By Rafiu Ajakaye
WHETHER in the media or on the streets, the preponderance of public opinion is that Kwara State is now led by a man with eyes fixed on changing the narratives of the North-Central state for the right reasons. Kwara, for the record, is not yet an eldorado.
No such state exists. But the administration inherited and has rescued a state that once tottered on the brink of collapse – at least in the area of human capital development indices. Basic healthcare was comatose.
Children were no longer getting vaccination to curb deadly diseases, including polio, because the state was not fulfilling its obligation in the national campaign. The state held the trophy in children malnutrition in North-Central. Kwara had also been blacklisted from the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, after funds meant for primary education were mismanaged, coming last in the UBEC ratings. The Colleges of Education, COEs, had been run aground, with their workers owed several months in salary arrears. The schools of nursing and midwifery had lost their accreditation. Access to potable water was mainly through rickety tankers. The state-owned broadcast stations were off the air.
Kwara ticked all the wrong boxes in the World Bank ease of doing business ratings, while pensioners could hardly recall the last time they were paid. Another mark of its pitiable condition was the fact that no college graduate – having been told of the horrible state of its orientation camp – wanted to have their national youth service in Kwara. Just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully changed the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which have brought back development partners, and taken the state off the UBEC blacklist, AbdulRazaq is taking steps to stabilise and reposition the state for growth.
Mileage in healthcare
In the health sector, the administration began with injecting N232m to tackle malaria, maternal death, and malnutrition. On January 19, 2019, Kwara embarrassed Nigeria with the recording of Africa’s first vaccine-derived polio case. To end this, the new government returned routine polio vaccination across the state after many years. The administration has invested hugely in counterpart funds so much that by December 2019, Kwara has received N8bn worth of vaccines, drugs, and technical support from the Federal Government and development partners who had earlier left the state when basic obligations were not met by the previous regimes.
Equipped with state-of-the-art ICU facility like defibrillators, patient monitors, ventilators, Kwara for the first time now has a five-ward air-conditioned isolation centre for infectious diseases. The administration has recently purchased five new military-grade ambulances with the capacity to manage fragile patients on the go. Apart from trainings for health workers, the administration was about the first in the country to pay mouth-watering allowances for medical workers managing COVID-19 patients. The long-dead oxygen plant has now been revived. Kwara, which used to buy oxygen for its hospitals, is today self-sufficient and can sell oxygen to neighbouring states and private hospitals.
The era of medical workers lacking decent shelter to stay at the specialist hospital in Sobi is gone with the renovation of 15 units of three-bedroom staff quarters at the hospital. The eye centre at the Civil Service Clinic, long comatose, is back with ultramodern facilities. Neglected since 2012, the College of Midwifery in Ilorin has been revived and re-accredited.
Renovation is ongoing at the College of Nursing, Oke Ode, while a 300-capacity ICT centre has been erected and equipped at the College of Health Technology, Offa, where four blocks of three classrooms have been built along with a new access road. The icing on the cake is that the school has regained its accreditation – thanks to the N40m the administration released to make it happen.
Along with free health insurance scheme now launched for 10,000 indigent Kwarans, the government is renovating 37 primary health centres across the state, while 70 new medical personnel, including doctors, have just been recruited to strengthen access to quality healthcare. Hold your breath: for the first time in history, Kwara is building a back-and-spine neurosurgery and neurology unit!
Linking agricultural hinterlands
Kwara prided itself as an agrarian state. It even once constructed a large cargo shed to attract agro-processing investments. Yet the farming hinterlands in Kaiama, Baruten and elsewhere had no good roads connecting them to the market in the city. This is changing. The administration is today constructing the multi-purpose Maigida Bani road which connects farming communities in the north to those in the central for easy access to market. The Gwanara road, famous for being the scene of unfortunate attack on some political leaders, is now receiving attention – thanks to the government getting the anti-graft agencies to get the contractor back to site.
Kwara had almost lost its RAAMP III slot to Bayelsa for failing to pay N200m counterpart funds. The new administration had since paid and Kwara is back to reckoning. Kwara houses Nigeria’s first museum in Esie. But what led to the historical site was what may be called a bush path. That has changed under AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who has tarred the road to the facility. At the moment, at least 68 township, urban roads, or mini-bridges linking major communities have either been completed or are ongoing across the state.
Boost in education
Kwara had a few nice-sounding higher educational institutions. But it lacked basic schools conducive for quality learning while attention to quality teaching was low. This is evidenced in the recent ratings the state has had in elementary education. WAEC recently slapped a N30.5m fine on several public schools over exam misconducts under the past regime. The new administration is rehabilitating 31 schools across the state, seven of which are undergoing complete overhaul. The seven are Oro Grammar School; Government Unity Secondary School, Kaiama; Government Secondary School Share; Patigi Secondary School; Government High School Ilorin; Ilorin Grammar School (awarded); and Government Secondary School Lafiagi. These renovation works are to gulp N1.7bn.
Apart from paying the WAEC fine, the administration has begun gradual retraining of teachers, including sponsorship of their participation in the UNESCO programme. Having taken Kwara off the UBEC blacklist, the administration has begun the long-drawn processes for accessing the over N7bn trapped there. Indeed, the 2020 budget contains N2.3bn meant to access part of the funds, underscoring the passion of the administration for basic education.
Computers with internet access
Free exercise books were produced for school children even as exchange students are now being catered for. Many classrooms at the school of special needs have been renovated, with teaching aids, special software and computers with internet access made available to the children there. 10 more staff, including teachers, were newly engaged for them.
The administration has integrated the 26 teachers at the CoE Model Primary School Ilorin into its payroll, ending years of crisis at the school, while also paying their 30 months’ salary arrears. The state library complex has been rehabilitated, a part of it equipped with e-learning facilities powered with 24-hour solar energy.
Teachers across the COEs have returned to the classroom after the new administration paid their arrears worth N700m. Like the school of midwifery, courses at the COE (Technical) Lafiagi and College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies Ilorin have now been re-accredited. Monthly subventions have been restored to the institutions after many years. For the first time, bursaries and scholarships were paid through transparent electronic windows to rule out the humongous fraud which recently landed several officials in court. The inherited N19.5m salary arrears at the International Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship College, IVTEC, have been settled.
Basic amenities, infrastructure
With five water works fixed and some others at various stages of repair, clean potable water is back to Kwara households at stable intervals. At least 402 boreholes were rehabilitated in the early days of the government, while 14 more have just been dug in Baruten where water scarcity had been a menace. The boreholes will complement the ongoing Yashikira water works.
The civil service is at its best in two decades. The new administration has not only restored running costs across the MDAs, 27 new vehicles were also recently purchased to aid mobility of workers while modern computers were given to them. For the first time in decades, the civil servants escaped political victimisation. The permanent secretaries inherited by the new government are just gradually leaving the service in batches – a far cry from the instant sack, demotion, and humiliation their predecessors suffered in the past.
The new government constantly sends out the right signal that a new Kwara has arrived. The NYSC camp, which was no better than a penitentiary, has undergone complete rehabilitation and equipped with basic amenities.
Fifteen years after it was held, the administration revived the Kwara State Sports Festival. The first on the continent, the baseball court has been rehabilitated after decades of neglect. Various capacity trainings and enlightenment programmes have been held for youths, including a three-day Nigerian youth parliamentary workshop in Ghana. The government has done so much to engage young people, perhaps more than any government in Nigeria today, with nearly 60 percent of AbdulRazaq’s appointments going to persons below 40, including the commissioner for youths and sports development who is just 26 years old.
All outstanding allowances to judicial officers, some dating back to 2014, have been paid by the administration. Its expansive waterlogged compound now paved with modern interlocking tiles, the administration has undertaken a complete remodelling of the ‘Centre Igboro’ Area Court in Ilorin – more than 30 years after it was abandoned. For the first time since it was constructed during military rule, the administration has re-roofed the State High Court complex while the Sango Magistrate Court, gutted by fire over four years ago, has been reconstructed. The 2020 budget, all things being equal, made provisions for the commencement of the Ministry of Justice’s building.
With one of the best arable lands around, the governor believes Kwara holds the ace in agriculture. He has not only paid N350m to enrol the state in the FADAMA III scheme, Kwara has keyed into the National Livestock Transformation Plan which is designed to ensure food security and end the perennial deadly clashes between herders and farmers. The government is offering the right attitude to make the upcoming BUA sugar plantation in Lafiagi a reality.
Equipped with tractors, planters, and boom-sprayers that have just been repaired, the administration has recently flagged off the cropping season with professional display of modern farming techniques to create awareness about mechanised farming in the state. Before then, for the first time in years, the government established various nurseries which have raised 50,000 cocoa seedlings, 10,000 cashew seedlings, 200 citrus seedlings, 3,000 oil palm seedlings, 200 paw-paw seedlings, and 200 guava seedlings.
Apart from renovating the juvenile correctional home, the children reception centre, and paying counterpart funds for the World Bank-funded community and social development projects, CSDP, the administration has recently launched its social investment programme, KWASIP, which targets the aged, the unemployed, petty traders, and little children who would be fed in school.
Confronted by years of prebendal politics and governance hinged on grandstanding and propaganda, the administration is indeed punching above its weight in making Kwara to work again.
But much more important is the fact that AbdulRazaq is redefining governance, giving hope to the disadvantaged, empowering local artisans, redistributing wealth, and calling global attention to Kwara with his bold enlistment of women in the decision-making process in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs 5 – a practical way to inspire the girl-child to a new height.
His female cabinet pick is the highest ever on the African continent. With just one year gone in a four-year mandate, it is clear that the people of the state made the right choice and are better off sticking with a man who walks his talk about restoring the glory of Kwara State and making the masses the centrepiece of his administration.
..Ajakaye is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Kwara State