One Year of Oto’ge in Kwara


Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman Abdulrasaq has done justice to the Otoge movement in one year of assuming office, writes Raheem Adedoyin

Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is easy going but he is a complicated leader. He is unfazed by hate-driven criticism; he is unmoved by sycophancy. When you praise him, the best thing you get is a smile.

The Kwara Governor is one year old in office. And the jury is out!
To the common people who matter most in his political orbit, *Ramonu* (as they call him) is on target. To the political class, there is an uneasy relationship.

I know AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq very well. We related very well when I was a national officer of the then ruling party in Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). When we parted ways politically after he left PDP in the wake of the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as Governor, there was still no animosity between us.

We re-established political contact again in May 2018 in Atlanta, United States. On the sidelines of the National Convention of the Kwara State Association of Nigeria, North American Chapter (KSANG), we had a discussion on why and how we should work together politically back home.
He was in PDP; I was in APC. Five months later, following the exit of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed from APC, AbduRahman and their PDP structure moved to our party. We were together again.

I had an opportunity to know the priorities of the governor before he was sworn in. He tapped me to head his Manifesto Committee whose mandate he later expanded to produce a 4-year policy document. I also participated actively in his Transition Committee and the Hand-over committee. So, I know his story in the last one year and that story I’m inclined to provide an insight into.

AbdulRazaq is an introvert and extremely deliberative. You can’t rush him. He seeks to demystify and simplify executive authority. He is saying to Kwarans: “ I’m your governor, not Executive Governor. I’m AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. No Mallam, no Alhaji, no prefix. He attends functions unobstructively. His message is simply: “I’m just like you, the ordinary Kwaran”.

Why does this matter? In an environment riddled with autocratic malfeasance, it is a fresh breath of air.
AbdulRazaq’s manifesto was mostly a product of his own thoughts and plans. The manifesto team took him to task on some of his plans and he took pains to explain those plans and the road to implementing them. So he is not governing on impulse.

Health. Education. Agriculture. Road infrastructure, integrated rural services and something like a Marshal Plan for the long- neglected Kwara North. Those would be his priorities. And they are.

One year down the line, you could score him on this and you could make your judgment. Where I come from, Irepodun Local Government, the heartbeat of Kwara South, Ramonu’s impact is hugely felt- Omuaran township road, Esie Museum road, comprehensive renovation of the iconic Oro Grammar School, et cetera.
While you could say his work for the people is not disappointing, the Governor has had a turbulent ride in the political arena.

AbdulRazaq was not supposed to be Governor. Before he and the “ invaders” (that’s what I lovingly call my people from my former party) came from PDP, we had gubernatorial frontrunners in APC: Hon. Moshood Mustapha (two-time member of Kwara State cabinet under Gov. Bukola Saraki, former member, Federal House of Representatives and former Special Adviser to former senate President Saraki, and successful businessman); Mallam Shaibu Yaman Abdullahi (a successful entrepreneur and political juggernaut); Mallam Saliu Mustapha, a philanthropist par excellence and a major political player in Kwara: Mallam Tajudeen Audu,Makama of Lafiagi and Financial expert and Alhaji Yakubu Gobir, Lagos-based based businessman and Wazirin Hausa.
When the PDP people came, nearly all their prominent leaders from Kwara Central wanted to be Governor. Ramonu was not, in their reckoning, a likely winner.
But Ramonu won.

“Abuja helped him”. “Tinubu imposed him”. “He bought the ticket”. That’s how some fellow aspirants rationalised their loss to him.
As a key participant in the Primary battles (I was the Director General of MM Campaign Organisation) and a journalist with a nose for news, I know the story. But those narratives about extraneous factors helping to clinch the ticket were both consoling and infuriating to AA’s competitors.
Some of the gubernatorial aspirants later embraced the winner and were all out for him in the campaign. Some did not, heartily.

AA did not get the respect a likely Governor deserved from some of the key party leaders. It manifested during the campaign. It showed during the elections (some leaders actually whispered that they were sure President Muhammadu Buhari would be re-elected but they were not so sure Ramonu would breast the gubernatorial tape successfully).

But the Kwara people disappointed the sceptics, giving AA even more votes than they gave Buhari. Of course, that landslide victory was the result of Otoge, the desire and determination of Kwara people to have a change of leadership in Kwara. Anyone who got APC ticket would have won.

But the animosity against AA still lingered even after he had been sworn in as Governor. Some APC leaders were fingered in the sponsorship of the court case against the governor on his school certificate result issue. I have some details. It was breathtaking.
The mutual distrust between the Governor and these leaders has resulted in lack of mutual consultation on governance in the state. It is a sore point.

Kwarans are familiar with the hostility between the Governor and the Kwara APC Chairman, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB). The party structure is broken down along the lines of Pro-AA and Pro- BOB. That it is an uneven match, even if a proxy war is obvious.

It is disquieting that the party cohesion that would fire up the APC faithful in support of government is missing. In short, political unity to drive support for government is absent.
The Governor is the Leader of the party in the State (read that again – it is part of the contention). He will continue to be blamed for the party crisis especially as he remains taciturn on political issues.
Communication has not been the best friend of the Governor. Lately, the tempo of publicity, especially in the social media, on the Governor’s achievements has increased. But political communication is sorely missing.

The narrative of the Governor fighting the party structure owes to this communication deficit. The Governor and the Chairman have a sour relationship but that is far from the Governor fighting the APC structure. In fact, the crisis in Kwara APC where a clear majority is not working in sync with their Chairman is different from the AA-BOB disagreement.

Groups have mushroomed, purporting to be supporting the Governor. I know for a fact that the governor has not prompted any group to fight for him. But you cannot stop people from expressing their support for the governor or any leader.

The rent-a-crowd supporter groups are everywhere for every political leader. There is one that was an acronym of a Leader since their defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) days. They are still active. I support our Governor but I do not belong to any such group.

*Enugbe* was a major complaint by APC members. It is a local parlance for lack of patronage from the governor. The party crisis stoked the fire of Enugbe but lately that has subsided. The massive and equitable distribution of Covic-19 Palliatives, especially the money given to the party structures, apparently did some good. More is desired.

APC stakeholders complain that they don’t get to see or speak with their Governor. Not all but some key ones. That’s not good. But why is that so? The fault lies *partly* in not understanding the diverse ways to communicate with a chief executive. And may be if we accord him the respect a governor deserves and not live in a world of entitlement, things could get better.
I didn’t write to earn a smile from Ramonu nor for any attention. I have only shared a narrative different from what is in public domain. OtoGe is on track in Kwara.