After decades of struggle, dreams of a peoples’ government in Kwara state became a reality on May 29, 2019, when AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq and Kayode Alabi were sworn in as governor and deputy-governor respectively. But Kwarans’ dream of an El-Dorado under a reformist government soon became a mirage as the duo squandered the labour of Kwara Progressives. Today, Kwarans are yearning for a new order come 2023. OLUKAYODE THOMAS who was in Kwara last month reports.
For millions of Kwarans at home and in the diaspora, May 29, 2019 was the day the Lord had made and they rejoiced and were glad in it. After decades of political struggle, Kwara APC dethroned the ruling PDP with her candidate AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, polling 73.12%.
May 29, the day PDP handed over power to the APC was, therefore, a day of celebration. Kwarans, clad in their Sunday best, including this reporter, thronged the handover ceremony venue in their thousands. The early morning shower, rather than deter some of us, was seen as showers of blessing, God’s approval of the new regime and the beginning of a new dawn.
The decision of the face of the new order, AbdulRasaq, to drive to the swearing-in-ceremony in a Toyota Hilux van shocked many. In a state where governors move around in convoys of exotic cars, AbdulRasaq’s low profile style was a breath of fresh air.
The tradition in Kwara and other parts of Nigeria is for governors to hire private jets for journeys outside the state but the picture of AbdulRasaq queuing with other travellers to take Overland flight to Abuja or back to Ilorin with a rucksack on his back and boarding pass in his hand sent Kwarans into a frenzy. This is the man Kwarans have been waiting for, we concluded.
It was an ecstatic moment for Kwarans when AbdulRasaq announced that he won’t be taking salaries. When he opted to stay in his brother’s house instead of the Government House, majority of Kwarans concluded that the Messiah has arrived.
It’s all drama
But for Kwarans who knew AA’s antecedents, (as AbdulRasaq is fondly called) the real AA was then in the closet. They predicted that when he comes out, Kwarans would be shocked. They empathically said all he was doing then was dakor/sakamanje, the local lingo for a deception.
Majority of Kwarans dismissed those who were warning the rest of us not to get taken in as enemies of progress. But within a few months, the ray of hope AA gave Kwarans began to fade.
A leader of the O to ge movement told this reporter that when AA started showing his true colour, he was not disappointed. “AA and Alabi do not deserve any credit for O to ge. They were beneficiaries of a struggle they knew nothing about. They didn’t win the primaries. They were forced on us. Alabi, we don’t know very well, but AA has always been passive, even when he was with us in PDP. Whenever he lost elections, he would go to court. We always defeated him in court. He never supported us with money or materials, rather he was sponsoring radio programmes against us then in PDP.”
He claimed that AA was good at manipulating the system at the top then. He confessed that in PDP, decisions were from the bottom to the top but in APC, the reverse is the case. That was why it was easy for the people at the top in APC to impose him on us. “Our mistake was, we were united in kicking out Bukola Saraki and his party, PDP, but we didn’t have any plan about Kwara’s development. We were not careful in selecting candidates. That is why we have near illiterates in the house of assembly. We succeeded in uprooting PDP but were unable to establish a government favourable to the people.”
Money as the root of Kwara APC crisis
AA proved naysayers’ right within a short period as he did not unveil his vision, mission and plans that will change the story of Kwara. Not even an inspiring speech or quote can be attributed to him till date. The only thing O to ge warriors gave Kwarans was news of cold war between AA and Bashir Bolarinwa, then APC chairman, Shuaib Oba, Iyiola Oyedepo, Lai Muhammed, Gbemi Saraki and a host of others who claimed they were excluded from governance and decision making.
Then, AA was still seen as the messiah. Kwarans not only backed him, but they also described the party elders as self-seekers who were fighting the governor because he was not funding their ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ project.
But AA scored an own goal when he revealed the root of his problem with the party members. Speaking through his deputy, Alabi, at the launch of a book titled ‘Otoge’, AA said: “Some cabals within the party who received hundreds of millions of naira as donations for the Kwara struggle from far and wide did not deliver a kobo.”
Kwarans, who had backed AA, were shocked that the root of the intra-party crisis was not ideology or fight for a better Kwara but sharing of campaign funds.
Information and culture minister, Lai Mohammed’s response to AA’s allegation and counter-allegations by other party members further exposed APC leaders in Kwara state as self-centered, greedy and myopic set of people.
Muhammed said: “I never diverted APC 2019 general elections campaign funds for my personal use as alleged by Kwara State Governor. By the grace of God, I singlehandedly, with the support of friends and family, raised all the monies for the Oke-Ero/Isin/Ekiti/Irepodun Federal Constituency by-election of November 2019 that brought Hon. Tunji Olawuyi to the House of Representatives.”
Mohammed claimed he distributed 500 motorcycles and 20 vehicles and accused Olawuyi of embezzling N70 million campaign fund. Olawuyi shot back by describing the allegation of embezzlement of N70m as false. He claimed he gave Mohammed N32.5m, in the presence of Bolarinwa.
Members of the state assembly and other members of AA’s faction in Kwara APC dismissed Mohammed’s claim of funding their campaign as hogwash. Still, AA is yet to react to Mohammed’s claim that he had no campaign office or a single branded vehicle.
Danladi as sole administrator of Kwara state house of assembly
If the news of Kwara APC leaders’ cashing out while the masses are shouting O to ge was depressing, the way AA, the leader of a government that said Enough is Enough to bad governance in Kwara has turned the state house of assembly into a rubber stamp legislature is demoralising.
It is public knowledge that Yakubu Danladi is the youngest speaker in the history of Kwara state. What many of us did not know is that just like AA, whose ‘younger brother’, Alabi, is his deputy governor, Danladi’s sister Halimat Jummai Kperogi, is the clerk of the Kwara state house of assembly.
Whereas AA and Alabi are only brothers by association, Danladi and Halimat are siblings. So, the house of assembly chief administrative officer and accounting officer who is to perform oversight function and the speaker are children of the same father.
Backed by AA with between N100m to N140m as Kwara assembly monthly allocation, Danladi has turned the house of assembly into a department of the Government House. With his sister as the Clerk, Danladi reigns supreme as the Kwara state house of assembly sole administrator.
Instead of acting as first among equals, Danladi rules the state legislature with an iron fist. Members of the state house of assembly must report in his office daily before the business of the day. Some members of the house who spoke to this reporter in Ilorin said Danladi does not operate an open or transparent system. The house committees do not function. Bills from the executive are not subject to discussion, but rather, simply rubber-stamped.
Members like Jimoh Agboola, who dared complain are promptly suspended. Agboola had criticised Danladi for sidelining his constituency from developmental projects. While other lawmakers were mobilised with N10 million to execute projects in their constituencies, Agboola was ignored. He also blamed AA for the dreadful state of roads in Gaa-Akanbi area of Ilorin and failure to conduct local government elections after two years.
It is not just Agboola and the state house of assembly that are victims of Danladi’s iron fist rule, in Kwara north senatorial district, especially Guarana, where he comes from, he has become a terror to the young and the old. With Danladi’s newfound wealth comes arrogance and ambition.
His next ambition is to become the Emir of Guarana or the next governor of Kwara from Kwara North where he sees himself as numero uno.
AA, Danladi, N35 billion and second slavery
While the romance between AA and Danladi is mutually beneficial, it is sending Kwara state into slavery. With the house of assembly as a rubber stamp, AA got away with the biggest rape of Kwara state since creation with the approval of a N35 billion bond. A former member of the house of assembly, Ayansola Mohammed, described the process of procuring the bond as ‘executive rascality’.
According to Mohammed, the bond was not included in the 2021 budget, and the repayment plan is outrageous. It will be paid in two installments of N25 billion and later N10 billion over seven years from money due to Kwara state in the federal allocation. The governor has signed an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) for N630, 203,900 to be deducted monthly from the federal revenue allocation due to the state.
The norm is for bonds to be issued by Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Nigeria Stock Exchange but neither was part of this arrangement, according to Mohammed.
The issuing company; Greenland Growth SpV Ltd situated at Plot 1069 A, Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos was incorporated on 16th, March 2021 but Kwara State Executive resolution on the bond was dated on 24th, December 2020 with reference number, KWS/S/CAB/39/51/1/91 signed by the Secretary to the State Government and Attorney General on 11th January, 2021.
When the SSG and AG signed the resolution, the state had no commissioner as the state executive council (the cabinet) had been dissolved effective from 31st December, 2020. Yet, Kwara state house of assembly quickly approved the bond on 26th January, 2021 with reference number, KWSHA/5.23/Vol4/3068 signed by the clerk of the house.
With an interest rate of 16 per cent, Ayansola revealed that N7.58 billion is what will be paid by coupon rate annually for seven years. “If we calculate this money, it will amount to N63, 105, 127, 000 if we multiply the annual figure by seven (7) and subtract the amount they borrowed from this figure.”
Projects in bond already in budget
For a government whose slogan is Enough is Enough of shenanigans, Ayansola’s expressed surprise that funds have already been allocated to most of the projects in the bond in the 2021 budget.
“For example Virtual Art Centre they want to build with N1billion, N100 million has already been allocated for it in the budget. Also, the Kwara Garment Village they allocated N4billion for in the bond, N1.8 billion has already been allocated for it in the budget. Also, N100 million was allocated for Ilorin Hub in the budget but a whopping N1 billion was also allocated to the same project in the bond,” Ayansola said.
“Infrastructure, roads, bridges they said would gulp N7billion for 24 months in the bond. Meanwhile, N1billion was allocated for rural works in the 2021 budget. Education, classrooms and hostels were said to gulp N21, 125,000,000. Inside the budget, they allocated N500million and N14billion of the bond would still be spent on building classrooms. Agriculture, they said, would gulp N7billion. In the budget they set aside N2.7 billion for anchor borrower, FADAMA that they earmarked N3billion.”
Unethical practices under AA
It’s not just contentious issues of N35 billion bond that are making Kwarans ask questions. AA’s renovation and rehabilitation of dilapidated schools across the state have also been controversial, according to reports in the local media. From reports of overblown contracts, concealment of the amount allocated for each project, contractors who kept changing their addresses and other information on the project signboards, to implementing projects different from the one advertised, award of contract to inept contractors who did poor jobs have dominated the main news from the projects, according to media reports.
For example, Government High School Adeta, originally owned by AGF Abdulrazaq (SAN), the governor’s father. It was alleged that the rehabilitation of the school cost a total of N361, 957,438.82. Many believe the amount is enough to build a new school. The contractor was CONCEL Engineering, a Lagos-based company owned by Sola Braithwaite, a close friend of AA.
Six weeks after construction, the fence of the school collapsed.
It was a similar story with Pategi Secondary School, awarded to NUMBERS Limited. At the Offa Grammar School, renovation is yet to commence months after the government announcement. Speaker Danladi, a friend of the executive, could not hide his disgust. He told the media “the level of work done by some of the contractors did not measure up to the money paid to them. The renovation carried out at the Government High School, Adeta in Ilorin was below the N330m which the contract was awarded”.
LG autonomy, elections, and funds
A founding member of the O to ge movement told this reporter in Ilorin that “one of our promises was to operate a democratic local government administration and not to touch Local Government allocation.
“As at today, there is no democratic structure in local government administration for about one year and nine months. Civil servants were in charge till early this year. DPM-TIC is not a democratic structure, it is just to corner LG funds”.
Political observers in the state argue that AA, like most of his counterparts in other states, refused to organise LGA elections because they want access to local government funds but AA’s SA on political communication, Bashir Adigun, told the media that there is “nothing to steal there”.
Adigun said that the state’s LGs do not have enough funds that can be stolen as they still require support to pay salaries. Aisha Pategi, a former commissioner who resigned from AA’s cabinet, however, challenged the state government to publish the local governments’ financial accounts from 2019. Pategi claimed that the state’s ministry of finance diverted N300 million local government funds when she was head of the local government and chieftaincy affairs ministry.
The government is yet to respond to Pategi’s challenge.
AA scorecard in 26 months
Lai Mohammed did not mince words in his assessment of AA: “It has gotten to the point where we have to speak out. It was immediately after the governor emerged as the party’s candidate for the election that it dawned on us that we had entered ‘one chance’. But despite all the warnings from concerned party leaders and others who had reservations about his choice, our reaction then was that no matter what, his choice was better than where we were coming from. But we were wrong.”
After 26 months of O to ge, majority of Kwarans will not disagree with Mohammed. A popular slogan among his supporters in the early days of AA’s government was ‘ise n lo’ (Work is progressing) but today it’s been changed to ‘ise n lo sugbon a ri ise’ (They claim work is progressing but we are not seeing any progress). Apart from paying salaries, the general consensus in Kwara is that AA has performed badly.
Apart from being an absentee Governor who is often in Lagos, Abuja or outside Nigeria, sources close to Government House said he acts on impulse and that there are no schedule of events.
“His salary is not even clear, somebody on level one is earning N30, 000, the person on level 8 is earning N37, 000, the salary scale is not in public domain. Kwara salary for level 15-17 is between N150, 000 to N170, 000 but in neighbouring states like Oyo, Kogi, Osun, Ekiti and Niger State, level 15-17 officers earn between N312, 000 and N342, 000.
“It took AA months to appoint Commissioners and when he did, those appointed were mostly neophytes with little or nothing to offer. Imagine a Youth Corps member being appointed a commissioner only to be sacked a few months later. Has AA not destroyed her career? Where will she start now? Apply to civil service as an entry level officer or join the private sector as management trainee?”
A civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity said AA loves micro-managing everybody around him. “Like commissioners – appoint many today and drop them tomorrow. Once you have better intellectual capacity, he does not want to see you again.”
An Ilorin-based economist said AA is not doing anything different from what his predecessors did. He blamed this on lack of vision and mission.
“You must have a mission to take you to achieve your vision, your programmes and projects. You must have people who will key into your vision and be part of your dream.
“Three sets of people will do the above for you. Civil servants, political servants and the people of Kwara. Unfortunately, AA does not have any of the three – his coming is a mistake and we must vote him out in 2023, he must leave. He has no vision, no programmes. He is just doing the usual thing like renovating schools, hospitals, and others. The roads that he is doing are just patch, patch roads. What is the economic value of tarring one kilometer or two kilometers in a local government? AA is doing what other governors have done in the past. No creativity. No thinking out of the box to effect genuine, enduring development.
“What is Kwara’s plan for the next 30 years? What are the plans for education and other sectors in the next 30 years beyond sacking teachers and replacing them with another set of incompetent teachers?”, a source commented.
Justifying AA’s with Saraki, Ahmed
But AA’s Joseph Goebbels and Government House Data Boys (troll or e-rats) are always quick to justify his executive rascality which include but are not limited to the following: Suspension of LG Council, dissolution of KWASIEC, dissolution of Civil Service Commission, dissolution of Kwara Assembly Service Commission, failure to pass FOI bill, N20 million loan per lawmaker (above the statutory approval by RMAFC) without refund to the state coffers, execution of Grassroots Development Projects of 10 million per lawmaker per year without due process, failure to present oversight report at the plenary and act on it accordingly, lack of follow up on motions passed by the State Assembly, appointment of Lola Sawyer as his focal person on diaspora matters, Hijab crisis, unethical practices and others with the argument that Saraki and Ahmed before him did the same.
“But they seem to forget that O to ge is about stoppage of impunity and doing the right thing. If Kwarans were comfortable with the old order, there won’t be need for a revolution. There are many things that are even now that were not happening under Bukky. Under Saraki you did not see his brother and sisters in government but today, it is government of family by family and for family and AA’s Lagos and Abuja friends,” a commentator in Ilorin added.
AA, 2023, and Kwara North
Apart from the other political parties in Kwara state, the major political battle today is who gets the 2023 ticket between the two factions in APC, the AA Camp and BOB Camp.
A strong supporter of BOB told this reporter in Ilorin: “Let me be honest with you, our chances are limited. AA will get the APC ticket because the Buni caretaker committee will favour him – but remember getting the party ticket does not equate to winning the election. Adamu Attah got the NPN ticket in 1983 but he lost the election, Mohammed Lawal got the ANPP ticket in 2003 but he lost, AA may get the party ticket but he cannot win.”
He ruled out the idea of the BOB faction forming a new party. “We don’t have the financial resources to build a formidable structure that will win in 2023. Secondly, time is not our friend. Our best alternative is to work with PDP, and they are the only party that has what it takes to win.”
When reminded that going to PDP means going back to Saraki which translates to going back to their vomit, he said: “We have to be realistic. The Third Force cannot work as a separate entity and defeat AA, neither can Saraki, so we have to work together. The Third Force will have to work with Saraki based on terms and conditions.”
He posited that the current crisis in APC is strengthening Saraki. “Saraki came back and the public sympathy he is getting is due to AA’s lack of leadership qualities. The governor is not a team player. If we had remained one, Saraki’s come back would have been impossible. The Third Force will include Saraki. We will take over in 2023. We shall be negotiating with Saraki from a position of strength. We will most likely choose a strong candidate from Kwara North. We from Kwara South are behind Kwara North. We have done two terms in Kwara South and Kwara Central, it is only fair we go to Kwara North.”
“But we are going to pick through candidates. Most of our representatives in the state assembly, house of representatives and senate are not the best from Kwara. In 2023, our best will represent us. For AA, his second term is a forgone conclusion,” the source said.
However, a die-hard supporter of AA dismissed the claim. “We know the so-called BOB APC is working with PDP but they will fail. Kwarans will never return to Egypt. It is AA till 2027.” However, the basis for his optimism is yet to be seen.
Now that O to ge is Otuka, what does the future portend for Kwara? A victory for Third Force or AA till 2027? Only disciples of Jewish seer, Nostradamus, can answer that question but as it stands, AA’s underperformance and lack of capacity to lead is strengthening the Third Force daily.
THOMAS, a Lagos-based reporter, is from Offa, Kwara state.