AbdulRazak’s strides, welfare interventions and odds against re-election bid in Kwara
Ahead of the governorship elections on March 11, 2023, Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahaman AbdulRazak, who is contesting for a second term in office, has rolled out some initiatives meant to offer palliatives to residents.
Some of these initiatives include free fare transportation for students and full employment opportunities for would-be factory workers, among others. But the initiatives have been interpreted in some quarters as bait for electoral support.
AbdulRazak, who is contesting on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform, is fighting a battle of his life amidst highly belligerent opposition members who had since carved a niche for themselves in other political parties such as the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressives Party (YPP) and the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC). But he remains optimistic of victory at the poll.
AbdulRazak has also not hidden his love for the candidature of APC Presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; what with the manner he has been preaching the political ideologies of the former Lagos State Governor.
Amid all these, Abdulkareem Olola-Kasum, an Ilorin-based social critic noted that the “so-called palliative measures” of AbdulRazak could be described as the proverbial Greek Gift designed for a momentary purpose.
Olola-Kasum does not share this view alone. One of the aggrieved former members of APC in Kwara State, Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi, now the Senatorial candidate of the ADC (Kwara South) also concurs. He said voters in the state would not vote for political party this time, but for candidates of their choice. He noted: “We are the blocks that built up the APC in Kwara. But now that we have pulled out of the structure, I can’t see the political edifice standing again. Our people have resolved to vote for us as individuals and not the parties we all represent.”
For Babatunde Mohammed, the Kwara State Chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as the leading opposition party in the state, being the only party with widespread structure across the country puts the party in stead to win the 2023 elections.
“The political movement ‘O To Ge’ is no longer a force to be reckoned with. The various groups that made it up have gone their separate ways. The governor is standing on a leg going into the elections. The structure has indeed fallen apart. This has become a positive factor for us at the PDP. Our leading light, Bukola Saraki is combing the entire state, harnessing more members on a daily basis into our party ahead of the polls,” Mohammed said.
In his view, Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, the governorship candidate of the NNPP said that the thrust of his party’s manifesto, which gives priority to formal education development of the youths and women population, would tilt the pendulum to their side.
Mohammed Gobir’s campaign focus is his socialist approach to economic policies, especially his planned doling out of periodic fixed funds to the youths and aged population. He is the governorship candidate of YPP. And like other opposition candidates, he is optimistic of victory at the elections.
For the candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Hakeem Oladimeji Lawal, he believes that he remains the best alternative to the ruling party in Kwara, noting that his youthfulness would be an advantage in modern approach to governance.
Even though Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi is not a governorship candidate but a Kwara South Senatorial candidate of ADC, his influence at the grassroots puts him across as one of those capable of whittling down the chances of AbdulRazak in that Senatorial district. Before falling out with the Governor, he was the chairman of an enquiry panel constituted to review the alleged shoddy sales of some state government property to a pocket of cabinet members of the immediate past governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Despite the acclaimed pedigree of most of the aggrieved ex-APC members, Chief Stephen Oluwole Oke, the Third Republic leader of Kwara State House of Assembly believes that many of those now in opposition are bereft of political values that could unsettle the incumbent.
‘Baba Ewe’ of Igbomina Land, Raheem Adedoyin towed a similar path as Oke, noting that the achievements of AbdulRazak at the constituencies of majority of those contesting against him would ordinarily convince the would-be voters of the need to appreciate the man that opened up their roads, gave them water and electricity by voting in his favour.
While the governor has been combing the nooks and cranny of the state, canvassing support for his second term in office, all his opponents have equally embarked on similar missions, cleverly avoiding a clash between their supporters and those of the governor.
Nonetheless, AbdulRazak seems to have the edge considering his welfare initiatives to the people. He has done this via the state’s machinery to his advantage. Already his government has opened an online portal for people to apply to work full-time in the garment factory. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye referred to the development as one of the legacy economic projects of the administration of his principal.
The jobs on offer are supervisors, embroidery machine operators, sewing machine operators, expert sewers, garment production supervisors, garment factory managers, experienced garment technologists and pattern cutters, machinists, cutting masters, printers in-charge, and trainers-in-charge.
“Applicants are to visit www.kwarajobs.com to read the qualifications for each job and submit their applications for roles they fit into. Anyone who has challenges in the application process can also contact 08105782976 or Harmony Hub at 4-5 Upper Floor Block B (beside BOVAS filling station) Fate Road, Ilorin,” according to a statement.
Successful applicants would later undergo training before production begins at what looks set to be one of the biggest garment production hubs in Nigeria and West Africa.
In the same vein, the state Government on Monday, February 13, this year, commenced its free transport palliative for students and staff of some tertiary institutions in the state, as part of measures to cushion the effects of fuel scarcity and currency change.
The government had on Thursday, February 9 announced plans to make available buses at the designated motor parks to convey the students and staff along specific routes down to their campuses.
Special Assistant to the Governor on Students Affairs, Bello Mubarak, who supervised the exercise across the designated motorparks in Ilorin, said the free bus ride was considered necessary by the government to ease the suffering of students of the affected campuses amid the difficulty imposed by scarcity of fuel.
He said the Governor, after receiving complaints of the students’ unions’ leaders, deemed it fit to come to their aid by conveying them to campuses free of charge.
Senior Special Assistant on Transport (Central), Orire Ibrahim, corroborated Mubarak that the programme was in response to the reality and to save the students from missing their classes daily.
“We are here to supervise the government’s free transport palliatives to students of higher institutions in Kwara State such as Unilorin, Kwara Polytechnic and KWASU in Malete. It is an important step by Governor AbdulRazaq to support the students because of the hardship of getting fuel,” he said.
Some of the student beneficiaries, who spoke to reporters at various points, appreciated the administration for being responsive and sensitive to their plights.
Suleiman Mubarak Olanrewaju, a student of University of Ilorin and member of the School Transport Committee, said the initiative came in handy, and commended the government for its timely intervention.
Comrade Imam Olooto Abdulhakeem, an executive member of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), Kwara State chapter, also lauded AbdulRazaq for acceding to their request, noting that the gesture will go a long way in ameliorating their difficulty in getting to and coming from their respective campuses.
Abdulwahab AbdulHakeem said the free transport would save him from continuously staying on the campus for a whole week rather than attending classes and coming home daily.
“For me, I am very excited, because I used to stay around the campus for a whole week because of the mobility problem, but with this arrangement from the government, I will be able to go and come back home daily,” he said.
Passengers were seen boarding the free long buses at Soludero motor parks at the Post Office as well as Tanke Motor Park, among others.
But Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, one of the leading lights of ‘O To Ge’ movement that ushered in the government of AbdulRazak before things fell apart, described the gestures of the governor as belated and queried his response to the needs of the unemployed and the students, “only when they lodged complaints to him. A good government will always be proactive rather than be a reactionary one.”
Meanwhile, one of the highly rated First Class Traditional rulers in the state, Etsu Patigi, Alhaji Ibrahim Umar Bologi II said recently that AbdulRazaq has earned “our trust and a right to serve more for the next four years” on account of his performance, his respect for the traditional institution, and his uncommon care for the people.
The monarch spoke in Patigi, the capital city of Patigi Local Council Area of Kwara as the Governor, Senator Sadiq Umar (Kwara North Senatorial district) and other APC candidates from the axis arrived on a campaign stop. Director General of the Kwara State APC Campaign Council, Yahya Seriki was also on the train.
The Etsu said the area is better served with AbdulRazaq who has proven to be a listening and responsive governor and a man of his words.
“You are the people’s Governor because you have always answered our calls. Whether you call His Excellency or text him, he always responds.
“We will continue to engage our people to seek their support to vote for you and your entire team from the presidency to the state House of Assembly. We pray Almighty Allah will continue to guide you and support you,” the monarch said.
The governor said: “We are back here once more for campaign, but before we start in this kingdom, we have to pay our respect to His royal Highness. We want to thank the Emirate for voting us into power in 2019.
“Since we came, we met a lot of challenges which we’ve been trying to resolve one by one. You would have noticed how we have been tackling the challenges, such as payment of salaries to workers, pension and gratuity, such as arrears. Our first challenge was how to resolve the issue of human capital development, education and health care development.
“We found ourselves in the hole from which we had to come out from. That is why you saw us concentrating on fixing our healthcare centres and schools. Once we get our education right, we can compete globally. So, we need your support to continue this effort in turning the state around. We have been fixing our schools and hospitals. Right now, work is ongoing at Patigi General Hospital to bring it back to shape. That’s what we have also been doing across the state.”
“We have been very prudent in managing our resources carefully. Don’t listen to those who had 16 years with wasted resources. You can see them comparing their 16 years to our three and a half years. Before the last elections, we promised to work on the bridge across the Niger here. And you can see that contract has been awarded for that bridge. The next priority we have is to get the federal government to fund the bridge. You also see the road from Tsaragi to Patigi here. In Federal Ministry of Works (paper), that road has been completed. But the former administration only awarded the contract to themselves and didn’t do the job. So, when we went there to ask them (Federal Ministry of Works), they would tell us the road has been fixed.
“I urge you to vote all our candidates, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He will address the issue of flooding and fund the construction of the bridge.”
Responding to chants of ‘no to a puppet Governor,’ AbdulRazaq urged the people of Kwara North to be patient to have a Governor who would be a chief executive and not an errand boy who would not be able to do anything on his own.
In company with the Governor were Secretary to the State Government, Prof Mamman Saba Jubril; Special Adviser on Strategy, Saadu Salau; Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties, Alhaji AbdulRazhaq Jiddah; Director General, State APC Campaign Council, Alhaji Abdulfatai Yahaya Seriki; House of Representatives candidate for APC for Edu/ Patigi/ Moro Constituency, Dr. Ahmed Adamu Saba; and party leaders and executives.
A chieftain of the ruling party, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, has maintained that the present brand of politics driven by personal ambition and self interests is the bane of the growth of Nigeria’s democracy. Olawepo-Hashim has covertly parted ways with the Governor, refusing to cite reasons for his action.
Speaking to reporters in Ilorin, Olawepo-Hashim said commitment to ideology-based politics and principles were urgently required to make the nation’s democracy a burgeoning one.
He said these ideals made the Second Republic the most flowery one in the democratic history of Nigeria, adding, “this has been the reason Nigeria’s past seems more meaningful than its present.”
According to him, “If we want rapid development as we saw in the First Republic when Nigeria was a leading light amongst third world countries, our leadership recruitment must be based on the ideals that politicians stand for – their personal records, rather than their ‘war chests.’
The former presidential candidate added that, “nonsense and meaningless talks such as it is my turn, and religious bigotry will only continue to divide the country and plunge the country to violence,” he said.
With political rallies and campaigns for the seat at Ahmadu Bello Way Government House, Ilorin, drawing to a close soon, it is clear that the state’s political scene will no longer be a one-man.