OPINION: AbdulRazaq: Making Kwara Work For All. By Abdulrosheed Okiki
Kwara State is unarguably one of the hitherto civil service-driven states in Nigeria. A state created in 1967 via military promulgation, among five others, by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. Today, with about three million people, the resources and infrastructure in place continue to challenge successive governments on how to administer the state and make it work for all. Yet, discerning minds bother that the state has not achieved much in terms of providing critical infrastructure, basic amenities and poverty reduction through inclusive governance.
From Kpada in Patigi Local Government to Chikanda in Baruten Local Government and from Egbejila in Ilorin West Local Government Area to Isapa in Ekiti Local Government Area, what is obvious, across the length and breadth of the state, is infrastructure deficit and the need to bridge the infrastructural gap, provide even development, make available basic amenities, support the formal and informal sectors so that the state can work for all.
With the change in the leadership status quo, for the first time in decades, occasioned by the 2019 general election, the expectations of Kwarans, till date, are high on the current administration under the leadership of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the citizens are more united in their quest for good governance: fixing critical infrastructure, accountability, transparency and judicious utilization of scarce resources - so the state can work for critical mass and not the privileged few.
Kwara, no doubt, is blessed with human and material resources spread across the length and breadth of the state which could be explored to fast track the development of the state. Across the field of human endeavours, Kwarans are not scarce as they make waves in education, health, economy, law, politics, engineering, security and international diplomacy. The state can also boast of large deposits of mineral resources (marble, kaolin, silica sand, quartz, granites, talc and feldspar; metallic ores (gold, columbite, tantalite
) and Gemstones such as tourmaline, aquamarine, sapphire and emerald. Before now, Kwara was a proud host to Jebba Paper Mill, Nigeria Sugar Company Bacita, Tate and Lyle Sugar Company and Matches Company among others. These companies employed many people, cumulatively in hundreds and created job opportunities in thousands along their various value chains. However, down the years, things changed. Many of the companies fell to the whims of various economic challenges. Many people in Kwara state were thrown out of employment.
At the signing of 2020 budget which is due for review due to the current economic reality, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq posited that the Appropriation Law with 55% capital expenditure was designed to truly rebuild the state in a manner that uplifts people from poverty and addresses infrastructural deficit. This will go down in the history of the state as one of the few instances such a vote will go to capital projects in the state. Without a shade of doubt, the move is in consonance with the present administration avowed commitment to bridging infrastructural gaps.
Interestingly, scores of roads were initiated within the last one year. Some have been completed.Others are at different stages of completion. These include: Secretariat Road, Lafiagi, Edu LGA, Town Hall/ Station Road, Erin Ile, Oyun LGA, Market Junction - Emir's Palace Road, Gwanara, Baruten LGA, Tsaragi Market Batakpan Box Culvert Road, Edu LGA, Ipata Market (Internal Road), Ilorin, Museum Road Esie, Irepodun LGA, Tipper Garage Junction - Amuyo, Adesoye, Offa LGA, Sobi Specialist Hospital - Gaa Osibi - Medina Road, Ilorin West LGA, Awolowo Road Tanke - Danialu Primary School, Ilorin South and Gwaria Township Road, Kaiama LGA.
Similarly, repairs/comprehensive renovation of 31 schools are noticeable across the state just as Governor AbdulRazaq said over 100 schools really need immediate attention. His words: "All our major schools are in deplorable conditions which is a shame to talk about. Since 2013 not much has been done in the education sector. You need to visit our schools and see the state of things. Basic things are lacking - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). We have leaking roofs and the number of students per classroom is worrisome. Some classes in Ilorin West Local Government where I went to have about 100 students with streams A and B in a classroom. That is disgraceful."
Some of the interventions in the education sector, without doubt, include the rehabilitation of structures for the proposed Police Secondary School, Ballah and construction of classrooms at the new site for Government Secondary School, Ballah in Asa Local Government Area, ongoing comprehensive rehabilitation of Ilorin Grammar School, Ilorin, ongoing comprehensive rehabilitation of Offa Grammar School, rehabilitation of a block of classrooms at Government Secondary School, Omu-Aran, comprehensive rehabilitation of Patigi Secondary School, comprehensive rehabilitation of Government (Unity) Secondary School, Kaiama.
Another unique and interesting part of these interventions in schools and road infrastructure is the fact that the contracts were awarded to indigenous contractors in what the government called the first phase of such interventions across the state. To some of the contractors, the gesture was the first in many years and has demonstrated the commitment and confidence Governor AbdulRazaq has on local contractors which in no small measure will boost the local economy, strengthen the capacity of local contractors and reduce poverty among the citizens. This, no doubt, is giving a sense of belonging to the contractors and reassuring to them that Kwara under AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq will surely work for all.
Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) is another significant effort which aims at ensuring equitable distribution of resources, fight poverty, assist the unemployed to jumpstart businesses, boost the informal sector and stimulate the economy. The SIP replicates the Federal Government’s social welfare initiative in the state.
It is a programme that will help the poorest of the poor and increase the state's Gross Domestic Product. Under the scheme, pupils in public schools will be fed through the Kwara Home Grown School Feeding Programme (Ounje Ofe) to roll back the rate of malnutrition among children in Kwara state and ensure children grow up healthy, mentally and physically. Kwara State Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (Owo Isowo) is another component providing micro-lending to small traders and businesses across Kwara State. K-Power is an employability and entrepreneurship skill acquisition programme designed to increase the productivity of the youth in Kwara state.
The AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq led administration also has to its credit breaking of new grounds in areas hitherto neglected by previous governments in the state. Within the last 12 months, the present government has completed the rehabilitation of Area Court at Centre Igboro as well as another building abandoned for the past 30 years within the court premises, re-roofing of the State High Court Complex, Ilorin, the first time since it was done by the military era. Also in youth and sports sector, the administration returned the glamorous Kwara State Sports Festival - 15 years after it was last held. Kwara State Baseball at Adewole area now got the right attention - unarguably the only standard baseball field in West Africa then which hosted several national competitions. Today, the NYSC camp at Yikpata in Edu Local Government is one of the best in the country - thanks to the immediate attention given to it by Governor AbdulRazaq within his 100 days in office.
Another project which is dear to the heart of the indigenes of Ilorin Emirate and indeed Kwara State is Police Secondary School in Ballah, Asa local government. The school, despite the approval by the police authorities in Nigeria in 2017 could not take off due to lack of the right infrastructure. Today, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has completed the comprehensive renovation and conversion of the Government Secondary School, Ballah in Asa local government area of the state to a Police Secondary School and building of a new Government Secondary School at a new location. This is a project with potentials to expand access to education, generate new jobs, accelerate development and boost the economy of the host community.
Also, the present administration has forced the contractor handling the 32.8km Ilesha-Baruba-Gwanara road project to return to the site and the story of the project which was flagged off in 2014 by the immediate past administration is different today. This is one of the most critical roads with long stretch which passes through several communities and residents of the areas can hope that the road will not be stalled, going forward.
Within the past months, the present administration has fixed several waterworks - Pategi, Lafiagi, Kaiama, Gwanara and Yashikira in Kwara North - rehabilitation of Asa Dam Waterworks in Kwara Central and in Kwara South, Igbaja Waterworks, Oro-Ago Waterworks have been fixed - while several boreholes have been repaired or sunk in other places. Imagine the people of Chikanda, a border community in Kwara State crossing over to Benin Republic before they get potable water! Today, the story from the border community is changing with the repair of Yashikira waterworks. Also in the energy sector, some communities, particularly in Baruten local government area, can now heave a sigh of relief - thanks to the rehabilitation of high tension networks along Ogbooro/Agbonle-Ilesha Baruba, Gwanara, Gobo Gwanara and Ningurume via Gwanara axis by the AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq administration. Several other communities have been connected to the national grid through the procurement and installation of transformers. Few among them are at Isale Araromi (Oyatedo II) community, Oro-Ago Kingdom, 500KVA transformer at Ita-Amodu/Niger Junction Oke Aluko, Ilorin and completion of electrification project at Kanmonu, Alayin, Ajegunle, Kafinta and Pandaro communities in Offa.
Even in the security sector, the Governor made a major move in February, this year when he donated new Toyota Hilux Vans to security agencies in the state as part of strategies to re-energise the 'Operation Harmony', a state-driven initiative comprising security agencies in the state of harmony. A multi-stakeholder dialogue was also organised in February to collate input on how to strengthen the security of lives and property in the state. Expectedly, this has improved the capacity of security agencies to nip security challenges in the bud. Also, within the last 12 months, Governor AbdulRazaq has strengthened the capacity of the state fire service with the procurement of 5,000-litre capacity fire fighting truck, two ultra-modern skytick fire service technology and the immediate renovation of the fire service station on Unity junction in Ilorin and the repair of existing trucks.
As the government of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq clocks one year in office, it is imperative that the administration reviews its interventions in various sectors of the economy, assess areas of convergence and divergence to its plans, review where necessary and consolidate on areas with remarkable achievements that hold key to rejuvenating local economy, improve the living standard of the people and ensure good governance with a commitment to making Kwara first in all projects, policies, programmes and actions.
Unarguably, it is not yet Uhuru and there is no need to roll out the drums yet. What has been done in the last 12 months should be a good foundation for what is coming within the next three years to assuage the long thirst of the good people of Kwara State. The infrastructural deficit is obviously manifest in all the 16 local government areas. More roads need to be opened up to link farmers to the markets and further ease movement across the state while roads inherited from the past administration such as Kulende junction/UITH/Oke-Ose in Ilorin, Osi-Obo-Aiyejunle in Ekiti, Ilesha Baruba - Gwanara in Baruten should be seen to early completion and as just the government completed the second phase of the Secretariat Complex inherited from the immediate past administration, the government should also look into the long-abandoned hostel at the Kwara State Polytechnic for the benefit of the students. Kwara, though, shifted from borrowing tractors from Niger and Osun States can as at today boasts of only three recently repaired tractors. Thus, the new Kwara Agric Master plan must revolutionise the sector, explore the heavily untapped agricultural potentials of the state to stimulate economic growth, create jobs, accelerate rural development and ensure food security.
The Government must continue to strengthen the capacity of the workforce through improved welfare packages and relevant training, support the informal sector with grants and free loans, rejuvenate the three state-owned media houses for improved output and better service delivery as well as ensure the immediate take-off of the Kwara State Health Insurance Scheme to meet the medical needs of all who call Kwara their homes.
Anyone old enough to narrate the story of Kwara State in the hay days of Jebba Paper Mill, Nigeria Sugar Company Bacita, Tate and Lyle Sugar Company, Matches Manufacturing Company, Kwara Furniture and a host of other companies can recall with nostalgia that the state is imbued with manufacturing capacities. It will not be out of place if the government collaborates with private investors for the revival of some of the moribund companies, create enabling environment for the private sector and make Kwara a top investment destination in Nigeria. With that, the new investments in agriculture, solid minerals, enterprises, sports etc will create massive job opportunities for the teeming youth and reduce pressures on the government.
AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq-led administration must also spare no effort at reversing medical tourism by making the state health facilities more functional through the appointment of more qualified and competent medical personnel, support with the right equipment and incentives for the health workers to deliver their expected mandates. One of the gains of COVID-19 - going forward - must be more investment in the health sector at all levels. The Kwara State Government must, therefore, sustain efforts in that regard to make the state more attractive to patients in Nigeria and West African sub-region for diagnostics and treatments of ailments.
Thus, it is imperative for the government to immediately set up a high-powered monitoring team which will be truthful in words and actions, sincere in its approaches and fair in accessing all ongoing projects, give timely reports on each stage and identify any infractions in project specifications with a view to getting value for Kwara money and justify the essence of embarking on such projects ab initio.
All the elected and appointed officials should work in unison as a team to make Kwara work for all, listen and tolerate one another, communicate effectively when necessary and avoid distractions capable of making the government lose focus on the mandate given to it by the good people of the state on the 9th of March, 2019. Kwara state, like the Phoenix, is rising again.
Okiki is a journalist based in Ilorin.
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