last seven and a half years are the resultant effects of the several initiatives evolved by his administration.
According to a 2017 report released by the National Bureau of Statistics, all the efforts of the administration have begun to yield results. Of the 134,663 cases of crime reported, Bauchi, Kebbi and Kogi states had the lowest rates.
Similarly, the World Bank commended the state government on its 2020 audited financial statement, describing the financial report as a standard for transparency and accountability in the public sector.
Bello’s exploits and success stories have earned him and his administration accolades, encomiums and honours.
Most prominent among the several awards from notable and renowned organizations was the award by the Inspector General of Police for his bravity.
The Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN) under the watchful eyes of the President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, also recognized the milestones of Gov. Bello in the security sector making Kogi one of the states with the lowest crime rates in the country.
“When you talk about security, you talk about Governor Yahaya Bello. I know what the security situation used to be before he came on board in Kogi, and I know what it is now.
“It does appear that some political actors want to puncture the strides of the governor in this area, knowing full well what is coming up in 2023. We have only one country we can call our own and that is Nigeria.
“Yahaya Bello is doing wonderfully well in the area of security. Politicians should not undermine their strategy all in the name of politics”, Isiguzo said.
President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mustapha Isa, at the event noted that, “We should not mix politics with the issue of security. When we talk about the worrying insecurity in the country, some governors join us in lamenting, they run to Abuja looking for support. When you ask them, they tell you they are not responsible. So why do they collect security votes monthly?
“One of those who do not lament, but tackle the menace headlong is Governor Yahaya Bello. That is why he is being honoured today. So, I tell our politicians, never mix politics with security. We should support those getting it right like Governor Bello to continue in that line, and also learn from them, not do everything to puncture our gains at the expense of the people.”
The most enduring acknowledgment and commendation came from no less a personality than the immediate past President, and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, General Muhammadu Buhari, during his official visit to Kogi state to commission legacy projects executed by the state government.
Buhari, in a rare salutary remarks, had this to say about Gov. Bello: “I am impressed by the performance of Governor Yahaya Bello. He has done very well in the area of security and projects execution in Kogi State. We are proud of him and we urge him to do more for the people. I am appealing to the people of Kogi State to support him, so he can achieve and deliver more dividends of democracy.”
In conclusion, the Generalissimo has engraved Kogi State on the map of peace and security, thereby leaving behind unassailable footprints in the fight against insecurity.