Home Opinion Thanking Governor Yahaya Bello for a perfect match in Onoja

Thanking Governor Yahaya Bello for a perfect match in Onoja


By John Mayaki

When people repeat the familiar refrain that “politics is a dirty game”, they mean it is an arena where desperate ambition makes unabashed opportunists out of men. Otherwise honorable people, seized by a consuming desire to retain power and advance self, resort to self-serving plots that observe no values except to get ahead – no matter the cost.

Credits are taken, headlines are hugged, and turf gets stolen. This grim reality looms large in Nigeria’s winner-takes-all brand of politics, and it complicates the relationship between elected officials and their running mates cum deputies.

Take state politics for instance where Deputy Governors are selected based largely on their personal political heft. They are often products of cold, pragmatic calculations and must possess certain uniqueness and strength that enable a powerful coalition capable of winning the most number of votes. This is the case in most democracies.

Interestingly, however, the same factors are precisely what make deputies dangerous. In power, most want to run their own show. The structure is already there, or so they believe. Their loyalty caves under the strain of ambition and vanishes with the corrupting influence of power.

An understanding of this is what makes Chief Edward Onoja, the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, an exceptional character. A man of supreme talent with a renowned knack for numbers and strategy, he has become a totem of undivided loyalty in Nigeria’s political minefield of shifting allegiances.

Charismatic and dashing, Chief Edward Onoja has shown himself to be from a time when men had honor, even in politics, and served faithfully and exclusively in the interests of their principals.

For some of us who lived through and grew to value such a time, there is the accusation of a zealous search for traces of its survival which in turn makes us vulnerable to over-hyping any available semblance. It is an accusation that holds some merit. But it is just not the case here. Chief Edward Onoja brings back the lost art of loyalty.

He fights the cause of his principal in public and elevates him in private. He operates under the belief that their destiny is shared, and as such, when the boat is rocked in the face of hard reforms and pushback from corrupt overlords who felt the fury of a Yahaya Bello intent on unclasping their suffocating grip from the treasury and well-being of the state, Onoja does not look for the exit. Instead, he grabs the paddle and helps steady the boat, like a true partner.

Some credit is due here to Governor Yahaya Bello for his selection of a man who understood the mission and what was at stake. It reflects his own intelligence and careful assessment. In Onoja, he found a partner who not only offered representational balance, but a principled man who shares his fundamental values of honesty, authenticity, and using public office to effect positive changes – not for selves, but for the people.

Trusting his choice, the governor in an almost unprecedented fashion, at least not in recent times, did not shackle his partner or place him on a leash. He set him loose, entrusting him with important mandates and responsibilities that explored the full breadth of his talents. Onoja did not betray the trust.

His loyalty, in turn, helped unburden his principal. Perhaps this is the greatest reward of Onoja’s devotion, even if less talked about. Knowing that he can always count on Onoja, Governor Bello is free from the time-consuming, resource-intensive game of routinely consolidating power and quelling internal mutiny. Ask anyone with a fair understanding of Nigeria’s politics and they will tell you how many ideas and productive hours are lost to the tense exercise of keeping a mutinous deputy at bay.

The freedom from such distractions contributed in no small measure to the mounting success of the administration. And even today, with Governor Bello setting his sights on the country’s top job, emboldened by his achievements at the state level, his chief strategist and mobilizer remains the same man who helped him set the stage with the incredible feat of transforming a state many had written off as a basket case.

It is a love story, a tribute to a time past when words mattered and loyalty was not just a buzzword for media interviews. They don’t make men like Onoja anymore.

It is a love story, a tribute to a time past when words mattered and loyalty was not just a buzzword for media interviews. They don’t make men like Onoja anymore.

Mayaki is a Journalist, Historian, Diplomat, Archivist, Documentalist, Communication, Culture and Media expert (Coventry University, England). He’s also an Oxford and Cambridge University-trained entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability expert. A Professional Consultant on Communication, Management and Strategy (Chattered Management Institute, England).


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