Abdulrazaq: I took an oath to serve the people of Kwara
Governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq recently came out of his shell to speak with a select group of journalists on some of the issues confronting his administration and how he has resolved to deal with them. Excerpt
Situation In Kwara State Today
I took an oath to serve the people of Kwara State. I am focused on service delivery to the greatest number. To serve well, you have to be a good listener; that is one of my strongest attributes. I talk less and listen more. It takes a humble person to listen. We are not shouting about what we’re doing. So, that’s why it’s like we’re not doing anything, but the people are feeling the impact.
The last administration was very good with the media, exceedingly good, the best in Nigeria. We did our manifesto and programme, thinking we were coming to inherit something good; what they were saying was not what was on ground. We really didn’t know the depth of the challenges. It was when we now got in that we found out that our manifesto is useless, because we credited the last administration with a lot of achievement based on what they were saying in the media.
It Will Take Close to 20 Years to Bring Schools Back in Kwara
BETWEEN 2013 and 2019, there was no investment in education. When we came in, there was a backlog. I started paying gradually. Because of their political strength, UBEC could not go to EFCC. When we came in, there was N450 million left; we promptly paid it. Between then and now, there is Seven Billion Naira available to us. But we also have to look for another Seven Billion Naira to match it. That’s where we are gradually taking it now.
If you’ve not invested in education for six years, you will have total collapse. Schools’ infrastructure had collapsed; there was no furniture in schools. Thirty per cent of the schools don’t have roofs. With the kind of funding we have available, it will take close to 20 years to bring the schools back, because we have allowed it to go completely bad.
Schools in Lagos are doing whiteboard; we were still doing blackboard and chalk. There was nothing to build on in education. We are reinventing, going back to the foundation. Teachers were promoted, but it was not backed with salary, it’s not promotion. We have three colleges of education. When we came in, they were on strike. They were being owed N750 million. We paid it in three months. And not just that, they had lost accreditation. To bring them back up to accreditation, you are talking about N300 million. Our School of Nursing lost accreditation, we had to bring those ones back too and start fixing those schools.
To add insult to injury, we got another letter from WAEC, that some schools cheated in Kwara, that we should pay N30 million, or else we will not do WAEC the following year (2020). So, we had to pay quickly. It shows you the depth of the rot in the system. Kwara used to be number one in education in the north; we’re now at the bottom, trying to claw our way up. You can criticise us about what we found, but what are we doing about it?
We started with teacher hiring. They were insulting me from my own ward, Adewole Ward, here in Ilorin, that I’m not employing people from there. I said no. If we want to bring this education on, we have to have the best. Let everybody go online and do this. It was done and we got accolades, even from the opposition. We had at least 50 First Class graduates who are now teachers, even those that lost out, agreed that it was done properly. Then, we started training the teachers, not only training, but we made sure we paid all the salaries they were owed. Their promotions come on time now.
Then, we started looking at how to improve education in Nigeria. You have to look at peer mechanisms; what other states are doing. I sent people around to Kaduna, Edo, Lagos, because those were the states doing very well and had the right trajectory. What were those states doing? We took Lagos out, because Lagos has a very strong private sector. So, it’s not a normal state. So, in terms of education, Lagos is Number One. But when you start from St. Saviour even down to the state school, you will see that the private schools like St. Saviour are pulling them up. So, we left Lagos aside and said, ‘Edo is leading in the south, Kaduna is leading in the north, what did they do?’
What did Edo do? They just went for a technology-backed curriculum. They engaged a company called Bridge Academy. And what Bridge does is they enumerate your schools, teachers and everything, and then they give a laptop, a tablet to every single teacher.
In education, our focus is to lift the state up. We’ve contacted the Bridge Academy; we’ve been talking to them for one year now. What they have done for Edo is successful to the extent that seven months ago, the World Bank gave Edo USD72 million for the programme. They put their weight behind it and put Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State on the board of a World Bank committee, based on this programme. We felt that’s the direction we should go. We will start it next year. We brought them in, did some random sampling in some of our schools, in four local councils, and they found out that teachers absenteeism in the four local governments was 40 per cent, student absenteeism 35 per cent; and that is from just sampling. We have a huge deficit. We have a lot of work to do. We have to get out-of-school children back to school, get the right teachers to teach, and get the school infrastructure back in place so that students are not sitting on the floor in dilapidated classrooms.
Education is one of our biggest challenges. With education, it’s not like what we call a low hanging fruit. You do not see the benefit of education for 20 years, when the products of those institutions graduate. In Edo, they are beginning to see it, because WAEC is improving for them and WASSCE is improving for them. We can see migration from private schools to public schools. So, it’s working well. That’s the way we are going. Improve content, fix infrastructure in schools and bring in the right furniture. People don’t really understand that there was a complete collapse of the education system.
Ninety Per Cent Of Local Council Revenue Is Spent On Salary
AT the local council level today, by the time you pay salary, there is nothing left again from what is sent from Abuja. Salary is a first line charge; there’s nothing left after that to do any meaningful work. The local government system in Nigeria is on the verge of collapse, because all we’re doing is paying salaries. This season, we’ve had the highest rate of cholera, but nobody will admit it. Not just in this state, all over Nigeria. But the government would like to keep it down. And why is there cholera? The primary health care is with the local government, motor parks are with the local government, markets are with local government, the Water Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programme is primarily with the local government. Once they pay salaries, there’s no money to take care of anything else. Even waste disposal is with the local government.
We all have to come to the roundtable to decide what to do with the local government. How do we fund them? Why is it that all the money is going to salary and we’ve not been able to do anything else?
When the Fourth Republic started, you had about 40 per cent of local government funds as salary. That was when local council chairmen were going to Dubai. They were building houses and governors too were looking, ‘ah, what’s going on here?’ So, governors too started saying these people have money because the local council chairmen were living large. Governors started saying, ‘let’s have joint accounts, bring your money, we will do projects together.’ So, state governments were taking their money. What happened? This 40 per cent started creeping up to 50 per cent, 60 per cent, 70 per cent 80 per cent. We’re now at 90 per cent, and in some states 100 per cent.
When the local councils now saw how Oga governor is taking everything, when they employ local council workers or teachers, the local chief will bring three names, the local council chairman’s wife will bring three names, the local council chairman will bring two names; so they too started loading the salaries, rather than allow the governor to take everything, they were loading the salaries.
I’ve never taken One Naira from local council money. Once the money comes, I tell them to make sure they pay salaries. That’s the instruction to the local council chairmen, including the 5 per cent reserved for traditional rulers. Don’t forget there’s a party structure, sitting on their head at the local council level. The ward and local government chairmen are there to serve as a guide for them. So, for example, they deal with the DSS, police security agencies at that level. They deal with the local council party structure at that level; they are tied to that structure. I deal with the party structure. It’s not like there’s disconnect; if there’s anything going wrong, the party chairman will let me know. They’re always meeting at the party level; it is the party structure that puts them up.
I meet with the chairmen of APC in the local councils. It is the elected local council chairmen that I have to be careful with; they are elected too like me. I do not want to be accused of dictating to them. It’s a different tier of government. I will not go to the Presidency or federal and meet with the President and direct him on what to do. Same thing, the President will not come to Kwara and say ‘this is what you need to do’. Don’t forget, at that level, they are voted for and take charge of what they need to do. Not that the governor should instruct them on what they need to do. Also, remember that they have their own civil service system that has civil servants, so the structure is there.
We Passed A Law To Govern Our Social Investment Programme
WE didn’t politicise our Social Investment Programme. We did not say you must only give money to members of the All Progressives Congress (APC). When I first heard about the programme, I just thought “what a waste,” coming from a businessman’s perspective. How can you just take billions and share it? But when the Vice President came to launch the programme in Kwara, I came with him, and I saw the genuine excitement of the market women, and I also realised that I was thinking N10,000 was too small. I’ll go to a restaurant in Abuja or Lagos, and for two people, you are talking N20,000 for just one meal in a Chinese restaurant. That’s what these people are excited about.
But when you now come closer and look into it, these women carry baskets of pineapples.
In that basket, all the pineapples are worth N3000 or N4000. That’s their net worth. For oranges or tomatoes, it’s not more than N6000 and they go to the market to sell that and survive on it. Some of them have husbands and children. So, when you give them N10,000 to scale up their business, you’ve changed their lives. People don’t understand; they still criticise it, but I’m a believer in it.
Then, we passed a law to govern it. We will not just be taking money and throwing it out. When I met with the Minister for Finance a few months ago, she was saying, we are ahead of them because we passed ours into law. But they just put theirs under a ministry; there is no law governing it. So, we have a law governing our own. In fact, she said we should send them our own law, to see what they can do with it. If that programme is done well, it can make a big impact.
With this COVID-19 thing, what saved Nigeria is that social investment programme. It started well before COVID-19 and the World Bank has turned it into what they call the Cares programme. So, the World Bank has adopted our social investment programme for post-COVID-19 re-emergence and replicated it in different countries. When I was campaigning with the President, when he came here, I sat in the same car with him and I told him that, of all his programmes, social investment was number one as far as I was concerned, because it gives people money directly into their pockets. There is no middleman. The President said that he knows, that when the idea first came up, it took him time to digest it. Now, he understands that it is his best programme so far. That was in 2019.
If that programme were not in place during COVID-19, there would have been challenges managing the stop work order when everybody shut down. We were able to channel money to people through that system. In fact, the system, which the federal government also copied, was transporters’ money. So, we gave our Okada riders N10,000, because we knew that everywhere was shut and people stayed at home. They used the state wallet; you register, and your money is sent to you via mobile wallet or to your account. The federal government too picked that one up. The social investment system works.
The school feeding programme is very good to turn around this stunted growth thing. Even if children go to eat in school and go home, they will sign attendance. You have them in enumeration. The previous administration did not key into it. Only Bayelsa and Kwara were left out. So, it’s just now that we are about to start it. It’s a very important project, because you have to feed the school children. You have to get the right vitamins. Some children are perpetually just on pap in the morning and they don’t see any food again till evening. How do you get the right protein and vitamins in that case? It’s through the school-feeding programme.
I’m a strong believer in the social investment programme. It is a safety net, which we intend to expand next year. A lot of people have been left behind, there’s a lot of poverty. People are hungry, and it’s not about bad government policy, it’s just that COVID-19 hit us and the world panicked, not just Nigeria; we all shut down. In Nigeria today, even if COVID comes again, nobody is shutting anything down. Even in Europe now, the price of food has gone up. There’s a total global food security issue now. In England, they’re having serious challenges. Most of the shelves are empty. We shut down. We didn’t know what to do, that has affected a lot of people; it has created a lot of poverty.
Why I Have A Lot Of Young People And Women In My Cabinet
We’re very strong in SDG 5, women; we have the record in Africa. It pitted me against the party, but you have to look at the challenges women go through. They need to sleep with men to go up the ladder. That’s the truth of it, not 100 per cent of the cases, but there are abuses in MDGs, and so on. So, I said, ‘well, the best thing is, let’s promote women, not just in political offices.’ Fifty per cent of our permanent secretaries are women. So, it’s deliberate, to keep them at advantage, because I understand what they go through; harassment and all sorts of things. We have to promote them. In terms of efficiency and delivery, I find that women deliver more than men. But our culture, the African culture, Nigerian culture, allows men to dominate the space. That’s what it is.
We go to political meetings at 8:00pm and we know it’s going to run to midnight. Which decent woman will sit at such a meeting when she has a husband at home, children that will go to school in the morning? She can’t sit in the ward leader’s house or local council chairman’s house till midnight. Even her husband will say, ‘you have to be home at 6:00pm. What are you doing there?’
People think of female politicians who try to excel in a certain way, like they’re doing other things. You see, that’s part of the problem we have. Even in Abuja today, call a political meeting at the National Headquarters of any party, the attendance you see of women is less than 5 per cent, but that’s not proportional to the national population. There should be a deliberate attempt to promote women. The benchmark is 35 per cent, how many states are meeting 35 per cent? We have done 62 per cent. Now, what can be done to get women in? I don’t know if you know about the SFTAS programme? It is a World Bank and Federal Government programme where you get rewards for meeting certain goals, that is publishing your budget before January 30, you get $2 million; publishing your state’s account, $1.5 million, having a procurement agency, $2 million. So, we comply, and we’ll get all this money, because we need it.
If you have a system like that, which says if you have in your cabinet 35 per cent women, consistently for one year, you get $2 million, states will comply because $2 million is about One Billion Naira now. So, if you get to 40 per cent, we will give you $4 million; get to 50 per cent, we will give you $10 million. You will start seeing changes because there’s money; revenue of the states is very low.
In terms of finding them, mostly Senators, House of Representative members, House of Assembly members, nominate them; they just send names in. And then, we interview them. I don’t go to one local council and say, ‘I pick you.’ I don’t even know many of them personally. The constituencies throw them up. When we chose the youth corps member who was our youngest Commissioner then — she’s from Edu local council and a Christian, they brought several names to me, but I said I want a woman. Then, they came up and said the only woman we have will finish her youth service next month. I said, ‘bring her, we will wait till next month to swear her in.’ The community brought her; maybe it was deliberate to show that she’s in youth service, but we embraced her. And she’s done well. She’s not in the cabinet any more. We’re sponsoring her for a Masters programme in the UK. She’s had the experience but we have to also prepare her for the future. We will mentor her.
Peculiar Security Challenges In Kwara
Security challenges are huge, especially with insecurity in the North-west, and the declaration by Southern Governors to ban open grazing. Once they pronounced it and set a date, we saw a migration of herdsmen coming in to the extent that if you go to Kwara South, Kwara North now, in some villages, the Fulanis have moved in. They are more in population than the indigenes. Many times, I’ve engaged with the traditional rulers, especially to say, ‘let’s be accommodating, it will soon pass.’
The ban on open grazing is a law that cannot be enforced. It’s about fundamental human rights, the right to free movement; it is enshrined in our Constitution. You can try to minimise it. But now, you’re saying you have to buy your food and water from next month. It’s not going to happen. In terms of ethnic groups across Nigeria, in terms of literacy, the Fulanis are at the bottom. When you see the herdsmen, they are children, herding the cattle to the bush. Those children don’t understand; they are illiterates. You’ve gone to the bank to collect money to plant maize; he sees food for his cattle. You see maize that you want to cultivate, sell and pay back your loan. But he sees food for his cattle and he passes through your farm.
What you also forget is where he is passing may be a grazing route from the colonial era; they maintained that route. We don’t know it; they know it. It is like a federal highway; it’s been there. The British Colonial administrators created those routes; they put veterinary officers and tax collectors at certain strategic points. They were collecting tax and vaccinating the cattle and all sorts of things. The routes were there like the federal highways. In Kwara, we have about four or five grazing reserves we inherited from the colonial era; they are there. We’re going to take them and develop those reserves.
With localisation, global warming and urbanisation, things have changed. Global warming means less water, less vegetation, desertification and therefore, smaller space, they have to come further South to graze. Urbanisation means that you’ve built on their grazing routes, where they used to graze 50 years ago for free; somebody else has a CofO on it now. He’s doing his own plantation for maize. But maybe from somewhere in Yobe, they’ve told the boy where to go, and he’s followed his father there before, so he knows where to go and forage. But when he gets there, corn is there, but he knows that is where he used to come for food, but it’s now a farm. In terms of literacy, he doesn’t understand that. He knows that this is where he comes to play. It’s his area.
When Yar’Adua came in, he had a challenge: militants in the Niger Delta, production of petroleum products was reduced to less than 500,000 barrels a day from 2.2 million barrels. What did he do? He sat down and did the amnesty programme, which today has cost us about N1 trillion. Do you see any factories? Do you see anything? But we don’t care. We know we used the money to buy peace and oil has been flowing well since then. Tompolo, everybody benefited. But we bought peace. Now, we’re having a cycle of violence with Fulani herdsmen.
We’re not offering these Fulanis anything other than the bullets. That’s the truth of it. What are the options? We say we ban open grazing, so what option did we give them other than move out of our state, we have banned open grazing? They are Nigerians who have rights to freedom of movement. If you ban open grazing, you have to give them an option.
Northern governors agreed in principle that this thing is not sustainable forever. They said it would be sedentary, but they need to set up committees to find out how to do it, to the extent that even Kano State said all the Fulanis in Kano should remain; they should not move out. So, a committee is going to be set up to look at how to mitigate these issues. To say, those that have land should give them land. But even with land, it is a big issue. They say state owned land; state does not own land. If you take a piece of land, you’ll have to compensate the original owners. The state has to buy the land. And that’s why some governors are saying that the Federal Government needs to put money in this programme, the same way Yar’Adua invested money in the militants issue. Let’s begin to settle them.
Apart from the National Livestock Transformation Programme, there’s no real effort, other than to say, stop this. We need to open an avenue for them to say. We want you to stop this, this is how we mitigate and compensate you. Some people might say, why should you compensate them, but they’re transitioning. You need to either compensate them or give them enough time to change because the cost of beef has to go up, because they’re now buying food to feed the cattle, instead of getting it for free in the bush.
My Political Structure In Kwara
I’ve never granted an interview before, never. You cannot say you’ve seen me on TV. But what the media people say is that, if you don’t tell your story, somebody else will tell it and you may not even like it. I’m reserved; I keep to myself. People blab what they want. When this republic started, everybody was with Saraki in the ANPP; just a few of us were in PDP then. We launched the party, very few of us. We knew our goal, to remain in opposition and remove these people from power. That’s our goal from then up till now. If you stick to something you are deliberate, and God knows your conscience, you will succeed.
I’m not saying we got here because we were tough, or more intelligent than others. There’s something divine about getting here, because all their institutions; traditional, religious were all stacked against us. Along the way, they started pulling out, because most of them saw that they had a glass ceiling on the Saraki side. They started pulling out. We started in 1998. Where was Lai Mohammed in 1998? He was in Lagos. He came in 2003 to contest and went back. The other guy that was shouting was with Saraki. We remained here deliberately. We did not ask for anybody’s structure.
We had people like Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, as well. He was with us. He was the first Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP. He has never been with Saraki. There were less than 10 of us. We deliberately continued to build our structure. In 2015, when Saraki moved to PDP, we left, because we will not be part of it. We left the party for them. I moved out. I never contested for office; I was sponsoring candidates and building a party. I was even offered the position of Board of Trustee of the party. I refused; I said I have my business.
Our goal was to change the system in the state. It was not until 2011, that we found ourselves in the ACN, but then ACN belonged to Asiwaju and Lai Mohammed was his front man here. So, since they had their candidate, we said, ‘let’s do free and fair primaries,’ but they refused. Eventually, they threw us out and picked their own candidate; we moved to CPC.
In CPC, we built the party up. We did our best. Those were the days INEC was just nothing. Today, INEC has been cleaned up; it’s difficult to just write results anymore. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but very difficult. But in those days, they just wrote results and that is it, it stands. They shout the results and everybody goes home.
People didn’t understand the appeal process of the INEC; you’ve lost, go home. From CPC, it was still deliberate and we hung in there. We were there for 2015. Saraki left PDP and we moved to PDP. In 2015, I contested for Senate; in 2011, considered governorship because not that I wanted to contest, the person, Senator Lola Ashiru, the senator now for Kwara South, we moved together from ACN to CPC. And I said he should contest and he agreed to contest but when he looked at it, I believe he saw that it was just impossible for the party to achieve anything; there was no funding from Abuja. We had to fund it.
So, Bukola’s father wanted the daughter to be governor. So, they found ACPN; Senator Ashiru went to join them and left me alone in the CPC. He joined them. I was left to fund the entire CPC, but it was a good experience. It made me understand a lot of things. In 2015, when we now found ourselves in PDP with Jonathan, Saraki had left. I wanted to run for governorship, but I looked at it, the number of people contesting, the odds were difficult. Nobody wanted to step down. In Kwara South they had seven local councils, and two candidates. Kwara Central had about eight candidates in four local councils. So, how can we defeat? I did the calculation. And in politics, people are not realistic. I even went to one professor’s house, just to say ‘hello,’ and when I was leaving, I saw some people running behind the mosque. I asked the driver if he noticed some people running and he said, ‘yes.’ He said those were the people with us in the afternoon; the delegates that were with me in the afternoon, they were the ones hiding from me.
The delegates were playing games, so I stepped down to contest for Senate; I contested against Saraki. I believe they rigged the election. Even at the tribunal, they went to do nonsense in the tribunal, but we left it and walked away. I was convinced that our day would come. When I look at it, since I’ve been contesting or donating money to people for election, I’ve never lost money. Within three months of every election, I get my money back in business. Yes, I spent time, but financially, I have not lost.
So, coming to 2019, we found Saraki going into PDP again. And they told us in Abuja that it is Saraki that they recognise, so they are handing the party to him, that they don’t know us. How can you not know us? It’s okay, if that’s the case, we’ll go back to CPC. We had merged to form APC and then Lai came and said that we have a new leader from Abuja and they had handed over the party to Saraki. That’s the APC. I said that it was the end of the road. We left, but some of our CPC guys stayed in. So, we moved out. In 2018, when we moved back to PDP, and they had problems in Abuja, naturally we moved to APC. In moving to APC, they invited all of us, because Saraki had vacuumed everybody out. It was we from PDP that came and took over the party.
Problem With Lai Mohammed
Lai Mohammed that is out there shouting didn’t have anybody. So, we came and took over the party and we were in two factions, but we overwhelmed them. From the first meeting, I just knew the direction we were going. They called us for a meeting in Abuja and after the meeting; they set up a committee for Kwara. Oshiomhole was there, a working committee member, the deputy chairman of north and south were both there. They announced that the chairman for the committee for Kwara would be Niyi Adebayo, the Deputy Chairman South. It looked odd, because Kwara was considered part of the North. When you give me Adebayo, then there is a southern game being played. We understood that and then we now saw Lai being the minister, the highest person in political office; he too charge. It is a game of numbers, these primaries. It’s about working.
I’ve had the experience for almost 20 years. I’ve people in every ward. Because of my nature, I don’t talk. People underestimate me and my capacity to do anything. But when you are deliberate and calculating and you know where you’re going, then you laugh at them, and just keep quiet. We built our own structure around the state. For example, a few months ago, we had some peace meeting with Lai Mohammed at the Governor of Niger State House. It was the first time Lai Mohammed would meet the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly. Is that the kind of person who is making noise about politics and governance in Kwara and you want me to waste my time responding?
The Speaker was with me when I was running in 2011 for CPC, so you can see it’s deliberate. Lai Mohammed knows only one member of the Kwara State House of Assembly. How did these state legislators emerge? They say we don’t have people. All the members, apart from one, are with us. All our NASS members, apart from one, are with us. We are in the same group. And then they say you don’t have people? Because we were deliberate and calculating, we knew where they were going. Even the one National Assembly member we don’t have, Lai Mohammed came to beg me to accommodate his own candidate, because he lost the primaries; he lost to our own candidate. It took a lot of pleading and we allowed him and that’s the only one member in the NASS from Kwara who is not with us. The only one in the State Assembly did not even contest; he did not contest for the state assembly. He contested for the House of Reps, but after the primaries, the Senator, the person that won the Senate and the House of Reps were from the same town; Offa. It won’t work. We asked the community to decide. Obviously, they will take the Senate. So, what do we do with the guy that won in the House of Representatives? We had to send him to the State House of Assembly, which he did not contest. He did not buy a form from the assembly. Those are the only two people, but they will say we don’t have people.
Lai Mohammed cannot win an election in his ward. They’re good with social media noise, that’s all they do. But nobody’s asking how each member of the state assembly emerged. How did they manipulate their way to win their seats? There was no godfather putting people in place, everybody struggled to emerge. We would network and work with each other. No godfather, everybody struggled in his or her own way. Yes, I gave money, and they also sourced money for themselves. So, everybody struggled to win this thing. But some people will sit down and say that it is their party. It is this or that, that I don’t have anybody. If I don’t have anybody, I have all the legislators with me. Is that not something?
Let them tell me, they have people. How many legislators do they have both in the state and NASS on their side? It’s just a whole lot of media hype. Lai came a few months ago to make noise that he sponsored the campaign, did this and that. He made a lot of noise and pushed it to NTA. When the House of Reps member from Omu Aran died, there was a by-election, six months before the general election. We needed to fill the candidate. The person who won the primaries then Ajulo is still the House of Representatives member.
From the day I refused to hand over money to them, the APC leaders in Kwara boycotted my campaign, till we finished the Presidential election and the governorship election was postponed by one week. A few days to the election, I started seeing them. Before the election, what were they saying? That they will decide after the presidential. They never thought we would win. So, they thought that being the minister, Lai is the leader of the party in Kwara. And when they are sharing posts, that he will be the one to share it. They totally dealt me a bad card. The party decided that where there is no governor, the candidate would be the President’s coordinator. They didn’t allow me to operate; they frustrated me.
Even when the President was coming, I set up a committee for the president’s campaign; they set up their own committee. I know where I’m going, so I disbanded my committee and let them do it. Even when the president arrived, they put me at the back of a Coaster bus. It was when we got to the Emir’s Palace, because it was from the airport to the Emir’s Palace then to the campaign venue, that the President’s ADC tapped my back and said are you not the candidate? I said ‘yes.’ He said I should be riding with the President. I stayed where they put me. He said I should wait, and then he went to speak with the President. The President said I should ride with him. Then Lai Mohammed got up and went to speak with the ADC and said he wants to ride with the President, but the ADC said Mr. President has spoken unless you go and meet him. Lai Mohammed went to meet the President and said he had something important to tell the president, that could he ride with him. The President said okay. So, when we finished the event, one security guy on the President’s team just said I should sit in the car, opened the door and I sat with the President. It’s this sort of thing they were doing.
I have been sponsoring candidates since 1998, so I did not need anybody. I plan my own campaign. I have one or two friends who donated to me. I plan my election, not with the money donated to me; it’s not part of it. They create the impression that they built the party and I just walked in. We planned this thing. We stayed up late, we knew the people to meet. They were against us. There was a lot of work. We were not sleeping, unlocking traditional rulers, but what helped us is not that the people loved us to put us in; it is because the other side lost their mandate. They were not getting water.
When we got in, no water works were working; the workers were on strike. When we got in, radio stations were on strike, no radio station was working; everything was dilapidated. When we got in, the TV station was down. And today, you see one popular private television channel abusing us every day. But there’s nothing to show for it at our TV station. I asked for the file. It has been stolen, like so many files. I asked the former commissioner during that time, Raheem Adedoyin, what happened. He said, ‘I have one or two letters to show that there was a contract with that television channel, but the whole file was in Government House.’ They did it from the Government House; there were no files, like many contracts disappeared.
It shows you the extent of the rot we met. Even the Herald Newspaper was dead, electronic media dead. Everything dead; no TV, no radio. We had to buy new consoles and build new studios for the radio stations. We’re building a new radio station in Kwara North. It was a difficult challenge for us; we’re just rebuilding the state completely. Like I said, we’re deliberate and calculating. They lost it because the state had collapsed under them. Their system of politics was simple; take money, give to the gatekeepers, traditional rulers and clergy. But while you were sharing money, the empire eroded, because the structures of the empire: human capital development, infrastructure, and so on had started collapsing.
In the whole of Ilorin, there was no water. Workers were not getting paid. Some were just on 50 per cent salary. When we came in, we had to clear all that. Even judges’ work allowance was not paid in 10 years; we cleared all that. That was why they lost the election. It was not a competition between them and us and who had the best manifesto; they allowed the state to crumble.
Grandstanding now doesn’t serve any purpose, that’s what they are doing. The people know that there are changes, and the changes are gradual and dynamic. We are getting water now. We thought it would be a stage where we’ll expand on the water network and start building new water works. What we met there had collapsed. We have to bring everything back. When you ask us where are your legacy projects, we’ve invested the money of our legacy projects to bring these things back to where they should be.
Between Bukola Saraki and Myself
Leadership is not what you buy; you earn leadership. On the Saraki side, anywhere they go to, the party belongs to them; you join their party. If you’re joining APC today, you’re not joining my party; you’re joining the party. But if you’re going to PDP today, if you are somebody of substance, they have to get Saraki’s consent to allow you to register even in the ward. So, it’s their party and you’re subject to their own rules.
I’m not going to join an organisation like that, because I’m constraining myself. I can’t contest for anything unless they say so. So, they pick who contests the election. But in APC, we say everybody just go and find your space. That’s the difference.
Controversy Over Ile Arugbo, Hijab And Corporal Punishment To Islamic Students
Yes, I was disappointment, but then I take a step back and say, ‘what’s the issue here?’ Like the one about digging for water, it didn’t faze me. I was disappointed that in Nigeria today, people are digging up water. It is not my issue; it’s our global issue. It is happening like that all over Nigeria; it is not limited to Kwara. But the irony of it, which is not out there, which nobody is talking about, or know, is that their representatives are people who were there for 16 years. The House of Representatives member from that community was the Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources for 16 years, until this election when we voted them out. His name is Ahman Pategi.
The mistake they are making is they should wait till the election is close and start highlighting those, because once you highlight those, I’m rushing there to fix it. Once I fix it, I will make it known, because you should have fixed it. You were there for 20 years before we came. How come that village is still like that? They intend to use it to blackmail us and say you’re not doing anything, but I’m saying, you were there for 20 years, you had a committee chairman for 16 years in Abuja, and then you do 1000s of constituency boreholes all over. Saraki was Senate President, commissioning 1000s of boreholes in the whole of Nigeria, but that community does not have water. They don’t have an answer.
The flogging one is a national problem. It’s just because it’s highlighted, it’s happening every day, it’s a cultural thing. It’s a private school, it’s not a government school, but we give the license to the schools to operate. Do you take their license because of flogging students? If you do that, you will rusticate 300 students. The father of the girl that was flogged was standing there; he insisted she should be flogged. He was standing there watching. It’s a very bad thing. That’s why we set up a committee to look into it. The committee also has to look at how we will deal with these issues in the future, and how to communicate to these sorts of schools on human rights abuses.
One of the challenges we have here is, if we take this matter to court, we’ll have no witnesses. The victim, because she said she deserved it, she did bad and committed a sin. The father will not be a witness. What witness do we have? The video clip? Yes, we can push them to the court system, but the important thing is without witnesses, we can’t get something out of it. They will argue that it is a fake video. Whatever the argument is, the important message is to get into the system and say, ‘this must not happen again and wherever it’s happening, they should stop.’ There will be sanctions. We will withdraw the licenses of any school that does that again. So, I won’t want to preempt the committee, but they have eminent jurists and Islamic leaders. They will give us a report, which we will now debate and act on.
Going forward we will react and manage these fires as they come. Some of them will be deliberate, some of them will be used to show that the state is out of control, creating perceptions, and so on. Why are there these things? It is because they erroneously felt that we used propaganda to get them out, forgetting that people were not getting water, children are sitting on floors in schools, they’ were not getting reading materials, the system collapsed. That was why they were voted out. They think propaganda is what we use. They believe they will use propaganda against us, but it’s not working.