As the present administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State waltz towards its final lap, there has been no shortage of drama and excitement. There has been what appeared a ‘revolutionary leap’ against the old order and with 2019 elections in sight, things now happen with the speed of light from the untidy to the unsolicited. Driven mostly by ingenuity and in its own style, the government has appointed Liaison officers for all the sixteen council areas and designated some youths across the state as Empowerment Coordinators to create jobs for the boys.
The operation fix pot holes have moved a step further. Existing government offices are being pulled down to give way to new and modern edifices. Contractors handling government projects have been directed to increase their tempo of work. Bad roads long abandoned are being hurriedly fixed.
The state House of Assembly itself has become a theatre of the absurd where serious and urgent state matters are being relegated. Issues like where to sell liquor or not in Ilorin the state capital has become more urgent matter than issues that promote welfare and development.
Enter Senator Bukola Saraki, the man who feels he has all the solution to Kwara problems. The man who knows how to drive Kwara to scramble for crumps. The ‘superman’ who has started doing what the state government cannot do. May be seeing that the legacy he handed Governor Ahmed is on the path of a slow, excruciating death by humdrum and inertia, he has taken over some of the governments obligations. He appeared now overwhelmed. He has been doing some of the unimaginable.
Going by this convenient generosity he has elected to refund monies paid by contractors whose bids for SUBEB jobs in 2017 were dumped owing to the organisation’s inability to continue with the bidding process. Not only has he paid the backlog of salaries and allowances of all traditional rulers in the state, he is paying the stipends to other local chiefs. He would pay the state pensioners whose money he mischievously deducted in his time as governor for the development of the state. He would also help Governor Ahmed pay salaries. It would soon be the turn of former councillors whose severance allowance is yet to be paid and Senator Saraki would not forget… em em.
Let me continue by throwing a few questions. Did Senator Saraki conveniently forget that for the past six and half years, this administration has not been able to meet most of its obligations let alone pick sticks and lay them straight as far as the economy is concerned? Did he know that we know he is an accessory in the failure of this administration and needs to account to the people also? Did he forget to understand that the government he handed over his false legacy has no clear policy not to mention a guiding plan of action? Are we to believe that Senator Saraki does not know we know his present sacrifice and gesture is false and full of mischief? Do we finally believe he is given back to the people what actually belonged to them but in the wrong way? And for the eight years he served as governor of Kwara where did he put this sudden love for the people. As curious as it is, this act of sacrifice not only has lost its logic, it raises a lot more questions. This definitely is nothing near the quality and character of a man of value but the mischief of one with success. Senator Saraki knows who the vulnerable voters are and he should understand our royal fathers have since lost steam and are of no any electoral value.
But on the heels of all of these, Kwara air waves have been busy dishing out different versions of government sponsored self-praise jingles of ‘Maigida nse bebe’- a feat akin to the narratives of the lizard that fell from the tall iroko tree. But the grim irony here cannot be lost because an error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation nor does repetition transform a lie into truth. Self-praise does not give room for a thorough self-assessment and improvement. It suits only a myopic political equation and the responsibility to really evaluate and assess government performance rests squarely on those that voted the administration into power. Only they can say if their government is performing or under-performing.
It is rather unfortunate that since 2003, Kwara has been run by propaganda and deception. That explains why those at the helm of the state have been opposed to criticisms of their policies. Mere propaganda as a weapon of measuring any government success is self-delusion in itself particularly where in reality it lacked the capacity and will to deliver. Only recently Governor Ambode of Lagos State opened up about twenty-one link roads in the Alagbado area of Lagos with no distrations yet it has remained almost herculean for Kwara to provide an alternative route for vehicular movement following the on-going work at the Geri-Alimi Under-Pass. Kwara’s governance model since 2003 has been the major reason why it has lost opportunities to really highlight its growth trajectories leading to its inability to define its key role in the transformation of the people’s destiny. No state in the last fifteen years of our history has witnessed decline in all its critical areas like Kwara.
In the beginning, this administration was perhaps touted as the peoples regime with a golden opportunity for the entire state to struggle free of the millennial savagery imposed on them by a dynastic conquest and confiscation. Ever since, the people have been reeling from a co-ordinated and systemic subjugation by a leadership that have finally and virtually destroyed the state’s traditional political institutions. Added to this horrible spectre, the state became saddled with inchoate and incoherent political institutions which further distort its people’s psyche, an absurd legislature-lacking the rigour of applicability and direction as well as a religious arrangement which has seen to the rise of spiritual predators and hypocritical vendors and vultures of venality all over the state.
Kwara was never designed to run this way. The pace of its spectacular developmental achievement shortly after its creation attests to this fact. Today and at Fifty-one when one attempts to compare the state with others, government officials unintelligently tell us not to because Kwara don’t get what states like Lagos get in terms of monthly allocation. This is utter nonsense and ridiculous. The same set of government officials once told us that before the end of the present administration’s tenure, Ilorin the state capital would be like Dubai. But I tell them, they do not need to wait till such a time since we all are today’s witnesses. And I also think it is high time some of these officials recognise the fact that knowledge has no limit. Knowledge builds confidence and creates advancement. It drives mental process and playful curiosity. Knowledge becomes evil only if the aim is not virtuous. So to compare affords a state the ability to assess how successfully it has converted its little wealth or resources into broad-based socio-economic development or well-being for its population. The productivity with which states use their productive resources – physical capital, human capital, and natural capital is widely recognised as the main indicators of their level of economic development and not the disparity in their federation allocation or internally generated revenue. The greatest error in economics is in seeing a badly run economy as stable, immutable structure. Therefore to compare drives growth and acceleration and enables a serious government chose wise economic policies that makes growth and progress possible. It is regrettable how we celebrate failure and applauds partial developmental processes that lead to nowhere. More worrisome is the fact that it is only in this state also where the unfair exploitation of our collective richness is permissible as long as Senator Bukola Saraki calls the shot.
As the barometer stands today, if the present leadership in the state continues to build the ‘enemy image’ against the people, the result becomes a vicious circle of hostility. It is in nobody’s interest for Kwara to remain backward. But a thinking dominated by the psychology of hostility is deaf to moral criteria and above all to universally shared moral standard. A thinking tied to the ‘enemy image’ is a product of ignorance and not only poses a threat to stable and secure relations but also produces highly negative domestic effects. As a rule, hysteria over a non-existing internal threat is always used to justify a regime of secrecy and suspicion leading to suppression of dissent and disdain for domestic problems. In clear terms, it is not that am here trying to return to that old maxim of ‘love your enemy’ but it will make good for government to begin to develop a new political thinking. Foremost, it should seek to take a more realistic and earnest look at the other side and to understand its actual concerns, problems, doubts and cares. This understanding does not necessarily eliminate our existing differences or contradictions but would rule out deliberate distortions and suppression.
Kwara and Kwarans are well within their rights to seek responsible leadership and this chant further reveals the depth of their discontent and aspirations for a true democratic change in the state. The manner things are today, it is only important for government to overhaul its traditional ideological patterns and clichés to match the realities of modern age and of practical politics. If those leading Kwara today could harness the energy released in their hunt for imaginary enemies and direct it to address urgent matters of real state development, it would not only be better for the state they also stand to profit from it.
The Offa recent robbery attack is gruesome and tragic. It is sad and callous. All of Kwara and Nigeria was touched as the news of the incident spread. Grief they say recedes with time and grace but I cannot end this piece without commiserating with Offa and its people. Even if the town and its people have witnessed wars, they have not experienced a war like this. Offa has known the casualties of war – but not at the centre of this great town. The people also have known surprise attacks – but never before on innocent persons. All of this was brought upon the people in a single day. Let us continue to pray for those victims of terror and their families, for those in uniforms and for the good people of Offa. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow and would help strengthen us further. After all this that has just passed – all the lives taken and all the possibilities and hope that died with the dead, what perhaps now calls for our urgent attention is to give law enforcement the necessary tools to track down terror here in Kwara as well as to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the plans of terrorists before they act and find them before they strike. An attack on one is an attack on all. May we never witness a re-occurrence.