Kwara’s Having It So Good

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Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq

Suleiman Alabi

The Etsu Patigi, Ibrahim Umar Bologi II, who recently led a delegation of Patigi Secondary School Old Students Association (Patigi Local Government Area of Kwara State) to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, aptly describes the breath of fresh air in the state. The Etsu Patigi declared that Kwara State, in the last 20 years, has never had it so good, in terms of good government. This traditional ruler has every reason to commend Abdulrazaq. His Alma Matar is enjoying, for the first time, a comprehensive renovation, 50 years after it was established. Yes, this is the first time in 50 years that Patigi Secondary School is being extensively renovated, thanks to this refreshingly different Kwara Governor.

The delegation, which included the Etsu Tsaragi, Aliyu Ndakpotwa Abdullahi; former Kwara State Head of Service, Mohammed Dabarako; and former Permanent Secretary in the state’s civil service, Mohammed Koro, wants Governor Abdulrazaq to keep up the good job. The Etsu Tsaragi declared: “Since the establishment of our Alma Mata (Patigi Secondary School) some 50 years ago, no government has done what you are doing in the area of comprehensive rehabilitation. We are here to commend you for the numerous things you have been doing for our communities.”

The Etsu Tsaragi, who is the chairman of the school’s upcoming 50th anniversary’s central working committee, said the alumni association “is pleased with the renovation of the school, which is progressing very well”, adding, “It will be naïve on our part not to come and thank you for your milk of kindness.”

Patigi Secondary School is just one of the hundreds of public schools being rehabilitated by Governor Abdulrazaq, as he continues with his massive restoration of schools and other basic amenities across the state. Most of these schools have not experienced any form of renovation for years until Abdulrazaq emerged governor. The public school renovation agenda is just one of the several high-impact projects of the Abdulrazaq administration in Kwara State. The Abdulrazaq administration has embarked on capital projects that are already transforming Kwara State. He is indeed on a mission to build a Kwara that works for all.

The people of Patigi Local Government Area look good to get more from Abdulrazak. The governor has visited the Duku Lade Irrigation Scheme in the area and has promised to revive it, as part of efforts to ensure all-year farming in the area.

Kwara State was indeed in tatters when Governor Abdulrazaq assumed office on May 29, 2019. But he is undeterred. His first priority was to get things back to normal and restore confidence, such as repairing bad roads, getting water running and getting moribund institutions back to work. He has done very well in this regard. Water works, hospitals, schools and the comatose media houses are now working. Now, there is semblance of government in the state after many years of invasion by locusts.

I remember when he visited the Kwara State College of Education (Technical), Lafiagi, and assured workers who had long been on strike, due to years of unpaid salaries that they would be paid as soon as possible. He told workers: “Things are not just bad here. I have seen your hospital and your waterworks. They are in a bad state. But that is the way things are all over the state. What we are trying to do is to get things gradually working the way they used to be. Now, how does that affect you here? We will get you back to work. We will clear whatever has to be cleared. But as I said, it is a difficult task. I will give you an example. There’s no money, but we will manage our resources. For May, we received N3.2 billion and salary alone gulped N2.2 billion. So, only N1 billion is left to run institutions like this and fixing hospitals and waterworks. We just have to manage our resources…and put the little resources in the right place.” These workers are already smiling because this miracle-working governor has paid huge backlog of their salaries. Things are now looking good for workers of Lafiagi College of Education.

Few weeks after assumption of office, Abdulrazaq visited Bacita, a town in Kwara North that once housed Nigeria’s biggest sugar factory. He assured the community that the sugar factory would soon roar back to life. The Kwara governor is already discussing with investors to revive the industry with domino effects on employment and wealth creation in the area.

Abdulrazaq met public hospitals in a mess and one would wonder what past administration had been doing with the state’s resources. Your guess is as good as mine. This governor inherited a state with abysmal records on all fronts. People of Baruten often had to visit the neighbouring Benin Republic to access medical care. In Ilorin, the state capital, thousands troop to University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital for minor health issues. The General Hospital in Ilorin, the state’s premier hospital, didn’t even have water, not to talk of drugs or basic facilities to attend to millions of people in the state. The last administration in the state had spent billions on this hospital without result. When Abdulrazaq visited the Lafiagi General Hospital, he was shocked by the lack of basic amenities like water, electricity and refrigeration for medical supplies like anti-snakebite serum. Public hospitals across the state are now enjoying this breath of fresh air called Abdulrazaq, with massive renovation and quality equipment being supplied by the government.

Children sit on the floor in schools with thatched roofs. Kwara retirees were not getting paid. Ministries, Departments and Parastatals of government had nothing to work with. Public facilities were sold out to cronies of the defeated dynasty at ridiculous prices. The governor’s extensive tours of facilities across the state are unending. He is touching all nooks and crannies of the state, which have led to the release of funds for quick measures that have seen basic amenities working again.

AbdulRazaq has repeatedly been sleeping in some villages in the state, visiting schools, hospitals and moribund institutions and industries – dozens of kilometres away from the comfort of Government House or his own home – to better assess the endemic rot and determine government redemptive initiatives.

The last time a Kwara Governor slept outside of the state capital while on state duty was in the 1980s under Cornelius Adebayo. Abdulrazaq added another dimension to this last year when he summoned the permanent secretaries and directors to join him for a meeting at a decrepit school in Patigi, many kilometres away from their Ilorin base, so they could have firsthand experience of the extent of the pains of the people and the rot to be fixed.

Last July, he directed that the 2019 budget review sessions be held at the Special Needs School at Apata Yakuba, away from the air-conditioned conference rooms at Government Secretariat. The Governor said holding budget review sessions in an environment as deprived as that school, was his way of redirecting the focus of the technocrats to the plights of the poor.

This governor is also not vindictive. He cares about people and shows it. For example, the main talking point after inauguration was the fate of Kwara civil servants whose employments were almost surreptitiously effected by the last administration in the state. After initially suspending their pay to allow for some checks, Abdulrazaq restored their salaries, in what was a clear departure from the past. For example, in 2003, workers and statutory appointees engaged by the administration of the late Mohammed Lawal were summarily sacked and all entitlements due them withheld without any recourse to the law. Abdulrazaq’s position this time around was that the affected civil servants are Kwarans. While their engagements may indeed be dubious, he still retained them. What he is doing now is general screening to ensure that only qualified hands are working in the civil service. A general screening is also ongoing for teachers to ensure that only qualified tutors are allowed to teach our children. This instantly sets Abdulrazak apart as a statesman.

The focus of the Abdulrazak administration is on human capital and infrastructural development, which aims at attracting investments, combating poverty and taking the state to the top of the table of revenue generation and competitiveness. He has prioritised water, education, health, road and general infrastructure. He recently remarked: “Agriculture is also a priority and we are also looking at ensuring that a lot is done in the area of agro-processing because of our comparative advantage. We want to completely change the story of this state and our plans revolve around just that, beginning from the budget review.” The governor was able to fix key infrastructural challenges of the state without the N4.8 billion he inherited from the previous government. He said: “The N4.8 billion is reserved to kick-start the state’s social security programme and putting basic infrastructure in place. Under the Kwara State Social Investment Programme, for instance, we plan to spend N1 billion to help traders and artisans with soft loans. We are looking at roughly 1, 000 beneficiaries for soft loans. We cannot watch while our people are suffering. We have to do something in that regard.”

Abdulrazaq’s major challenge, which he inherited from his predecessor, was sale of public property by the officials of the last administration to themselves at ridiculous prices. He was disappointed at what he called mindless mismanagement of public resources and promised that steps would be taken to redress the excesses of the former officials. He has since done this. A committee was set up to investigate the illegal sale of Kwara property and a comprehensive report was turned in, indicting officials of the last government in the state. This governor has assured the people of the state that the recommendations of the committee would be implemented fully. Abdulrazak looks determined to recover the state’s looted assets. Over 100 public property are expected to be recovered for the traumatised people of Kwara State.

No wonder a former gubernatorial candidate of the United Democratic Party, UDP, Mr. Adetunji Oyabambi, described Abdulrazak’s government as transformational. He said: “Against what we used to have in the past, the new administration under the leadership of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has set a new blueprint for governance in Kwara. Civil servants now enjoy full salaries as and when due. Our infrastructure are receiving prompt and deserved attention, likewise the health and education sector. It’s indeed ‘Iseya’.

For Chief Gbenga Awoyale, President General of Orisun Igbomina, a socio political group of the Ignomina people of Kwara State, Abdulrazak’s performance has been phenomenal. He said: “Abdulrazak’s 100 days in office are so marvelous and monumental. The most interesting aspect of his administration was when I heard that he approved N 20 million for the repair of pot-holes in the state. To my surprise, the money was effectively utilised to fix our roads.

We know how much past administrations earmarked for roads in the past with no significant improvement. The abandoned projects in the Kwara State Polytechnic, unscheduled visits to places, as well as prompt actions on the needs of Kwarans have distinguished him from his predecessors. Other outstanding records of the governor include provision of Infrastructure at the NYSC camp and subsequent renovation of the camp to make an ideal accommodation for the Corp members, re-opening of the shutdown Kwara Radio by the immediate past administration, counterparts funding payments of N450 million to SUBEB, N200 million to World Bank, as well as payment of counterparts funds for NHIS. His achievements are far beyond 100 days in office. Most of his predecessors couldn’t boast of these achievements in all their years in office. Therefore, we don’t want any distractions to come his way.”