Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has told of how some Northern youths had mobilised, ready for reprisals against the South during the recent food blockade in the North.
The situation was fast degenerating until he intervened and convinced the Northern youths to allow peace to reign, the governor told select journalists in Abuja.
But he said his action, though had the backing of the Presidency, did not go down well with at least one state governor and someone close to the seat of power in Abuja.
He did not mention any name, but he said those who faulted his intervention were uninformed.
The Northern youths who had mobilised for reprisals, he said, were sponsored.
He said he had to step in to end the North-South trade blockade because a catastrophe was already looming in the country while the National Assembly, the Governors Forum and other stakeholders failed to address the complaints of traders from the North and the South.
He said he got the backing of the Presidential Villa to broker peace between traders from both sides of the country
On the 2023 presidential primaries, he said there is no zoning clause in the constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He pleaded with APC leaders to leave the primaries open to all eligible party members nationwide.
He expressed confidence that he will defeat any APC presidential aspirant if there is a level playing field at the primaries.
He said: “It will interest you that after the resolution and taking the report to Mr. President yesterday (Thursday), two uninformed (one of them is my colleague and the second one is an uninformed person but unfortunately in the seat of power or close to the seat of power) challenged me that why I did I resolve the issue.
“Why did I resolve the matter? That I should have allowed it so that whatever belongs to the youths of the South, let it suffer, not minding the resultant effects on the country. This is what we have been facing in Nigeria. I am just telling you one all over 100 million of things I know which you even in Abuja don’t know.
“And this is what is holding us back. So, if we are having such persons as leaders in this country, then we are doomed.”
He explained why he decided to mediate between the traders from the North and the South to end the six-day blockade.
His words: “The marketers/traders had protested and written from the lowest authority to the highest, no action was taken. And the next action was to go on strike from #End SARS time up till this moment.
“Before #End SARS, there were a lot of extortions on both sides (from the far North to down South) while transporting these goods by law enforcement agents or touts.
“No response was coming from the Villa. The law enforcement agencies were not responding, the traditional rulers were not saying anything and even we (governors) were not saying anything. Even at our forum, local governments, religious bodies, National Assembly and everywhere they turned to seemed to show less concern. These guys had downed tools. Excess foods in the North were getting rotten but none in the South. The situation got to the extent that a cow that should cost N150,000 to N200,000 was going for as much as N700,000, N800,000 and N1 million within six days. Tomatoes of just about N20 rose to N100 and above.
“Somebody just quickly drew my attention to it that Nigeria was heading towards catastrophe and I should do something.
“While I invited them and we were interacting, I received a call from the Presidential Villa that I should quickly go into the matter. As the youngest governor, as a gateway state, they said I should do everything to move into the matter. Then I moved into the matter and, God willing, the strike was called off.
“There is something I want us to take out of it. Not only the issue of the calamity that would have happened, because if there was no food, the next thing is that some will say we want to retaliate. They will say let the fuel that is coming to the North, the trucks should not come; the goods that were imported and cleared in the South should not move to the North.
“Before we know what is happening, the gulf between the North and the South would have widened. For the youths of the North (I am in touch with a lot of youth groups and associations), information came to my hearing that they were mobilising. They were being sponsored already to begin to mobilize for reprisals within one week.
“If there were no reprisals, those who were ready to cause the trouble for the country and destroy the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would go to one shop, probably the shop they did not send them, and just set it ablaze. And even a kiosk.
“Somebody can just build a kiosk with nothing inside and set it ablaze, cover it and send it to the social media. Before you know what is happening, they will say the Igbo, the Yoruba and other ethnic nationalities in the North are being targeted. And before we know what is happening, it will consume us. It will gradually snowball into that. But all these have been averted.
“I am sure you all know or you have read in history of how the civil war ended. The starvation that went on and what have you. A lot of sentiments were being built.”
Bello, who also spoke elaborately on his presidential ambition in 2023, said it was time for politicians to think of the survival of Nigeria first.
He said if it is the will of God that he should be president in 2023, he will be.
He said APC has no zoning formula in its constitution or the agreement that gave birth to merger talks.
He said the party’s presidential primaries should be open to all the six geopolitical zones in the country.
He however expressed confidence that he will defeat any aspirant at the presidential primaries if there is a level playing field.
He said: “People are saying I am going to contest for the Presidency in 2023. My response simply is this: it is the will of God that I became governor today and I am in my second term. If it is the will of God that I’ll be the President of this country, at the nick of time or at the right time, I will be.
“Let me tell you, winning the election at the primaries as a governor or as an aspirant is not the problem. If a level playing field is provided, I will defeat anybody. I will defeat whoever will confront me on the field that day whether direct or indirect primaries or at the convention. I am confident of that, In Sha Allahu.
“If I’m on the ballot for 2023, I will defeat whoever will confront me. In fact, I am going to record votes that we have never recorded in the history of Nigeria by the grace of God. The margin is what we will be talking about.
“But that is not the issue. What is the issue? The issue is about Nigeria before we talk of 2023. As I speak with you, and I make bold to say it, people are afraid, leaders are afraid. Those who have held the country down, who are still holding the country down today, are afraid. They know I know them. They know I am seeing them. They are afraid that if I should occupy the seat, they will atone for their atrocities. Gaskiya ne (that is the truth)”
Asked to state his position on zoning, Bello said: “There is no zoning arrangement in our party (APC). None that is existing that I know. I don’t think anywhere in the part of our constitution (APC Constitution) there is any arrangement there.
“And in any case, even if there is that understanding on issue of zoning, how much has zoning helped us in this country? For once, let us look for who can fix the problems and then all of the positions can be zoned to satisfy political interests for balancing, for fairness. We can do that. Let the best come.”