NGF Chairman: AbdulRazaq’s Scorecard in One Year Dwarfs Saraki’s Reign

Ibraheem Abdullateef 

I will waste no time on the preamble. Former Senate President Bukola Saraki’s reign as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) bore little fruit for Kwara. If anything, it only qualifies as an over-glorified tenure which was whitewashed by an expensive public relations machinery to mask its shortcomings. This will be clearer when you compare what successive chairmen of the forum facilitated to their states in terms of infrastructure, investments and appointments from the centre. However, Saraki’s failure would be more understood when placed side by side the success of his fellow Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who has only spent one year in office.

Kwara State Governor AbdulRazaq has facilitated 294km of roads. Kwara got approval for the rehabilitation of four major roads under the Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme. The roads include Kosubosu–Kaiama–Bode Saadu (130km); Bacita-Shonga-Lafiagi (83km); Eiyenkorin–Afon–Offa–Odo Otin (49km); and Okuta–Bokuro (32km), which connect the state to the Benin Republic. Following years of persistent lobbying, he bore his weight on these demands and got them. And we could have lost it when tensions mounted on the legal status of the tax credit scheme. But he used his goodwill with President Bola Tinubu and his team to secure those gains. How else does a man work for his state? Let Sarakites bring anything that compare to that huge infrastructural gain during his tenure. 

Work has since commenced on some of them. A major breakthrough, this will open Nigeria to other West African countries, and crystallise the state’s social and economic development. 

Barely a week ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the construction of Kaiama — Tesse road, less than two months after AbdulRazaq led Kwara federal lawmakers on a working visit to the Minister of Works and Transport, Mr. David Umahi. It would be the fifth approval for major federal roads barely in his one year in office. If we are talking about scorecards, it goes without saying these are huge achievements on infrastructural development, which is a sine qua non to bringing sustainable development to the state.

What did Saraki get?

AbdulRazaq has stabilised the political temperature between the governors and the Presidency. There is so much peace in the system, courtesy of his mature handling of issues. AbdulRazaq’s hands-on diplomatic relationships with the Presidency were instrumental to managing the ensuing national crisis after the fuel subsidy removal and related issues. Backed by his colleagues and good heads at Aso Rock, he successfully maintained mutual respect and peace between the two institutions.

By contrast, Saraki’s tenure was infamous for in-fighting among caucuses or hostility with the executive, as seen with his documented disrespect for the former vice-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the villa. Instead of prioritising state and national development, he was constantly scheming to contest the Presidency and seize power for himself. The leopard took this into his tenure as Senate president. It always had its consequences for the fortunes of the state. 

Did he not almost get removed as NGF chair? 

Kwara’s political space has changed following the annihilation of the Saraki dynasty in 2019. It is no longer in the breast pocket of anyone. This was one of the reasons for the revolution in the first instance — a political system where opportunities are not decided by the whims and caprices of a lord of the Manor.

With that said, I wonder why anyone would think that the emergence of any Kwaran for any position at the federal level could be without the knowledge and tacit support of the governor. Those people could use a lesson from the past. I think what to cheer for in our democracy is the absence of dog-eats-dog politics that ultimately denies the state of progress. Think Benjamin Yissa and Professor Oba AbdulRaheem.

Whether Sarakites like it or not, Kwara has two SUBSTANTIVE ministers. We started getting two ministers after the collapse of the dynasty. If Kwara hadn’t got two, there would be attacks on the governor. This is the progress we are talking about. We now also have two Director Generals of federal agencies. They are all members of the All Progressives Congress (APC). These will always come to count. The governor is not an egotist like them. They know themselves.

Notwithstanding our genuine interests in having more, being one of the best states that delivered for the APC, eight Kwarans were appointed into federal boards for tertiary institutions. Yes, we want a lot more and deserve more, but we got more than some other states. 

These appointments followed the previous appointment of Dr Ghali Alaya as a non-executive director of the NNPC board, and a couple of others. 

On top of that, the governor has recently got a Kwaran Abdullateef Shittu to become the NGF Ag. Director General. The easing out of the DG without a fight with the cabals is a major masterstroke on his part. This is all within one year.

I also find the reference to the many slots that went to Adamawa and Osun States in the recently constituted governing councils of federal academic institutions as a demonstration of poor understanding of political dynamics. These, for crying out loud, are states governed by the opposition. It’s only logical that party loyalists there are open to some more board appointments at the centre, which is controlled by APC. This is to give them some strengths that states with huge representations like Kwara command in multiple folds, especially in elected offices such as the Senate and House of Representatives and state Parliaments.

Also, these two states have one minister each, whereas Kwara has two very important ministers. There is no basis for comparison.

Now, let’s take a brief look at investment. In February, Kwara got Harmony Advanced Diagnostic Centre (HADC) enlisted among the health facilities slated for upgrade by the Federal Government across the six geopolitical zones. Despite being a project initiated by the previous administration, AbdulRazaq rose above partisanship to get it captured, thereby saving it from extinction, in the interest of the people and state. 

In a similar vein, Kwara has also secured approval for its highly-rated Ilorin Smart City Project initiated by the governor in line with Ilorin City Master Plan to house 1,000 Federal Renewed Hope housing units. These strategic investments will make lasting impacts on the growth and development of Kwara State for generations to come. The question is, what did Saraki get Kwara as NGF chairman in one year?

* Mr. Abdullateef is the Senior Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on Communications

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