Kwara North has been marginalised for 20 years - Aisha Ahman Pategi
Community Outreach Advocacy, Capacity Building and Health (COACH) is a community outreach group with mission to inspire, guide and empower all to drive the growth of communities through innovation and partnership with all stakeholders in Nigeria.
The group embarked on mobilisation of potential voters for collection of permanent voter card ahead of the expiration of INEC continuous voter registration. Founder of the group, Aisha Ahman Pategi, spoke to AHMED 'LATEEF in Patigi at the weekend on challenges facing the people in getting themselves registered among other sundry issues.
What informed your decision to create this community outreach group?
The reason why we came up with this was when I came back from outside the country to register for my PVC. When I got here, what I saw really baffled me, actually it was quite disturbing, because the INEC office was not what I expected. People were lined up and they were paying N100 to register. Apparently, they have to pay N100 for diesel (to power generator). That is disturbing.
By the time I started asking the youths, everybody was saying we are going with (President Muhammadu) Buhari. They said they were tried, that there are a lot of issues going on and everything. And I could see it, there is so much anger, and I said this is not right. Everybody in Nigeria has a right to, just the way it is in Abuja where you don't have to pay N100, it should be the same way in every community in Nigeria.
So, when I went back to Abuja, I spoke to a few of our leaders in APC essentially and the nation. I said this is what is going on, this is what I found, and obviously this is the time for me to come back home and see how I can impact, especially if I'm going to start, I need to start with my community, because for a long time, we haven't been here. My family is actually the oldest political family in Kwara. A lot of developments that have happened even in Ilorin was actually brought by my Dad.
But because most of us have not paid much (attention) to politics or leadership and all that, the only person we have is Aliyu Ahman Pategi and one person can't make that much impact, and everybody is representing their own people. I started to realise there is this thing going about the Kwara North wanting the gubernatorial ticket this time around, because it is being almost 20 years we haven't have that.
One of the arguments is people from Kwara North are not that many. So, they are not making that much impact even when it comes to election. I said that is not true. Because even just Patigi alone, they said we are just 250,000. That is not possible. I know the population of Patigi is even more 500,000. I started doing my research and I discovered that a lot of people don't actually register and a lot of people don't even vote, and also a lot of people that even registered don't even go back to take their PVC. They said what is the point, they go out, they vote, they have to even pay N100 to register and at the end of it all, they are voices are not counting. And that is why I started community outreach, so that we would make sure that this time their voices are heard and the impact actually is felt, especially in Kwara North as a whole.
What disturbed me as well is when Iooked at all the numbers of 2015 elections, what I discovered was the total vote for Kwara was about 400, and in writing, they said the population of Kwara is 2.3million. So, you are talking about less than 20 percent of the population. If you break it down, how many are kids really at the end of it all. We should definitely have more than at least 70 percent that are adults at this point, and this was 2015. Obviously, the population has increased now.
So, I think that we need to understand that we need to get people to register but at the same time, people that actually take offices, they get overwhelmed. We understand that. If you want people to vote for you, you have to make sure that they feel your impact, because that is the responsibility you have taken. And as a leader, you can't do it all by yourself, you need to set up committees and delegate responsibilities and follow up also because that is the wisdom behind leadership. A leader can't do it all. President Buhari can't do it all but he has to make sure that the people in his cabinet can be held responsible for anything that happens, because if the country does well, he does well. If the country doesn't, then at the end, it falls back to him.
Because he cannot be here right now. He can't be everywhere. But the important thing is even God that has created us, when you look at it, that's the essence of each and everyone of us. It is God that evolves the way he wills. And if we decide that we are ready to serve God, because that is what public service is all about. I decided that I'm ready to serve God my God, I'm ready to do it through public service, through community outreach, to make sure that when I start this programme, which is making sure that we rally as many people as possible to register for PVC. At the same time, people that have registered to have their data, because I tell you one thing, data is actually more profitable to gain than gold and oil combined. Anybody who has complete data, you have it all. And make sure what you promised, you are able to deliver.
If you take an example, everybody is talking about (Donald) Trump, that is he is crazy. But if we look back from what Trump has been and what he has done today, every single thing that Trump has promised American people, he is actually delivering it. And what we want leadership to be, that is what we want campaign to be about. And so, I am with President Muhammadu Buhari, I am with APC. So, that is why I'm taking this as a pilot. I'm starting with my own root to say we can actually duplicate this in every community around.
And what is it about is that we are driving for people to understand that PVC for a new Nigeria. We are ready to move forward, we are ready to meet up with the rest of the world, because Nigeria is really lagging behind. I believe that with the like of us, that have been outside the country, that can see the benefits of what other people have done, it is time for each and everyone of us to come and make sure that our own people do understand how we can collectively come together and create solutions to our problems.
Because the government can't solve everybody's problem. The government is just here to regulate, to make sure everyone is responsible and have the basic necessities. Take America for example, majority of all the inventions that has taken place, came from the thinkers, the youths. So, these are the things we need to make people understand. Everybody wants a job, everybody wants to move to Abuja. But at the end of it all, it is not going to help. How would an average person, who doesn't really have food to eat.. I don't really even believe that people don't have food to eat, because we are farmers. Food is not the problem.
If you go around, everything is in abundance. But when you make a person understands that everything is in abundance and you have the same right as anyone in this world, you can do whatever you put your mind to, it is very important for them to start to be inspired and all they need is guidance. That is what everybody needs, and then you empower and equip them. With handout, giving people N20,000 or N30,000, then what happens after two years? We need to start to educate them that about if you save this money and put it in some kind of investment.
Communities need to start generating revenue, we should have like credit union, which is like community bank where this money goes into, and part of that revenue can now go towards even building the roads. You don't have to depend on government to allocate anything for you. All we can do, we come up together and say we have all this farming going on, how can we improve or resuscitate farming situation in our communities. Through that, revenue is coming in. Part of this revenue, we can start to build our own roads and if we can do it in Patigi and you show that this is possible, you don't need even the government. It is possible. That is why I started this COACH.
Looking at the problem facing people in trying to collect the PVC as you have observed, can we say that the process should be decentralized?
I have spoke to INEC people here and they do have a lot of challenges. One of the things I realised when I came here, even the INEC official was taking malaria pills and he was sleeping on the floor, so that is disturbing in itself. That shouldn't be the case. A person, who is serving in that kind of situation, should be extremely comfortable. So, those are things we are already addressing. We are advocating for more people to come in, because we are able to get the extension till August 31.
We are going to keep working on it, so by next year, we shouldn't face this kind of challenge as well. There are youths that are looking for jobs here. If the person is able to give N100, why can't the community be allowed to even raise that kind of money so there will be enough to register people. And that way, it solves the problem on ground.
How do you mean that Kwara North has suffered marginalisation in the last 20 years in power equation?
We are actually blessed in Kwara North, especially Patigi. We have River Niger, so much can be done with it. Tourism can be done in Patigi. The road is extremely bad. If our road is fixed from Bida (Niger State), especially all the way to Ilorin, it would be shorter for people to go to Lagos. So, imagine the traffic that we actually come through and this would trickle down to traders. We have a hotel here. A lot of people can come, spend the night here and explore a lot of the opportunities and the potentials that we have.
If you take a look at the issue of the bridge that we need here. Even coming from Abuja to Minna, to Bida, the roads are just bad; these are death traps. Why are we doing ourselves? It doesn't make any sense. These are the basic necessities a person needs to be able to even come up with the ideas that can move everybody, and that is the responsibility of government. But at the same time, if the government is unble to do it does not mean that we as individuals cannot come up with creative ideas on how we can fix it.
The road can be privatised. We can companies that can come in for investments to actually do social responsibility. There are different creative ways even the government can come up with funding for this road to make sure it is being done. The government and even the National Assembly, we need to come up with more of creative ideas to be able to fund our projects, not just take loans. If you invite companies to come and invest in Nigeria and you tell them when you come in, we will need this, which is part of social responsibility. And if they are able to do that, they too would be happy when they come. At least they know the roads are good.
But if you tell a company to come to Nigeria and invest. They would say the roads are bad. I don't want to come in. But if you negotiate your contract with them and say if you are coming in, this is what we want and at the end of the day, we can actually go ahead and build toll gate. That would generate revenue as well and everyone is happy at the end of it all. So, there are many creative ways, that I believe the government also can come up ideas. But they have to also sit down with the community, with the grass root. What are the challenges and through that we can even create more jobs for the youths.
Taking cognizance of the recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics, the figures on the number of poor people in Nigeria are staggering. Is your community outreach group doing something about poverty eradication?
Poverty is in the mind, and that is what COACH is about. We are here to inspire to them for them to believe in themselves, to know that they can do anything they put their minds to. That is the first step for you to solve poverty, because poverty can never be solved by you giving the person money. If it is in their minds, it is in their minds. We have abundance, let's make use of it.
I'm also going to touch about Kwara North situation that we are being marginalised. Yes, we are. It is being more than 20 years. We have not had gubernatorial representation or even higher leadership position if you really look at it. So, we need the government to pay attention to that. Let's have dividends of democracy, because that is what democracy is about, for everybody to have representation. We definitely need the government to come in for us and allocate more positions that would help to bring about change into our communities. The numbers that we have are not that much. We just have Hon. Aliyu Ahman Pategi, we have Senator Shaaba Lafiagi, and then who else? There is no much that has been allocated to Kwara North.