Changing the Narrative in Kwara

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GUEST COLUMNIST By Issa Aremu

I declared my intention to run for the governorship of Kwara state on July 18th at Justice Mustapha Akanbi African Hall in Ilorin. There can be no better day to make our intention public than the Mandela Day (MD). In 2019 Kwara state needs liberation through free and fair elections. Nelson Mandela symbolises liberty from oppression and discrimination, having spent 67 years of his 95 years in public life, 27 years of which he was in prison.

From the various contributions of the discussants on the State of (Kwara) State, which preceded my official declaration, it was clear that contrary to official propaganda, Kwara urgently begs for development and salvation from the bad governance of two decades of the PDP. The 2019 gubernatorial election offers a unique historic opportunity to reclaim our state from occupying self-serving leaders. The state begs for selflessness, statesmanship, compassion, managing diversity, equality, inclusiveness, sense of justice and fairness. A friend once observed rather cheekily that in Kwara, they say, “poverty walks on two legs.” Poverty with one leg was bad enough. To say poverty confidently walks with two legs in a pioneer state of Kwara was sobering for me as a Kwaran.

Sadly, I agree that poverty facts are damning in my state. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2016 stated that 112 million Nigerians live in relative poverty in Nigeria, which represents 69% of the country’s total population, estimated to be 163 million. The northwest and the northeast have the highest poverty rate with 77.7% and 76.3% respectively. The north central is the third with 67% poverty rate; Kwara State, which is within the north central, is 76%. Thus poverty in Kwara was above national average of 67per cent. Poverty numbers however don’t tell the stories of the poor. Income poverty means hunger and anger. The late Hero of Democracy, Bashorun MKO Abiola, once said: “I know the type of music that goes on in the stomach of a hungry man. It is very unpleasant”. First our party believes that you cannot appreciate mass poverty until you look at the distribution of the state resources. Mass poverty “with two legs” is inconceivable unless we appreciate the opulence of the few sit-tight ruling PDP few elite in the state.

General Yakubu Gowon created Kwara state in 1967 together with 11 others that included present day Lagos, Rivers and Kano. The respected humble and modest general recently visited Ilorin on commercial flight recently. On landing he saw a private jet, which reportedly just brought Governor Fatai Ahmed from Abuja. The respected general and statesman curiously sought to know the cost of the parked chartered flight. He was told it was some 4 million Naira’. Enough to pay some working folks minimum wage of 18,000 per month for some 200 months, at least 5 years. As a frequent traveller, I have never seen my governor and my senator, in a commercial flight in a state with such mass abysmal poverty. Some serving state aides shuttle in private flights and audaciously travel business classes in a debt-ridden state that put school children on Okada motorcycles every morning. Kwara budget is almost N200 billion.

There is certainly enough for the modest need of 3 million modest Kwarans but definitely not enough for the greed of the ever privileged and indulged political chieftains in the past 16 years. The major task of any body that emerges as the governor of Kwara in the weekend election is resource distribution justice.

The1999 constitution says welfare and security of all is the primary purpose of governance, not just welfare of few state officials. Kwara already missed the 2015 MGDs global train because since 2000, elected governors were not on duty. We must be enlisted on SDG 2030 and put an end to poverty. Statesmanship, nation building must give way to brinkmanship. It’s not just the perception. The PDP government is a government of exclusion, far from elitist in terms of development but like a cult of personality in miss-governance. State capture by one person can come to an end as we have demonstrated in the last presidential/ National Assembly elections when all Kwarans changed the narrative through partnership for good governance. At this weekend gubernatorial election LP remains open to partner Kwaran ship with progressive parties whose missions compliment our party’s ideology of democratic socialism, humanism and social democracy. Indeed the task to be done is to terminate the PDP rule.

We should replace poverty with prosperity, fear and intimidation with peace, solidarity and life. State of harmony should replace state of fear; vote counts to replace ballot stuffing and ballots snatching. Once we achieve this winners are the over three million Kwaran compatriots and not just me. The 20 years of democracy in Kwara state needs quality control this weekend. Market women and women, tailors, artisans, workers, people living with disabilities, youths said they never saw candidates at their workplaces before asking questions and uplifting the spirit and raising hope.

In place of glossy posters, personalizes jingles and face book text messages, we danced with our people at workplaces on the streets.
Market women need patronage of their goods, improved market access. Indeed in many local governments I visited our people in spite of deprivations were high-spirited to put and end to bad governance, offered prayers to us and even materially supported us. With them we have collectively made a case for good governance during this historic campaign. Even the so-called “good boys” abandoned terror tactics to extort monies to dance with us as we raised hope that solution to unemployment is not through drug abuse and violence but education and decent work.

•Comrade Aremu is the Labour Party Governorship Candidate in Kwara State and a Member of the National Institute, Kuru Jos.