By Adesoro Olamide
Nigerian youngest governor, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, stepped up into the saddle of leadership with a burden to achieve a positive change for his people. His various decisions and activities since then brooks no illusions that it is in no longer business as usual, but rather business unusual. He captures his vision in a piquant phrase, New Direction. However, the determined Chief Executive is not our immediate focus in this piece, but his pretty, value-prolific wife and First Lady of Kogi State, Her Excellency, Mrs Rashida Yahaya Bello.
We have no idea, how much planning went on between husband and wife in the closet, but if Kogi State people wondered about what dimension and elements the Governor’s New Direction would prove to be, they didn’t have to wait for one hundred days before the supportive wife of the Governor unfolded new portals in First Ladyship to Kogi people, that brought forth a refreshing grassroots development model; giving expression to the New Direction, and was also in itself green in human empathy. It is unlikely that there ever was First Lady who would empower Forty Two (42) women at once, across the twenty one (21) Local Government Areas of Kogi State in less than two (2) months of assuming office.
And that to be rapidly followed by the commissioning of ultra-modern Primary Health Care Centers in the three sensational districts of the State, at Ekirin Adde, in Ijumu LGA, Amonyokwu Ogugu in Olamaboro LGA, and Agassa in Okene LGA, all of which were accompanied by medical equipment, drugs, delivery beds, lighting facilities, generator sets, furnishing for both doctors and patients, cleaning equipment and mosquito nets. Additionally, the same occasion afforded her the opportunity to distribute exercise books to school children. Welcome to a rapid plethora of grassroots initiatives and development that blazes trial in so many measurable ways!
To structuralize her vision and dreams for effective implementation and networks, she immediately founded the Kogi Women and Youth Advancement Foundation (KOWYAF) that quickly defined her primary focus. When KOWYAF hit town, Kogi widows, orphans, women, the physically challenged and the vulnerable erased all doubts that a New Direction has indeed arrived in Kogi State.
Across the twenty one (21) local government areas reverberated sustainable interventions. When Mrs Rashida Bello is not at Mom Orphanage in Crusher or Garba Ohiani Orphanage in Zango Daji, she is in others at Victory Orphanage in Ajaokuta, One Soul, One Heart in Okura and God’s Will Orphanage, Anyigba donating food items. If she is not at Government House Kogi State, attending to the physically challenged, then she must be on the streets, championing the enlightenment campaign to eradicate sickle cell anemia, conducting free genotype screening, free counseling or vaccination, or taking children off the streets. She even powered an awareness programme tagged “Power Your Life” during which lectures on the eradication and or reduction of Hepatitis were delivered. Wherever the sick and needy is found, there goeth the First Lady.
Even more stirred by her experiences on the streets, she initiated another subsidiary of KOWYAF, Direct Reach Out Project (DROP) that spreads its development tentacles to all nooks and crannies in Kogi State. Her focus as usual is the grassroots. To that extent, economic empowerment, direct intervention and poverty alleviation have been the preoccupation of DROP. Over ten thousand (10,000) people of Kogi state have benefited from this ongoing concern.
Her Excellency’s list of interventions is endless and the world would need to know about them. But at the moment it is imperative to reflect on the nature of her territorial choice of interventions as First Lady, which ties to her intrinsic value and person of unrelieved passion and empathy. Mrs Rashida Yahaya Bello is a pragmatist that believes in realistic and substantial value contribution to the lives of the under privileged.
On assumption of office, she immediately felt touched and empathized with the prevailing parlous condition of living of the grassroots people of Kogi State. Although a very young lady, she bore on her kind shoulder the burden of the vulnerable of Kogi State with maternal determination; driving a grassroots development agenda with gusto. She could have chosen the elitist option of endless talk shops and seminars that eventually end up on the shelves. But instead, she hits the streets! It is this unusual empathy and prolific drive to bettering the lots of grassroots Kogi people that marks her out as a role model. For Mrs Rashida Bello, the New Direction is one that equalizes development and empowerment between the vulnerable and the fortunate in the society. Her overriding vision is to see these disadvantaged ones empowered and educated to enhance their productivity levels and create wealth and happiness within the milieu of a healthy environment.
She has also made her mark in finding a traction for youth participation in politics. Traction for youth participation in politics has remained largely elusive till date. The unending and often non-empirical disputations around the issue of youths in politics have been baseless.
Much of it has suffered from faulty syllogism, hasty generalization and extreme posturing. The resonance has been mostly this way; once you are a youth, you inherently qualify to participate and produce results. The disingenuous posturing here is that being a youth confers automatically on the individual the capabilities, competences and experience to produce the desired result, especially in politics and governance; so you hear statements like: give the youths a chance and they would do better; things are this way because youths are not the ones taking decisions, etc. Youthfulness therefore guarantees quality leadership.
We must begin to return the conversation towards empirical and real time contributions that reflect measurable capabilities, competences and experience as a basis for youth participation in politics, governance and leadership. To that extent, I lay it down as a natural principle of dialectics therefore that the most sensible and convincing argument to advance the cause of youths in the extant matter is to produce genuine exemplars in that respect. In the same direction, I find no better current model than Mrs Rashida Yahaya Bello, Her Excellency, the First Lady and Wife of the Executive Governor of Kogi State.
Not surprisingly therefore, she has caught the attention and admiration of notable personalities and organizations like the Future Assured Programme of the Wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha Buhari and USAID who partners with her KOWYAF for their Centre For Integrated Health Programme as well as for the Safe Nets Programme, for which she was made the Safe Net Ambassador to Kogi State in addition to several awards like the Kogi Woman of Inspiration Award, Media Nite Out Award, Most Outstanding First Lady of the Year Award, Grand Matron of Wellcare Initiative Award for Best Humanitarian Service, Kogi Leadership Award, Inspirational Women Empowerment and Leadership in Africa Award, Heart of Gold Award, and so on.
We obviously have not heard the last from this prolific grassroots developer.
Olamide is Senior Special Assistant on Media to Kogi State First Lady