Dr Sambo Muritala is Special Adviser to the Kwara State governor on Legal Matters. In this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU, he speaks on some political issues in the state.
Many Kwara residents, especially the opposition members, are of the opinion that Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq did not merit his re-election. How do you justify his re-election?
The opposition parties were preaching against his coming back for a second term simply because there was a sharp contrast between his style of governance and leadership compared to theirs. They loathed the thought and prophesied against him, coming back. The basis for their predictions was his refusal to share public resources among the stakeholders, which was a common practice with the previous administrations and that he did not yield to their archaic advice, which failed his predecessors. As a progressive governor, his focus is to project Kwara State to the rightful position where it belongs.
Mallam Abdulrasaq cut down the cost of governance against the extravagance spending of his predecessors. He focused on masses-oriented programmes, the elevation of civil servants’ standard of living, and purposeful programmes that project Kwara State as both a commercial hub and economically viable one, against a civil service state that it was known for. These worthwhile developments, among several others, have rubbished the efforts of the past governments and scared every other new aspirant. They endeared him to Kwarans. Those contributed to his re-election.
They alleged that the governor emptied the state’s treasury to buy over his opponents, including close associates of a former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki?
The allegation is far from the truth. When the ‘Otoge’ movement wrestled power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019, it was their belief that the leadership of Mallam Abdul-razaq will be stoned out of power since they have grounded the state beyond revival. Mallam Abdulrasaq took us through sacrifice and financial discipline to revive the economic bearing of the state. The Toyota Hilux that he personally bought and brought for his swearing-in is still the one he is using up till this moment. Commissioners got their vehicles almost a year before the end of this tenure. I must tell you that all other cabinet members are still using their personal vehicles up till this moment.
He restricts all the political appointees to their basic salary only, as against money sharing, which was the norm of the previous government. Abdulrazaq took over the baton of leader- ship of Kwara State at a time the state was almost looted off the map. The educational architecture collapsed when all colleges of education were forced to stay on strike for months over the non-payment of about eleven months’ salaries of their staff. The state was blacklisted by Universal Basic Edu- cation Commission (UBEC) when the then government of Kwara State did not pay about a billion-naira counter- part fund.
Mallam Abdulrasaq paid the counterpart fund to rescue over six hundred schools from extinction. He called all the colleges of education staff back from the strike having paid their salaries and subsequently implemented minimum wage for them and all Kwara State civil servants as a whole. It makes no sense that a governor, who couldn’t buy himself and his team luxuries, will lavish the state resources to buy over his defeated opponents.
What should Kwara residents expect from him during his second tenure?
From the available statistics, the first tenure of Mallam Abdulrazaq is far better than the eight years of his predecessor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed. Mallam Abdulrazaq has set an unprecedented standard in all human endeavours, and it is obvious that his thirst for development is rare. He has done so much that the opposition could not fault his passion for development except that he did not commission his projects. Only God can tell how far the governor will go to call for the kind of celebration Saraki was expecting. Kwara State was the most backward of the 12 earlier states of Nigeria before the advent of Mal- lam Abdulrazaq but I will assure you that with this tempo, the state will be highly referred to in the nearest future. There are allegations that the March 18 governorship election in the state was not free, fair and credible, and that the governor compromised the electoral process, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security officials.
Why did he do that?
Misbehaviours at the polling units were curbed with the advent of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). Over-voting and ballot box snatching were put to rest as security agents were on their toes. You cannot expect battle losers to keep quiet when the winners are celebrating their success.
Their expressions are means by which the losers could celebrate their failures. If the opponents are not conveniently convinced by the outcome of the election, the proper step to be taken is to approach the court. The Election Petition Tribunal has been set up before the conduct of elections and therefore it is the right option available to them and I think they can explore this up to the Supreme Court. Some of those in opposition, including the 2023 governorship candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Prof Shuab Oba Abdulraheem and a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, have congratulated the governor, who also visited them in their respective homes.
What is the essence and lesson of this development to Nigeria’s democracy?
The duo have been anti-government of Abdulrazaq right since and their calls to congratulate him is an indication that they have admitted to his success and convinced that he is the choice of Kwarans. This is a unique characteristic of a progressive leader. The decision of Mallam Abdulrazaq to be magnanimous in victory and pay them a visit at their various homes shows that he is running an all-inclusive government and highlights his visionary strengths to carry everyone along. A contest should never be seen as a war.
What do you want other contestants and other critics of the governor to do?
There are various options; I think other contestants should consider going forward. Whosoever doubts his defeat at polls should challenge the success of Mallam Abdulrazaq or any other person who was declared winner against his belief before the Election Petition Tribunal. Second, those who feel they honestly lost in the poll, but have learnt lessons to prepare themselves for success in the next poll can re-strategize. Third, those who agreed to their lost at the poll but have ideas which will progress Kwarans and Kwara State should link up with the winner and surrender the ideas to him for implementation. Ability is of little amount without opportunity. However, people should know that the most serious acts of a governor or government is to screen millions of pieces of advice competing for his implementation on one is- sue. A single superior advice would be picked for implementation and others will head to the dustbin. It is not that he doesn’t listen to peoples’ advice, but it is unfortunate that someone’s advice bowed down to other’s superior advice.
Many Kwarans alleged that the governor did not perform well during his first term. During this second term, what should they expect?
The success of Mallam Abdul-razaq in the last poll is an indication that he has performed wonderfully well to have regained the mandates of Kwarans. He didn’t only win his local government, he won in all 16 local government areas, which include those of his opponents. Several roads that were last touched by military administrators were revived. Those abandoned health centers have been resuscitated, well equipped and are currently attracting the patronage of the masses. Qualified teachers were recruited based on their qualifications in the tests. The investment of the in- cumbent governor has started yield- ing results with Kwara State students having succeeded as the best in Nigeria, they represented Nigeria outside the country.
What is your advice to youths of Kwara State?
My advice to the youths is to have themselves well-positioned for every available opportunity in the government of Mallam Abdulrazaq since they are his priority. Gone were the days when youths were crowned the king of the future, as the incumbent governor has brought those far-reach- ing futures to the lapses of the youths now. Ballot snatching, hooliganisms, and political thugs are no longer lucrative businesses under the leader- ship of the governor. Youths in Kwara State should assume front roles. The youngest Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Nigeria, Senior Ibrahim Sulyman, is from Kwara State. Seventy per cent of Kwara State political appointees are youths. We are doing wonderfully well.
Kwara North people felt it was rightly their turn to produce the governor; what is your advice to them now that Governor AbdulRazaq has been re-elected and that aspiration appeared dashed?
Kwara North never for once projected any candidate for the governorship race in the All Progressives Congress (APC) aside Mallam Abdulrazaq. Only PDP presented Yahman Abdullahi to run against the incumbent. The benefits achieved by Kwara North in the first term of Mallam Abdulrazaq were so enormous that they endorsed him for a second term in office. The percentage of votes in favour of him from Kwara North is far greater than that which he scored in the other two senatorial districts. So, the best answer to this question is embedded in the scores of both Ya- mah Abdullahi who polled 45,029 votes against Governor Abdulrazaq’s 93,923 votes in the Kwara North Senatorial District, which happens to be the home of Yahmah Abdullahi. From all the analyses above, Kwara North gave its nod to the second `term bid of Mallam Abdulrazaq.