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Re: The Bukola Saraki years in Kwara State

FOR those who might not see through his questionable political and personal motives, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu unwittingly gave up the game in his recent tirade against Dr. BukolaSaraki, the former governor of Kwara State, in an article he published in the Thursday edition of Vanguard newspaper.

The first slip was at the end of the article, when he finally disclosed: “A disclaimer is necessary here: I worked actively for the candidacy of Muhammed Dele Belgore of the ACN in the last gubernatorial election in Kwara State.” While this signature disclaimer tends to suggest that Modibbo has not yet succeeded in turning his conscience into an accomplice; it is actually a deceptive and twisted attempt at full disclosure and a ridiculous pretension at professionalism.

Kawu knows very well that the disclosure should have come upfront, not as a footnote. Nevertheless, his attempt at misleading the readers by framing his partisan diatribe as disinterested and objective analysis eventually fell apart at its fragile seams.

No one should begrudge Kawu for “working actively” for the political ambition of his cousin or the tantalizing promise of furthering his financial and political “ambitions,” as he is wont to plead in some of his numerous solicitations.

But it is patently fraudulent for Kawu to want to foist his frustrations on unsuspecting members of the public through a cocktail of warmed-up lies, lazy innuendoes and outright libel.They should get used to this: the elections have been won and lost, and attempting to extend the campaign period through puerile propaganda is unproductive and delusional.

His second slip might as well be Freudian. In attempting to put down the hugely successful Shonga Farms, Kawu wrote: “the most central of these is the Zimbabwe farm project that has given us far more food for thought than food for our stomachs.” For those familiar with the operational style of Kawu and his ilk, the rambling attack on Dr. Bukola Saraki might as well be all about “food for their stomachs.” A Ghanian proverb says you cannot talk when you have food in your mouth. But people like Kawu are character magicians, they would always find a way of doing both.

We shall return to this shortly. But suffice to say here that the same Kawu wrote this about Dr. Saraki on the back-page of Daily Trust barely four years ago:

“Over the past few years, I have travelled back and forth to Ilorin, and noted that true to what he (Dr. BukolaSaraki) told me…he has endeavoured to impact upon the state in his commitment to agriculture, improving the network of roads, attempting to be a catalyst for a private-sector led economic investment climate, putting money in education and     health-care, among others. He has instituted a programme of urban cleanliness in the state capital….”
-The Daily Trust of 12 April 2007

It is therefore, important to ask Ishaq Modibbo Kawu what has changed between 2007 and 2011. Is it that those achievements that he crowed about in 2007 have suddenly disappeared? Or has Kawu suddenly developed a squinted vision because he has found a new grazing ground? Perhaps, Dr. saraki has become arrogant overnight because he has refused to turn the state to a permanent meal ticket of some people with a vaunted sense of entitlement and an insatiable appetite? As said before, we shall return to some of these questions.

In attempting to tar the governor’s reputation and achievements, Kawu made several unsubstantiated allegations, ranging from imposition of a candidate, rigging of election, to abuse of office. Most of his claims are not worth dignifying with a response because as gossips go, they are so low-grade that they even fall below beer-parlour level.

Yet, this is someone who validates himself with claims of “more than 30-year experience in journalism.” Forgetting that experience is ultimately about what you did with what happened to you. Now that we know the kind of activities packed into those 30 years, we can move on to something more serious. And the serious thing is this: some of his unsubstantiated claims and wild allegations are clearly actionable.

In the interim and for the sake of posterity, it is important to clarify two things. The first is the misplaced concern about the use of state fund in public-private-partnership (PPP) projects. Anyone with elementary education will know that this is a partnership between two parties involving financial and non-financial commitments from both. We have used the PPP model to revive comatose public enterprises and run new ones that are co-owned but managed by the private partners. The partnership structure of these enterprises is public knowledge, and readily available to those who are genuinely interested to know

Both Kawu and his sponsors in ACN have asked that the cost of these projects and their ownership structure be publicised. We have news for them: what they are looking for is already in the public domain. Besides, the government of the state is not accountable to any political party or its hirelings. We are accountable to the people—and to the people only—not to those out for political mischief and personal agenda.

The second is how Kawu has dismissively labelled the governor’s sterling achievements as prestige projects. This is a lamentable page straight from their propaganda work-book. Because it is impossible for them to wish away the things that Dr. Bukola Saraki has done to transform Kwara State within eight years, they have resorted to questioning the rationale for the projects, querying their costs and impugning the character of the initiator. But the people are not deceived by their antics.

Towards the end of his diatribe, Kawu remembered that he used to be a Marxist. He warmed up his class-analysis text thus: “in eight years, Bukola was a harbinger of a self-serving and elitist form of modernity. In the long run, it was modernity which did not and could not work for the mass of our people.” This is clearly below the pale, and reveals the contempt that Kawu and his sponsors have for the people of Kwara.

Pray, what is self-serving and elitist about keeping the streets of Ilorin and environs clean, and in the process, creating jobs for more than three thousand people and providing the workers with opportunity for savings and credit? What is self-serving and elitist about creating jobs for 1500 people and producing 13, 000 metric tonnes of cashew per annum for export? What is self-serving and elitist about giving Kwarans the most stable electricity supply in the country?

Mr Adebimpe, a political analyst, wrote from Ilorin

What is self-serving and elitist about implementing an education reform with focus on quality of instruction and providing a model adjudged as best practice by developing partners? What is self-serving and elitist about constructing and rehabilitating roads and electrifying rural communities?

What is self-serving and elitist about providing health insurance for rural dwellers at a cost of N300 per annum, a programme that received global acclaim recently by no less a personality than the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, who at a breakfast meeting with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in Abuja earlier this month remarked as follows:

“The ground-breaking Community Health Insurance Scheme of the Kwara State Government is another hopeful example. This unique initiative offer comprehensive     healthcare to all people, year round at a modest cost. It is accomplished through     cooperation among the government, traditional rulers, the private sector and donors. This     is exactly the kind of innovative partnership that we should replicate here in Nigeria and     beyond. I thank Dr. Bukola Saraki for his exemplary efforts and visionary leadership.”

Well, we cannot expect people who are still smarting from a woeful defeat to see the positive side of anything. But they must tell us what is self-serving and elitist about building a world-class university, a football academy, a diagnostic center, a cargo airport and an aviation college? These are project that would give people reasons to come to our State and enrich our economy. Kawu claims to know what is good for Kwara, but he cannot see that the kind of money that Nigerians take to India for medical purposes is good for Kwara when the diagnostic centre takes off. Prestige Project?

Yet again, what is self-serving and elitist about attracting private companies like the Dangote Flour Mills to set up factories and employ thousands of our people? And what is self-serving and elitist about the Shonga Farms that is redefining commercial agriculture in Nigeria, recording increase in yields sometimes thrice the national average, setting the pace for the country, and employing about 5000 people at harvest time? And what is so modern about all these things that should be beyond the good people of Kwara State? We can go on and on.

What is clear is that Kawu and his sponsors are not only conflicted, they are also incompetent propagandists. Though they appeal to populism, they do not really care about the people. In fact they have disdain for the people. Imagine a former Marxist saying, for example, that affordable healthcare for the poor is “modernity which did not and could not work for the mass of our people.”

This is more than pathetic!
But we are not surprised. It shows that these folks only see the people as possible bridge for “food for their stomach.” This is their only passion, their main obsession. And in the service of this, everything is expendable, including the people. Though we do not hope to go into the muck with him, we do hope Kawu would not force us to publish for the whole world his declined proposals and solicitations that put the motive for his attack on the governor beyond question. A word is enough for the wise!

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