By Abdulwahab Oba
As a writer there are times you encounter a block; when suddenly you look around to find something to write about but you won’t see anything even though you open your eyes over and over again. All through the week, I fiddled with the computer mouse, seeking a topic to work on as I continue my weekly engagement with readers of this column, some of whom have regularly encouraged me with their feedbacks through private calls and messages.
And yet, there are many issues begging for a writer’s attention. For instance, when during the week the Benue State governor Samuel Ortom apologised to workers in his state for, according to him, failing them, in the area of salary payment, I told myself I must do something to appreciate our own governor, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed, who despite the varied challenges confronting the administration, has been able to keep the state somewhat afloat.
For the record, the media team has enjoyed immeasurable support of his Excellency who doubles as chairman of the government’s media committee. But, the last months are tough to the extent that the committee has been constraint. This demonstrates the enormity of the current national economic challenge that made states like Benue and many others incapacitated in paying their workers. Only those close to the inner workings of government will actually appreciate the challenge facing those in Government Houses across the country today. The truth that is starring us in the face is that though we are out of recession technically, we are yet to find the cash component of that exit that would enable government meet its obligations fully. It is difficult to explain, but then what do we say except to listen to our economists and pray to God to ease our own burden?
Sincerely, Governor Ahmed deserves a pat on the back for what we now describe as his gift for financial engineering. I know this is what has been the secret of our survival as a state in the last few months. I know, readers will ask, but what about local government workers? I know there are issues about their salaries. What I am talking about is that given the experiences of other states now being relayed to us through the media, we can only thank God in Kwara that our case has been managed with such deft. If not, we can only imagine the story.
Some would ask what of the Paris Club refund? I do not need to spend time explaining this again because, in his comments during the September edition of Governor Explain, the governor went at great length to educate the populace on the truth about this matter; how the federal government only advised states on how to utilise the fund; how in Kwara in deference to demand by organised labour the state had to allocate an extra N1 billion of the last tranche to the payment of salaries; and how such a decision affected payment to other sector; and lastly, how we all need to constantly get more educated about these issues without listening to rumours.
The economic situation is still biting hard across the country and when you put that into perspective, you wonder how a state like Kwara could still be undertaking some infrastructural projects. There are ongoing road works in several communities; the International Vocation Training Centre is to be commissioned soon, the Diamond Underpass that will be a signature of the Ahmed years in Government House is ongoing, the dualisation of Zango –Oke-Oyi section of the federal highway is ongoing, and only last week, the state executive council approved the construction of Oke-Onigbin-Isanlu-Isn Road as well as Osi-Obbo-Ayegunle-Ekiti boundary road both costing over a billion naira. There are still many others. What an ingenuity and purposeful leadership in the 21st century.
Only last week, Gov Ahmed convoked a critical stakeholders workshop on budget preparation during which he laid bare government focus 2018 fiscal year. “This coming year, not less than 70% of our budget shall be devoted to capital expenditure. We shall focus more on road construction, education, health and energy. We cannot afford to disappoint the people who voted for us and entrusted to us their destiny. We must leave the stage better than we met it”. Governor Ahmed promised to deplore the next tranche of the Paris club refund to massive infrastructure development including, but not limited to renovation of the indoor sports hall of the state’s stadium complex and classrooms at the basic levels. He charge local government councils in the state to be resourceful by deploying their manpower resources to develop their revenue base.
The governor told the stakeholders that governor shall maximize revenues from agriculture and land administration policies. With statistical empirism, the governor explained that the recurrent decline in federal revenue allocation to states is most likely to persist. “Therefore, our destiny must be in our hands. Let’s think more on how to be resourceful and prudent. The honeymoon is most likely to be over. We must generate the resources to develop our state”, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed told the wise men at the workshop.
The only thing that comes to mind here is that, it must take a special ability, and I am sure the governor will attribute it to the Almighty, for the government to be able to do what it has been doing thus far. We need to pray for the governor more, particularly as he approaches the latter end of his tenure. The truth is that he has been able to write his name boldly on the annals of time in this state. It may be difficult for some people to accept this truth now, but very soon, as these various projects take shape and become useable, I am sure even our most ardent critic will shift ground in their positions on the accomplishment of this administration.
This administration introduced the IFK model, which has been described as the first in this country and which has enabled the state to breathe while contractors work on site. The administration reengineered the revenue generation platform and technology in the state to give us a more rewarding system that has led to a dramatic increase in our internally generated revenue and only last week, the government announced the introduction of a cashless system of revenue collection by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), a development that would further enhance transparency and successful collection of state revenue along international best practices. This government will not leave any project uncompleted before the expiration of it tenure. Wait, and I said I had a writer’s block?