Different strokes for Nassarawa, Kwara first term governors after 365 days
It is a case of different strokes for the two first-term governors in the North Central states of Nassarawa and Kwara, Mr. Abdullahi Sule and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq respectively, as they mark their first year in office today May 29, 2020.
While it was a smooth transition in Nassarawa State between Sule and his predecessor Tanko Almakura of the same party in what was continuity of governance for the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Kwara State, it was a thug of war between the then ruling party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC as the former lost the election to the latter party in a keenly contested election and acrimonious relationship.
The outcome of the 2019 governorship election in Kwara was a paradigm shift as political permutations of some pundits failed to materialise. The Saraki dynasty that had held sway in the political leadership of Kwara finally lost its grip as the immediate past Senate President and a two-term governor of the state Bukola Saraki bowed to defeat. This was after outwitting APC’s national leadership at the centre to emerge Senate President and successfully holding to that office in spite of persecution.
AbdulRazaq won Kwara election riding on the mantra of Otoge, which means ‘enough is enough’, as the slogan deployed by citizens in a mass movement against the influence of the entrenched political interests of Kwara ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The supporters of the governor say emphatically that he has rescued the state that once tottered on the brink of collapse. In just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully changed the narrative in Kwara. One example they point at is the payment of relevant counterpart funds, which has brought back development partners, and which has taken the state off Universal Basic Education Commission’s (UBEC) blacklist.
This is one of the ways they believe AbdulRazaq has stabilised and repositioned the state for growth. In the health sector, the administration began with injecting N232m to tackle malaria, maternal death, and malnutrition.
A recent statement from the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye said, “On January 19, 2019, Kwara embarrassed Nigeria with the recording of Africa’s first vaccine-derived polio case. To put a stop, the new government returned routine polio vaccination across the state after many years.
“The new government invested hugely in counterpart funds so much that by December 2019, Kwara has received N8bn worth of vaccines, drugs, and technical support from the Federal Government and development partners who had earlier left the state when basic obligations were not met by the previous regimes.
“Equipped with state-of-the-art ICU facility like defibrillators, patient monitors, ventilators, Kwara for the first time now has a five-ward air-conditioned isolation centre for infectious diseases. The administration has recently purchased five new military-grade ambulances with the capacity to manage fragile patients on the go. Apart from training for health workers, the administration was about the first in the country to pay mouth-watering allowances for medical workers managing COVID-19 patients.
“The long-dead oxygen plant has now been revived. Kwara, which used to buy oxygen for its hospitals, is today self-sufficient and can sell oxygen to neighbouring states and private hospitals.
“The era of medical workers lacking decent shelter to stay at the specialist hospital in Sobi is gone with the renovation of 15 units of 3 bedroom staff quarters at the hospital. The eye centre at the Civil Service Clinic, long comatose, is back with ultramodern facilities. Neglected since 2012, the College of Midwifery in Ilorin has been revived and re-accredited.
“Renovation is ongoing at the College of Nursing, Oke Ode, while a 300-capacity ICT centre has been erected and equipped at the College of Health Technology Offa, where four blocks of three classrooms have been built along with a new access road. The icing on the cake is that the school has regained its accreditation — thanks to the N40m the administration released to make it happen.”
The administration, they also said, launched a free health insurance scheme for 10,000 indigent Kwara people. The new administration, many people believe, is giving hope to the disadvantaged, empowering local artisans, redistributing wealth, and calling global attention to Kwara with his bold enlistment of women in the decision-making process in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 — a practical way to inspire the girl-child to a new height.
However, what was perceived to be political vendetta set AbdulRazaq’s administration on a collision course early in its life with the powerful Saraki family and which saw the people rising up to resist him. The demolition of the Ile-Arugbo belonging to old Senator Olusola Saraki was perceived as vendetta pushed too far.
But the government had claimed that where the Ile-Arugbo was built belongs to the state. Though the action was targeted at the former Senate President, it did not go down well with his sister Gbemisola Saraki and Minister of State for Transport, even though she is a core APC stalwart. But as they say, blood is thicker than water. The place had served as a rallying point for the Sarakis where the needs of the community were met.
Many are of the view that in spite of the Otoge and the change of leadership it will take a long time for Kwarans to forget the good deeds of Kwara’s late political sage and Second Republic Senator, Saraki.
THE scenario in Nassarawa, however, is a different ball game as Governor Sule rode on the popularity of his predecessor Senator Almakura whose performance in terms of good governance is unprecedented in the history of the state. He recently announced a personal donation of N10m to support the fight against coronavirus in the state. Borrowing a leaf from his example, members of the Nasarawa State Executive Council, as well as other political appointees also donated 50 per cent of their salaries for a period of three months to support the fight against the coronavirus.
Suler also settled a debt the National Open University of Nigeria, Lafia study centre, owed. The debt being the cost of Certificate of Occupancy which had been pending against the university. The governor settled the debt with his outstanding June and July salaries. He said it was in fulfilment of his personal resolve and that of the state government to provide quality education to Nassarawa citizens.
His supporters are quick to point at a lot of groundwork done with a lot of projects and ongoing developmental activities.
They point at the 14-point areas of focus (high impact projects) as contained in his inaugural speech of May 29, 2019, saying Governor Sule did not waste time and was clear of what he set out to achieve and deliver his campaign promises. He had set up and inaugurated a 15-man investment and Economic Advisory Council to drive the agenda for the economic prosperity of Nasarawa State.
According to the governor, the council would assist throughout the life of the administration towards making the state the best investment destination in the country. Following the directive of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) that state governments should no longer interfere with local government funds, Sule wholeheartedly embraced the directive right from the onset.
He expressly granted full implementation of the financial autonomy to the 13 local government areas where LGA Chairmen now take full charge, control and management of their financial resources without any form of interference from government. Local governments’ retirees are now being duly and fully paid their pensions and other entitlements while salaries are now paid 100 per cent.
On healthcare delivery, the administration is focused on improved healthcare delivery and well-being of the citizenry. Also in education, the government immediately embarked upon and completed most of the projects that were initiated by the former administration. For instance, technical and skills acquisition centres, and primary and secondary schools projects were completed with plans to embark on massive construction of more across the state. Payment of bursary allowances to indigent students in tertiary institutions across the country was accomplished to the delight of the benefitting students.
On infrastructure, he completed most of the road construction projects started by the former administration. Government within the period under review awarded the contract for the road linking the highway to Farin Ruwa hydropower/waterfall and tourist site in Wamba LGA. Installation and provision of 2km solar-powered streetlights in each of the 13 local government councils as well as the construction of classroom blocks with solar-powered borehole and toilet facilities in the local governments across the state.
On Agriculture, Sule has been exploring avenues to ensure that farmers in the state access available agro-financing schemes and institutions willing to venture into agriculture businesses. The state government is already partnering with the Federal Government on agric-loan of N1.5 billion to empower the youths who are now undergoing training in order to access the facility on the single-digit interest rate. Similarly, Sule has maintained that “his administration would ensure prompt distribution of farm inputs such as fertilizer, improved seeds and seedlings as well as agrochemicals to farmers”.
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