PUZZLE: Did Yahaya Bello, Kogi governor-elect, start primary school at the age of 9?

PUZZLE: Did Yahaya Bello, Kogi governor-elect, start primary school at the age of 9?
December 09
11:03 2015

The glasses are still clinking to celebrate his unexpected election as the governor of Kogi state, but Yahaya Bello is yet to answer a curious question arising from his CV.

According to the biography in his campaign document while he was seeking the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the businessman-turned-politician was born on June 18, 1975. That will make him the youngest governor in town when he is sworn in on January 27, 2016 to begin a four-year term.

So far, so good.

Then the biography states: “He started his early education in 1984 in LGEA Primary School, Agassa in Okene LGA.”

Pause. If he was born in June 1975, he would normally start his primary education in 1981 – as most of his age mates did. Pupils started primary school at five or six in the post-colonial era.

But the biography says he started his primary school in 1984 – which means he was at least three years behind schedule. By starting in 1984, he was nine years old, and would have been in class with his younger sibling had the parents not decided to make Yahaya the last born in a family of six.


The biography in the campaign document

He should finish primary school in 1990 then – at the age of 15. But instead he entered secondary school in 1989 at the age of 14, probably skipping primary six as it was not uncommon. Indeed, these days, children hardly attend primary six.

But he would have been in JSS1 with his younger ones still – the average age of entrance into JSS1 those days was 11. These days it is 10 or nine, depending on how anxious parents are to celebrate their “genius” children.

Now, let us step it up.

The biography says: “His quest for qualitative education saw him changing schools five times until he finally settled for Government Secondary School, Suleja-Niger State, where he sat for his JSSCE. He came out with flying colours. He continued in the same school for his secondary education and wrote his SSCE Exams in 1994.”

Writing SSCE at the age of 19 should not be considered impossible, although the most common age is 16 to 17. Since he was already three years behind when he started primary school (so says his biography), he would always be in class with his juniors.

But there is a little problem: JSS is three years and SSS is three years, and that should mathematically total six years in secondary school. But he wrote his SSCE in 1994 after entering secondary school in 1989 according to his campaign document, so he actually spent five years in secondary school.

Double promotion? Maybe. But the 6-3-3-4 education system does not provide any room for double promotion, certainly not in the secondary school. But never say never.


The campaign document

Solving the puzzle

How do we solve this puzzle? The best way is to hear from the horse’s mouth. It could be a typographic error, apologies to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), or the work of an overzealous biographer who prepared a document full of superlatives such as: “The greatness in him started manifesting early in his life when he was made the class prefect from class two. The position he held till he was made the school Head Boy in class six due to the leadership qualities identified in him by his peers and teachers.”

All efforts to speak with Bello failed. TheCable requested answers to just two questions: “Did you start primary school at 9? Can you name some of your classmates in primary school?”

‎On December 5, TheCable was at his residence in Okene, Kogi state. One Abdulmalik, who said he is Bello’s chief security officer (CSO), promised to set up an interview with the governor-elect‎. However, the interview never happened as he defaulted on several occasions.

TheCable also sent messages on the issue to the phone of Bello, but ‎he did not respond or acknowledge receipt.

Why lie?

For Bello to have started primary school in 1984, a probability is that he was actually born in 1978 or 1979. People normally reduce their age in order to gain some undue advantage – so why would he inflate his?

It is statutory for a candidate seeking elective office to tender his particulars to the electoral commission, which will then display them at its office. But TheCable observed that Bello’s particulars were not displayed at the INEC headquarters in Kogi state.

To be eligible to contest for governorship, the law requires that the candidate must be at least 35 years old. Section 177 of the 1999 constitution says: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if (b) he has attained the age of thirty-five years.”

If he was born in 1978, he would be 37, so he would still be eligible to contest. He did not have to increase his age to qualify.

That is the puzzle.

Someone increased his age before. In 1999, Salisu Buhari, the first speaker of the house of representatives in the fourth republic, was caught tampering with his date of  birth. Although he was born on Janaury 3, 1970 – which meant he was not qualified to contest for the house of representatives because he was below 30 – he claimed to have been born in 1963.

Whereas he left Kings College, Lagos, in 1986 at 16, he claimed in his CV that he was 23 at the time.

He was eventually forced to resign as it also emerged that he did not possess a degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, as he had claimed.

Having lied under oath – he submitted the documents with sworn affidavit to the electoral commission – he came under intense pressure from his colleagues and had to resign and quit the national assembly. He was tried for perjury and forgery and given a mighty slap on the wrist – N2,000 fine to be specific.

While Bello is still savouring his victory, satisfactory answers to the puzzle could make the celebration sweeter.


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Social Comments


  1. Hilary Egwuagu
    Hilary Egwuagu December 09, 11:48

    I don’t know if Bello got his Primary education mixed up. For the avoidance of doubt I do not know Bello and do not speak for him, but I want to fault your analogy of his secondary school. I like Bello started secondary school education in 1989 and completed June/July 1994, so his Secondary education timeline is correct. The school calendar started in January 1989, so you need to include 1989 in your year count. (January 1989 – Dec 1994 is 6 years). Besides at 40, Bello should be 1992/1994 Scondary School set rather than 1994.

    Reply to this comment
    • omoboy
      omoboy December 11, 14:23

      If the starting academic session is 1988/89,then six years is complete but if the starting session is 1989/90, then it falls short by one year. Academic year now does not start from January and ends in December. It is between September and July of the following year.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Frank
    Frank December 09, 12:22

    Agent of distruction. una don start again. Yahaya Bello is my mate in school. I started Primary education in 1984 and I was born in 1975.

    I got my ssce in 1994. I went to ABU in 1996 and graduated 2001 bc I did engineering.

    Leave Bello alone.

    Reply to this comment
    PABIEKUN December 09, 17:12

    Awon alatinga tun tide. PHD – They never pray for the good of anybody but themselves. Please leave Bello alone God is at work – do not disturb

    Reply to this comment
  4. Goddo
    Goddo December 09, 18:14

    I align my self 100% with the comments of Hillary. I don’t know Bello from Adam but like him, I was born in 1975. Unlike him I started primary school in 1982 and completed in 1988. My secondary school started in JANUARY 1989. I was in 1991 that the school calendar was changed (in my state, at least) from running Jan-Dec to September – July. In order to make up, Saturdays were made school days that year. Eventually, I sat SSCE in May/June 1994.
    The Cable is a serious organisation, so don’t peddle unfounded allegations, please.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Kokoro Dudu
    Kokoro Dudu December 09, 21:21

    Una don’t come again. I don’t know Bello from anywhere but I know my dad started secondary school January 6, 1989 and finished June 1994. In 1991, the January to December program was changed so JSS3 was just two terms. And then those who did Jamb and passed in 1994 didn’t enter school until November 1995 because NUC had to cancel a whole university session (94/95) because of strikes.

    Reply to this comment

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