OPINION: Don't distract the driver, please! By Abdulrazaq Magaji

Date: 2021-01-23

After years of being left in the lurch, divine intervention came for Nigeria’s State of Harmony, Kwara State, when, in 2019, the people elected what came close to their idea of a people’s government. The election of Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq lifted people’s morale and the governor, aware of the heavy burden on his shoulders, literally hit the ground running when he assumed office. He has not buckled under the burden since then.

It is 17 months into the journey and, already, dirty politics is threatening to buckle him. From all indications, some passengers in the jalopy the governor is have become distractingly rowdy in a way that could bring the journey to grief!

The needless and avoidable crisis that has engulfed the Kwara State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress portends real bad news for the state. This is not cheering news for the state’s estimated three million people. It is time for decent Nigerians to rise and avert a return to the Kwara's better-forgotten past.

At issue is a strange and vicious struggle for resource-control within the APC in the state that has pitted Governor Abdulrazaq against some party leaders. So far, there is nothing to suggest that Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Abdurrauf Mohammed, is on the side of a fifth column that has emerged within the state chapter of the party. For one, the governor is performing. And for another, he has not been accused of corruption or wholesale privatisation of the common wealth or any of the several vices that past governors were regularly accused of. This much the Information Minister has attested to on several occasions. What, then, if the governor is executing his office diligently?

The advertised grouse of those who have sworn to make Kwara ungovernable is two-fold: one, they allege that they are not carried along in running the state and, two, that Governor Abdulrazaq triggered events that ousted the state's interim chairman of the party by the national caretaker committee of the APC. We shall soon return to the first allegation, but on the second allegation, even the governor's antagonists shy from admitting that the sacked state party chairman has been under investigation at the party's national headquarters for failure to account for missing party finances he inherited.

Now, back to the first allegation! Keen watchers of Kwara politics knew that opposition to the governor would not be long in coming immediately after he named his first cabinet. Reason was that those who expected to be "compensated" for bringing APC to power in the state felt aggrieved that neither they nor their handpicked nominees featured in the list. That, in the estimation of those who aspire to be Kwara's new political overlords, was the first alleged infraction committed by Governor Abdulrazaq.

More curious was the opposition to the governor’s decision to insist on competitive bidding for ongoing developmental projects in the state! Reasonable as it sounds, the governor's decision opened him to charges of being too rigid and unyielding! For politicians who are long used to being "compensated", this was the last straw: the governor has crossed the proverbial redline and therefore deserve to have spanners thrown into his work. No one cared a hoot about the man's adjudged honesty and incorruptibility or, for that matter, his rating as a performing and achieving chief executive! Enough on the lame advertised reasons for the crisis!

On the unadvertised reasons, the much uninvolved bystanders know, at least from press reports, is that this is another reprehensible fight over moolah! No more, no less! Don't get me wrong; there is nothing wrong in compensating people, winners and losers alike, in politics. What is wrong is a situation where a few politicians constitute themselves into 'We, the people and pretend to speak for all as was the case before Governor Abdulrazaq came on. If truth be told, Kwara state would not have found itself in dire straits if previous governors did a fraction of what the present administration has done since 2019.

It appears the die is cast and nobody should be deluded into believing that the politicians will leave the governor to seamlessly execute his mandate. Meanwhile, in the midst of the preventable confusion, the vultures have started to fly low in anticipation of a major feast. In an ironic twist of events, even the rampaging governors who made no distinction between Kwara state treasury and their private accounts are coming out of their political Siberia to jump into the fray. To worsen matters, some big voices in the "O to ge!" campaign now hobnob with corruption high priests of yore, all in the desperation to diminish Governor Abdulrazaq.

Perhaps, it is time to awaken the politicians who aspire to replace the rampaging oligarchs of the immediate past to the stark reality that it was the people, not a handful of APC chieftains that elected Governor Abdulrazaq. And, from all indications, the people chose a governor they can always call their own! But, since it is impossible for people to be compensated individually, the best the people expect His Excellency's government to do is precisely what it has busied itself with since 2019: execute life-changing developmental projects and upgrade decayed infrastructure across the state!

It is also important to remind those who presume to be speaking for the people that the people are satisfied with the emergent Kwara state under Governor Abdulrazaq where public resources are not meant to be hijacked and plundered, where the people, not a few politicians, are collectively compensated with state resources and where the word of an overbearing individual is not law! With only pain and anguish to show for their blind loyalty in the past, the least the state and its longsuffering people desire and, what they are getting from the present administration, is quality governance, a commodity that was never prioritized by ruinous administrations in the past.

A word of caution suffices here. It is important to remind ourselves that a return to the oligarchic past, when a few people treated state funds as personal wealth, frittered opportunities, elevated cronyism to an art and effectively turned the people of Kwara state into a vulnerable, unquestioning and submissive lot is not an option. The people must resist the urge to return to the famished path of the past when available jobs, major and minor, denied competent hands in the state and contracted to friends and family members elsewhere. Kwara must not return to the past when cultists, armed robbers, hired killers, and other roughnecks had a field day and operated, oftentimes, with the support of prominent politicians.

Let's get this right! There is no point distracting the driver of the rickety vehicle that Kwara was turned into by former leaders. For too long, Kwara state failed at fairness and now, it is time for the state to excel at fairness! To get it right, the politicians must rise above pecuniary tendencies and counterproductive political squabbles. The collective and shared dream of a rejuvenated Kwara state, devoid of any manipulative tendencies, is realistic. But, first, there must be a sustained and deliberate attempt to support the acclaimed honest and incorruptible tenant at Government House, Ilorin.

. Magaji, who writes from magaji778@gmail.com, is based in Abuja.


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