Kwara sets pace on APC change agenda

Date: 2017-03-04

In this piece, AHMED 'LATEEF reports on the domestication of the Change Begins With Me campaign in Kwara State, which was launched in Ilorin on Monday.

The 2015 general elections might have come and gone, the nostalgia of the pre-election period still stick to the memories. For the political pundits, the election was a straight fight between the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC).

Throughout the period that the pre-election activities lasted, the ruling and opposing camps engaged in war of attrition. While the PDP believed it had fulfilled its pact with the Nigerian populace and thus could leverage on that to get re-elected, the opposition kicked and accused the ruling party of compounding the woes of the citizenry within its 16 years reign.

The PDP on its own saw the APC as a party that relished and purveyed blackmail but the opposition believed that under the watch of the then ruling party, Nigeria was heading for precipice due to corruption, plundering of the nation's treasury and culture of impunity.

The war of words, garbed in manifestos, between the two parties was all Nigerians needed to decide whether to maintain the status quo or change the driver behind the wheels. The decision of the majority of Nigerians was made manifest at the poll. The APC trounced the PDP, thereby putting an abrupt end to the 16 years rule of the PDP that had vowed to reign for 60 years nilly-willy.

However, one of the major factors that sailed the APC to power was its cardinal promise to fight corruption beside war against insurgency and other indiscipline conducts that had brought the country to its knees.

Corruption like other forms of vices, is widely believed to have eaten deep into the fabric of the nation while effort should be geared towards eliminating the scourge not just to save the image of the country in the outside world but also put the economy on the right track.

That was the conviction of the party, which had since become the ruling party. To the party, the menace became widespread among Nigerians under the influence of the PDP until in the 2015 polls when the party was politically sent on sabbatical.

Shortly after it ascended the power, the ruling APC, among other steps, floated a campaign to crush the social ills in the country under the banner of "Change Begins With Me".

The slogan was conceived to encourage to individualize the war against corruption, bribery, malpractice, indiscipline and culture of impunity that ostensibly assumed a new dimension in the national life while the former ruling PDP held sway.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on September 8, 2016 launched the Change Begins With Me campaign to the admiration of many Nigerians who were desirous to see paradigm shift in the way and manner the country was being administered. He thereafter asked state governments to go also domesticate the campaign in order to end the rot afflicting the society largely precipitated by social ills.

In fulfillment of the directive of the Federal Government, the Kwara State government in conjunction with the state office of National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Ilorin on Monday launched "Change Begins With Me" and "Kick Indiscipline and Corruption of Kwara" (KICK).

The campaign, which was routed through the Directorate of Public Orientation of the state Ministry of Information and Communications, was also put together to wage war against moral decadence and other ills plaguing the society.

Speaking at the event, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, said the journey to nationhood was hampered by some problems, which he identified as dishonesty, nepotism, crime, corruption and impunity.

He stated that the country could only overcome the problems when Nigerians form a bulwark against the menace that had slowed down the attainment of greatness.

Ahmed, who spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sola Isiaka Gold, however, said his government was battling with the vices by allowing transparency and accountability in its working system.

The Governor explained that corrupt practices were not peculiar to public service as being erroneously held, pointing out that it has become pervasive in all aspects of our social life.

He harped on the need to collectively and holistically confront the problems associated with social vices to restore positive societal values and norms.

Ahmed said, "To rescue our country from its current malaise, it is incumbent on all Nigerians to stand against these problems, especially corruption and negative values, which had retarded our ascendancy as a country. As a government, we are tackling these vices by promoting high levels of accountability and transparency.

"For instance, the distribution of projects, appointments and other dividends of democratic governance among the people of the state is based on equity and merit. Our civil service is now better positioned and more efficient in service delivery. Presently, recruitment and promotion procedures have been upheld to ensure integrity and promote diligence in the service.

"Further more, our establishment of Kwara State Internal Revenue Service to block leakages in revenue collection, is part of our effort to prevent abuse and diversion of public funds and improve the revenue available for development.

"Additionally, our administration regularly provides the public with information on FAAC allocation receipt in order to get feedback from the public on government policies to ensure accountability. These measures show that our approach to governance is underpinned by transparency and accountability, which are known antidotes to corruption and tools for the change we seek for our country

"Indeed, the change campaign is meant to elicit culture of values from all citizens and residents as well as build an institution. Whether you are a businessman, judge, journalists, civil servant, carpenter, policeman, commissioner or local government official, change begins with you and your government.

"Dear compatriots, my message is that we all have a responsibility to imbibe and adopt positive value and behaviour necessary to kick corruption and indiscipline out of Kwara State. This will be consistent with the Federal Government national campaign to arrest and stamp out corruption in our country based on a recognition of the precarious effects on our economy and national life.

"However, we must not focus on corruption to the exclusion of degraded national values. While corruption is often defined as wrongdoing on the part of those in authority of the government, it is often more widespread in larger population. Now, I'm not suggesting that corruption is not a major impediment to growth and development of the country, which must be eradicated, rather, am suggesting that we should be very focused on the government worker, who aids ghost-working.

"I'm suggesting we focus on Nigerians who refuse to do the jobs they are paid for without receiving gratification or what is known in local parlance as "Egunje" (bribe). I'm saying that we should also focus on those who close their eyes to wrongdoing, because it does not affect them or their families.

"I maintain that we concentrate on those who prosper in our state and share resources but refused to pay taxes. We must address all those negative values, which stand in the way of the change and prosperity that our country and its people deserve but has eluded us for years.

"As I pointed out earlier, corruption and other social vices are not limited to those in public service. Let me restate that it has spread to all facets of our national life and must be tackled urgently and holistically in the interest of our country and all its people. In recognition of this, we have created the Directorate of Public Orientation under the Ministry of Information and Communications. This directorate is charged with orientating our people on the need to imbibe the values of honesty, integrity, diligence, good conscience, equity, patriotism and discipline.

"Consequently, I have charged the National Orientation Agency and the state Ministry of Information and Communications to extend this campaign to all the 16 Local Government Areas of Kwara State. I assure you of my support in this campaign to ensure that all residents and citizens of Kwara State epitomize the positive values that I described earlier.

"I must also stress that for this campaigns to achieve their laudable objectives, we must reform and empower key institutions concerned with enforcing compliance with the provision of the law. Let me state emphatically that change does not come easily, it requires time, tenacity, sincerity and personal sacrifice on all our part".

Also speaking, the state commissioner for Information and Communications, Alhaji Mahmud Babatunde Ajeigbe, said one of the major challenges facing the government was to regain the trust of the people, saying this could be done by promoting transparency, integrity and accountability in governance.

He also maintained that the war against graft needs people with clean bill of health on corruption to fight.

Ajeigbe said while the Federal Government was putting the machinery in motion to correct the negative notion about the country on corruption both nationally and internationally, it was imperative for states to complement such laudable move.

He stated that corruption hinders economic development, reduces social services and diverts investments in infrastructure, institution and social services.

"To eradicate corruption, we require individuals who are incorruptible. Since corruption begins in the mind, we can individually alter our values from materialistic tendencies, which is presently our topmost priority for a change to begin with us and the society should stop indulging in self aggrandizement which put the credibility of politicians, bureaucrats, judiciary and the general public at stake for a good change.

"I want you to know that all these noise about corruption is an offshoot of indiscipline. It is the culture of indiscipline that brings financial and moral decadence in every ramification", Ajeigbe said.

In the same vein, the state Director of NOA, Mr Olusegun Adeyemi, observed that the country was experiencing difficulties as a result of corruption, laziness and other social vices.

He said the nation's problems were also the end product of total breakdown of core values in the lives of individuals.

"It is a common knowledge that Nigeria of today is passing through a challenging moment where things seem not to work in a normal manner due to the free reign of indiscipline, corruption, dishonesty, lateness to work, laziness, disrespect for elders and other social vices, which are impacting negatively on our social, political and economic life. Our current state as a nation has been linked to the total breakdown of core values in the lives of individuals.

"Fellow Kwarans, I need to remind us that the fight against corruption cannot begin with the government; you and I must be at the forefront of fighting corruption, firstly in our private lives, because before we can experience positive changes in the nation, each person must change from the wrong ways of doing things and carry out their duties to do things the right way", NOA Director said.

In his submission, the chairman, Kwara State chapter of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Mr Tosho Amuda, called on citizens to be cautious in their approach to issues, saying 'change begins with me' remains a statement of fact by doing the right thing.

He urged the leadership to lead by example by encouraging competence, fairness, equity and justice in the service.

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