By Iyiola Akogun
What is this cacophony, this tirade, claims and rebuttal from men of yesterday and today? The unwary may sheepishly and drowsily follow the debate of ‘’we are better than you’’ and ‘’you are worse than us’’ that men of yesterday and today may want to raise to a level of public debate as we inexorably keep a date with 2023. I write this at this time for some reasons.
Firstly, I write so that shadow might not be taken for substance. I write so that myth might not be accepted for reality. I write so that I can caution and warn the people of Kwara State so as not to take another political short route that will lead to another uncertain destination that means the continuation of the suffering of the people of Kwara State. I write because I am passionate about the unity, progress and development of this state.
What is the measure or standard of a good and impactful government? Good governance has much to do with transparency, accountability, equity and effectiveness, responsiveness, adherence to the rule of law, consensus-oriented, etc. But it is not these well-known characteristics of good governance that are my concern in this paper. If we analyze the above attributes as we examine the regimes from 2003-2022, we shall be lost in the disputations of terms and meanings, and in the process, this paper may become a bore. In analyzing the immediate past and the present administrations, we must come to the level of everybody and expose the deception of a section of our political elites.
Stanley Macebuh, the late cerebral columnist of the then Daily Times and later the Guardian Newspapers, wrote an article in the Daily Times in 1980, within the six months of the Presidency of Alhaji Shehu Shagari; President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979-1983. The then handlers of the President listed his achievements in office within six months of the inauguration of his presidency. The listed achievements included the appointment of ministers, service chiefs, Inspector General of Police, some overseas trips, some pronouncements, etc. Macebuh wrote his ever-green piece on what he titled minimum government. By the context of that article, minimum government was not the same as divesting the government of some roles better left in the hands of private individuals and organizations by making the government concentrate on the commanding heights of the economy. Minimum government is when the government celebrates the routine, the ridiculous and the base.
This type of government is where the immediate and the past administrations in Kwara State co-join: they are six and seven. In 2004, less than a year into his governorship, Dr. Bukola Saraki sent his commissioners to various communities to ask them what they would want his government to do for them, which I called Campaign after Election in an article written by me at that time. By hook or crook, in 2003, the regime of 2003-2011 only prepared to send away Governor Mohammed Lawal out of Ahmadu Bello Way. The administration was not prepared for governance. How is that one different from a governor who though would want to tell the whole world that he was long in the trenches to remove the Sarakis from power, but in a recent elaborate interview, said he did not know the magnitude of the rot he was to face in government. The man of the moment does not believe in the contract that made the people of Kwara State vote for our Party. The manifesto he claimed to have prepared to tackle the myriad of problems of Kwara State, he tore to pieces in the face of reality. Both did not rigorously prepare for the assignments of the office of the governor.
They had to start with vendettas against their predecessors. While immediate past regimes were burning and destroying Idi-Ape, the ancestral home of Omo Laderin, the present demolished Ile Arugbo with undeserved priority. How are they not the offshoot of the same politics of adversity?
A man’s character is better known through his actions than his words. Achievements and performances of government are known through how it has turned opportunities to prosperity among the greatest majority of its people. Good leadership turns opportunities to wealth and thereby ameliorates poverty among the generality of the people; in this paper, I prefer to call this maximum government.
Poor leadership has little or no effect on the lives of the people. This, I prefer to call the government of maintaining the status quo, the government of ‘’that is how they usually do it’’. It is called minimum government. The past and present administrations in Kwara from all available evidence of opportunities available to both have not been remarkably successful.
They have not been impactful in proffering solutions to the real needs of the people of Kwara State. These administrations have resorted to blaming the previous administrations, pushing out messages on how it will take fifteen years to correct the problems left behind by men of yesterday.
There is the need for the unsuspecting public to know that the debates and disputations are mere distractions and another royal way to retardation and a means of the perpetuation of their dismissible category in office. How has the duo turned their opportunities to prosperity in Kwara State?
Men of immediate past and present administrations were elected between 2003 and 2019 in five different elections. By 2023, these men would have been in effective control of the government and people of Kwara State for twenty years. When the mischievous wants to assess these administrations, they will roll out drums on the numbers of roads built, the school of aviation established and commercial farm established, skill acquisition centre being constructed, health insurance scheme policy put in place etc.
Indeed, they may have done all these and some more, but at what cost?
Unaccountable leaders they are, and they made a lot of money through statutory allocations, domestic and foreign loans or bonds, grants from international donors and revenue from internally generated revenue. By 2023 the account of Kwara State, including criminally stolen funds of the technically erased sixteen local government councils of Kwara State, would have run to some multiple trillions of Naira. What is the effect of the trillions of Naira on the lives of the people of Kwara State? When there was the need to renovate and equip eight general hospitals, three specialists’ hospitals and several cottage hospitals, they took pride in fully renovating the general hospital, Ilorin and partially renovated three others.
What evidence of minimum government do we still need? In a situation where there is the need to construct over three thousand kilometres of roads across the length and breadth of Kwara State, for twenty years, less than three hundred kilometres had been built, often poorly. Do we need further evidence of a minimum government?
The common trait of the immediate past and present administrations is the love of things of mere aesthetic values that may not address the real needs of the people of Kwara State. The three governors of the era, 2003-2023, were in love with bogus beauty that may not address the real problems of the people of Kwara State. For example, how they line up behind the erection of flyover bridges or underpass as a focus of infrastructural development of Kwara State. Dr. Bukola Saraki built his own at Post Office, Dr. Fatah Ahmed’s own is at Geri Alimi, and Mallam Abdulrahman’s own is growing at Tanke, Tipper Garage. Perhaps these people have a meeting point where they consummate their projects and policies. They think alike and act alike, and they trade words as if they are indeed different.
While even pedestrian thinking in Kwara State suggests feeder roads to cure the mini traffic hold-ups in some locations of the state capital, our governors that were wholly alienated from the realities of Kwara opted for projects of mere aesthetic values that even fail to solve traffic challenges of Ilorin city. They seem to be in competition of ‘’you do this; I did the same thing’’. People that can hardly think out of the box.
The immediate past and the present administrations are also governments of misplaced priorities. Metropolitan Square on which billions of Naira was sunk attracts use, maybe once or twice in four years. The aviation school and Football academy were built at the expense of a quality education system in the State. Pupils of our primary schools, students of our secondary schools, and many of our tertiary institutions study in truly wretched shanties. Yet we go for football academy and school of Aviation. More than ten years after the establishment of the two, they have not brought glory to the State in their respective industries. When we only needed to renovate the secretariat built by Governors Bamigboye and George Innih, a new beautiful secretariat was delivered by Governor Fatah Ahmed. Today, a skill acquisition centre is being constructed at Ahmadu Bello Way. Can the skill acquisition center not be made part of the curriculum of either Kwara State Polytechnic or Innovation center (IVTEC) at Ajasse Ipo? Fast guys have invaded our leadership corps, they are widely travelled, and we are deceived and call that exposure, but I suspect the content of their education. They provide new vocabularies to replace words we already know, but the content of their learning cannot galvanize us to the next stage of development. Franz Falon said, ‘’the liberation of the people is the measure of all intellectual works’’. These people have liberated nobody.
The immediate past and the present administrations are not free from corruption and corrupt practices. How can trillions go unaccounted for, and you give yourself a clean financial bill of health? Why should you be eager to sign into law the 35% female affirmative action on appointments, and you are scared of signing the freedom of Information Bill into law? Does that not suggest that the Chief Executive of the State is afraid of investigations? Therefore, signing 35% female affirmative action on appointment is a play to the gallery and another political deception.
And as we move towards 2023, I could see justifications and claims of the achievements of the then leaders of the immediate past. The claims of the image launderers are so many that strangers from Kwara politics would say they had turned this State into an Eldorado when they held sway. It is not the intention to dispute the claims but rather to interpret their claims. How has Kwara fared with all they claim they have achieved in office? Why have they ‘’achieved so much’’ and the people remain so poor, despondent or miserable? Why do they claim they have improved the State, yet the young ones have taken to thuggery, alcoholism, prostitution and beggary? Their various claims of good performance will take flight at the mere ‘’touch of cold philosophy.’’ The measure of good governance should be seen in the quality of life of the citizenry.
We have seen yesterday and today. There is no difference between yesterday and today. Holding the achievements or performances of yesterday and today as templates for all possibilities is a fluke. For in their twenty years, as we increase in population, we also increase in poverty and misery. There is hardly anything cheering between men of the immediate past and those in the saddle today. By the time today will spend the length of years of yesterday, they will be the same in terms of their sad output in government. We should always expect from these categories typical injuries they have always inflicted on the people of Kwara State.
There is no shortcut to prosperity. It is usually by rigid thinking and proper progressive focus induced by discipline. You cannot pick between two bad situations, but a fresh air can be breathed. I urge or even warn that the people of Kwara State should look before they leap.