It has been one year since the present government in Kwara State was ushered in through a sea breeze of change. It was seemingly a reflection of a general feeling of peoples malcontent with the system as it then was. The whys and wherefores of that event will be left for discussion on another day.
As they say, we are where we are. It is now one year that this APC government has been in power. It is therefore a reasonable and legitimate exercise to audit and comment on its performance so far.
Governance is no child’s play. It requires more than the superficial aesthetics of driving oneself around in a Hilux van in an attempt to court populist applause. Governance requires hard work, commitment, dedication to duty and ability to confront and resolve both the mundane and exceptional tasks. Governance requires an ability to balance the various competing factors for the maximum benefit of the masses. It follows therefore that the monotonous finger-pointing at past administration’s purported deficiencies does not cut the mustard and does not benefit the people who elected you into power.
To be fair, this Government should not be benchmarked against other more prosperous states of the federation, regardless of which regions they are. However, the irreducible minimum benchmark has to be the manifesto and campaign promises made to the electorate. Let us therefore evaluate some critical sectors.
THE ECONOMY. In this broad category, there are a number of specific campaign promises made by Kwara APC to the electorate as follows:
JOBS: Kwara APC said that they would create thousands of jobs for the youths of Kwara State on the basis that they will attract investment into the State and also support small and medium enterprises to grow. In the first few months of the administration the Governor was seen globe-trotting solo (USA, Japan, South Africa etc), in the name of looking for “investors”. It is quite disappointing that, after spending so much taxpayer’s money on these foreign trips, he has not been able to bring a single company to invest in Kwara. Never mind the foreign companies, not even a local Nigerian company has come to invest in Kwara.
This situation can be contrasted with the job creating initiatives of the previous administrations such as Kwara State University (KWASU), International Aviation College, Harmony Advanced Diagnostic Centre and the privately owned Kwara Mall. All these enterprises still employ hundreds of kwarans till today.
MINIMUM WAGE: During the campaign, Kwara APC gave strong assurances that, if elected, they would immediately adopt and pay the new minimum wage of N30,000. Sadly, the Governor has not only reneged on this promise, but has positively taken steps to frustrate its actualisation. First he set up committees to try and delay the matter. When that didn’t work, he orchestrated the committee report to be incomprehensible and unacceptable to Labour. In the end, he simply tossed the whole thing to the sideline never to be spoken of again.
Kwara State is predominately a civil service state. Therefore, if you want to improve your economic growth, you simply cannot ignore uplifting the welfare and purchasing power of your largest employed sector. This was the driving force which led the immediate past administration to implement recommendations of Bukola Saraki led administration that minimum wage should be increased from N5,500 to N18,000 per month. Any Government that cares about its workforce will not keep its workers in penury especially when cost of living has risen exponentially.
SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES (SMEs): The other vital sector of Kwara’s economy is the Small and Medium-sized enterprises that litter every corner and facet of the State- the market women; the petty trader; the electronics trader; the furniture maker; the mechanics; the transporters; the tailors etc. They were promised heaven and earth by Kwara APC during campaign. Sadly, rather than delivering on those promises, these entrepreneurs have been on the receiving end of government draconian actions. Shops have been forcefully closed down and destroyed without compensation on the basis that they “deface” the city. They have been levied higher taxes way beyond their ability to pay. Business are folding up by the day.
ROAD CONSTRUCTION: It is quite pitiful to read the list of achievements that the Kwara State Government is bandying about on social media. A small collection of on-going 1 to 3 kilometre roads totaling about 33km. This is exceptionally shameful. It is nothing to write home about. To be sure, the last two administrations executed road projects measured in hundreds of kilometres in their first years.
EDUCATION: The education sector has not witnessed any improvement under this government. No new schools have been built. No meaningful renovation program has been embarked upon. Schools have been left to deteriorate. Rather than reduce fees as promised, this government has increased fees for KWASU.
HEALTH: Despite the noisy campaign promises, this government has not deemed it fit to undertake any significant capital project in the health sector. With the exception of a handful few, all the equipment present in state-owned health facilities today are those purchased by the last two previous administrations. The occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the ineptitude of the Kwara State Government. Whilst the Federal Government and other State Governments have been very proactive in managing the crises, the response in Kwara can be described as mediocre and lack-lustre at best. It is worthy of note that the Governor, as Chief Executive, failed to take the lead in managing the crisis. In fact, he has been conspicuously absent on the issue, having originally gone into hiding at the initial outbreak of the crisis in the state.
An analysis of all other sectors will yield the same results.
This spectacular failure by the Kwara State Government so far is evidence that the Governor and his Party were not prepared for governance. Having won an unexpected victory, and thrown in at the deep end, they now seem completely lost at sea.
It took the Governor almost 7 months from swearing-in to appoint Commissioners. After such a long wait, all he could muster was a motley collection of administrative and political novices and neophytes who have no experience in running government. The Special Advisers and Assistants are not much better except one or two very experienced well known former original Sarakites.
Even more shocking is the fact that ever since the formation of the cabinet, there has only been one State Executive Council meeting held. It means therefore that for the last one year, decisions have been taken autocratically in Kwara State by the Governor. The normal safeguard of the constitutionally provided cabinet decisions have been completely eroded.
It is therefore not surprising that the Governor does not wish let the Freedom of Information Bill come to light. He has tossed that can back to the House of Assembly in the guise of effecting “minor amendments”. This is obviously a design to ensure that the House kills the Bill.
It would be generous if one described this Kwara State Goverment as ‘under-performing’. The stark reality is that this administration is ‘non-performing’.
As I have said before, the job of opposition is not to be blindly negative, but to constructively criticise the Government. No true Kwaran would want its government to fail, whatever the Party affiliation. I wish civil servants were getting paid the new N30,000 minimum wage; I wish thousands of jobs were being created for Kwara youths; I wish education is improved and more affordable to Kwarans; I wish our market women, artisans and traders are given support and not stifled; I wish our roads were being constructed at reasonable pace; I wish our health facilities continue to be improved; I wish life was better for every Kwaran.
But alas, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
*** Rt. Hon. Razak Atunwa was Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly 2011 – 2015 and Governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2015 election.