By Dapo Akinrefon
Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Kwara State and the face of the O To Ge (enough is enough) movement that has become a national sensation.
In this interview, Abdulrazaq spoke on various issues, including his vision for lifting the state out of poverty and infrastructure decay if elected governor in the coming election. Excerpts:
You are coming from the private sector. What are your plans for the state?
It is a moot point to ask why we want to end the current political status quo in our state. The facts about Kwara speak for themselves. As somebody from the private sector, I see the running of Kwara as is being done as an anomaly.
You can never have development that way. We have a government and functionaries that are only interested in being in charge of public funds and privileges of public office without any commensurate delivery of services to the public.
Between January 2011 and August 2018, the Kwara State government has received roughly N300bn in federal allocations. In the same period, the 16 local governments have received more than N500bn.
This means that this state has received an average of 40bn naira annually from the federal accounts while the local councils have taken over 27bn naira annually between 2011 and 2017. Yet Kwara is poor in social infrastructure even as it is one of the frontline states. Teachers and pensioners are owed, local government teachers are not paid, and civil servants at the state level are not properly remunerated and often have their pay slashed for dubious reasons without being able to protest same.
In Kwara, public funds are invested in projects which are then converted to private estates. There is no other state in Nigeria where this impunity happens. There are several anomalies going on in our state to the extent that people outside Kwara often regard our people as second-class people. Among the six states created in 1967, Kwara has the second lowest internally generated revenue and this speaks to lack of creativity and economic activities in the state.
Despite the obsolete state of infrastructure, low development and non-payment of workers and pensioners of their dues, this state is indebted to the tune of N56bn as at December 2017, 30 per cent of it being external debt and 70 owed to local financial institutions. By this figure, and in spite of absence of commensurate development to justify it, per capital debt of the state stands at N18,000 per indigene of the state who are already impoverished.
What would you do differently?
We will do everything differently from the current system. We will end a culture of converting public funds to private wealth and then dispensing some percentage of the same funds through a very dehumanising political patronage. We will use public funds to serve the public in manners that restore the dignity of our people in the area of infrastructure, including road and other basic amenities.
For instance, you will find that Kwara has repeatedly prioritised recurrent expenditure at the expense of capital spending and the result is clear in its infrastructure deficit. Worst still, there is hardly any diligent implementation of the capital expenditure over the years.
In 2016, out of N67.4b capital expenditure, only N24bn was disbursed, representing just 35.6% of capital budget for that year. Similarly, capital budget performance for the education was just 19%! This has to change. Most parts of Kwara are ungoverned as the only time our people feel any semblance of governance is during election period. Many schools and hospitals have been taken over by the respective communities to ensure the rest of the world doesn’t live them behind. But there is little these communities can do. There are communities where just one teacher takes all the subjects in a primary school. Most hospitals don’t have doctors.
When we assume office, by the Grace of God and the good people of Kwara, we will spread development to all parts of the state. We will ensure that our mothers have access to qualitative maternal care. At the moment, Kwara has one of the highest cases of maternal deaths in the country.
The state is poor in terms of industrialization and infrastructural facilities especially in education and health. How do you intend to tackle this?
Industries or businesses cannot thrive where you don’t have basic infrastructure. Kwara has a comparative advantage in agriculture. But our farming communities don’t have facilities that will encourage investment. So we will concentrate, basically, on building infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools and opening up our communities to the world through stable electricity and internet connectivity. If you have basic infrastructure and amenities, investors will naturally come in because businesses succeed where the cost of running them is friendly and they have easy access to markets.
What are your plans to combat youth unrest, high crime rate and drug abuse?
If you provide basic infrastructure which then encourages investment, there will be jobs and our youths will be productively engaged. The idle mind, as it is said, is the devil’s workshop. We promise to show good examples to the youth by ensuring transparency and accountability. We will provide our youths with 21st century opportunities for a better life. Measures will also be taken to address drug abuse which I agree is a problem. In tackling it, we will look at the root causes which include frustration, peer pressure and other social crises.
There are insinuations that if your party comes to power, it will be controlled by some godfathers from Lagos. How do you react to that?
Who in Kwara doesn’t want our State to be as developed as Lagos State? Lagos State collaborated very successfully with Kebbi State in agriculture and today Kebbi is the largest producer of rice in Nigeria. Lagos is cooperating with a few other states successfully too. The Kwara government of Saraki went all the way to Zimbabwe for white farmers and allegedly invested billions but there is nothing to show for it today . So cooperation with Lagos is a good thing.
That allegation came from those who, just a few years ago, were always seen with the same Lagos politicians in APC. Were they actually taking instructions from Lagos then? They said we want to take Kwara to the Southwest if elected. It was a wild and yet funny allegation. But it shows they lack any sense of history. Everybody knows the roles my father played to keep Ilorin in the Northern region. The facts are there. All in all, I think they were trying to incite the people against us but the plan has failed. People have seen through their desperation. The destiny of Kwara will be determined only by Kwarans. Unlike them, we won’t give slots belonging to Kwara people to anybody else.
What are your priority programmes if you are voted into office?
Our priority programmes will revolve around providing basic infrastructure, reorienting our people on lost values and lifting Kwara from poverty.
If you are voted into office as Governor, what is the first thing you will do?
What we will do first will be determined by what resources are available. We will also be guided by available records on the state of things we meet on the ground, but I can assure you that we will mobilise every resources at our disposal, including from private investors, to fulfill our campaign promises to our people across all the senatorial zones; in all corners of the state. And we promise to ensure fair, just and equitable development, having the fear of God at the back of our mind at all times.
What other things would you do?
Among other things, we will look into the welfare of teachers, health care givers, and boost small scale businesses. Kwara used to be a powerful centre of commerce because it is the melting pot between the North and the South. But this is no longer the case. We will restore this glory by ensuring that our industries are revived in line with modern realities. Basically, Kwara requires urgent dismantling of the current political mercantilism which stifles development, encourages laziness and thuggery and dehumanises our people. This will free up resources to serve the people.