June 18, (THEWILL)- The Public Relations arm of the political structure of the current Governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello, appears to have made a young demographic the focus of the forward-moving train that Bello intends to ride on. To this end, they have not stopped courting influential sportsmen that the youths idolise to put the weight of their influence behind the Governor.
The most recent double instances of this push were covered by THEWILL and all three have involved athletes dropping by to visit the Kogi Governor upon their arrival back into the country in mostly very public display of association, conviviality and support.
The first of these recent visits was by the most accomplished athlete of all, the reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion, the Nigerian-American professional mixed martial artist and former freestyle wrestler, Kamarudeen “Kamaru” Usman.
When he fulfilled his promise of touching base with the motherland on Thursday, June 10, which he announced after defeating Gilbert Burns, his long-time teammate and two-time No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu World Champion, in April, Usman visited Bello, who received him in company of officials of the State and posed for pictures with the championship Belt straddling a shoulder.
That was followed by a Sunday, June 13 visit by the former Super Eagles captain, Mikel Obi, who met Bello in Abuja. It was an opportunity for the long-time midfield star of the English Premier League UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea to harp on the need for youth leadership in Nigeria.
It bore a distinctly political undertone because Obi, who spent the just concluded season in the English Championship side Stoke City, was widely lauding the strides of achievements of Bello across areas of security, healthcare, infrastructure, education and agriculture and concluded that it was time for the youths to come out and take leadership positions across all boards for the betterment of Nigeria.
If those political allusions were not clear enough, Obi strengthened it further when he said: “My main aim is to come here to show my appreciation and to thank him for all the things he has been doing for the people and also to support him in whatever future political positions he wants to go into.
“I would like to be there to support him, to be there by his side through this journey for him to achieve whatever he wants which is for the betterment of Nigeria.”
And, now, for the third time this month, Bello has welcomed to his reception, another sports star in the person of the Super Eagles forward and online sensation, Kelechi Iheanacho at the Kogi statehouse.
Iheanacho’s spectacular end to last season that saw him bring a winning phase to the Leicester side and won him player-of-the-month and goal-of-the-month accolades coincided with humorous video clips of banter between Leicester’s two Super Eagles’ players, Wilfred Ndidi and Iheanacho.
They popularised the “cut soap for me” street slang that asked for a portion of one’s goodwill so as to become as successful as the one doing the soap-cutting. And it was always Ndidi hilariously asking Iheanacho, nicknamed “Seniorman Kelz”, to “cut soap” for him so that he could deliver the kinds of performances Iheanacho was putting in.
And so, when he visited the Kogi Governor, Bello, who expressed his delight at seeing Iheanacho and congratulated the 24-year-old on his FA Cup win with Leicester City, Bello’s social media handlers quickly posted on his official Facebook page: “Finally, Senior Man Kells Kelechi Iheanacho don cut soap for me!
“It is always a pleasure to meet a teaming, Patriotic, Vibrant #nigerian #Youth.
“Congratulations once again on your #facup win”
Again, it was clear to see the tie-in with the youth, with the young, upwardly mobile, decidedly open to the influence of sports and the stars from the homefront that are popular and can sway opinions which can all work for the open ambition of the Governor to contest the next presidential elections.
These three are only the latest in a long line of football stars that have been received by Bello
The list includes, but is not limited to, Austin “Jay-Jay” Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Tijani Babangida, Garba Lawal and clearly highlights the target of clout and influence as Bello tries to appeal to youths.
These three of Usman, Obi and Iheanacho are more of the newer generation of young, groovy and informed youth and demonstrate the insistent pursuit of a category of influential individuals to drive his message across that he will be the champion for the youths and that it was time for a youthful rebuilding of the political landscape.
Bello tends to believe this will begin with him and he is courting these sports stars to help him push out that message and bring attention to his political ambitions. The next elections do not hold until February 23, 2023 and he will need to be the flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket before he can be considered but, there has never been a bad time to start early.