OPINION: Kwara: It's time to excel at fairness! By Abdulrazaq Magaji

Date: 2019-07-16

Things are beginning to look up for Kwara state. The people of the state, veterans of veiled and open condemnation of their unfeeling leaders are beginning to see things differently. Change is here and the hope of a rebranded Kwara state is on the upswing. Faster than it was ever imagined, the people of Kwara state are beginning to believe they now have a government they can call their own.

The people are gradually getting used to seeing their governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, driving himself in official convoys. Civil servants now know they have to be at their duty posts to justify their pay. Two weeks ago, some health workers at a government hospital in Ilorin were caught on the wrong-foot when the governor paid a surprise visit at midnight. Kwara state now has an unusual, businesslike governor.

Recently, a clip of Governor Abdulrazaq, with a backpack across his shoulder and standing in a queue to board a commercial flight went viral! This was unthinkable in the years between 2003 and 2019 when the immediate past two governors literally outlawed travelling on commercial flights for themselves and their cronies. We may never know the exact amount past governors wasted on chattered flights but, what is beyond doubt is that, the practice not only contributed to the non-payment of salaries and pensions but worsened the overall financial profile of the state.

You too have probably heard that Kwara state generated N16 Billion as internal revenue within the first month of the inauguration of Governor Abdulrazaq! Few ever heard of IGR in Kwara state before now and fewer even knew what the IGR of the past sixteen years was spent on. this unusual governor has ordered that the power plant at his private residence should not be fuelled at the expense of government! Similar practices that were the order of the day in the immediate past have been reversed. Still, are people who insist the governor is flimflamming by his unconventional style. Well, he isn't!

In the governor's first month in office, taps have started running in the state capital and many are questioning why the taps went dry over the last sixteen years! Realising it did not require rocket science to cause the taps to run, the governor has directed that waterworks across the state become functional within the first 100 days of the administration. Backlog of unpaid workers' salaries and pensions are being cleared. Life has returned to state tertiary institutions after the government offset a huge chunk of unpaid workers' salaries!

The new government also unlocked millions of Naira accruable to the state from the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC. Past administrations simply plundered the funds, causing UBEC to withhold allocations. In a move that surprised critics, the Governor Abdulrazaq directed the "sunset workers" he inherited to be retained and paid their outstanding salaries! In 2003, Bukola Saraki vindictively dismissed the sunset workers he inherited from his predecessor, the late Mohammed Alabi Lawal. So, is Governor Abdulrazaq spending personal money to bring smile to the people?

Of course, not! It's all about the egression of a brand new Kwara. Take it or leave it, what is emerging is a brand new socio-political order where state resources are not meant to be plundered and where the word of an overbearing individual will not be law. With only pain and anguish to show for their loyalty, the least the people of the state can expect and, what has been promised them by the new governor, is quality governance, a commodity denied the people for long. From all indications, the people of Kwara state have chosen a governor they can call their own!

It was not the case with past governors of the state. For close to two decades, the people sneered, murmured and insinuated as their hopes were dashed. They watched helplessly while promises of redemption willingly made by their smooth-tongued oppressors remain unfulfilled. For too long, the people watched as governance in the state was reduced to fuelling and promoting the false lifestyle of a privileged few. Yesterday, the people of Kwara state had good cause to be angry with their past leaders; today, they also have good cause to be anticipative.

Though his victory has restored hope of salvation for a long-abused people, there is no gainsaying the fact that Governor Abdulrazaq faces an uphill task. At issue here are the top aides that the governor will rely on in transforming the state. It is time for well-meaning people to rally round the new administration and join in the search for a rejuvenated Kwara state. In a state overflowing with intelligent, far-sighted and devout individuals, Governor Abdulrazaq should have no problem in drafting the right calibre of people to get the state out of the woods.

The State of Harmony can no longer accommodate rampaging leaders and their aides who do not appreciate the demarcation between state funds and personal wealth! The collective dream of a rejuvenated Kwara state, devoid of any manipulative tendencies, is realistic. But, first, the people must rise above petty political squabbles, appreciate that it is a new dawn and rally round the new tenant at Government House, Ilorin.

After all, Kwara state is getting out of the wilderness. For too long, the state failed at fairness. It is time the state excelled at fairness!

Magaji is based in Abuja



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