OPINION:Kwara: Hurdles before APC’s AbdulRazaq. By Samuel Adesanya
The victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the governorship election in Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, suggests that the people are fed up with the outgoing administration and that they wish to see positive signs in the new administration within a short period of time. Correspondent ADEKUNLE JIMOH highlights the challenges that will confront the incoming government.
KWARA State Governor-elect Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq will assume office on May 29. His victory at the March 9, has been described by many as unprecedented and historic. The dismantling of the Saraki dynasty that had held political sway in the state for more than four decades was due to the determination of the people to see a different set of leaders in the corridors of power in Ilorin, the state capital.
The people demonstrated that they were no longer going to tolerate bad governance, which the out-going administration epitomised. A vast majority of Kwarans had, before the elections, laid the blame at the doorsteps of Senate President Bukola Saraki, heir apparent of the Saraki dynasty. They claimed that Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed was and still is Saraki's lackey.
Abdulrazaq, who contested the governorship on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), campaigned to effect change in the North-central state, if given a chance to govern by the electorates.
With this mindset, the people of Kwara have a mountain of expectations from the incoming administration of Abdulrazaq, in terms of regular payment of salaries, provision of infrastructural facilities and others which had been in short supply in the last 12 years.
Different stakeholders have different expectations from the incoming government. There are expectations from the electorates and from the party members. The APC, which is the ruling party in the centre, had to throw everything at its disposal to defeat Saraki and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters. Before and during the election, the APC was – and perhaps remains - an amalgam of disparate interest groups held together by their determination to oust the Saraki dynasty.
But, now that Abdulrazaq has triumphed, what is he going to do with this opportunity? After congratulating the governor-elect, some Muslim clerics warned the incoming governor against derailing in his administration. They said: "if you fall short of our expectations we will be at the forefront of championing your ouster from Kwara State Government House.
"We are giving you just one year of grace. After that, your actions and inactions will come under our searchlight. We know a lot of damage has been done, but with our prayers we hope you will succeed."
Teachers have also made similar statements. The teachers who spoke under the aegis of Kwara State Concerned Teachers urged Abdulrazaq to place high premium on workers’ welfare to stabilise its administration.
A spokesperson of the group, Mallam Abdulwahab Abubakar, said: “Our advice to the incoming government is that it should take workers welfare as a priority. The state government owes teachers three months salary arrears with some percentage.
"But to our surprise, we were only paid 81 per cent of our March salary, out of the huge amount of money that came to the coffers of the state government from the Federation Account. It is uncalled for. We expect our leaders to come out and confront the government."
The Christian community has also spoken in a similar vein. Diocesan Bishop of the Kwara State Methodist Church, Rev Simeon Onaleke, has cautioned the incoming government to be focused and be wary of sycophants that might be milling around the corridors of power.
Rev Onaleke said the people's expectations are high and that the incoming government should not disappoint them. He assured Abdulrazaq that the church would continue to pray for his success.
The clergyman said Kwara State, which was created in 1967, has remained predominantly underdeveloped, because past leaders did not live up expectations. He said there is the need to establish more industries to reduce the rate of unemployment in the state.
Onaleke added: "There is need to have more housing units to cater for workers who do not have houses of their own. Government should create tourist centres that can attract investors. In appointing people into public office, those who are non-indigenes that have lived here for many years, contributing to the economic growth of the state, should also be considered."
Commenting on the APC’s victory, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was one of the arrowheads of the campaign to vote out the Saraki dynasty, described the APC victory as historic. His words: "it will be an understatement to say that the Kwara State election attracted the most comments in the country.
"The victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor-elect, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, is historic. It is not just for the people of Kwara State, it is for the whole of the country. Of course, that also means a big burden is on his shoulders, because the expectations are high.
“What that means is that the people's power is more important and stronger than the people in power. What the people of Kwara State had demonstrated is that they have discovered their power and that they are going to punish any government that does not care about their welfare. They have finally realised that ultimate power resides in them.
"If what happened in Kwara State is anything to go by, it is a warning to all governments that they must have the interest of the people at heart. What this also means is that notwithstanding the popular support we got from the people, if we fail to perform, the same people will turn against us."
Mohammed added that failure is not an option for the incoming APC government. But, he nevertheless called for understanding and patience from the public. He said: "The expectations are very high and we must take advantage of their enthusiasm to ensure we deliver the dividend of democracy.
"The honeymoon may not last over three months, unless we do well. We can't afford to fail them. In less than a year, the people of Kwara will see a difference between us and the outgoing political dynasty. We appeal to them (Kwarans) to be patient, because it is easier to destroy than to build."
Kwara APC chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa, thanked the party hierarchy and members for standing together while the struggle lasted. He said: “But for the perseverance and understanding of our members and leaders and with God’s grace, we couldn't have come this far. We swallowed our pride and came together and remained united against all odds. We shunned our grievances for the greater good of our people. We thank all of you."
In a remark after collecting his Certificate of Return, Mallam Abdulrazaq promised not to label anybody as opposition. He said his administration would be an all-inclusive government that would embrace everybody.
His words: "This state belongs to all. We don’t see anybody as opposition. It is Kwara for all. All hands must be on deck (to rebuild the state). This is a poor state and a lot of work has to be done. We will embrace everybody."
The governor-elect said the new administration has a lot of work to do to get the state back on its feet. He called on all Kwarans to support his government once he is inaugurated by the end of May.
He added: "When you record a winning margin of 75 per cent as we did, it means that even those on the side of the PDP voted for us. So, we are going to ensure that we all work together. We are not going to label anybody. There are good people on the other side too," he said.
“Our members will also be taken care of and our priority will be to rebuild our state. We need to get everyone together for the task ahead and move our state forward… We have a big task ahead of us, but we will surmount the challenges by the grace of God. Once again, we thank everyone who took part in the elections — either as officials or as voters."
AbdulRazaq also hailed the electoral body, the security agencies and the voters for their patriotic roles while the exercise lasted.
He rated the elections in Kwara as the most peaceful and orderly, commending the security agencies for checkmating thuggery and potential violence in the state.
His words: “I like to thank INEC for providing a level-playing field for all in the election. The election in Kwara was the best I have ever seen so far. The INEC was fair to all. I remember that we had many complaints… but at the end of the day they were fair to all.
"As for the security agencies, I'm lost for words. This is the first election in this republic that no shot was fired by thugs and hooligans. We now see that with the right support, the security agencies can deliver on their mandate. When we are sworn in, we’ll give the right support to the security agencies to make sure that the state is secure. If you have a secure environment, you will have the right kind of investments. Well make sure things are done properly.”
The incoming governor also promised to use his first 100 days in office to rehabilitate and empower street urchins, otherwise known as ‘good boys’. He said his administration will grant amnesty to some of the ‘good boys’ that are willing to be rehabilitated. He also promised to help continue their education and give them vocational training, if they voluntarily renounce their anti-social behaviour.
During the inauguration of his 80-member transition committee, Abdulrazaq said his administration would be a complete departure from the old order. He added that he would run a government that serves the best interest of the people.
The businessman-turned politician said: "For the past 16 years, they have been running government in their own style. We have put this committee in place to engage the outgoing government to know how much we are owing and the state of our infrastructure. We cannot walk blindly into office and succeed.
"The huge margin of our victory at the polls suggests that our people are fed up with the status quo and want a new approach to governance. We, therefore, have a historic duty to serve their best.
“To do that, we must understand the current governance structure in the state; we must know how the current system works to be able to know where to begin, what current policy would be retained, and what policy must go. We also need to know what is in the books in terms of financial receipts, obligations, contracts and other things.
“This is why we have taken our time to nominate some of the best hands around – in terms of competence, credibility and maturity - as members of this committee, with proper accommodation of the various political tendencies in our political party. In essence, the most crucial work of this committee is to ensure that we hit the ground running on May 29."