By Omeiza Ajayi
Ahead of the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, some chieftains of the party in Kwara state had sought to upstage the governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazak.
In fact, it was a battle of wits between the governor and a group led by the duo of Information and Culture minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Minister of State, Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki.
At a point, it would appear that the state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazak was losing out as the Gov. Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC on December 11, 2020 inaugurated Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa, an ally of the two ministers as the Caretaker state Chairman of the party.
The new year however came with new surprises following the sack of Bolarinwa by the CECPC which appointed his erstwhile deputy, Hon. Abdullahi Samari in his stead.
However, so many chieftains of the party under the aegis of the Kwara APC Elders Forum led by Barr. Kunle Suleiman have aligned with the governor.
Some of those who have pitched tent with him include Nigeria’s immediate-past Ambassador to Malaysia, Amb. Nurudeen Muhammed, Sen. Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi, Gen. Tunde Bello (retd), Sen. Muhammed Ahmed, Chief JB Ayeni (Chairman APC Elders Forum in Kwara South), Alhaji Alabi Ilyasu, Chief Wole Oke, Hon. Ayinla Folorunsho, Alhaji Abubakar Ndakene, Hon. Mumuni Katugi, Gen. Ibrahim Bola Kale Agbabiaka and Alhaji Hameed Adio.
The elders also berated the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Minister of State, Transportation, Sen. Gbemi Saraki for sponsoring some “failed governorship aspirants” against the governor, describing the duo as paperweight politicians with no electoral value.
Referring to Mohammed and Saraki, Barr. Suleiman said; “Those ministers and Association of Failed Governorship Aspirants can come to Abuja to say nonsense but they are just paper weight politicians. They have no influence at the grassroots. Even a professor, like Oba Abdulrasheed who prides himself as a former university vice chancellor would still have to come to the grassroots to learn”.
Sen. Ajadi on his part said the two ministers are presidential appointees who lack the capability to win elections.
“Ministers are not elected officials. President Muhammadu Buhari picked them not based on their capability to win elections. If you check the pedigree of the two ministers you will understand what I am saying that they do not have the capacity to win elections”, he stated.
According to the elders, the Abdulrazak administration “is ending the helicopter money politics that had plagued Kwara’s past”, adding that within the past 18 months, the administration has fixed over 100 rural and urban roads, culverts and bridges.
Party leadership wades in
The Buni-led CECPC has however pitched its tent with the governor, going by a statement signed by the Secretary of the CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe.
The party leadership noted that “with a clear understanding of the real and pressing needs of Kwara state following past administrations of profligacy and mismanagement of the state’s lean resources, Governor AbdulRazaq has focused attention on alleviating poverty, improving the standard of living of the people and revamping previously dilapidated infrastructure and public services in the state”.
The Buni-led CECPC noted that in agriculture, the 10-year Agricultural Transformation Plan being implemented by the state government will ensure food security, generate employment opportunities, and reduce poverty.
“In education, Governor AbdulRazaq has improved educational management through infrastructural development, training of teachers, prompt payment of salaries, bursary awards to students of Kwara State origin, record budget allocation to the education sector, among others. This has ultimately improved both the morale and academic excellence of students.
“In the area of health care development, the state government is pioneering the adoption of the use of telemedicine, better funding, and autonomy for the state’s hospitals to serve as the launch-pad for the 21st century medical technology. This is in addition to bringing health care delivery to the doorsteps of the rural populace.
“Commendably, the laudable feats have been achieved through Governor AbdulRazaq’s prudent spending, planning and hands on governance approach.
“As leader of the APC in Kwara state, we hail Governor AbdulRazaq support for the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) as it brings peace and unity to the Kwara state chapter and mobilise party supporters and members for the nationwide registration, revalidation and update excerise.
“The APC family prays for good health, long life and wisdom as Governor AbdulRazaq builds a Kwara State that works for everyone”, the party stated.
Who is AA?
Until 2019, many commentators outside Kwara politics may not have heard about the governor as the political legacy of Oloye Olusola Saraki remained unrivalled.
‘AA’ as the governor is called by his supporters however came with the “Oto ge” Tsunami, putting an end to the political influence being enjoyed by the Sarakis in Kwara politics.
With a change in government, courtesy of the “Oto ge” revolution, a supposed political “greenhorn”, under the platform of APC, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq emerged as the Governor of the State of Harmony. The Kwara helmsman, a businessman is the son of the first lawyer from Northern Nigeria, late A.G.F AbdulRazaq, SAN.
Relatively unknown in the political landscape of the state and by extension, the country, AbdulRazaq had earlier contested and lost the Governorship seat in 2011 under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change CPC.
‘Demarketing campaign won’t work’
One of the APC Chieftains in the state, Ambassador Nurudeen Mohammed has however faulted what he described as the demarketing strategy being employed by some politicians within the APC against the governor.
According to him, “Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq remains a man of the people and he stands tall as a man of honour among the majority of our party members in the state, in spite of the unfair demarketing campaign launched against his administration by some party chieftains and their co-travelers in the opposition. This is not by chance. Not only has the Governor demystified the office of Governor with his uncommon humility, simplicity, and prudence, he has redefined the story of our state in many positive ways. Whether in health, education, road, or water, the Governor has touched lives in many ways never seen before. He has strategically taken governance to the people such that there is no electoral Ward in the state that cannot point to one or two things that they have benefited in just 18 months of his administration.
“A modest and humble personalty, the Governor who has driven his own private car since day one of his administration to date. Here is a Governor who lives in his own house till date. Here is a Governor who is not taking salary. Here is a Governor who is willingly opening up his government for accountability through the phenomenal social audit process. Here is a Governor who just wants to deliver his campaign promises to the people, despite the biting economic realities. Here is a Governor who gives every part of the state a fair sense of belonging by always identifying with them in time of cultural celebration or mourning, and extending government’s patronage to every segment of the state. Today, Kwara is a model state on the continent in youths and women inclusion in government.”
Another party chieftain, Anjolaoluwa Folajimi said in Education, the state had so much suffered neglect to the extent that it was blacklisted from accessing the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC fund for more than seven years before his advent as the Governor.
“However, AbdulRazaq, has accessed a backlog of N7.1bn UBEC counterpart funds with a matching grant of N7.1bn to gradually reposition the schools. Aside from the upcoming UBEC intervention, the state on its own is carrying out renovation works in at least 43 basic schools. With the UBEC funds in the kitty, no less than 600 basic schools are to get facelifts while teachers are also to be trained.
“Worthy of commendation is the transparent process of recruiting 4701 qualified and competent teachers into our public primary, junior and senior secondary schools in the State”.
Recalling Governor AbdulRazaq’s intervention in the provision of potable water, Hon. Abdulmumin Katibi, a one time member of Kwara State House of Assembly said, “in May 2019, water tanker was the source of potable water in most parts of Ilorin, the capital city, even in the Government House. Today, Pipe-borne water is back and stable in the metropolis while nearly 500 boreholes have either been dug or rehabilitated across the state. No fewer than nine water works have been fixed since this Governor came on board while contracts for more have been awarded. With water situation being tackled, Kwara is keying into the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a key component of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 to promote hygiene and end open defecation. Under this scheme, many schools and hospitals across the state would now for the first time get tap water and pour-flush toilets.”
Like Buhari, like AA
One major policy of the administration in Kwara is the domestication of President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Social Investment Programmes NSIPs.
Modelled after President Buhari’s Social Investment Programme, Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) is the governor’s multi-faceted and nonpartisan response to the question of extreme poverty and government’s poor attention to the vulnerable.
READ ALSO: Gov AbdulRazaq presents N123Bn Budget
Under the scheme, Folajimi said at least 21,623 petty traders have accessed soft loans to stay afloat while over 10,000 transporters who could not work during the COVID-19 lockdown were supported. “Similarly, already-enumerated 10,000 vulnerable and poor senior citizens, from age 60, are now getting monthly stipends under what would be the state’s first ever institutionalised social protection scheme”, he stated.
Aside offering free digital training to over 30, 000 young people to help them cope in the new economy, the party chieftain said there is the Kwara State’s version of the Owo Isowo (TraderMoni).
Endorsement from unusual quarters
In politics, it is a case of the more you look, the less you see. Perhaps, this explains why Gov. AbdulRazaq recently got the endorsement of the kinsmen of the Information Minister from Irepodun Local Government area of the state.
Some of the APC leaders who publicly identified with the Governor include a former Kwara State Commissioner for Information, Oloriewe Raheem Adedoyin, a member of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Hon. Tayo Awodiji, Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Princess Bukola Babalola, Prince Shuaib Olanrewaju, Barr. Teju Ogintoye, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Elder Agboola Adewumi, Conrade Ben Dintoye, Alhaji Raheem Olokoba, Prince Samuel Alebiosu, Mrs. Deborah Aremu, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Mrs Shade Omoniyi, Chief Raphael Awotunde, Mr. Yomi Adeboye, Mr. Femi Ajibade, Dr. Sule Popoola, Mr. Debo Adeleke, Hon. Azeez Yakubu and others.
Declaring their support for the Governor at a Press Conference recently in Ilorin, the Minister’s kinsmen through their spokesperson, Hon. Olabanji Olayemi, who is also the Chairman, Kwara South caretaker committee said the governor has revived schools in Omu Aran, Ajase-Ipo, Edie/Iludun and Oro-Ago.
On his part, Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye said up to 10 water works have now been fixed, adding that two more, in Offa/Oyun and Jebba, are in the works.
“The Colleges of Education have now regained their accreditation — some lost theirs nearly 10 years ago! Between 2019 and 2020, the administration intervened in/constructed over 100 roads, culverts, bridges, including critical access roads in the hinterlands. Until 2020, if you were travelling within Kwara, you needed a detour to Igbeti in Oyo State to access Bani (Kaiama) in Kwara State. That is no longer the case, thanks to this administration. At least 43 schools and 23 primary healthcare facilities are being renovated and equipped. Several contractual debts and obligations, including salaries, dating back as far as 2012 have been settled*, he stated.
According to him, a visual arts centre and an innovation hub — both of them products of futuristic thinking — are being built, while various sports facilities such as a 10-arm squash court are underway at the Kwara State Stadium Complex.
“From being off air in 2019, the Radio Kwara now transmits 24 hours, the first time since it was established. And, eureka, the construction of a government FM radio is underway in Baruten, ending years of the Kwara north relying on radio stations in Benin Republic or Oyo State. Many people have commended the Governor for his strides within such a short period. And the prudence with which he achieved all that without incurring any debt or owing salaries”, he added.
Ajakaye said following a cabinet approval on December 24, 2020, the Governor has secured an approval from Parliament to raise N35bn bond from the capital market to fund new and existing infrastructural development and various economic projects that will drive growth and create jobs for the people.
Some N13bn of Kwara bond sums would go into funding 37 (ongoing and new) roads of varying sizes across the three senatorial districts. That includes, but not limited to, the ongoing 33km Ilesha Baruba road and the prized Iwo-Sabaja-Owa-Onire-Owu road which empties into the phenomenal Owu Fall.
A cumulative sum of N15bn will be spent on the education, health, entertainment, and creative sectors.
In education, the administration will increase human traffic and increased economic growth in other parts of the state by completing the Ilesha Baruba and Osi campuses of the Kwara State University.
Also speaking, a former Presidential Candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria ACPN who is now a chieftain of APC, Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima said the governor is redefining leadership and governance in Kwara State in an unprecedented manner.
“First is his simple and humble approach to leadership which has distinguished him from the previous leaders produced by the State. He carries himself with all simplicity that demystified the office he is occupying that sometimes you wonder if he is a Governor save for the authority inherent in his Office”.
With the recent award of about 24 contracts including remodeling of Dental Centre at General Hospital Ilorin to globally acceptable standard as well as the establishment of an eye clinic complex, it does appear that the governor may fast be warming his way into the hearts of Kwarans ahead of 2023.
Can his team counter the forces led by Lai Mohammed and Gbemisola Saraki? Only time will tell.