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Kwara 2019: Countdown to d-day as candidates ramp up campaigns

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Issa Aremu

Kwara State, for the first time in modern political history will be a cycnosure of all eyes.

A build up to the election has shown tremendous campaigns, aggressive slogans and forecasts of all sorts on who may eventually emerge the winner of the governorship election. 

The two leading candidates, AbdulRasak AbdulRahaman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and AbdulRasak Atunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have enough supporters that could turn victories their ways. 

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Meanwhile, the Head of Public Awareness sector of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kwara State, Jacob Ayanda at a recent enlightenment campaign said over 25 per cent of PVCs were yet to be collected by their owners. 

Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Issa Aremu has shifted from noisy crowd campaigns to silent one-on-one with widows, society’s less privileged persons and the physically challenged but with franchise rights. 

From experience, Aremu may be poaching the territory of Saraki, noted for his penchant for packaging welfare gifts to the aged, especially women with voting values. 

Amidst there is the Cold War between the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Senate President Bukola Saraki, there is now a sharp ‘division’ among the once united people of the state. 

Mohammed, from Kwara South Senatorial District, believes that a change must occur in the political hegemony of Kwara, as he constantly criticises what he termed snail-speed socio-economic growth of the state and her people. 

But Saraki described Mohammed and his group as seasonal politicians who are best at noise making and being available only when elections are few days away. 

But of late, the ‘battle’ seems to have narrowed down to the three candidates, AbdulRasak, Atunwa and Aremu. 

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Already, AbdulRasak, the face of the ‘O To Ge’ (enough is enough) movement that has become an anthem, has as thrust of his campaign the lifting of the state out of poverty and infrastructure decay if elected governor. 

The ‘O Tun Ya’ (Let us do it again) proponents said they are the right candidates to finish the works commenced by their dynasty, Saraki’s political movement. 

While there had been high profile permutations on the likely outcome of the elections, a recourse to the manifestoes of the candidates would assist greatly in identifying whether they are in tough with voters.

According to the APC candidate in a recent chat, “it is a moot point to ask why we want to end the current political status quo in our state. The facts about Kwara speak for themselves.

As somebody from the private sector, I see the running of Kwara as is being done as an anomaly. 

“You can never have development that way. We have a government and functionaries that are only interested in being in charge of public funds and privileges of public office without any commensurate delivery of services to the public.

“Between January 2011 and August 2018, the Kwara State government has received roughly N300bn in federal allocations. In the same period, the 16 local governments have received more than N500bn.

This means that this state has received an average of 40bn naira annually from the federal account, while the local councils have taken over 27bn naira annually between 2011 and 2017.

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“Yet, Kwara has one of the worst social infrastructure in this country even though it is one of the frontline states. Teachers and pensioners are owed, local government teachers are not paid, civil servants at the state level are not properly remunerated and often have their pay slashed for dubious reasons, without being able to protest same.

“In Kwara, public funds are invested in projects, which are then converted to private estates. There is no other state in Nigeria where this impunity happens.  There are several anomalies going on in our state to the extent that people outside Kwara often regard our people as second-class people.”

AbdulRasak, while disclosing what he would do differently if voted to power said, “we will do everything differently from the current system. We will end a culture of converting public funds to private wealth and then dispensing some percentage of the same funds through a very dehumanising political patronage.

“We will use public funds to serve the public in manners that restore the dignity of our people in the area of infrastructure, including road and other basic amenities. Many schools and hospitals have been taken over by the respective communities to ensure the rest of the world doesn’t live them behind. But there is little these communities can do. There are communities where just one teacher takes all the subjects in a primary school. Most hospitals don’t have doctors.

“When we assume office, by the Grace of God and the good people of Kwara, we will spread development to all parts of the state. We will ensure that our mothers have access to qualitative maternal care. At the moment, Kwara has one of the highest cases of maternal deaths in the country.”

Speaking on industrialisation of the state he said; “industries or businesses cannot thrive where you don’t have basic infrastructure. Kwara has a comparative advantage in agriculture. But our farming communities don’t have facilities that will encourage investment.

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“So we will concentrate, basically, on building infrastructure such as roads, health facilities, schools and opening up our communities to the world through stable electricity and Internet connectivity. If you have basic infrastructure and amenities, investors will naturally come in because businesses succeed where the cost of running them is friendly and they have easy access to markets.”

Of late, political thuggery has become a major challenge to people of Kwara. Spokesman of the state’s Police Command Ajayi Okasanmi DSP recently confirmed the presence of miscreants who would be flushed out of the state before the elections

Sources say a recent plan by one of the parties to hire the services of thugs under the guise of vigilante group for purposes of the polls had been foiled by the police. When contacted, Okasanmi merely said, “nobody is allowed by the Police to monitor election in Kwara as a vigilante member. If anyone is apprehended by that identity, he will face the wrath of law.
Reacting to insinuations that if APC comes to power, some godfathers from Lagos would control it, he said, “who in Kwara doesn’t want our state to be as developed as Lagos State? Lagos State collaborated very successfully with Kebbi State in agriculture and today Kebbi is the largest producer of rice in Nigeria.

“Lagos is cooperating with a few other states successfully too. The Kwara government of Saraki went all the way to Zimbabwe for white farmers and allegedly invested billions but there is nothing to show for it today. So cooperation with Lagos is a good thing.”

CANDIDATE of the PDP, Atunwa has made it clear that Kwara is still one of the best-run states in the federation. He said: “My vision for Kwara is to build or continue to build a modern state while utilising the human capital resources that we have and enhancing the capacity to drive an economy that is not juts public sector driven but private sector-led.

“We will make Kwara the entrepreneurial capital of West Africa, at the barest minimum because we can’t create jobs and jobs enough at the public sector and so has be to led by the private sector. Our youths must be properly employed and our people must be properly empowered so my vision is to create a Kwara that puts the people first.

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“My agenda is to improve the welfare of the people of Kwara while improving the infrastructure as well. Pivotal is the welfare of the people; salaries must be paid on time and must be dignifying too. We will pay the new minimum wage and ensure all arrears are cleared so that our workers can have arrest of mind to focus on their jobs. Having done that, then we will go ahead to create jobs, and jobs.”

Reacting to ‘O To Ge’ slogan, he stated, “Ó To Ge? I do not focus my energy on negative campaign by any other party. I focus my energy on my campaign and my agenda for Kwara state.

“Kwara will continue to vote PDP because it is the same structure that has been with the people in the past, is with them today and they have confidence to deliver a better Kwara for them. Any other party that has come is a rank outsider, unknown to the average people of the state. Under Dr. Bukola Saraki, the PDP has continued to make life meaningful to the people of Kwara and will continue to make it more meaningful.” 

For Aremu, whose slogan is ‘E Je Ka Jo Se’ (Let’s Come together for a United State), he would promptly restore the lost glories of the public schools in Kwara and resuscitate the moribund industries in order to create employment opportunities for the teeming youths population. 

The LP candidate, who was a former National Deputy President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) added, “we will make the workforce proud by offering them wages that are one of the best in the country as at when due. There will be numerous job opportunities for the youths via public/private partnership.”

The elections will no doubt be keenly contested but the question that would be answered at the end will be whether it is ‘O To Ge’, ‘O Tun Ya’ or ‘E Je Ka Jo Se’ that the people of the state would eventually settle for.


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