Hammed Shittu makes a determined effort to examine the state of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, in Kwara State in an interview with its Chairman, Hon. Bashr Omolaja Bolarinwa
Why do you think Kwara got more than one slot in the Federal Executive Council?
It is a very fine one. It is said that ‘you don’t change a winning team.’ That is what exactly played out. Those that the president was comfortable with, he allowed them to come on board and you will see that almost all the ministers that were nominated were made to go back to the ministries they served before.
It is because President Muhammadu Buhari wants continuity and he sees them as members of his winning team that should be taken to the next level. For those sets of new people too I think the president has tied his ropes very well and that is why he feels that those gaps created those are the best people that will fill them up. I also thank Mr. President for deeming fit to give Kwara state two ministers.
What do you think APC can do to emerge victorious in the November governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa state?
We are confident that our party will win the two states by the grace of God. There will always be differences. There will always be dissenting views because these days people don’t realize that governance should be likened to a
position of the breadwinner of the family, like the father of the house. The father of the house has a lot of challenges. At
the end of the month he has to pay rent, buy food, pay school fees and other things. This is drawn from his salary. This salary has been depleted to the extent that some will have to spill over. Running of government is like that too. There are so many challenges
that usually face a government at any point in time. And that accounts for the reason why all the means of the people cannot be attended to at a single point in time. As a result of that there will always be some complaints from some quarters. In the case of Kogi, we have had a lot of complaints. Some coming from the opposition; some of the problems are being magnified. I think Governor Yahaya Bello who has emerged as our party’s candidate in the November 16 election, has been there in the last four years, is familiar with the terrain. I think by now he should actually know how to cross his Ts and dot his Is. He should know how to take care of the challenges he has before the election. We are very optimistic that our party will reclaim victory in Kogi state again.
Challenges differ from one party to the other. Even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is struggling with its own too. From reports getting to us in Bayelsa, people of the state are ready for APC. The PDP has been ruling the state since 1999. There are not too many good thing to show for their many years of governance. People of the state have made up their minds to give APC a trial. We are also looking forward to take power in Bayelsa.
Since your party, APC, came into power in Kwara state, how has it been?
We thank God. As a party we are trying to make things up. But we have a very big responsibility to actually deliver dividends of democracy to the people of the state. As a party also, we have been trying to put our house in order. Every effort is being made to see that our party is strengthened at all levels. You know that when the APC, of which I am the chairman, came on board, we brought people of different groups and camps together. We buried our differences and we were able to win the elections. Thank God for that. But as a party chairman I see that we need to do more than that because I know that after the victory some people will be pushed aside. I don’t want a situation where anybody will feel alienated. I try as much as possible to bring most party members on board so that there will be less complaints from any quarter.
One of the first things we did was to put in place caucuses at all the levels of the party. Going by the Constitution of our party we are allowed to have local and state government caucuses. But that provision of the constitution may not be enough. Standing on that section which allows us to float caucuses, we tried as much as possible to come up with something that will suit our situation and that was why we expanded our local government caucus to allow some notable elders come on board.
In the constitution of the party there is nothing like senatorial advisory committee but we had to put that in place to create an avenue for
leaders in each of the districts to interact with one another. We also expanded the state caucus to include notable elders and members of the party as a way of taking care of a lot of our party members. We don’t want a situation where our members will complain of lack of information at any level. By the time we oil those caucuses, it will work well for us in any other election.
How has Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq fared in terms of performance since assumption of office?
So far so good, don’t forget that the state was in shambles by the time APC took over. There was nothing on ground. The governor declared that his predecessor looted the treasury. There was virtually nothing to point at. To the extent that the roof of the office of the governor was leaking. Both the governor and his deputy do not have good offices to operate from. They are just trying to make use of guest houses converted to offices. It is as bad as that. The same thing goes for infrastructure in the state. There is nothing to fall back on in terms of money left behind. Since he came in over three months ago the governor has been putting his pieces together to see that things are in shape. That is why the governor has made some notable achievements. When I say notable achievements, there were so many services the people of the state were hitherto deprived of, which they now have the opportunity of getting. For instance, for several years, the state had to contend with acute water shortage. The governor has put on board a temporary measure which allows some parts of the state capital to have supply of potable water. The same thing goes for the other two senatorial districts of Kwara South and North. Secondly, in the area of education, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) counterpart funding expected of a state which the previous government had not thought fit to pay for so many years has
now become a thing of the past. The governor released the counterpart funds which now allows UBEC to release some funds to the state. If this fund is released, it will assist the government in its educational policies. This will ultimately lead to an improvement in the poor standard of education in the state. Don’t forget that this state has not been part of the Federal Government school feeding programme because the role which the state is expected to play has not been met in the past governments. This governor has provided the right environment for the take off of the programme in the state. He knows the effects of that in the state. One of the effects of that is increment in school enrolment and also improvement in the
standard of education. What do you want to teach a hungry pupil? In the health sector, recently there was health summit which the government actually organized to look into the sector. All the challenges in that sector too have been collated and they are receiving attention from the governor. The governor has been able to do so many things in a very short period of time and we are looking forward to seeing better things from him. We have only seen a tip of the iceberg.
How do feel about the victory of your party and Governor Abdulrasaq at the governorship election petition tribunal?
Naturally, I feel extremely happy. We know very well that those who went to court just wanted to waste the time of the court and also waste their own resources. We know that our party had done proper screening. We know that there was nothing wrong with the qualification of our candidate to contest the election. What the Electoral Act says now is that parties are to screen their candidates. If any party puts up a candidate that has ‘K-leg’ then it is the party’s cup of tea when the problem comes. Our party has done a thorough job. What the tribunal did was to confirm the very good job that our party did.
How have you been managing the different interests, groups and politicians that ensured APC’s victory in the state?
To a large extent, we have been able to manage that. The party is relatively at peace. Although, some new
groups are trying to spring up for one reason or the other. We have made them to understand that no group should be allowed to override the structure of the party. That is my position as the state chairman of the party. Every political group that is being formed must queue behind the structure of the party. They must also follow the order of the party. We must not allow ourselves to be
Do you think the APC government in Kwara has come to stay?
I want to tell you that by the grace of God APC has come to stay in the state. We are also hopeful that our government will perform so very well that in the next four years our people will not have any choice than to vote APC. We know that we must not relent at all. That is why there is always work in progress at the party and government levels to enable us maintain and sustain the victory.
I urge the party members to see themselves as ambassadors of government wherever they are. They should rally round the governor.
They should know that they are the eyes, ears and mouthpiece of the government. Where they see that things are going wrong they should turn the attention of the party leadership and the government to it.Are you concerned that former Senate President Bukola Saraki could launch a comeback?
Of course, as politicians we will be fooling ourselves if we think that Saraki is not lurking in the corner. That is why we are trying to put our house in order; to see that the governor is also on his toes at all times. It is by working together that we can make great gain. We need cooperation to enable us ward off whoever may want to challenge us.