When the White Lion is haunted by its past, it is a bad omen. And when the White Lion is hunted by the Red Eagle, the omen is still bad. 

I read a piece by a journalist—Akin Owolabi—where he observed that Yahaya Bello is fondly referred to as the White Lion of Kogi due to his ability to take bold decisions. Indeed, if recent reports are anything to go by, Bello took some “bold decisions”, and in quick succession. 

Having finished his tenure as Kogi State Governor, Bello’s garment of immunity dropped from his skin. By operation of law, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Red Eagle, began to hunt the White Lion so he could answer to the allegations leveled against him. N80.2 Billion money-laundering charge is as heavy as it sounds.

The Siege

Reportedly, the EFCC laid siege at Bello’s Abuja residence on 17 April 2024 for the purpose of arresting him. One of the “bold decisions”, as we are told,  made by the White Lion was to resist arrest. The other decision was to allegedly reach out to his successor-in-office whose garment of immunity is still intact. The White Lion was technically wrapped under this protective garment and “spirited away”. In its report, EFCC stated:

The Commission’s attempt to execute the Warrant of Arrest lawfully obtained against Bello met stiff resistance on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. The security cordon around the former governor’s residence in Abuja was breached by the current Governor of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, who  ensured that the suspect was spirited away in his official vehicle. As a responsible law enforcement agency, the EFCC exercised restraint in the face of the provocation, waiting for his arraignment on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

The Bad Omen

The office of the Executive Governor of a State is a highly respectable office. It is expected that a person who ascends such office must be a person of excellent character and worthy reputation. By definition, the person must be a person who is civil, law-abiding, and without criminal blemish. This accounts for one of the reasons the person is constitutionally required to swear an oath to abide by the Constitution and laws of the land. Upon being sworn into office, the person will be addressed as “His Excellency”. Even after leaving office, an ex-governor often retains this title.

A person bearing the title of “His Excellency” is not expected to have any excellence in criminal allegation (of N80.2 Billion money laundering) hanging over his neck. It is an embarrassing situation. Worse still, no Excellency is expected to be a fugitive from justice. 

Having successfully resisted the advances of the Red Eagle as alleged, the White Lion has reportedly disappeared into thin air. But one should expect that the Red Eagle—the King of the Sky—would have no difficulty locating what is lost in the air, although having being reportedly “spirited away”, the difficulty seems understandable. The eagle is no spirit. If it was, the Super Eagles of Nigeria would have easily “spirited away” the African Nations Cup from Cote d’Ivoire, wouldn’t it? Nevertheless, the EFCC has reportedly declared Bello WANTED. Other agencies of the Government have followed suit.

I read the official statement from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation condemning the development. The erudite legal luminary, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN said:

…A situation where public officials who are themselves subject of protection by law enforcement agents will set up a stratagem of obstruction to the civil and commendable efforts of the EFCC to perform its duty is to say the least, insufferably disquieting… I therefore encourage anyone who has been invited by the EFCC or any other agency to immediately toe the path of decency and civility by honouring such invitation instead of embarking on a temporising self-help and escapism that can only put our country in bad light before the rest of the world.

The report of the alleged role of Bello’s successor-in-office raises grave concerns too. If embarking on a temporising self-help and escapism can put Nigeria in a bad light before the rest of the world, what do we say about a sitting governor allegedly masterminding such escapism? 


Ironically, the decision to flee from justice is not a bold decision. If the White Lion must live by its name, it must bravely proceed to the abode of the Red Eagle and march to the Court. Or should we believe that the White Lion is afraid to face the “legal onslaught” led by the fearless Dr. Kemi Pinheiro SAN? I believe Justice Emeka Nwite is waiting to conduct a fair trial. Justice delayed, justice denied.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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