OPINION: Why Kwara’s Running a Gender-Balanced Govt by Muritala

Date: 2024-03-26

Sambo Muritala is the Special Adviser on Legal Matters to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State. In this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU, he defends some recent policies of the governor, which have generated criticisms. He also speaks on empowerment of women

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is being criticized over claims that he wants to rehabilitate the Kwara State Hotel with about N17.8 billion. How do you react to this as a member of the administration and as a Kwaran?

It is unfortunate that some people believe that this state exists to take care of them alone at the detriment of other indigenes and residents of the state. I have a lot to say but as a legal practitioner, I am duty bound to desist from making a comment on a matter awaiting court’s determination. However, we have made our people to get hold of Bill of Quantity BoQ) and further await the outcome of the construction of the building to compare the BoQ with delivery of the work.

This will further expose the greed of the blackmailer and vindicate the state government. We have encouraged the same blackmailer, who says he can use N3 billion to take care of a project of N17.8 billion to go ahead with the work. Up till this moment, we have not seen him to take over the work. If you have his contact, let him come up for the offer.

Some people have also criticized the government over its new projects, including the overhead bridges at Taiwo and some other areas, which they said, have crippled businesses in those areas. What is your response to that?

We do not only agree with them, we also sympathize with Kwarans to bear with us with patience and perseverance as it is a matter of little time that our temporary pains will lead to lifetime gains. The transformation in Kwara State is not limited to the bridges alone. We are constructing several roads and several capital projects, which we know are affecting the people, but we assure them of quick deliveries.

There is the clamour for more women participation in politics and governance at the federal, state and local government levels. Do you share in this agitation?

I honestly share the sentiment considering the obvious potential of women. For a better understanding; gender balance is the agitation for involvement of women in politics and governance at equal proportion. It shouldn’t be seen to mean exclusion of men. Coming from the angle of nature, creation of men and women is never by accident but for complementary reasons as the world can never be a reference object if either of the sex is in isolation. No country of the world can be accessed as administratively perfect; we can only compare the degree of pains and gains. We have seen how far the world has moved without women and I think it will be a worthwhile experiment to check for hidden bounties in women inclusive government. It tells in the faces of every member of the family where either of the sex is lacking, particularly parents. Once we can identify the roles of a mother to his child in the family, we would realize no tiers of government can be best administered without women.

What will be the positive impact of more women involvement in public leadership?

Men and women are endowed with their natural skills which make them inseparable at any moment in time if only we aspire for the best. Women are known for coordination, and I believe this is a major fulcrum of a prosperous government. No matter how politically enlightened a man is, his potential will never be acknowledged and appreciated if it is lacking coordination. Let us take Kwara State for example; the strategic areas in our administration as designed by Governor Abdulrazaq are stake-holding by women. Education, health, agriculture, finance and other areas being managed by women commissioners in Kwara State are majorly areas of our strength and I challenge people to watch out for our deliveries in no time. Paying attention to details is another distinguished area of strength inherent in women.

Marginalisation is a serious factor that militates against the unity of any nation. No agitation of the component units of federation, states, local governments and districts deserves to be ignored if government is to be seen to be for the people. Taking an experiment of women in matrimonies for illustration; she serves husband, serves children no matter how many their number is; she serves in-laws, and her own family. This is contrary to the role of a man who only supplies his wife for onward redistribution. This is what is referred to as paying attention to details. Including women in the making of laws, interpretation of laws and execution of laws to balance public agitations is indeed what governance entails. We have run governments of women exclusion and failed, so it will not be a bad idea if we give room for inclusive government. Kwara State is running fifty-fifty gender balance in government with women handling strategic positions. We are running this experiment in Kwara State and we therefore call on the entire world to watch out for Kwara State in the nearest future.

But there are reports of fraud allegedly perpetuated by some of these women who held public offices. Is that not an indictment and should we continue to trust them with such important positions even when some of them displayed fraudulent acts and incompetence despite the view that women are more trustworthy?

We are not saying women are not human beings and we are not denying the fact that bad eggs exist in womanhood as it is with men. We are only advocating for gender balance for complementary reasons, among others. Our political recruitment, political culture, political socialization and value system in Nigeria are faulty enough to permit bad eggs in both men and women.

What do you expect from a lady who was compensated for warming the bed of a political godfather with a senatorial seat? You cannot compare this kind of a woman with the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Late Prof. Dora Akunyili and many more. These are women who were intentionally recruited because their inherent skills to solve national problems. We have their likes waiting to be recruited to liberate our nation.

You recently spoke virtually as a lead discussant at the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Why did you canvass for empowerment of women?

The summit was organised by Renew Our Earth, a United States registered Non-For-Profit Organisation. The theme of the summit was: “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.” I spoke on how we can take advantage of opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support small scale farmers and eradicate poverty, enhance rural development and improve food security. We should understand that women work in agriculture as volunteer farmers in most African countries.

They are available as unpaid workers on family farms and as either paid or unpaid labourers on other farms and agricultural enterprises. The involvement of women spans the crop and livestock systems to management of mixed agricultural operations at subsistence and commercial levels. The outcome of a 2019 survey showed that 87 per cent of rural household dwellers in Nigeria practiced crop farming activities. Similarly, 56 per cent of this population raises one form of livestock or the other and crop farming was practiced by about 70 per cent of Nigerian households. These activities have generally been practiced by farmers in Nigeria and the process has always burdensome for women and youth. How then, can we take advantage of the opportunities presented by Artificial Intelligence to support small scale farmers in the rural areas and alleviate poverty to enhance rural development and improve food security? Although the innovation was strange initially being an invention of mechanized farming to ameliorate the hardship in old manual farming to feed beyond the demand of a household with commercial intent. Artificial Intelligence in agriculture initially looked like a scientific fiction or mirage, until recently the reality of AI as applied to agriculture tends to enhance global food security with ease.

How truly can AI enhance agriculture?

The AI technology aid in predicting weather and other agricultural conditions such as land quality, groundwater, crop cycle and plant disease detection, all of which are critical issues. Crop health monitoring is made possible through soil and plant sensors and multispectral photos from satellites or drones. Precision farming is another advantage that AI provides. This system ensures precisions in crop production without wastage, boost economy to ensure self-reliance, illuminate rural areas with scientific innovations and empowering small-scale farmers. Also, AI farming tends to enhance surplus food production to address food security and prevailing global hunger: particularly in most African countries.

Now that neither the manual nor the mechanized agricultural food production can solve the lingering hunger in Africa with the envisaged 10 billion predictions of global population come 2050, thus the AI innovation option is the only necessary way to follow. It is good to note that a German-based technology start-up, PEAT, has developed ‘PLANTIX’ an AI-based application that identifies nutrient deficiencies in soils and the seeds through image recognition-based technology. The technology is adoptable to diagnose through the mobile application use of image or short video. Also, SkySqurrel Technologies has invented drone-based aerial imaging solution for monitoring crop health. The algorithms analyze the captured image gathered from the plantation to identify condition of crops and required solutions.

How has this enhanced food security?

The machine learning algorithms in connection with images captured by satellites and drones, AI-enabled technologies predict weather conditions, analyze crop sustainability and evaluate farms for the presence of diseases or pests and poor plant nutrition on farms with data like temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and solar radiation. Farmers without connectivity can get AI benefits right now, with tools as simple as an SMS-enabled phone and the Sowing App.

Meanwhile, farmers with Wi-Fi access can use AI applications to get a continually AI-customized plan for their lands. With such IoT-and AI-driven solutions, farmers can meet the world’s needs for increased food sustainably growing production and revenues without depleting precious natural resources. These are complimented by the automated farm machinery like driverless tractors, smart irrigation fertilization systems, IoT-powered agricultural drones, smart spraying, vertical farming software and AI-based greenhouse robots for harvesting. Compared with any human farm worker, AI-driven tools are far more efficient and accurate. It is pertinent to state categorically that Artificial Intelligence can effectively be utilized for crops production processes from suitability of soil, sowing of seeds, fertilization and fertigation, irrigation, weed management, harvest, postharvest handlings and storage.

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