Pushing a transformational vision of Kwara, a state created in May 27, 1967, alongside Lagos, Rivers and Kano states but curiously lagging in all human development indices, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq deploys focus and an intimate understanding of his turf to address these key challenges and perhaps not surprisingly, is indeed changing the Kwara story. Louis Achi reports
Political dynasties reflect an internal contradiction in any democratic milieu. For over three decades, the Kennedy-like dynastic political energy and charisma of the Middle Belt icon and erstwhile strongman of Kwara State politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki (Oloye) and his clan held the state imperiously captive.
For two of those tumultuous decades, they firmly pegged back Alhaji Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq’s audacious ambition and unrelenting quest to provide alternative vision of governance for his beloved state.
But then with notable insight, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, professor of politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India, who probably had the Sarakis in mind, had accurately observed that family links can only take a politician so far. Finally, by neutralizing former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, political protégé of Senator Abubakar Saraki, scion of Oloye’s dynastic clan, in the feisty 2019 general election, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is now positioned to actualize his development vision. Significantly, he is not disappointing his doting constituency.
Stooge to none and armed with an intimate understanding of the extreme poverty and very poor state of basic infrastructure and services in his state, Governor Abdulrazaq, the sixth executive governor of the state is clearly impatient with extraneous distractions and devious praise singers.
Perhaps this why, to harness the human and material resources which are in abundance in the state and transform Kwara, alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living of the people are his priorities. More specifically, he strongly believes the state deserves better healthcare, education, transportation, water supply, housing and an improved economy. These top his development agenda. .
Take the critical education and health sectors which indeed any government that fails to provide qualitative, top-draw education and healthcare delivery for its people is bound to witness low growth in diverse development areas. Navigating with notable humility, Governor Abdulrazaq who believes that government is a continuum has left no one in doubt that he is birthing a new paradigm shift in the quest to transform both sectors. This is targeted at making the state a leading light for other states in the region and nation at large to copy.
After touring all the public schools across the 16 local government councils of the state for direct assessment he ordered the design of a new, viable strategy, to tackle the challenges so as to move education forward in the state. Quickly dropping the lethargic non-fulfillment of the immediate past administration in the payment of counterpart funds to the National Universal Basic Education (NUBEC), in Abuja, his administration ordered the fulfillment by paying a sum of over N70 million to the agency so as to assist the state to access to funds that would help fast-track the growth of primary school education in the state.
This move quickly changed the status quo of the educational management in primary schools education as new infrastructural development has come up while the needed instructional materials that can aid the teachings of the pupils have increased. This has improved the academic zeal of the pupils across all the public primary schools in the state.
The quirky idea of teaching students under the trees or in dilapidated buildings has gone for good in public schools in the state and this has improved both the morale and academic excellence of the pupils. The pupils now have their teaching in a conducive environment in the state. The prompt payment of counterpart funding has also assisted the administration to access more funds for the training of teachers which hitherto has long been ignored by the successive governments due to non-payment of counterpart funding.
What’s more, this training of teachers has exposed them to modern teaching techniques, Information Technology output among others. This also has helped the pupils in their academic pursuits in the state. More, the Governor Abdulrazaq set an agenda on the punctuality of teachers in both primary and secondary schools across the 16 local government councils of the state. This has changed the past narratives of the lateness of some teachers to schools and brought a new lease of life to the academic outings of both the primary and secondary school students in the state.
The governor also ensured that unpaid salaries of lecturers in the state tertiary education were paid and this has preempted any strike actions that may have greeted the administration on assumption of office. This singular support to the lecturers has stabilized the academic environment of the affected tertiary institutions in the state.
The administration also ensured the payment of bursary award to over 8,304 final-year students of Kwara State origin across the nation’s tertiary institutions, to boost their academic pursuits and assist their parents, while 89 law students currently at their various law schools in the country were given a bursary to help them pursue their programme with ease.
Out of over 100 schools identified for a total renovation, 31 of them have been approved for complete rehabilitation while free exercise books have also been printed at the cost of over N75 million set to be given out to the students in public schools.
Bringing more clarity to these key changes, the State Commissioner for Education, Hajia Fatimah Ahmed, a trained teacher, commended Governor Abdulrazaq for the giant strides which include settlement of outstanding arrears of N55,077,00.00 feeding allowance of exchange students owed before the advent of his administration, sponsorship of 1,000 brilliant indigent students of the state for 2020 UTME/JAMB at a cost of N5 million, payment of N30.5 million imposed by WAEC as fine over examination in some schools among several others. She also commended the governor for his giant strides in the sector, including the establishment of an ICT Centre in the School for Special Needs.
According to the governor, “Not too much has been achieved since 2013. We are starting the reconstruction of our schools with 31 schools though over about 100 schools need immediate attention. It’s sad that all our major schools are in deplorable conditions and it’s a shame to talk about it. We have seen the conditions the teachers have been working in but we can’t fix the problems in one day. We thank you for staying on the job and doing your best for these students.”
It is also noteworthy that in the 2020 state budget, 19 per cent of the budgetary allocation was for the education sector.
In the arena of health development, the Governor Abdulrazaq-led administration has taken a giant stride in bringing health care delivery to the doorsteps of the rural populace. On assuming office on May 29, 2019, the governor undertook facility tours of all the existing health institutions across the three senatorial districts of the state, to assess the situation on the ground and evolve a winning strategy in the attainment of good health care delivery to the people of the state. It would be noted that the administration has recorded a huge success in the area of health development in the shortest time of its governance take-off in Kwara State.
Convention of an inclusive health summit in the state was borne out of the facility visit of the governor to health care facilities in the state. The health summit in partnership with other health stakeholders in the health sector had allowed the administration to fundamentally improve the standard of health care delivery services in the state.
Well implemented, the summit report will assist the administration to adapt to the use of telemedicine, better funding, and autonomy for the state’s hospitals to serve as the launch-pad of the 21st-Century medical technology.
The governor has also unquestionably demonstrated exemplary leadership since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) by unfolding proactive containment and suppression strategies ensure that the viral pandemic disease does not endanger the state.
Although, the state is bordering communities like Baruten Local Government Area and other neighbouring states of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi and Niger, the governor is leaving nothing to chance to safeguard and boost the health and socio-economic wellbeing of the rural communities.
In an adroit policy/administrative move, the Governor Abdulrazaq administration committed the N263,327,800 recovered from looters to revive an oxygen plant and buy ventilators to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. According to the governor, the cash came in handy against the backdrop of dwindling revenue and allocations arising from the global oil crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thisday gleaned that this particular move drew commendations from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last week. According to EFCC, in a statement, “As efforts to bring an end to the Coronavirus disease in Nigeria continue, commendations have come the way of the EFCC as the Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has revealed that funds recovered by the commission for the state have been helpful in setting up isolation centres as part of its strategic activities to combat the disease.
“It will be recalled that among other recoveries, the Ilorin zonal office of EFCC handed over N263,327,800 to the state in March, being recovered money stolen from the Kwara Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) and 16 local governments.”
The administration has since ordered enlightenment and educative programmes in the state’s public and private radio and television stations properly orient Kwara residents to be more conscious of the pandemic disease and imbibe new, safer health habits.
Going forward, the administration ensured that payment of counterpart health funding of N282 million which was allegedly abandoned by successive administrations was achieved in the year under review. The fulfillment of the payment of counterpart funds to related health and donor agencies would go a long way to complement the effort of the government in the health sector.
Among such health facilities that the payment of counterpart funding would be bringing to the state include access to primary healthcare delivery, health insurance and nutrition for under-three children in the state
The payment of N282 million counterpart funding covered N100 million counterpart funds for Basic Healthcare Provision Funds (BHPV); N50 million for Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRIN); and another N82 million to access global grants for malaria. The payment of the grant would also allow the state to have access to the World Bank/Federal Government’s funds to cater for the health needs of pregnant and nursing women and children.
The government believes that such access to such funds will help combat maternal mortality rate and other basic health challenges related to women and children and will also help to fix facilities for primary healthcare and reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary health institutions.
It would be noted further that experts have decried malnutrition rate among children in the North Central region, where Kwara State falls and because these children are so key to the bright future, the present government in the state urgently keyed into any initiative that would boost their nutrition and give them a brighter chance in life.
It would be noted that the state has recorded a 40-percent increase in public hospitals’ patronage, courtesy of the focused measures the current administration have deployed.
By redefining the governance templates with which to drive the transformation of the education and health sectors development of the state, Governor Abdulrazaq has sent a clear warning that henceforth the lukewarm narratives previously associated with both crucial sectors are changed for good.
Another critical development arena Governor Abdulrazaq is not taking lightly is human capital and infrastructure. His words: “The 2020 budget, which I have just assented to, has been designed to address the questions of human capital and infrastructure in our state. Our government will partner all stakeholders to tackle various developmental challenges confronting our communities.”
With the passion he has invested in governance Governor Abdulrazaq and audacity he has adopted in key human development sectors of the state, it hardly requires a seer to predict the future of Kwara State.
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