By Abdulwahab Oba
Recently Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed, our governor, hosted the latest edition of his programme, “the Governor Explains” and the issues raised in the programme have continued to generate discussions and debates among all and sundry. That varied form of reactions is actually one of the main goals of the programme; an opportunity to have the citizen debate their government, to give the pass mark where the government deserves and offer criticism where they feel there are possible better options. This is why the governor comes on air occasionally to ‘explain’ his administration to the populace, and the programme is given publicity as much as possible, to ensure that as many citizen as we can reach have access to the information right from His Excellency, without middlemen coming in-between him and the people over whom he presides as governor.
This last edition of the programme also vindicated the necessity to have such platform. We had almost 200 questions on WhatsApp and over 60 people who tried to call in to the studio, all within the one hour the programme lasted. Some of the questions were related, some were not. Some of them praised the governor, some expressed reservations about certain explanations the governor gave. Some offered suggestions on the way forward in certain areas, while some requested for help on infrastructure in their communities. It was a potpourri of comments and interventions. Trust His Excellency, he never evaded any enquiry or got provoked with any attack.
One of the issues raised on the programme had to do with the conversion of the International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC), Ajase-Ipo into an NGO-run enterprise. Even to the panel member who asked the question, the development sounded strange. But the governor EXPLAINED it plainly.
And since there could still be some out there who might not have heard what the governor actually said, let me bring you an excerpt: “Our plan to set up an International Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC) in the first place is as a result of the need to create a training ground for middle man power need and development plan and we looked at it that we don’t have such institution across the country. Most importantly, if you look at the typical colleges that were introduced in the past most of them have either gone moribund or largely being converted to regular secondary schools and it is reflecting in the way and manner trade and activities are carried on across the country. If you look at where we require artisans to work especially in construction we rely heavily from people coming from West Africa Sub-region. These are part of reasons why we set up the school.
“Now, how will the school run differently from what we used to have in the past? We look at what government has done in the past. Where are the government technical colleges? Where are the government owed institutions that are expected to drive entrepreneurship across the country? They are all gone. They are all dead. So, our desire to set up a vocational training institution that will not go the same way as the ones in the past and most of the problem they faced is largely recurrent expenditure. Government spent money every time; set up an institution; equip it and that ends ir all. How do they run from there? Who provides the bill? Who runs the bill payment? Who provides the funding to run the day to day activities? We’ve seen that state capacities to drive institution on day to day basis is becoming herculean. Either the basic, the secondary or the tertiary levels. We’re witnesses to what is happening to ASUU with FG today.
“It tells you that capacity of government to continue to run institutions on recurrent levels is becoming a bit challenging and that is why we conceptualize the issue of setting up an International Vocational Centre that would run as an NGO. What is the advantage of running as an NGO? The first one is that it will run itself by latching on International Organisations and donor agencies that will give it enough funding to continue to run; it will get support from a lot of development partners who would see it as not being a normal government technical college and would just see it as just the normal other technical colleges are run”.
So, the whole idea of registering the institution as an NGO is to create sustainability platform. Government do not t want it to go the same way that others have gone. It will continue to be owned by government, but it is going to be run as an NGO. And the reason why the registration of the NGO is necessary is solely because that is the only way it will become attractive to international agencies who will now donate fund or endow chairs in those institutions.
That is why government started those institutions with schools in America who would expose the school as an NGO to institutions and organizations that would either donate equipment or funds or other things that would support the schools. If we rely on the state government to set up a school, run it normally the way it run every other school, we will have challenges.
His Excellency’s explanations, EXPLAINED why the current burden system in schools is not sustainable. Government is struggling with even the Kwara State University. So, it will be fool hardly to assume that a responsible government will just set up another institution under the same programme to be running under the same funding window. It may signal its end before its commitment. So, the only way to make it sustainable is to create way and manner that is different, that would insulate it and make it attractive to funding agencies from abroad and other development partners. That is the reason why kwara set up an International Vocational Centre as an NGO.”
Governor Ahmed was also asked to explain how he could be bold to say the state did not owe salaries when local government workers are having problems drawing their monthly pay. This question touched on the issue of joint account and autonomy for local governments. The governor still EXPLAINED himself. Hear him: “The State runs its own account, the local government runs its own account. Local government in Kwara are completely autonomous because they are financially autonomous. Their allocation comes into what we call the joint allocation account of local governments. The joint is not between state and local. It is amongst the 16 local governments. So, that singular account that is joint in the 16 local governments is the Joint Account not joining between state and local government.
“So, I think more often people have been misconstruing the concept of joint account. They think that joint account is between the state and local government. No! It is amongst the 16 local governments. They have one account where their money that is coming to from Abuja or any federally allocated funds enters into. All the federally allocated fund enters into their joint account. And that is why they call it the Joint Account of all the 16 Local Government not with the state government and it is from that account that money is shared to the 16 local governments and that is how they are able to pay salaries to their workers and carry on other recurrent expenditure.
“So, between you and I, local government in Kwara State are already and completely autonomous. I am sure where autonomy is relevant to is in state where money that comes in enter into the state coffers first before they now begin to enter to the various local governments. We don’t have that practice in Kwara State. We have never had it. Money that comes, goes into their Joint account as captured in the Nigerian Constitution. It is a constitutional issue. It is not a choice of Kwara State. In fact, when they were talking about abrogation of the joint account, it is not at the state level, it is a constitutional level; it is the National Assembly issue. So, when you say you don’t want Joint Account, it is a National Assembly issue, it is not at the state government level. So we should understand when we talk of joint Account. It is between the 16 local governments and that is, the account where their money are shared from.”
It was so educative and detailed that many are already asking when the governor will come up and explain himself to them again. And I hear the reply, loudly from, the inner chamber of Government House: “next….”, pls let me confirm from my boss again.
*Oba can be reached via e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org