The book, ‘KWARA at 50: Achievements and Aspirations’ edited by Dr Abdulwaheed Musa, was last week launched in Ilorin. In this review, -reveals why the book is important

With contributions from eminent citizens of Kwara State, including a former and serving governor, ‘Kwara at 50: Achievements and Aspirations’ is an important contribution to the literature on Nigerian history. In the foreword by Prof Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, the erstwhile Foreign Affairs Minister and former United Nations under secretary-general, contends that the book strikes “a balance between honest self-appraisal of weaknesses and appreciation of strengths.”

To a considerable extent, the book indeed meets that expectation even though one can also dismiss several portions as being essentially promotional which is understandable since it is supported by the state government. Nevertheless, one must commend the efforts of the editor, Dr Abdulwaheed Musa, a lecturer at the Kwara State University (KWASU) who is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, not only for his significant inputs but also for drawing from the experiences and expertise of some prominent professionals from the state to enrich the collection.

The first chapter, an overview of the state in the past 50 years, set a very appropriate tone by presenting Kwara as a melting point where diverse peoples (Nupes, Yorubas, Fulanis, Barubas etc.) have co-existed for decades in harmony. Incidentally, as the writer, Dr Musa also pointed out, the Kwara of today is not the Kwara of 1967. At different times in the past 50 years, some parts of the state have been excised to join Benue, Kogi and Niger States. Despite that, the state still boasts of a landmass that is more than ten times the size of Lagos. But I find it rather curious that the achievements of George Agbazika Innih would be reduced to a mere footnote in the chapter. In fact, in the narrative, Innih’s name was not mentioned at all. This is a clear omission considering the legacy left behind by the late former military governor who gave Kwara State most of its infrastructure.

The chapter by the current Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, quite naturally dwelt on his eight-year stewardship as the immediate past governor of Kwara State and his intervention is somewhat similar to the contribution by his successor and current governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed who was also part of that administration. Readers, I believe, will contest some of their claims. Meanwhile, I find the chapter on taxpreneurship and social contract both insightful and interesting. Incidentally, when Dr Muritala Awodun came to my office to drop the book, he shared some insights with me on how the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the state has improved from N600 million in 2015 to as high as N2.2 by the end of last year.

To the extent that taxes underpin our position as citizens in a society, I have always believed that Nigeria will not develop until we begin to run our country on the basis of taxation rather than oil rent. But I am also aware that it is not enough to tax the people, there must be accountability and transparency in the use to which such taxes are deployed. As Dr Awodun quite correctly captures it, the best way to understand tax is as a social contract: citizens of societies pay their dues in return for mutual benefits from the government in power. That, however, is where the challenge is. With dwindling oil rent, it is becoming very clear to the Nigerian authorities that taxation is the way to go. But there is still no discipline in the manner in which government is run. Yet, social contract presupposes that the accumulated resources from the dues by citizens are used for the advancement of the people. I hope that is the case in Kwara State.

Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Deputy Governor, Dr Sarah Alade, in the first of her two contributions in the book–which centres on policy, process and progress in the economic development and modernisation of Kwara in the last 50 years–spoke to the paradox of low unemployment and acute poverty which afflict the state. This, to her, suggests that majority of the people are either underemployed or are employed in low productive sectors. After examining all the indices, Alade wagers that the latter would most likely be the case which then throws a challenge to those in authority in Kwara State if we must change that sordid narrative.

In the chapter dealing with the business environment jointly authored by Alade and Musa, there is a copious literature on the investments of recent years in the state. Although the chapter deals with such issues as the inventive structures, some of the infrastructural gaps filled, notable investments and the Private Public Partnership (PPP) arrangement through which some were made, the authors raised more questions than they provided answers. For instance, from Harmony Holdings to Shonga Farms, there have been several questions around some of these investments especially as they relate to ownership but because the writers of this chapter adopted an academic approach, readers are offered little in that regard.

Another joint chapter by Dr Silas Dada and Mr Jimoh Ajadi on the mineral resources available in the state not only identified available mineral resources, it proposes five mining districts for investors. But the authors are also very pragmatic in their conclusion. In as much as they see prospects, they also argue that if the right approach is not adopted in the exploitation of these resources, there is the risk that it could cause “poverty through environmental degradations, ecological debt, climate change and human rights violation as is the current scenario in many mining communities and the nation at large, especially in the oil producing areas.”

In the ‘Mineral Wealth of Kwara’, Prof Mosobalaje Oyawoye, a renowned geologist brings his expertise to bear to list 23 rock types which form the geology of the state as well as the different types of minerals that can be found which he classified into four: Metallic, precious, semi-precious and industrial. But since mining is an exclusive federal government responsibility, the eminent professor expresses cautious optimism should the state seek to move in this direction. When added to the earlier fear of the danger associated with mining, especially against the background of the high level of criminality being witnessed in Zamfara State, there is little to suggest this is the road to follow.

The trio of Prof. Olajide Olatinwo, Prof Tnaimola Akande and Dr Emmaneul Opawoye, respected professionals in the field of medical sciences dissected the healthcare system in Kwara State and they did not dissemble.
They make it clear from the outset that for several years, may be even decades, “there has been a breakdown in effective healthcare provision at both the preventive and curative levels which are a major setback in achieving quality healthcare delivery in the state.” With very revealing statistics, the trio examined such issues as Out of Pocket Expenditure which unfortunately happens to be the way we deal with healthcare in Nigeria and the urban-rural needs.

The chapter by Dr Kenneth Adeyemi ordinarily would have been interesting. But perhaps because he took an academic position, Dr Adeyemi tells us very little about the trajectory of tertiary education in a state whose products used to dominate Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in the past. There is also not much information about KWASU beyond some statistics and definitions of what constitute ‘world class university’ that add little value to the discourse.
There is perhaps no one more qualified than Alhaji Yusuf Ali, SAN, to discuss the place of Kwara in the legal profession even though there is a small detail that letter T was omitted from the word, Practice in the headline of his intervention. But that did not detract from the quality of the piece which x-rays not only the history of the legal profession in Nigeria but also examines the bar and the bench in Kwara State from historical perspective.

That there are many members of the inner bar from Kwara is not the story. The real story is that many, including two past presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) reached the pinnacle of their profession while practicing in Kwara. It is also of significant record that Alhaji AGF Abdulrazaq, the first lawyer from the North is a Kwaran, a fact not missed by Ali in his essay.

Dr Ahmad Ali who has had a unique experience of being a lawmaker both at the federal and in the state (where he is now Speaker of the House of Assembly) examines the achievements, challenges and prospects of the legislative arm of government: from passage of bills to the discharge of their oversight responsibilities. In his overview of the Kwara State civil service, former Head of Service, Mr Salman Adelodun Ibrahim, who also had a stint as Secretary to the State Government, decries the use of consultants, especially for what the professionals can do as he reflects on discipline, productivity and work ethics in the service.

In the final section of the book, Mr Hameed Adio, respected sports journalist and commissioner for youths, sports and culture in the state and Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, a former minister for sports and youth development and current National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) complete the picture with their overview of youth and sports development in the state.

With contributions by people of diverse backgrounds and interests, ‘Kwara at 50: Achievements and Aspirations’ may not have told all the story of the past 50 years in the State (well, no one book can), but it is nonetheless a rich collection that future historians will find very useful. I therefore commend Dr Musa for the book that offers perspective readers a window into an understanding of the socio-political developments of Kwara State in the past 50 years.