By George Oyedepo

The game of politics is always changing and it always boils down to interests. This is why politicians are considered untrustworthy, shifty and dodgy. When politicking candidates are given allowance as politicians, immediately they win, the allowance goes and nobody accepts their politicking anymore. They have become government who must not twist or turn and who must be forthright including fulfilling the promises from the time of the twist and turn.

When campaigning and during elections, politicians consider self-interest or interest of political stakeholders relevant to them. When they win elections and form government, they are expected to do all they do and govern in the interest of the people. President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have tried to change this system. They came to power in 2015 after campaigning not on the interest of politicians but on the interest of the people. Though there were many with them who were with them in their own interest, the country believed Buhari was only interested in the interest of the people. Four years after, people believe more that he is in the interest of the people. People blame APC’s misfortune and disorganization on a president who abandoned the party and politics for the people. A president who acted more as the leader of a nation than the leader of his party. This was frustrating for the politicians in his party, but he did not change. He did not interfere or speak till Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Shehu Sani and many others left the party and he still did not interfere.

When it was time for re-election, the party and politicians were afraid and some were telling him he made a mistake not to politick and pay attention to the party because it was in disarray and some had left and the support base was weak. The President refused to make appointments based only on allegiance to the APC. He did not award juicy contracts and oil blocks to party faithful. People were wondering where the money for election will come from when the faithful and party structure had not been oiled or “empowered”. But because he kept the interest of the people at heart instead of the vested interests in the party, he won election again.

President Buhari’s only stain on his “interest of the people” reputation is the albatross of Kogi State. It is widely believed that he brought Yahaya Bello to power and has sustained him in power. Bello proudly and arrogantly claims ‘sonship’ to the President and does not fail to remind everybody everything he is doing has presidential backing. When the president returned from London, he was the only one to declare a Public Holiday. He frequents the Aso Rock Villa to visit with the President. Rumour has that it was he who bought the president’s expression of interest in re-election form. Rumour also says he was high in consideration for marriage to one of the president’s daughter. It is widely believed that once Federation Allocation is shared in Abuja, Bello who spends almost all of his time in Abuja does not take it to Kogi that it was meant for.

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The only blemish on the President and his family’s reputation in Kogi is why a father who is interested in the people does not call his ‘son’, Yahaya Bello to order? The only blame on the President in Kogi is that he has said and done nothing for almost four years that Bellohas not paid salaries, that he has been inflicting untold hardship on the people and that many have died suffering because of Yahaya Bello. Is it that in Kogi the President chose politics over people? Is it that the cries and smell of death from suicide and sickness from non-payment of salaries doesn’t get to the Aso Rock Villa? Is it that the President who feels the pains of civil servants in other states does not feel the pains and anguish of those in Kogi? Must all in Kogi die before their voices are heard?

Or is it that this time, the president has chosen “vested interest” above “people interest”? For a president whose best credential is not only that he does not like corruption as shown in the body language and confusion of ‘Gandollar’ or ‘Gandujegate’, on national TV he was reluctant to raise Ganduje’s hand. We hear he did not even want to go to Kano. We hear he was privately angry to associate with Kano. But the votes are in Kano, yet he chose the people over the politics. Can’t we see the party almost lost Kano? In Ogun, he refused to assist his former best friend from the South-west to pervert the will of the people. When Governor Ibikunle Amosun hosted a rally and tried to pressure the president to support his own candidate, the people’s president raised the hand of the APC candidate, but told the people to vote who they think will be best for them. President Buhari refused to bow to the vested interests of the party, or the vested interest of Governor Amosun.

His former best and only political ally in the South-east- the very Hausa-speaking Governor Rochas Okorocha ran to Abuja many times looking for presidential salvation against the party. The people’s president did not interfere.

So why is he seemingly supporting Bello when all are crying and begging him to save and rescue them from Bello? Why is the revelation of N1.86 Billion fake contract, #Ganajagate not enough for the president to disown Yahaya Bello? Why is the blood of the departed and the sorrow of the survivors from Bello’s reign not enough to move the presidency to save the rest of Kogi people form death and sorrow? Why will the presidency allow the infliction of fear hunger, sickness and death to continue in Kogi? Kogites accept their fate of weakness and fear of the presidency. But they have no fear or weakness of Yahaya Bello without the president. Yahaya Bello even recently told them that APC the National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu respects him because he is a ‘son of President Muhammadu Buhari.’

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Left to the Buhari we know, Yahaya Bello will not even contest primaries in Kogi. He will not be permitted. President Buhari said “he does not know how governors go to sleep without paying salaries,” but Yahaya Bello his son is sleeping well under the President Buhari’s protection without paying salaries. Is it because in Kogi, for the President, it is politics, not people? Or vested Yahaya Bello interest not people interest? Has the President given up the burden of the father of the nation in Kogi to make a choice to be father of Yahaya Bello? Is it that everywhere He is for all and belongs to no one, but in Kogi, he is for Bello and belongs to Bello?

In Oyo state, the long-time close friend and political ally of the president since their Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) days, Adebayo Shittu, a former governorship aspirant in Oyo State CPC became Minister of Communications. From the first day he gave the governor trouble, but because of his closeness to President, the President showed his usual character of being steadfast to his friends and kept him as Minister. Soon allegation of financial impropriety and lack of paying his assistants their salaries which is what this president has worked against in the states were made. President Buhari still stood with his friend. He did not do NYSC. He confessed it. He was not sacked. He was not told to follow the example of Kemi Adeosun and go quietly, no the president kept him because the president does not bow to vested interest. When the primaries for Oyo state came, Shittu was not even allowed. Those that went to Oyo to for screening said he didn’t qualify. The president didn’t come to his aid, he allowed the will and interest of the people. Now the APC has lost Oyo state because the president said the interest of the people should prevail.

But in Kogi, is it Bello’s interest or people interest? The president has a good opportunity to show example by denying Yahaya Bello and telling him if he is truly a son, he will not disgrace and spoil his father’s name and so he should not contest. He should not contest not because there is fear he can win, but because there is fear presidency is behind him. There is concern that his do or die attitude will be on ground. He should not contest not because he can win because he can never win. If he only ten people vote, Bello will still lose elections. He should not contest so that there will be no loss of life in Kogi. He should be stop because of those who will be dead because of him.

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Openly condemning what Yahaya Bello has done and plans, denying him the ticket is the only message from the presidency and APC that can be loud in Kogi. Is the only message that cannot be misinterpreted by Bello’s militia. It is the only message that can assuage the pain of many. It is the only message that can assuage the pain of the sick, and workers who have not been paid, some of them for years, the pain of children who have not been to school because teachers have not been paid and parents have not been paid; so no school fees for private school, to assuage the pains and sorrow across Kogi from East to Central to West; all over Kogi. Mr. President, please prove those who believe in you right, prove those who say Bello has been lying that you endorse him and all his actions right, prove that like Katsina, the interest of the people in Kogi is paramount and above the vested interest of Yahaya Bello to you. You gave him money to save lives, he didn’t not give the money. Your Excellency, Mr. President, please don’t give Yahaya Bello the APC governorship ticket in Kogi. Please erase this dark spot on your reputation as burden bearer and father of the nation instead of those who choose vested interest and politics instead of people and people interest. Bello brings sadness and pain. He brings heartache and tears. Mr. President, assist Kogi, assuage their pains and wipe their tears, take Yahaya Bello away. Let this Yahaya Bello cup pass over Kogi.

This is not the time to be silent. This is your legacy, Mr. President. The nation wants to remember you for rescuing people. It is time to rescue Kogi. They voted for you because of you. They voted against you because of Yahaya Bello. You won elections because of you, the margin was not more because of Bello.

(C) Thisday