In a political space saturated with dishonest leadership, the Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has set out to be different, reports Hammed Shittu
It is stating the obvious that the ascension of office of the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq wasn’t for the asking. He had set out to be in the political equation of the state since 2007, 2011 and 2015, when he contested for various elective positions but could not make it.
His inability to win in any of the elections did not however stifle him but continued the struggle until the 2019 general election, when he contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and won.
Although his emergence as the APC candidate was not an easy task either as no fewer than 15 governorship aspirants jostled for the governorship ticket, Abdulrazaq would later emerge victorious in a keenly contested primary held at Savannah Hotel, along Ajase-Ipo road, Ilorin and became the governorship candidate of APC for the March 13, 2019 governorship election.
On May 29, 2019, Abdulrazaq and his running mate, Mr. Lekan Alabi, were sworn as the governor and deputy governor, respectively.
In his inauguration speech, Abdulrazaq pledged to be fair to all. It is on that premise that he put in place a formidable team that has been working with him to change the Kwara governance narrative.
He set the ball rolling with the health sector, injecting N232m to tackle malaria, maternal death, and malnutrition. On January 19, 2019, Kwara recorded Africa’s first vaccine-derived polio case, bringing back routine polio vaccination many years after.
His administration invested in counterpart funds so much that by December 2019, Kwara had received N8bn worth of vaccines, drugs, and technical support from the Ffederal government and development partners.
Equipped with state-of-the-art ICU facilities like defibrillators, patient monitors, ventilators, Kwara for the first time now has a five-ward air-conditioned isolation centre for infectious diseases.
The administration recently purchased five new military-grade ambulances with the capacity to manage fragile patients on the go. Apart from training health workers, the administration was one of the first states in the country to pay medical workers mouth-watering allowances for managing COVID-19 patients.
The state’s oxygen plant was recently revived. Kwara, which used to buy oxygen for its hospitals, now sells oxygen to neighbouring states and private hospitals.
In addition, the era of medical workers lacking decent shelter to stay at the Specialist Hospital in Sobi is gone with the renovation of 15 units of 3-bedroom staff quarters at the hospital. The eye centre at the Civil Service Clinic has been revived with ultramodern facilities. Neglected since 2012, the College of Midwifery in Ilorin was revived and re-accredited.
Renovation is ongoing at the College of Nursing Oke Ode, while a 300-capacity ICT centre was built and equipped at the College of Health Technology Offa, with four blocks of three classrooms built along with a new access road. The school has since been re-accredited — thanks to the N40m Abdulrazaq released for the purpose.
Along with a free health insurance scheme launched for 10,000 indigent Kwarans, the government is renovating 37 primary health centres across the state, while 70 new medical personnel, including doctors were recruited to strengthen access to quality healthcare. It is worth mentioning that for the first time in history, Kwara is building a back-and-spine neurosurgery and neurology unit.
On water supply, the administration in the last 12 months, has fixed five waterworks and a few others are at various stages of repairs, and with this giant stride, clean potable water is back to Kwara households. Also, at least 402 boreholes were rehabilitated in the early days of the Abdulrazaq government, while 14 more have been dug in Baruten. The boreholes will complement the ongoing Yashikira waterwork.
It will be noted further that in 12 months, the governor successfully changed the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which brought back development partners and took Kwara off UBEC blacklist, the state is now stabilised and repositioned for growth.
Kwara prides itself as an agrarian state and once constructed a large cargo shed to attract agro-processing investments. Yet, the farming hinterlands in Kaiama, Baruten, and elsewhere had no good roads connecting them to the market in the city. This is changing.
With one of the best arable lands around, the governor believes Kwara holds the ace in agriculture. He has not only paid N350m to enroll the state in the FADAMA III scheme, Kwara has also keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which is designed to ensure food security and end the perennial deadly clashes between herders and farmers.
The government is offering the right attitude to make the upcoming BUA sugar plantation in Lafiagi a reality. Equipped with tractors, planters, and boom-sprayers recently repaired, the administration has recently flagged off the cropping season with a professional display of modern farming techniques to create awareness about mechanised farming in the state.
Before then, for the first time in years, the government established various nurseries, which raised 50,000 cocoa seedlings, 10,000 cashew seedlings, 200 citrus seedlings, 3,000 oil palm seedlings, 200 pawpaw seedlings, and 200 guava seedlings.
The Abdulrazaq administration is constructing a multipurpose Maigida Bani road, which connects farming communities in the north to those in the central district for easy access to the market.
The Gwanara road, famous for being the scene of unfortunate attacks on some politicians, is now receiving attention as the government, through anti-graft agencies got contractors back on site. Kwara had almost lost its RAAMP III slot to Bayelsa for failing to pay N200m counterpart funds but Governor Abdulrazaq took care of that.
Kwara houses Nigeria’s first museum in Esie. But what led to the historical site was what may be called a bush path. That has changed under the AbdulRazaq administration. At the moment, at least 68 townships, urban roads, and mini-bridges linking major communities have either been completed or undergoing construction.
Kwara had a few nice-sounding higher institutions. But it lacked basic facilities conducive for quality learning. This is evidenced in recent poor ratings of the state’s elementary education.
WAEC recently slapped N30.5m fine on several public schools over exam malpractice during the previous administration. Today, Abdulrazaq is rehabilitating 31 schools, while seven are undergoing overhauling. The schools are Oro Grammar School; Government Unity Secondary School, Kaiama; Government Secondary School Share; Patigi Secondary School; Government High School Ilorin; Ilorin Grammar School (awarded); and Government Secondary School Lafiagi. These renovations are expected to gulp N1.7bn.
Apart from paying the WAEC fine, the administration has begun gradual re-training of teachers, including sponsorship of their participation in the UNESCO programme.
Having taken Kwara off the UBEC blacklist, the administration began the long-drawn processes for accessing the over N7bn trapped in the commission. Indeed, the 2020 budget contains N2.3bn meant to access part of the funds, underscoring the passion of the administration for basic education.
Free exercise books were produced for schoolchildren even as exchange students are now being catered for. Many classrooms at the school of special needs have been renovated, with teaching aids, special software and computers in addition to internet access made available to the children. More members of staff, including teachers, had been employed.
The administration has integrated the 26 teachers at the CoE Model Primary School, Ilorin into its payroll, ending years of crisis at the school and paid their 30 months’ salary arrears. The state’s library complex was rehabilitated, a part of it equipped with e-learning facilities powered by 24-hour solar energy.
Teachers across the CoEs have returned to the classroom after the new administration paid their arrears totaling N700m. Like the school of midwifery, courses at the CoE (Technical) Lafiagi and College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin, had through the efforts of the Abdulrazaq administration been re-accredited. Monthly subventions have been restored to the institutions following years of neglect.
For the first time, bursaries and scholarships were paid through transparent electronic windows to prevent fraud, which recently landed several officials in court. The inherited N19.5m salary arrears at the International Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) were also settled.
The Kwara State civil service is at its best in two decades. The new administration has not only restored running costs across the MDAs, 27 new vehicles were purchased to aid the mobility of workers while modern computers were given to them. For the first time in decades, the civil servants escaped political victimisation.
The permanent secretaries inherited by the new government are gradually leaving the service in batches — a far cry from the tradition of the past.
All outstanding allowances to judicial officers, some dating back to 2014, were paid by the current administration. Its expansive waterlogged compound now paved with modern interlocking tiles. The administration has undertaken a complete remodeling of the ‘Centre Igboro’ Area Court in Ilorin – more than 30 years after it was abandoned.
For the first time since it was constructed during military rule, the Abdulrazaq administration has re-roofed the State High Court complex while the Sango Magistrate’s Court, gutted by fire over four years ago, was reconstructed. The 2020 budget, all things being equal, made provisions for the commencement of the construction of the Ministry of Justice’s building.
Apart from renovating the juvenile correctional home, the children reception centre and paying counterpart funds for the World Bank-funded community and social development projects (CSDP), the administration has launched its social investment programme (KWASIP), which targets the aged, the unemployed, petty traders, and little children.
AbdulRazaq is redefining governance in the state, giving hope to the disadvantaged, empowering local artisans, redistributing wealth, and calling global attention to Kwara with his bold enlistment of women in the decision-making process in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 – a practical way to inspire the girl-child to a new height.
His female cabinet pick is the highest ever on the African continent. With just one year gone in a four-year mandate, it is clear that the people of the state made the right choice and are better off sticking with a man, who walks the walk on restoring the glory of Kwara State and making the masses the centrepiece of his administration.