Guest Columnist By Issa Aremu
A week ago, I made a declaration in Ilorin, offering myself to lead the electoral process in liberating Kwara state from the shackles of underdevelopment, hunger and mass poverty as the fourth democratically elected governor of the State in the present democratic dispensation.
It was a humbling experience to share with the people legitimate concern for the development of Kwara State. It was also a moment of shared hope and optimism.
The lesson for me is that today might seem uncertain, the people still believe that, God willing, tomorrow can and will indeed be better.
Despite lack of money and pervasive income poverty, the people took various means of transport (notably Okada, Keke and unworthy taxis) on the notorious Ilorin roads (read; pot holes) to be there. Despite deep worries about children who graduated from schools without jobs they found time to be there. Their children have all the degrees – BSc, MSc, sundry diplomas, PhDs but they lack the real thing: JOB and WORK!
Some of my working comrades, sisters and brothers are unacceptably not paid salaries, yet they borrowed money to be counted. Many workers are callously paid in percentages as low as 50 or 60 per cent of wages. Kwara state government seems to legitimise wage theft especially of some local governments employees, contrary to the decent work agenda of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of which Nigeria has been a member since 1961. And that is despite the commendable bailouts offered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In spite of the legitimate worries about sick relatives unable to pay out of pockets they still found time to be present. Many were called. Many appreciatively turned up at the shortest notice. The patriotism and remarkable commitment towards a better Kwara is worthy of salutation. All the worries about poor governance in Kwara call for action. The Kwara people should get out of slumber and murmurs. They should organize and stop agonising.
Kwara State was created on May 27, 1967 by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. Kwara is one of the first generation states that include Rivers, Kano and Lagos states. Last year, the first generation states celebrated their 50th anniversary. Lagos commendably celebrated at 50 with upbeat signature projects, year long-mass fanfare with tangible achievements. It was the same for Rivers and Kano. But Kwara at 50 was ‘marked’ almost unnoticed by the government
At 50, the Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed- led administration- led administration listed unity, peace and development as the achievements of Kwara at 50. Other listed achievements include the federal, state and private universities, industries, an emerging aviation hub, advanced health facilities, modern recreational facilities, and comparatively good infrastructure. Why then the ”low-key” celebration?
From the various contributions of the discussants on the STATE OF (KWARA) STATE, which preceded the historic declaration, it was clear that contrary to official propaganda, Kwara suffers huge development deficits. Our state urgently begs for development and salvation from bad governance. The 2019 gubernatorial election offers a unique historic opportunity to reclaim the state.
While seeking the ticket of the Labour Party, I humbly offer to lead Kwara state through selflessness, statesmanship, entrepreneurship, compassion, managing diversity, equality, inclusiveness, sense of justice and fairness. Indeed my stewardship will be a continuation of my selfless and tested struggle within the national, African and global labour movement spanning four decades.
The 1999 Federal Constitution of Nigeria espouses eloquently in Chapter II the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state dealing with equity and fairness. Section 14b of the Constitution says the primary purpose of government is security and welfare of citizens. These robust constitutional provisions are observed in the breach in Kwara state. My first task is to secure the territorial integrity of Kwara state against external predators who through endless states creations had Balkanized our state. Our first task is to reclaim Kwara from extinction through visible activist proactive statesmanship.
In the 1980s, Kwara state had an average of 4.8 million people with an area of about 73,000 square kilometers (making it the fifth largest state in the Federation as at August 26, 1991). The state had since been reduced considerably in size as a result of serial state creation exercises in Nigeria. No thanks to the least resistance of successive leaders in Kwara state in recent times. In 2006 census, the population of Kwara was 2.37 million, half of what it was in 1980s, 1.69% of the Nation’s total population, 30th position in the league of states compared to its fifth position before. Its present land mass is 36, 825 km compared to 73,000 square kilometers in the 1980s.
We offer to give Kwara a new bold accountable leadership that will promote national integration and oppose endless agitations for states as venues for loot by few leaders.
Despite the spirited efforts of Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, Under-Secretary-general and special adviser to the UN Secretary-General and co-chair of 2014 Confab and myself as a labour delegate, Governor Ahmed Fatai could not produce a single document on the position of Kwara state in the Federation.
Under our stewardship, Kwara would reclaim its identity as the gate way to both the geographical north and geographical south of our great nation. God willing, we will offer leadership to revive the old network of sisterhood, brotherhood and friendship Kwara state within the context of building a united, caring indivisible developed Federal Republic of Nigeria. Kwara would be partner NOT obstacle to nation building.
Secondly, Kwara under our stewardship would unbundle arrested development, which hitherto started at creation. The other three original states namely Rivers, Kano and Lagos are among the top 10 high GDP states. Kwara miserably ranks 28th on the ranking of states by GDP beaten to it by even newest states like, Imo, Edo and Oyo states. Under our governance, Kwara will return to the path of productivity through re-industrialisation and mass decent jobs. At creation, Kwara was the fastest growing state with bold Development Plan through Kwara State First Development Plan (1970 – 74/75) in May, 1970 (within the context of the country’s second National Development Plan (1970 – 1975) and Second Kwara State Development Plan (1975 – 1980). The plans laid solid foundations for accelerated economic growth, increased productivity in agriculture providing favourable climate for industrial development and improving the quality of life of the people through the provision of necessary infrastructure.
Kwara must return to development planning and impress on the federal government within the Council of States to improve on national planning and national vision within the context of Africa Union (AU) 2063. Industries would be revived with mass decent jobs. Kwara must once again become investment/job destination.
In the 70s, Kwara state with productivity and enterprise of Kwara farmers was food secured. We used to produce eagle rice exported to other states of the Federation. Kwara State under our leadership will support thousands of Kwara farmers not few absentee foreign farmers whose products are not on daily menu of most Kwarans. Investment charity must start with our hard working people.
Kwara state, just like Nigeria federation, has no business with poverty. It is unacceptable that 76 per cent poverty level of Kwara is above national average of 68 per cent. We have identified as many as 22 viable projects in our great state, ranging from marble processing to fruit juice, from sugar-cane refinery to cashew nuts processing. There will be state -led industrialisation. Our vision is to have industry in each of the 16 LGAs. A Labour Party government in Kwara will reinvent the obsolete infrastructure; encourage ease of doing business as well as ease of working and living. We will get the increasing army of unemployed to work. Private sector is the ‘engine’ of growth. But government must retool the private sector engine knocked down by bad governance. Kwara used to be the cesspool of human capital with skills and integrity, which built the old Northern region and Nigeria in general.
Eminent great religious scholars and educationists include late Sheik Adam-el-Ilory, Sheik Mohammed Kamaldeen, and David Oyedepo, Rev Gorge Adegboye, cleric. Eminent jurists are Kwarans; Alhaji A.G.F. Abdulrazaq (SAN) is the first lawyer to take silk in the whole of Nigeria’s North. His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, is a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal. Late Justice Saidu Kawu, was a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salma (SAN). The Belgore family has made notable contributions to law; Justice Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice of the Federation and Justice M.B. Belgore, retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, whose two children are also lawyers, including M.D. Belgore, SAN. Respected retired President of Court of Appeal, Comrade late Justice Mustapha Akanbi also successfully pioneered headed the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Others are Lateef Fagbemi SAN, Layi Babatunde SAN. Notable professionals also include Alhaji Razak Jaiyeola, 54th president, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). The Emir of Shonga, Alhaji (Dr.) Haliru Ndanusa Yahaya is a notable medical doctor. Notable statesmen and politicians include, late S A Olawoyin, late Abubakar Olusola Saraki, late General Tunde Idiagbon, late General Abdulkari Adisa, Late Rear Admiral (rtd) Mohammed Alabi Lawal, David Theophilus Bamigboye, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, Iyiola Okogun, Gbemisola Saraki, Bolaji Badullahi, Salaudeen, Latinwo. Notable artists include Musician, Jayigbade, late Odolaye Aremu, Ayinla Kollington, Bisade Ologunde ( lagbaja), Usman Baba Pategi (Sanmanja!) . Great writers include, late Abdulazzeez of Herald newspaper, Segun Adeniyi, journalist, and author. Trusted and tested diplomats include Professor Ibrahim Gambari. Great footballers such as late Rashidi Yekini hailed from Kwara.
Kwara produces the best of Nigerian entrepreneurs in all fields; Chief S. K. Adedoyin, Chief E. O.Adesoye Alhaji Janni Ibrahim, Alhaji Dimeji Igbaja late Chief E. O. Adesoye, Mr. Mohammed Jaffal, Mr. Daramola, M.A. Owolabi , Hon. Kola Yusul’, Sammy Dele Ajayi, Mr. Sammy Dele Ajayi, Alhaji Abdulazeez, Usman Adisa, Mr. Adeyemi. With these notables and more, it is unacceptable that Kwara state is today personalized. Inclusive development must replace the present elitist tokenism and corruption. There should be institutionalized transparency and accountability. A state that lacks roads and basic mass transit for millions of Kwara to go to work cannot pride itself as “an emerging aviation hub”. Public spending must reflect the priorities of the critical mass of our people. There will be full disclosures of state assets under our leadership. “A spade must be called a spade, not some agricultural instrument”. Kwara investment is a common wealth that must bear common wealth name. Kwara as a common heritage and commonwealth cannot be personalised and privatised by few ruining political elite. There should not be “Holdings” without public shares by Kwarans.
As the legendary Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.
Kwara’s motto is State of Harmony. In recent times serial robbery cases in ancient peaceful communities like Offa and Omu-Aran with mass murders of scores of victims are fast turning a peaceful state to a state of pain and agony.
Our government will be on duty to prevent crimes for the state economy to thrive. We will reward prevention and sanction security system failures. Most importantly, youths would return to work to add value. God willing we will keep the youths off the streets. Our youths would no longer be cannon folders in the deadly game of those in power.
Never again would our mothers and sisters be made voting cows in return for poverty and cheap handouts. Under our stewardship, Kwara would be known for good virtues of the founding fathers and mothers that included productivity and integrity.
Kwara prides itself as a melting of the best of all Nigerians in diverse rich cultures and language mix. Every Kwaran is a symbol of multiple identities. Under our leadership, communal conflicts would give way to communal cooperation. Every child would be encouraged to learn another language other than mother tongue. Voluntarism and holiday jobs would be encouraged to instil dignity of labour as envisaged by 1999 constitution. This great State under our dynamic leadership would be ambitious in state building”.
•As the legendary Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.