Kwara State, for the record, is not yet an Eldorado. No such state exists. But the administration inherited and has rescued a state that once tottered on the brink of collapse — at least in the area of human capital development indices. Basic healthcare was comatose. Children were no longer getting vaccination to curb deadly diseases, including polio, because the state was not fulfilling its obligation in the national campaign. The state held the trophy in children malnutrition in the north central. Kwara had also been blacklisted by the universal basic education commission (UBEC) after funds meant for primary education were mismanaged, coming last in the UBEC ratings.
The Colleges of Education had been run aground, with their workers owed several months of salary arrears. The schools of nursing and midwifery had lost their accreditation. Access to water was majorly through rickety tankers. The state-owned broadcast stations were off the air. Kwara ticked all the wrong boxes in the World Bank ease of doing business ratings, while pensioners could hardly recall the last time they were paid. Another mark of its pitiable condition was the fact that no college graduate — having been told of the horrible state of its orientation camp — wanted to have their national youth service in Kwara.
Just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully changed the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which have brought back development partners, and taking the state off the UBEC blacklist, AbdulRazaq is taking steps to stabilise and reposition the state for growth.
In the health sector, the administration began with injecting N232m to tackle malaria, maternal death, and malnutrition. On January 19, 2019, Kwara embarrassed Nigeria with the recording of Africa’s first vaccine-derived polio case. To end this, the new government returned routine polio vaccination across the state after many years. The administration has invested hugely in counterpart funds so much that by December 2019, Kwara had 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.
Kwara prided itself as an agrarian state. It even once constructed a large cargo shed to attract agroprocessing investments. Yet the farming hinterlands in Kaiama, Baruten and elsewhere had no good roads connecting them to the market in the city. This is changing. The administration is today constructing the multipurpose Maigida Bani road which connects farming communities in the north to those in the central for easy access to market. The Gwanara road, famous for being the scene of unfortunate attack on some political leaders, is now receiving attention — thanks to the government getting the antigraft agencies to get the contractor back to site.
Kwara had a few nice-sounding higher educational institutions. But it lacked basic schools conducive for quality learning while attention to quality teaching was low. This is evident in the recent ratings the state has had in elementary education. WAEC recently slapped a N30.5m fine on several public schools over exam misconducts under the past regime. The new administration is rehabilitating 31 schools across the state, seven of which are undergoing complete overhaul. The seven are Oro Grammar School; Government Unity Secondary School, Kaiama; Government Secondary School Share; Patigi Secondary School; Government High School Ilorin; Ilorin Grammar School (awarded); and Government Secondary School Lafiagi. These renovation works are to gulp N1.7bn.
With five water works fixed and some others at various stages of repair, clean potable water is back to Kwara households at stable intervals. At least 402 boreholes were rehabilitated in the early days of the government, while 14 more have just been dug in Baruten where water scarcity had been a menace. The boreholes will complement the ongoing Yashikira water work.
The civil service is at its best in two decades. The new administration has not only restored running costs across the MDAs, 27 new vehicles were also recently purchased to aid mobility of workers, while modern computers were given to them. For the first time in decades, the civil servants escaped political victimisation. The permanent secretaries inherited by the new government are just gradually leaving the service in batches — a far cry from the instant sack, demotion, and humiliation their predecessors suffered in the past.
The new government constantly sends out the right signal that a new Kwara has arrived.
Confronted by years of prebendal politics and governance hinged on grandstanding and propaganda, the administration is indeed punching above its weight in making Kwara to work again. But much more important is the fact that AbdulRazaq is redefining governance, 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. His female cabinet pick is the highest ever on the African continent. With just one year gone in a four-year mandate, it is clear that the people of the state made the right choice and are better off sticking with a man who walks his talk about restoring the glory of Kwara State and making the masses the centrepiece of his administration.
Ajakaye is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor.