OPINION: Five Years on, Kwara Takes New Identity Under Governor AbdulRazaq By Rafiu Ajakaye

Date: 2024-05-29

History is not always written by the victors. Historical narratives are sometimes dominated by the villains who make the loudest noise and have the platforms. Empress Wu expanded the Tang dynasty, reopened China’s Silk Road, and funnelled government’s funding into social services for the poor and the vulnerable. But she made the mistake of letting others tell her story when she left her epitaph blank. In place of her great legacies, those who found her rule unbefitting and at odds with their narrative gave her a new identity: ‘she killed her sister, slaughtered her brothers, murdered her emperor, and poisoned her mother. Both gods and humans hate her’.

Even as Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq's administration expended more than N15bn to clear many years of salary, promotion arrears and gratuities, and faces up the daunting task of bridging the infrastructure gaps in basic schools such as fixing classrooms in more than 605 locations, it is commonplace to hear apologists of the past regimes saying nothing good has happened in the last five years. The idea is to talk down the gains of the past five years in the hope that history may forget or disregard how far Kwara has come since the old order was ousted. It is truthiness. Shouldn’t people of good conscience then take the ‘good trouble’ of preserving history?

Kwara has turned the corners for positive reasons, while pending deficits progressively get good attention on a sustainable basis. The administration is five years old today, with Governor Abdulrazaq overwhelmingly winning re-election last year.

The state is emerging from a backwater civil service state to a go-to place for tech-enabled basic education, conferencing, tourism, and entertainment hub and north central economic powerhouse as the Governor ramps up work on the country’s largest garment factory, sugar factory film studio, innovation hub, visual arts centre, international conference centre, revenue house, the industrial park at Eiyenkorin and agroprocessing zone, and the legacy Kwara Hotel. He has built new dental and eye care centres, modern intensive care units, and newly-equipped hospital wards. And he maintains the bits he inherited. Numerous agric programmes are ongoing to support farmers and boost food security.

The massive garment factory is now operational, even if not officially launched yet. So has the Gbugbu international market. The sugar factory film studio is already receiving industry veterans, while the visual arts centre prepares to host dignitaries from across Nigeria to an event that would grab national headlines. These are facilities built to give Kwara a comfortable share of the multimillion dollar industry and redirect its economy. Power of dream. The international conference centre, equipped with a choice hospitality facility, and the Kwara hotel are to complement the dream.

Investments in the education and health sectors have yielded huge returns. Within the first 43 weeks of introducing KwaraLEARN, literacy and numerical levels have peaked, amid 30% rise in basic public school enrolments, while learning deprivation has dropped to 56.3% by the end of the 2022/2023 school calendar, down from 73.4% before the programme. In the primary health sector, the state wears the crown for its best immunisation services in the north central, earning some $500,000 from the UNICEF to scale up its efforts. Access to potable water and sanitation facilities has never been higher in the state. Today, the Jebba waterworks is being launched. It was built from scratch.

Under AbdulRazaq, Kwara is now accredited to have a university teaching hospital, thanks to its consistent investments in human capital, improved welfare, and modern equipment. The implementation of 100% CONMESS and CONHESS for doctors and ancillary workers in the health sector — along with similar welfare packages in other areas — is a watershed as governments struggle to keep competent manpower.

A process has commenced to open up the Owu Fall, the highest waterfall in the west Africa subregion – the same way he constructed the 11-kilometre Osi-Obbo Aiyegunle road, linking Kwara to Ekiti State borders with asphalt road for the first time. He had also given the iconic 79-year-old Esie Museum, a pioneer tourism centre in Nigeria, its first asphalt road.

The first term served to stabilise Kwara for growth; the second half consolidates and expands the gains. Ilorin is shedding its old features. With its hinterlands dotted with interlocked roads, old road networks are undergoing massive upgrades, with new flyovers (Tunde Idiagbon Bridge and Unity Flyover) changing its landscape, reducing travel time, and beautifying the capital city. The Wahab Folawiyo Road (Unity Road) now has the quality and aesthetics that you can find in major capital cities on the continent. In a few months from now, Ahmadu Bello Way and Sulu Gambari Road will join the league, adorning Ilorin with astonishingly scenic roads for residents and visitors to behold! No fewer than 30 inner roads (including the 4.7km Yebumot-Adeta-Oloje, which is due for commissioning today) are in various stages of completion within the capital city, while dozen others are being constructed or rehabilitated in the Kwara hinterlands, such as the 13km Ile Ire District road, Ora township road, first post-colonial Orisa Bridge (Oro Ago), Igbaja township road, newly awarded Arandun-Esie-Oro, Omu Aran-Oko, Ajase-Oke Iya, among others. In the north, the government has facilitated the 128-kilometre Bode Saadu/Kaiama/Kosubosu road, which has since started and is, alongside 74.3km Bacita-Shonga-Lafiagi, 37km Okuta-Kenu-Teberu, and 42.5km Eiyenkorin-Afon-Offa-Odo Otin, valued at over N400bn. Upon completion, the Bode Saadu road will redefine the travel history for travellers from the capital city or other areas to Kaiama and some parts of Baruten axis of the state.

This is apart from such projects like the Emir Palace Road/erosion control at Dumagi, Ketu road in Baruten, Malete Youth Farm-waterworks road in Moro, Bukka Adena bridge in Kaiama. On top of these are the 84.7km rural roads, which are underway across the state.

Scanty regard for building regulations, increasingly weak and old infrastructure, as well as population growth have taken a toll on Ilorin, with its original master plan (drawn up in the 1970s) long discarded. Abdulrazaq is restoring sanity with the new Ilorin City Master Plan, a component of which has made provisions for a decent extension of the capital town. It is called the Ilorin Smart City Project, which is due for unveiling today, May 29. It is modelled after New Delhi and Washington DC in its compliant with UN prescriptions for sustainable living. Without jeopardising our culture and tradition as Africans.

The administration’s progressive programmes are supported by appropriate policy frameworks for sustainability. Its six month maternity policy, announced on May 29, 2023 and about the third in Nigeria, complements its investments in basic education and healthcare as women in civil service are given the opportunity to expose their children to exclusive breastfeeding without a fear of losing their job or salaries and other perks. His education programmes are now being supported by the Education Trust Fund. The Fund, due for launch soon, is a platform to bring in philanthropists and private sector players to support government’s efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible. To save the colleges of education from collapse, the Governor has inaugurated the process to upgrade them in phases to allow for sustainability. These big dreams, intentional and ambitious, are well-articulated in the state’s sustainable development plan 2020-2030. And so is the 20,000-hectare smart city.

Kwara’s leading position as a bastion for gender inclusion is supported by the Kwara State Gender Composition Law, which mandates the state to have at least 35% of either gender in public appointments. Described by the United Nations (UN) Women as ‘a shining example that should be emulated by the federal government and other states’, the gender law is the first of its kind in Nigeria.

In youth empowerment, the state is the gold standard. Governor Abdulrazaq is surrounded by a team of brilliant young people who are, at the same time, willing to learn from older, more experienced people.

So it is in the sports sector. In April, the government approved the turnaround of the indoor sports hall for the first time since 1991. That complements the many facilities the Governor has added: the largest squash racket centre in Nigeria with eight courts and a new table tennis arena that accommodates many players at a go, among many others already done or are in the greater Kwara plan.

This will not only attract national and international championships to the state, with its trickle down effects on the economy, but it also offers a strategic platform to wean young people off violent crimes, drug, idleness, and other anti-social behaviour. The objective is to transform the sprawling Kwara State Sports Complex from a den of the underworld to a haven of recreation for the state’s active, talented youths.

If one attempts a mental analysis of what the Governor is doing across the state, what one sees is the emergence of a new economy anchored around hospitality, creativity and entertainment, agribusiness, entrepreneurship, innovation, and tourism — a dream clearly supported by the race to build the right human capital and an efficient health care system, among others.

Governor AbdulRazaq has steered Kwara away from the violent politics and thuggery of the past, making it one of the most peaceful states in the country, while at the same time supporting different state and federal institutions to achieve their mandates and redirect the energy of youths to hard work, digital skills, and legitimate earnings.

These, ladies and gentlemen, summarise the impressive scorecards of Governor Abdulrazaq as he marks the first of the four years in the last lap of his administration. The right story about him is that he is a fine gentleman who refocuses Kwara for a greater tomorrow. He remains committed to his lofty agenda, without rubbishing the legacies of the founding fathers of the state. As he steps forward to higher callings, the nation acknowledges and speaks well of his humility, patriotism, and vision.

•Rafiu Ajakaye is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor


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