Kwara Politics: Between Loyalty and Performance
By Yushau A. Shuaib
Kwara State has witnessed unique brand of politics; the politics of political godfathers, godsons and even goddaughters. There is also the politics of anointing where particular individuals or groups determine and decide who should be what and where either at the state or at the federal level.
The most prominent political figure in the state was the Late Baba Oloye Olusola Saraki who, during his lifetime was credited to singlehandedly anointed and influenced the elections of Governor Adamu Attah of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) 1979-1983, Cornelius Adebayo of Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) 1983, Shaaba Lafiagi of Social Democratic Party (SDP) 1992-1993, Mohammed Lawal of All Peoples Party (APP) 1999 to 2003 and finally his own son, Bukola Saraki of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who served longest from 2003 to 2011.
Bukola Saraki has also been credited with influencing the nomination and eventual election of the current governor Abdulfatah Ahmed against the candidature of his sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
The current administration in the state could therefore, be said to be an offshoot of the previous administration or a government of continuity of Bukola’s tenure.
While Governor Abdulfatah has sustained the essential kernel of the erstwhile administration, he nevertheless introduced new innovations for the benefit of the citizenry. It is therefore not surprising when debate on his style of leadership and activities are made on the basis of loyalty and performance.
During an Easter Break, this writer attended the annual meeting of Third-Estate Group in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State. At the meeting, contemporary issues bordering on socio-cultural and economic development including youth empowerment and education were discussed.
A day after the annual event, I honoured an invitation for one-on-one chat with Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed at the Government House, Ilorin. It was indeed an opportunity to interact as well as ask questions about economic development in the state.
Rather than dwell on politics, our interaction focused purely on the administration’s developmental efforts in the state. The Governor disclosed that the state was investing heavily in road infrastructure to allow the smooth movement of goods and people especially as the state was moving from the age of subsistence farming to commercial agriculture where access smooth and clear access to market is a sine qua non.
It came out that in the health sector the government has upgraded some of the health institutions including the Ilorin General Hospital with modern facilities . An international diagnostic centre has also been commissioned that would serve Kwara, Nigeria and West-Africa sub-region because of substantial level of partnership with the current operators.
While not neglecting formal education, the state focuses more on the human capital development, especially incorporating the non-formal educational sector into a system whereby it will be properly monitored for growth and development. According to Governor Fatai, the state set up an international vocational centre in Ajase for skills acquisition that would be beneficial to students, unemployed youths and graduates. Graduates of the centre will be employable in marine, civil engineering, electrical and oil and gas industries.
Some of the applicants are also compartmentalised into cooperatives under an entrepreneurship development scheme which creates a debenture where fund are made available by government, for onward lending to each of these cooperative groups on a revolving scheme basis. The funds are accessed through micro finance banks to enable the beneficiaries start their businesses and ensure sustainability.
A bridge empowerment scheme introduced by the state has helped over 5000 youth to be engaged in public and private sectors of the economy. There are also other centres encouraged by the state but run by individuals and groups under an association known as Masters Trainer Association. The skills taught at these centres in form of apprenceship are captured as standards and certified by regulatory bodies.
Kwara was one of the first states that embraced the minimum wage, because of the realisation that happy and contented workforce will ensure the success of government plans and programmes. The government has granted over N3 billion in car loans to civil servants. There exists a robust dispute resolution mechanism where aggrieved labour groups get redress through designated channels.
Though a predominantly a civil service environment, new businesses springing and throwing up an emerging middle class. With the ongoing private sector-driven projects that are encouraged by government, the state currently generates about N900m monthly from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Meanwhile, due to the continued drastic reduction in monthly federal allocation, the governor said the state was in the process of accessing N23billion bond from the capital market to execute infrastructural projects. This is coming after successful completion and repayment of the N17billion bond accessed from the market in 2009.
The new bond would be expended on the International Vocational Centre, Metropolis water reticulation, solar power street lights, and completion of on-going road projects. The bond would also be used for renovation of the Indoor Sports Hall, Olympics-size swimming pool, volley ball and handball courts at the state stadium complex in Ilorin.
While some parts of the country are facing enormous challenges of insecurity, intolerance, illiteracy, poverty and disease, Kwara State seems to be one of most peaceful states where political class should avoid dirty politicking that could deprive the people the dividends of good governance.