OPINION: An Imitation That Just Doesn't Fly by Rafiu Ajakaye
I joined community folks and senior citizens from my part of Igbomina land last Friday in Alabe for the funeral of Mama Rachael Oyindasola Abogunrin, the respected wife of the famed general surgeon, Dr. Steven Abogunrin. Mama Abogunrin, Née Alada, exuded grace. She was kind and accommodating. People spoke so well of her.
It was past 1pm and I hurriedly left the venue of the funeral to go pay homage to the Afetu of Alabe, my grandma, and (as I am wont to do each time I visit) to offer a few prayers for the dead at the tombs of my grandparents and great grandparents, and then observe Jum’ah prayer. Then my eyes caught a thoroughly begrimed Osuwa cap on the ground. I grinned.
The Osuwa-bearing cap (and in Alabe) provoked in me a feeling of pity at the ignorance of those who had coined the word and the naivety of those who dream of riding to power on the back of a slogan that is certain to provoke more anger than sympathy.
Slogan, according to political communication experts, must tell a story that people can immediately connect with. Like propaganda, it cannot fly in a vacuum. The Otoge they seek to mimic didn’t just fly in a vacuum; it rode on the back of popular anger, watered by verifiable indices of deprivations: no prompt payment of salaries to workers, water was not running, basic health system had collapsed, public basic education had gone to the abyss, and people (mostly the middle class) were in fact tired of being called hapless serfs in their own land. Otoge aptly expressed these hydra-headed grievances of the people in one simple lingo. Osuwa is a fish out of water, a thoughtless imitation that fails to fly.
Let us see how Osuwa works in Alabe, a backwater community in the heart of Ile Ire District of Ifelodun. Or the entire district as a whole. Between 1987 when I arrived Alabe and 2019, a period of 32 years, Alabe did not just stagnate; it actually retrogressed in terms of basic amenities. Like every other thing, community efforts kept open the LGEA primary school and the Comprehensive Basic Health Centre. As of 1995 when I left the LGEA school, we had some 10 teachers. The health facility had nurses and was functional. Our mothers gave birth there and there were provisions for some advanced care. By 2019, the school barely had two teachers. One more thing: not a single new structure had been erected in the school 32 years after, while a few of those we left had collapsed. Those still standing had caved in many times, rescued each time by the community. Between 2019 and now, the school has added two new classrooms and attracted new teachers. There is hardly a ward in Kwara without this experience.
Long cut off from city centres, the district is now being connected to its Isin borders with a road and bridges by the new administration. Pray, how does Osuwa sync with our people, except for the blindly partisan few who are motivated only by their own selfish desires and are themselves known for such trait? It is a comic relief.
How does Osuwa work in Obbo-Aiyegunle whose dreams of two generations are now just being fulfilled by this administration? Or in Gwanara or Baruten. How does Osuwa pan with over 23,000 SUBEB teachers who until 2019 were never sure what time their salaries would come every month or what amount they were going to get? They lived such uncertainties. They had poverty forced on them by a slew of policies born of official sleaze and a desire to keep a dynasty.
Public infrastructure in health, education and water, among others, had all collapsed. For example, the General Hospital, Ilorin had become a shadow of itself. It barely had six hours of electricity supply per day in 2019. Today, the General Hospital has a minimum of 18 hours of electricity daily. Its infrastructure has turned 180 degrees positively. Go to its eye facility today and compare it to the embarrassment of pre-2019. Same for its dental facility. Let me rub it in: the whole General Hospital did not have a single high-end life-supporting gadget to save a patient in dire need of it. The oxygen plant had collapsed — revived only recently by this administration.
Kwara’s investments in basic healthcare delivery have never been as good as they are under AbdulRazaq. Today, only Kwara and four other states in Nigeria are on target in maternal mortality, according to the DHIS2 database. UNICEF’s most recent MICS data says neonatal mortality is down to 18.0 in Kwara, as against 27.0 under the Osuwa team in 2016. At 57.6%, the state is on target in under-six exclusive breastfeeding. It wasn’t in 2016 when it stood at 35.7%, says the UNICEF. The agency adds that under-five mortality is 42 deaths per 1,000, far below the national average of 64 per 1,000 deaths. Antenatal coverage in Kwara has hit 77.7%, up from 66.6% in 2016, while 45.0% of one-year-olds were immunised in the state by 2021, as against 33.9% in 2016. Some 79% of pregnant women were attended to by skilled birth attendants in Kwara in 2021, far above national average of 50.7%.
It is the same story in other areas. As much as the Osuwa gang may want to erase history, technology has made it difficult. People still have pictures of tankers, contracted by seasonal do-gooding politicians of ile loke extraction, moving round Ilorin the capital city to give water. It is a toast to the failure of those years. Mostly our inheritance from colonial rule and the Sardauna government, our water works had either packed up or redundant. Many of these facilities have now been fixed. Pipe-borne water now runs in many parts of the metropolis and outside of it. Igbaja last had public water supply some 10 years ago. It now has. Same for Offa. Those who wrecked these facilities are crying Osuwa.
Their narratives on security and economy fall flat, still. The insecurity ravaging parts of the country is hardly the making of the Buhari administration, much less AbdulRazaq. It is a vestige of the bad decisions of the past — and this is not about buckpassing. No one bends a dried fish. The foot soldiers of the dare devils terrorizing all of us were raised two, three decades ago. They felt left out on life opportunities; they now feel justified to take out their failures on all of us.
The insecurity has metastasised over the years, from Niger Delta militants taking up arms against the Nigerian state, regional groupings wanting to go their separate ways, terrorists carving out territories for themselves in the North-east (bombing places of worship and public buildings or gatherings), cattle rustling, to bandits abducting people for ransom.
Without explaining away anything or dancing on the graves of our compatriots who died in the hands of these roughnecks, things are getting resolved as security agencies are moving many steps ahead of the criminal gangs through tracking. Things can only get better. It has little to do with Buhari or APC than it is with those who made the wrong choices that brought down many industries, ruined social amenities, and broke public trust in government. There is so much you can do to convince a child already conditioned to hate the state. This, in my opinion, explains why the Nigerian state is only managing the fallouts of our precarious security situation. The good news, as mentioned earlier, is that the state is getting smarter in making the criminal enterprise of abduction costlier for its perpetrators. In other words, the insecurity is not what any partisans or arm-chair critics should gloat over.
No magic wand will wish away the security challenges confronting Nigeria. The answer to reducing violent crimes lies in a combination of strategies: consistent investment in modern security hardware, which the Buhari administration has matter-of-factly been making, increased deterrence against the recalcitrant non-state actors, and unabated efforts to ensure a fair deal for the populace, especially our women, the youth and the children (to cut the manpower supply to the various violent groups).
It is the same for the economy. The downtime is a fallout of many things, including the developments in other parts of the world. The inflation in Ghana, UK and the US can’t all be the handiwork of a Buhari. We are affected by the Russia-Ukraine War — as we have been by the Libyan crisis which ratcheted up small arms proliferation, violent crimes, and increased hunger in the West African subregion.
No one should wish for a war — in words or in deed. Kwara has proven to be peaceful in spite of the ruckus nationwide. Its strategic location as the state straddling the north and the south makes it a destination for all, including for those running from war and crises elsewhere. The drying up of the Lake Chad has fuelled crisis up north and down south as different economic groups scramble for limited resources to stay afloat. Kwara, being peaceful and largely open to the two regions, has become attractive to persons fleeing from violence elsewhere, with attendant consequences on social relations and security, food and consumer food inflation. The government has responded (including during the lockdowns of the covid-19 pandemic) with various initiatives to prevent incessant clashes and support the most vulnerable with different palliatives, while investing more in security hardwares.
Notwithstanding the global crises, the local (Kwara) economy continues to expand amid government’s heavy infrastructural spendings and efforts to ease the business climate. In all, unemployment and poverty rates in Kwara (See: — Voting Right to Keep Kwara on Path of Steady Growth — ) are lower today than they were in 2019 under the Osuwa choristers! Women inclusion, youth engagement and empowerments are better now than it ever were. Vulnerable, old elders are better treated today than in the era of perennial multiple deaths and indignities under the Osuwa crew.
From Gweria in Kaiama, Gwanara in Baruten, Ora in Ifelodun, Kpada in Patigi, and Obbo-Aiyegunle in Ekiti, Kwara hinterlands have come back to life, away from the infrastructure collapse and neglect of the past years. Life has become better and values of properties have risen in the remotest corners of Ilorin heartland, owing to vast networks of interlock roads newly constructed by this administration.
SMEs, the heart of any economy, have peaked in Kwara, with rebounding positive effects on the living conditions of the people. Just on Tuesday, the administration empowered 490 young people with interest-free loan, a third in the series of a programme designed to lubricate the local economy. Several economic, job-creating projects like the garment factory and film/visual arts centre are ongoing, fully funded by Kwara’s taxpayers’ money — unlike those advertising federal projects like the Post Office Flyover and Chikanda Road (Baruten) as theirs to hoodwink the citizens.
Things will get better under the Otoge administration. We look forward to do a lot more, and the governor’s 10-year sustainable development plan has spelt out the direction the state is taking.
Osuwa is therefore a misnomer and a poor imitation in Kwara, given the history of its crooners and the circumstances of Kwara yesterday and today. It is a campaign slogan that is at variance with the realities of the state. It is, at best, an expression of group frustration from the dynasty and its hangers-on. We move!
• Mr. Ajakaye is the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor
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