Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed
Driven by the desire to make governance more inclusive, kwara indigenes hold an event in london which also offered a glimpse of the state of affairs back home, writes HAMMED SHITTU
A tangible feeling of enthusiasm on Friday, October 12, suffused Hilton London Metropole’s function room. The occasion was not a televised football match or the announcement of lottery results. Neither was the government about to drop taxes. Rather, the Kwara State Association of Nigeria United Kingdom and South Ireland (KWASANG), an association of Kwarans living in the UK and Ireland was holding its first convention.
To underscore the importance of the occasion, they had managed to get the state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, who had flagged off a phased programme of engagement with stakeholders within and outside the state, to the convention.
In attendance were top academics, business moguls, school entrepreneurs, medical doctors, management consultants, NGOs and other top professionals. Ahmed, who flagged off a series of engagements with Kwarans within and outside the country and had already met Kwara groups in the US and Netherlands as well as in Lagos, as part of his programme of inclusive governance, also signified the importance attached to the convention also attended with a high-powered delegation with emphasis on investment.
In his team were the Director-General of the State Bureau of Lands, Tope Daramola, Senior Special Assistant on Investment, Strategy and Promotion, Yomi Ogunsola, Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, Raheem Adedoyin, Chief of Staff, Government House, Toyin Sanusi and Senior Special Assistant, Government House, Ibrahim Adeyemi.
It was a feeling that will pervade the two-day event, held according to the chairperson of KWASANG, Hajia Afusat Abdulkadir-Ayo, to provide an opportunity for the Kwarans to positively engage with the state government. “We are looking at sustainable engagement with the state government to create a platform for those who want to come home and but also gain from the government.
We will support the efforts of our brothers and sisters in the United States in the area of health, but we are focussed on engaging with the government in the area of education”, she said, pointing to KSANG US’s support for the state government’s health programmes through provision of free health services and supply of equipment to hospitals and other health institutions.
As if to underscore the emphasis on Education, the Friday event was an education seminar, which according to Abdulkadir-Ayo, was designed to under government’s plans in the sector in order to facilitate mutually-beneficial engagement. Apart from Governor Ahmed, speakers at the session included Mrs. Dolapo Ajakaiye, a trainer, publisher and author, Councillor Adedamola of London’s Lambert Council, Professor Rasheed Na’allah, Vice Chancellor of Kwara State University (KWASU) and Dr. Sunday Popoola, a Research and Teaching Fellow at London’s Imperial College.
And clearly, the discussion that reflected the discussants deep grasp of the issues at stake. In the main the contributions focussed on how to make education in Kwara more functional in terms of equipping graduates with marketable skills, how to incorporate skill acquisition into education and how to sustain education reform.
Prof Na’allah stressed the need to fashion out an education system more suitable to the nation’s development needs. According to him, the educational system bequeathed to the nation was designed to support colonialism with administrative cadre staff and not a generation of productive thinkers and entrepreneurial-minded Nigerians needed for nation-building. Despite fifty-two years of independence, he said, Nigerian education is still stuck in its colonial origins. He advocated a focus on entrepreneurial education in order to create employable youths and job creators who would add value to themselves and to the economy, adding that KWASU had already made Entrepreneurial Education compulsory for students.
Ajakaiye’s presentation dwelt on the need to make Nigerian education more IT-compliant in view of the rapid developments in the sector and its transformative effect on teaching and scholarship in the UK. Also critical to her, was the need to institute sustainable educational reforms rather than adopting an ad-hoc approach.
If anyone expected Ahmed’s presentation to contain the usual platitudes of inviting indigenes to come home and invest, they were surprised. Rather, the governor dwelt on his policy agenda for the people, his Shared Prosperity Programme.
“We are engendering a marriage between focus and pragmatism in a way that will deliver inclusive prosperity to our people in an efficient and equitable manner. To do this, we engaged with our people in order to encourage participation, but also find out what their needs are. We are also leveraging on the concept of continuity by building on where the last administration left off and identifying new areas of policy thrust.
“For example, Kwara State is ahead in the Agriculture Value Chain Management. Having learnt valuable lessons from our New Nigerian Farmers, we plan to transfer the knowledge to our farmers by establishing commercial agriculture ventures in sixty sites across the state. We also pioneered a structured approach to commercial agriculture by signing an MOU for a five-year masterplan with Cornell University, the first with a sub-national, to establish Kwara as the hub for agriculture and create sustainable food security for our people”
Turning to the water and health sectors, he said the state has set itself empirical targets designed to deliver life-changing development projects to the people. On health, he said government is targeting 500-meter accessibility by renovating Ilorin, Offa, Share, Omu-Aran, Ilorin, and Kaiama General Hospitals after which another five will be renovated and another three new ones constructed to ensure enhanced access to affordable, quality healthcare. On water supply, he said 190 communities had been provided with clean portable water as the government nears its target of ensuring no resident travels more than 500 meters to access clean water.
Turning to Education, Ahmed said: “Education is one of the critical areas of focus in Kwara State. We recognised that a solid educational foundation is critical to a child’s development and are restructuring teacher training to ensure it is skewed towards the minimum global standards at basic levels. At the tertiary level, we are have fashioned out how to produce employable graduates with market-relevant skills through a focus on entrepreneurship education and vocational skills.”