Kwara State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Hon Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, in this chat with journalists among others spoke on the situation in the state after the “O to ge” political machine that swept away former Senate President Bukola Saraki and his loyalists who held sway in the state for about 20 years and installed a brand new political leadership with Alhaji Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman as governor.
By Demola Akinyemi
Since the APC came to power in Kwara State, how has it been?
As a party, we are trying to make things work. We have a very big responsibility to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of the state. We have been trying to put our house in order. Every effort is being made to see that our party is strengthened at all levels. You know that when the APC came on board we brought people of different groupings, and camps together. We buried our differences and and won the elections.
However, as a party chairman I saw that we needed to do more than that because I know that after the victory some people somehow will be pushed aside. And I don’t want a situation where anybody will feel alienated. I tried as much as possible to ensure that most party members are on board so that there will be less complaints from any of the quarters.
One of the first things we did was to put in place caucuses at all the levels of the party. Going by the Constitution of our party, we are allowed to have local and state government caucuses. But beyond that I saw that the provision of the constitution may not be enough for us.
Standing on that section which allows us to float caucuses we tried as much as possible to come up with something that will better suit our situation and that was why we expanded our local government caucus in which some notable elders will come on board.
In the constitution of the party there is nothing about senatorial advisory committee but we had to put that in place to create an avenue in which leaders in each of the districts will be able to interact with one another.
Beyond that what we did was to also expand the state caucus in which we have notable elders and members of the party to be part of that as a way of taking care of a lot of our party members. We don’t want a situation where our members will complain of lack of
information at any level. Those caucuses that will put in place by the time we oil them regularly and by the grace of God any other election that will be coming up will always be a work over for us.
Are you afraid that sometime former Senate President Bukola Saraki could launch a comeback?
Of course, as politicians we will be fooling ourselves if we think that Saraki is not lurking in the corner. That is why we are trying to put our house in order; to see that the governor is also on his toes at all times. It is working together and in cooperation that will make us ward off whoever comes to challenge us.
How has Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq fared in terms of performance?
So far so good, don’t forget that the state was in shamble by the time APC took over. Virtually there was nothing on ground. The governor declared that his predecessor beyond having looted the treasury there is virtually nothing that could be pointed at. Even to the extent that the office of the governor is leaking. As I am taking to you now both the governor and his deputy do not have good offices to operate from. They are just trying to make use of guest houses converted to offices. It is as bad as that. The same thing goes for infrastructure in the state. And above that nothing to fall back on in terms of money left behind.
But since he came in over three months ago the governor has been putting his pieces together to see that things are put in shape. That is why the governor has made some notable achievements in his first 100 days in office. When I say notable achievements, there were so many services the people of the state were hitherto deprived of, which they now have the opportunity of getting.
For instance for several years the state has had to contend with acute water shortage. The governor has come on board a temporary measure which allows some parts of the state capital to have supply of potable water. The same thing goes for the other two senatorial districts of Kwara South and North.
Secondly, in the area of education, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) counterpart funding expected of a state which the previous government had not thought right to pay for so many years has now become a thing of the past. The governor released money for the counterpart funds which now allows UBEC to release some funds to the state. If this fund is released it will assist the government in its educational policies. This will ultimately lead to an improvement in the poor standard of education in the state.
Don’t forget that this state has not been part of the Federal Government school feeding programme because the role which the state is expected to play has not been so in the past government. This governor has thought it right that the programme takes off in the state, because he knows the effects of that in the state. One of the effects of that is increment in school enrolment and also improvement in the standard of education. What do you want to teach a hungry pupil?
In the health sector, recently there was health summit which the government actually organized to look into the sector. All the challenges in that sector too have all been collated together and they are receiving attention from the governor. The governor has been able to do so many things in a very short period of time and we are looking forward to seeing better things to come from him. What we have seen so far are just tips of the iceberg.
How do you feel about the victory of your party at the governorship elections tribunal?
Naturally I feel extremely happy. Even though, we know very well that those who went to court just wanted to waste the time of the court and also wasted their own resources. We on own know that our party had done proper screening. We know that there was nothing wrong with the qualification of our candidate to contest the election. What the Electoral Act says now is that parties are to screen their candidates. If any of the parties puts up a candidate that has k-leg then it is the party’s cup of tea when there is a problem. Our party has done a thorough job. What the tribunal did was to confirm a very good job that our party had done.
What accounts for the delay in the formation of Governor AbdulRazaq’s cabinet?
Well I think people should be patient regarding that. Although it is something that ought to have been done, but I don’t want to see that as a delay. Up till now there are still some states that are yet to have commissioners. But then, another thing we need to know is that the governor is just coming on board and he needs to take his time.
This is a state that has been ruled for several years by the people in opposition now. He needs to take his time in choosing the right set of people that will be working with him.
I guess that is what is holding him down and I think in no time the list of the commissioner-nominees will be completed. Already, four names have been forwarded to the state House of Assembly.
How do you think APC can emerge victorious in the November governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa state?
We are confident that our party will win the two states by the grace of God. There will always be differences and we are in a situation that there will always be dissenting views because these days people don’t realize that governance should be also likened to a
position of the breadwinner of the family like the father of the house. The father of the house has a lot of challenges. At the end of the month he has to pay for house rent, food, school fees and other things.
And this is being drawn from the salary, the salary
is being depleted to the extent that some will have to spill over.
Running of government is like that too. There are so many challenges that usually face a government at any point in time.
And that accounts for the reason why all the means of the people cannot be attended to at a single point in time. As a result of that there will always be some complaints from some quarters.
In the case of Kogi we have had a lot of complaints; Some coming from the opposition; some of the problems are being magnified than they are appear. I think Governor Yahaya Bello who has emerged as our party’s candidate in the November 16th election,and has been there in the last four years, is familiar with the terrain. I think by now he should actually know how to cross his t’s and dot his I’s. He should know how to take care of the challenges he has before the election. We are very optimistic that our party will reclaim victory in Kogi state again.
Challenges differ from one party to the other. Even PDP is struggling with its own too. From reports that are getting to us in Bayelsa, people of the state are ready for APC. PDP has been ruling the state since 1999. And there has not been any good thing to show for their many years of reign. People of the state have made up their minds to give APC a trial. So we are also looking forward to clinging power in Bayelsa.
The composition of Federal Executive Council is a very fine one. It is said that ‘you don’t change a winning team. That is what exactly played out. Those who the president was
comfortable with, he allowed them to come on board and you will see that almost all the ministers that were nominated were made to go back to the ministries they served before.
It is because President Muhammadu Buhari wants continuity and he sees them as members of his winning team that should be taken to the next level. And as for those sets of new people too I think the president has learnt his ropes very well and that is why he feels that those gaps created they are the best people that will fill them up.
At this time I also thank Mr. President for deeming fit to give Kwara state two ministers.
How have you been managing the different interests, groups and
politicians that ensured APC’s victory in the state?
To a large extent, we have been able to manage that and see that the party is relatively at peace. Although, some new groups are trying to spring up for one reason or the other, we have made them to understand that no group should be allowed to override the structure of the party. That is my position as the state chairman of the party. Every political group that is being formed must queue behind the structure of the party. And they must also operate following the order of the party. We must not allow ourselves to get derailed.
Do you think the APC government in Kwara has come to stay?
I want to tell you that by the grace of God the APC has come to stay in the state. We are also hopeful that our government will perform very well, that in the next four years our people will not have any choice than to vote for APC. We know that we must not relent at all. That is why work is always in progress at the party and government levels for us to maintain and sustain the victory we have got.
What is your advice to members of the party?
I urge the party members to see themselves as ambassadors of government wherever they are. They should rally round the governor,they should know that they are the eyes, ears and mouthpiece of the government, and where they see that things are going wrong they should turn the attention of the party leadership and the government to it from time to time.