Bamigboye: Farewell to Statesmanship

Guest Columnist: ISSA AREMU

By Issa Aremu

The pioneer military governor of Kwara State, Brigadier General David Bamigboye died in Lagos last Friday after a brief illness.

He was born on December 7, 1940.

The life and times of the late statesman could very well pass for the take -off stage of my dear Kwara state.

At the age of 27, David Lasisi Bamigboye, became the first chief executive of Kwara State. Today Nigeria makes unnecessary fetish of “Not- Too- Young To- Run” bill signed into law recently by President Muhammadu Buhari.

But lest we forget; there was once a country (aptly celebrated by the legendary Chinua Achebe) in which at 27 Bamigboye not only ran a pioneer state but also built it from the foundation!

Bamigboye was the first Military Governor of Kwara State from May 1967 to July 1975. Kwara state was created with 11 other first generation states from the old defunct three regions of North, East and South of Nigeria. At 20th anniversary of the state in 1978, Bamigboye told The Herald state newspaper (which he founded) that; “No state out of the 12 states created by General Yakubu Gowon’s administration on May 27, 1967, had infrastructure, financial and institutional problems like the Central West State, later renamed Kwara State.” Consistent with the old received wisdom that when “the going gets tough the tough gets going”, Bamigboye with his other compatriots went ahead to lay a solid foundation for Kwara State with sustainable signature achievements which made Kwara state one of the fast growing states in the 70s. Witness these: Kwara Polytechnic, Herald Newspaper, Kwara Hotel, Kwara State Secretariat, Kwara State Government House, numerous public secondary schools, food security for the state and many state General Hospitals.

With the commitment to industrialisation, he signed a number of agreements which led to the establishment of a number of industries such as the sugar refinery in Ilorin, tobacco factory, a brewery and biscuit factories at Ijagbo, Paper Converter at Erin-Ile. Most of them are now moribund without the state support. He also upgraded the Asa Dam water project for Ilorin and some hospitals and health centres in the state.

The pioneer governor also offered scholarships to Kwara students in higher institutions. In 1968 he created the Kwara State Ministry of Education, with a department to handle scholarship/bursary matters. He matched a promise with prompt fulfilment. For instance, in 1971 he announced a decision to establish the Kwara State Polytechnic, which came into existence in 1972.

He built and sustained unity in Kwara state. Paradoxically in April 1968, Kwara state’s first budget was just N10 million “out of which N4m was in deficit”. With selfless leadership and commitment, the late military governor transformed a hitherto backward Ilorin and Kabba provinces into a fast growing state of the federation.

Today, Kwara state budgets annually some N160 billion but could not maintain a number of Bamigboye’s pioneer projects. Indeed Kwara is almost back to pre-creation 1967 era with pot holes called roads and the citizens of the state turned to gatherers and hunters of basic needs like water which had since stopped running despite billions suck in “dams modernisation”!

Bamigboye’s era was that of collective all-inclusive earned leadership compared to the present ascribed exclusive single-leadership. His era in governance produced many outstanding star-leaders, scholars, civil servants, jurists, professionals, entrepreneurs and many great Kwarans in various fields”. Some names readily come to mind: Chief Joseph Adeniyi Aderibigbe, the first substantive Secretary to the Military Government (SMG) and Head of Service in Kwara State but the third and the last to hold the office under Governor Bamigboye, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene and Alhaji Liman Umoru, the two who ably acted as secretaries from 1968 to April, 1972.

Significantly, Bamigboye helped to build a developmentalist Kwara State that today, suffers (scandalously!) huge development deficits. His era marked statesmanship as distinct from the current personalisation and privatisation of governance with attendant mass poverty.

The best way to honour the late pioneer governor for the good people of Kwara state is to reinvent statesmanship.

Indeed, the demise of Bamigboye on the eve of a critical transitional election in Kwara state was “a divine reminder” of “an era of selfless statesmanship”. I call on all aspirants for public offices in Kwara state to learn from the bold positive imprints of the former military governor. Even though I was never an enthusiast of military leadership in general, the point, however, cannot be overstated that there was once a developing Kwara state that was a pride of all Kwarans under Bamgboye compared to the present stagnant underdeveloped Kwara state that is an embarrassment to all Kwarans. The 2019 gubernatorial election offers a unique historic opportunity to reclaim our dear state and enthrone selflessness, statesmanship, entrepreneurship, compassion, managing diversity, equality, inclusiveness, sense of justice and fairness and prosperity for all.

Kwara state urgently needs state- led development of the Bamigboye era. Kwara embarked on bold Development through Kwara State First Development Plan (1970 – 74/75) was set within the context of the country’s second National Development Plan (1970 – 1975). Later there was the 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.

In the 70s, Kwara state with productivity and enterprise of Kwara farmers was food secured. Kwara State as it was in past must support hundreds of thousands of Kwara farmers not a few absentee foreign (read; white Zimbabwean) farmers whose products are not on daily menu of most Kwarans and Nigerians. Investment charity must start with our hard working people just as it was during Bamigboye. For instance on agriculture, Bamigboye once narrated how his administration set up the Pategi Rice Mill and Kwara Rice, which “was famous in all departmental stores throughout the country”. He also recalled with nostalgia the “state poultry farming and large hectares of maize grown to feed the surging population.” “The aim of ‘Kwara Foods’ according to the late statesman “was to feed the nation”. In later years he regretted that the pioneer food security programme “was no longer thriving.”

It is unacceptable that Kwara today miserably ranks 28th on the ranking of states by GDP beaten to it by even newest states like, Imo, Edo and Oyo states. Kwara should return to the path of productivity through re-industrialisation and mass decent jobs.

At creation, Kwara was the fastest growing state. The best tribute to late Military governor is for Kwara state to 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. His laudable projects such as must also be sustained. It’s time Kwara and indeed Nigeria become once again investment and job destinations.

I join other compatriots to pray that Almighty God grant Bamigboye eternal rest.

Aremu is a Member of the National Institute, Kuru, and Jos.