Former Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking and Other Financial Institutions in the 8th Senate and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim, recently spoke with Hammed Shittu on the state of affairs in the state, 2023 and other sundry issues. Excerpts
The 2023 general election is just about 13 months away, how prepared is your party, the PDP?
We are preparing and our people are working very hard. The level of mobilisation that is going on – from polling units, wards, LGAs, senatorial zones, and across the state is unprecedented. This may be because our people have now compared governments under our political platform and the present one and they have seen the marked difference. They have seen that the standard of living, quality of governance, the competence of personnel, and the reach of those in government today are a lot worse and lower than what we had before. The PDP is ready for the election tomorrow. We have a cohesive and united party led by experienced and mature people and our members are willingly working for the party even though we are not in government. The people want genuine improvement and development. Not deception, lies, falsehood, and division. The PDP is preparing for the 2023 elections and with more time still on our hands, we will not relent on our mobilisation, strategising, and general preparation.
The PDP is the main opposition party in Kwara State. Will you say the party has played the role effectively?
You will note that immediately after the election results were announced in March 2019, our leader, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on our behalf, congratulated the winner and wished them success. As a follow-up, he urged that we should allow the new government to settle down and focus on governance. We all agreed with him and complied. It was later when it became obvious that the government had no intention of channelling its energy and resources to fulfilling its numerous promises to the people but distracting itself with score-settling, petty rivalry, and marketing empty propaganda to the people, that we decided to challenge it and redirect its attention to its promises. Since then PDP has been very vibrant, vigorous, and up and doing in pointing out the lies, faults, inadequacies, and omissions of the government. We have been very critical and constructive. Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in his so-called only published interview ever, also admitted that he has learned a lot from our criticisms, even though the learning is done dubiously and the application of the lessons learned is in further breach. I believe if the PDP has not been constructively critical of the Abdulrazaq government in Kwara, things would have been worse.
Talking about criticism of the Governor Abdulrasaq government, what do you think the government is not doing well?
Generally, the government from the leadership to the other cadres lacks the competence, capacity and experience to provide good governance. Also, when the party that formed the government was campaigning before the last election, all their campaign promises were premised on lies, fabricated figures, and character assassination. They did not seek to get necessary statistics, relevant data and concrete facts upon which to make their calculations. To make matters worst, they never planned anything. It is haphazard government micro-managed like its leader when you run a government through WhatsApp. No executive council robust debates and due process are bypassed. The governor will just decide on impulse and it is executed similarly. That is why an overhead flyover is being constructed without proper Environmental Impact Assessment simply because the Governor also wants to be credited with constructing the first flyover in the state. Sometimes, the inferiority complex which the governor and government suffer impact seriously on governance and government decisions. I don’t know in what area I will score the government high except in two areas. In the areas of telling lies and in the area of elevating pettiness as an art of governance. All their claims are lies. Almost three years in government and no single landmark project, programme, or policy. Compared to other governments which came on board before 2019, the Abdulrazaq government has only excelled in making false claims.
Does it mean your assessment of the government is low? Is this correct?
I am correct. In May, this government would have completed three years. In which areas can they claim to have made a good impact? This is a government that has the benefit of enhanced IGR made possible by the immediate past administration. It also got a lot of intervention funds due to COVID-19 pandemics and others. Yet, the money is being wasted. They awarded contracts to renovate schools at a cost that is a lot higher than the cost of building new schools in other states with worse terrain. Go and check all the claims. Are our civil servants being paid the new minimum wage? The government claimed to have repaired the oxygen gas station project initiated by the Saraki administration but how come that the price of oxygen gas in its hospital is almost double the amount paid for the same product in the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital. They talked about employing nurses, how many of the nurses are still in service? Very soon, it will be time to debate the so-called claims and achievements of the present administration in Kwara State and we will be ready for them. The debate will not be about muck-raking against the past governments. It will be about the presentation and critiquing of the scorecards
The APC, particularly the faction loyal to the government of Abdulrazaq believes all these criticisms by your party is to enable Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki to stage a comeback in Kwara State. What is your response to that?
Immediate past Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, come back to what? What is Bukola Saraki coming back to Kwara that the APC is talking about? They are just looking for a way to further distract the people from the issues of their misrule. Saraki can never become governor in Kwara State again. He is constitutionally barred. I am not sure he is interested in contesting any elections in Kwara State again. He is a man who Allah has so blessed that with the offices he has occupied, the achievements he has recorded, and the contacts he has made, he is respected nationally and internationally. Since the last elections, is there any important forum or occasion that top leaders in this country have gathered that he was not invited to and that he attended and he was not duly recognised and regarded? No. Since 2019, has his level of philanthropy reduced? No. Now, it is clear that those bloody liars who claim that it is Kwara money that he was spending, or that he was collecting N2bn from Kwara State allocation have since seen the collapse of their empty and petty falsehood. The truth has caught up with and exposed their naked lies. The one who Allah SWT has blessed, nobody can disgrace.
That is the story of Dr. Saraki. Now, talking of who wants to stage a comeback. I want to stage a comeback. Those of us who believe that we have provided better representation to our people and higher quality of governance to the state and still have genuine intention to do better that want to stage a comeback. Within the ambit of the constitution, many of us can still represent the state in many capacities. We are the ones you can be talking about staging a comeback. Say Senator Rafiu Ibrahim wants to come back. You are right. My record in the 8th Senate and the quality representation I provided our people in Kwara South are there to justify why I want to stage a comeback. If you say Bolaji Abdullahi wants to stage a comeback, you will be right. Check his role as commissioner, minister, APC National Publicity Secretary and you will understand why he needs to come back. If you say Dr. Alli Ahmed wants to come back, you will be correct.
He was a commissioner, federal representatives, and Speaker. His record speaks for itself. As lawyers say: Res Ipsa Loquitur. If you say, Zakari Mohammed, Rasak Atunwa, Ahmad Pategi and others want to come back, we believe constitutionally and with our records, our energy, experience, and competence, we still have the constitutional permission to serve our state. Those who want us to stage a comeback are the numerous women and youths who benefitted from various empowerment programmes sponsored by political office holders in the past governments. Now, political office holders are so far away from the people that people do not enjoy any benefit from them. Our people now shout ‘Enu Gbe’(No Money). The people who want us to come back are the royal fathers who were duly consulted on key government policies and programmes and got their due respect under the past governments but are now being treated with disdain by the present government. Those who want us to stage a comeback are the students who during our time in government were provided with support, personal scholarship and the rest of them. Now, they are left without being cared for. The people who want us to come back are the market men and women, transport unions and operators in the garages who witnessed the development we made in the markets and garages and how our empowerment programmes legitimately put money in their pockets through patronage of their goods and services.
Those who want us to stage a comeback are the people who are familiar with how during the period we were in control, the opposition in the State House of Assembly had their say and the majority had their way. Nobody prevented opposition legislators from coming into the House and criticising the government. Look at the show of shame they are putting up in the state House of Assembly by crudely suppressing, oppressing and antagonising the only PDP member, Hon. Raheem Agboola. These are the reasons we want to stage a comeback to put things right. Those who are incensed with the name of Saraki and who believe their day is not made except they invoke the name of Saraki to make excuse for their failure are the ones shouting about Saraki’s comeback. I am sure this is the new mantra developed for them by their political strategists and spin doctors for 2023. Tell them it is a failed narrative. It can’t work.
What are the issues that you think will determine the outcome of the next elections in Kwara State in 2023?
The next elections in Kwara will be a referendum about the performance of the present government in the state. It will be about the fact-checks on all their lies and claims. It will be about our people answering themselves whether their standard of living and quality of life has improved or gotten better than it used to be. Our people will use the election to answer the question of whether the present government is more competent than the previous governments and which of the candidates is the best. It will be an election in which lies, sentiments, and manipulation will have no role. We will ensure the election meets all the standards of a good poll. Candidates will have a fruitful and useful debate. Questions will be asked and answered will be demanded. Those who seek to always avoid debate and run away from scrutiny will have no excuse. We will not allow people who can stay in one room, filled with their constituents, for 10 days and refused to talk or give account to indulge themselves. If you cannot withstand the heat, stay away from the kitchen.
What informed the early zoning of the 2023 PDP gubernatorial ticket to Kwara North Senatorial District and how will this help the party?
It is borne out of sincerity. It is a product of a viable opinion poll. It is based on equity, justice and equality. The leadership of the party has aggregated opinions of members and sees that the majority favoured that. It is also just and equitable to give all sections of the state sense of belonging. The decision to settle the issue of where the gubernatorial candidate will come from before the end of 2021 is based on the need to resolve all difficult issues early enough and start focussing on further mobilising new and old members as well as give a solid sense of direction to all the people aspiring to various positions in the state. Now, we all know where we are going and that sets a good standard on how to zone other positions to get solid, capable, and visionary candidates across the board.
What post do you want to contest for in 2023?
I believe that I served my people in Kwara South very well in the 8th Senate. My records in the National Assembly are there for anybody to check. Two of my bills were signed into law and they helped the country to tremendously improve its rating in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business. My constituency projects and other forms of dividends of democracy which I attracted to my constituency, as well as the quality representations I gave to our people are attestations to the fact that we did very well both as lawmaker and people’s representatives. It is my aim and aspiration, subject to the consent of Allah, the owner of all powers, and the votes of the people of Kwara South, that I return to the Senate to offer further service to my maker and my people.
What advice do you have for politicians in Kwara State as we move towards 2023?
The advice I want to give all politicians in Kwara State is that we should make the 2023 elections a real contest of ideas. Let people compete healthily and peacefully. Let there be thorough debate among contestants. There should be no violence or any type of manipulation of the process. There should be no misuse, misapplication, and abuse of so-called federal power. Let the people’s votes count. Those seeking to go to neighbouring states to import thugs and merchants of violence into Kwara State should desist. We are already watching them and they shall be exposed before they can carry out their nefarious acts. Our people should also be more discerning and vigilant. They should not listen to lies, propaganda, and empty sentiments which help no one.