ILE ARUGBO, SECRETARIATS AND ALL THAT

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Gani Abdurasak urges Gov Abdulrazaq to deliver on his promises to the people

There are still obvious attempts apparently by the Kwara State Government aimed at re-writing the narratives on the illegal demolition of Ile Arugbo (Old People’s Home) which the late Dr. Olusola Saraki used to cater for the aged and needy during his life time, a tradition that has been sustained by his children. This propaganda blitz is in spite of the out of court settlement directed by the High Court, Ilorin, in which the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led government and representatives of Asa Investments are to meet for amicable settlement over the ownership and use of the land on which the illegally demolished Ile Arugbo was.

The sponsored narratives by the Abdulrazaq administration is to the effect that the midnight demolition of Ile Arugbo during which hundreds of old women and youth were brutalized was a result of public policy executed in order to restore the land on which Ile Arugbo stood to a state where it could be used to build a secretariat for the workers of Kwara State.

The Abdulrazaq government seeks to exploit the old propaganda theory of repeating a lie through many sponsored articles in the newspapers and online to the point that it will be believable. However, the governor and the government forgot to reckon with the fact that anybody familiar with Kwara State will see through the lie. Ile Arugbo’s demolition is no public policy and will not lead to the building of any secretariat. It is simple petty politics and personal score settling elevated to the point of state policy.

Anybody who knows Kwara very well knows that the present secretariat in use located beside St. Anthony is not being fully utilized. Also, in the last year of the immediate past administration of Abdulfatai Ahmed, the government built a new secretariat located around Challenge Roundabout. The new, expansive complex was completed and only required little finishing touches and furnishing. Just a few weeks before Abdulrazaq started stoking the fire of Ile Arugbo demolition, the governor himself publicly and happily announced that the contractors working on the new secretariat built by the last administration gave a bill of N400 million to complete the secretariat and get it ready for use. Abdulrazaq said he negotiated the money down to N350 million and paid the money.

If the governor talked glowingly about the new secretariat which will be ready for completion in a few weeks, who needs a third secretariat to be built on Ile Arugbo? How many secretariats does Kwara require to function? Apart from these secretariats, many government ministries in Ilorin have huge office complexes which are being maintained with public funds. Examples of these ministries are the Ministry of Finance, opposite Police Command Headquarters, Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Kwara State Inland Revenue Service, located opposite DSS Office, Governor’s Office opposite Sharia Court and many others.

It will be good to know if the government of Abdulrazaq is planning to recruit more workers who will utilize the numerous secretariats that are about to be proliferated all over Ilorin. The governor himself told State House correspondents in the Presidential Villa last month that 75 per cent of the revenue accruing to Kwara State goes into payment of salary of public sector workers. Earlier this week, the government also told the Kwara State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) that if it implements the new minimum wage, the percentage of government revenue to be devoted to salary payment will jump to 85 per cent, leaving only 15 per cent for infrastructure development. If all these figures are true, then, is the Abdulrazaq government still planning to invest the remaining 15 per cent in employing more civil servants whose salaries will take the remaining 15 per cent?

For a government with such poor statistics on revenue generation/ recurrent expenditure ratio, is the building of an entirely new secretariat which only serves as prestige project or what is known as ‘monumentalism’, the next thing? Let us not forget that Ile Arugbo occupied only three plots of land: Plots 1, 3 and 5. So, who builds a viable Government Secretariat on three plots of land, even if the land is located in the Government Reservation Area? Or is the governor planning to acquire more land on Ilofa Road where Ile Arugbo is located? Well, since the governor’s mother also owns a large plot of land on that road where the Raliat Foundation is located, he could revoke the title on that property too and joined it to the ones on which he planned to build his fancy secretariat.

Those who are helping Abdulrazaq to spin the narrative that the demolition on Ile Arugbo was borne out of good public oriented policy should advice the governor to also watch his mouth when he speaks to his confidants about his plans. Words get out, you know. He told somebody that the revocation of the Ile Arugbo was his answer to the heavy criticism that the Kwara State PDP and Saraki supporters subjected him to over the wasteful expenses on the New Year Music Show in which hundreds of millions were used to sponsor the visit of music stars, including Whiz Kid.

The current government in Kwara State has elevated the art of lying to a state policy. The governor and his ‘O to Ge’ crowd claimed the state was not functioning because Abdulfatai administration was diverting huge sum of money into the pocket of Dr. Bukola Saraki. For the past eight months that he has been on the saddle and the problem in Kwara is getting worse, why did he not divert the saved money into development projects?

Again, it is inconceivable that eight months after he assumed office, Abdulrazaq has only achieved so much in fighting enemies and stoking the ember of division. He has not embarked on any tangible infrastructure project or development policy or programme. He has assembled a cabinet of neophytes and people who genuflect in his presence.

Abdulrazaq has turned Kwara to a state of ‘one day, one trouble’. He has fought all the people who helped him to get into office. In the Presidential Villa, his image is that of a “trouble maker” such that last December after the Ile Arugbo controversy began, what they say in Aso Rock is “only God knows whose advice that man listens to”. Yet, he is a governor elected on the strength of a ceaseless and numerous promises. Today, Abdulrazaq is confronted with the reality of governance. That is why many believe all his fight with every key stakeholder in Kwara is a diversionary tactic. The man used the confusion to hide from the failure to deliver on all or some of his promises.

The earlier Abdulrahman faces the facts and start working to deliver his promise on infrastructure development, youth employment, provision of social services, wealth creation and development of agriculture, the better for the state. Nobody will judge him on the number of people he fought to a standstill. He will be judged on how well he delivered on the ‘O to Ge’ promises.

Abdulrasak wrote from Tanke, Ilorin