By Abdulwahab Oba
We are once again approaching that period when active politicking takes centre stage in the election calendar of our dear nation. The electoral body, INEC, has set out the timeline for activities and in a few weeks activities will gear up with parties working out the nomination of candidates for various elective positions. It is a time characterised by machiavellianism; intrigues and claims here and there, as stakeholders jostle for their perceived slice of the cake baked by their respective party platforms.
In our state of harmony, aspirants have begun to show their faces. While it is too early to put any of them in the categories of the serious, unserious and probables, it is exciting to see that Kwara is not undemonstrative with respect to men and women voicing their desires and aspirations in the race to succeed the incumbent governor, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed. We even have a female presidential aspirant already out from the state! We thank God for the calibre of our men and women.
One common feature of the time is the avalanche of betrayal, claims and promises usually made by aspirants. While some claims are outrightly outlandish and purposefully designed to deceive the electorates, some are made within the bounds of rationality. Either way, the sitting government is always the object of these claims as aspirants try to sell themselves to the prospective voters. And it is somewhat amusing to hear what some aspirants, goaded by reasons other than collective good, say about the sitting government they seek to replace: nothing positive, in most cases, especially from the opposition, except seeking undeserved legitimacy by portraying the incumbent as completely wrong on the wrong lane.
And that is where the challenge to our democracy comes from. The electorates must be vigilant and discerning to avoid falling prey to deception by seasonal politicians with spurious claims, insinuations and outlandish promises all in a bid to impress. And that reminds me of the folklore about three young boys who each made a promise to do the impossible: one vowed to shoot his arrow to reach the sky, another said he would swim across the ocean and the third said he could easily climb the highest palm tree in the world. Of course, when the reality dawned, none of them could deliver on the promises. That is often the case with thoughtless political promises, particularly when aspirants seek offices and make promises of transforming the state without having a real grasp of the realities of governance.
In consonant with realism theory, politics and government should centred around competition between groups each with their own preferred policies and political agenda. This makes it rational that instead of making blanket but blind statements such as was recently done by an aspirant saying the incumbent government is a failure, we should rather identify areas where there can be improvement, as there would always be, speak specifically on what we would do if elected that would be positively different and bring better result in continuing with the efforts of previous administrations.
It is obtuse for any living soul conversant with development in kwara state to insinuate or allege that in about eight years now nothing has changed for better. What a ridiculous, provocative and reckless statement. For a government that has built on strategic plans and road map by the immediate administration of former governor Bukola Saraki, embark of systemic infrastructural development of the state, laying a dependable foundation for future administrations to build upon and make Kwara more prosperous, a government that has invested in road and health infrastructure, that has carved a niche with its enviable investment in technical education, it would uncouth to claim ignorance of these feats, despite unfavourable economic climate in the country.
Yes, aspirants will definitely talk of the salary issue, but it will be running away from the truth to describe the government as one enmeshed in salary crisis. For one who aspire to govern this state to insinuate that salaries are not paid in Kwara demonstrates either a lack of basic understanding of different levels of administration in the country or pure mischief.
For the avoidance of doubt, the state government sympathises with workers at the third tier of government for the instability of their employers to pay their salaries as at when due and making relentless efforts to assist them in resolving the challenge. This is, however, a challenge arising from the structural deficits in our constitutional framework as a nation and as such one would appreciate to see and hear aspirants talk about specific ways they can or do hope to resolve it. It is not enough to just promise the electorates that you will not owe local government workers if elected. What would you do, if for instance, we begin to experience downward slide in federal allocation again where the local councils are always vulnerable? The electorates should ask aspirants what they intend to do with the constitutional hamstring around the local government system instead of blanket condemnation of a striving system.
There is nothing wrong if an aspirant identifies credible policies and programmes of an administration he/she seeks to succeed. It is not a weakness to do so, just as it is not a strength to make unguarded claims about government all in a bid to make an impression. The era of wholesale condemnation should be put behind our political evolution. In Kwara state, we have had three governors since the start of this democracy; late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed. It would be crass naivety for anyone to say there are no landmark achievements by each of these men.
Instead of making promises of starting afresh always, we should be talking about improving on what is on ground and moving forward to build the state of our dream. Truth is, no government can do it all. Just as the saying; soldiers go, soldiers come, barracks remain. The barrack refers to the state and soldiers refer to administrations. Thus, the only credible thing a soldier can do in his time in the barrack is to sustain its beauty, peace and prosperity while he is there. Our politicians must cease to promise like the three kids in the folklore because when the day of performance comes, they may fail and be put to shame.
Let the lesson in that folklore, which is to teach youngsters the need to be cautious in making claims, become a lesson and guideline to our aspirants as we start the race towards 2019. In less than seven years, governor Ahmed has performed beyond the available resources. He has not only laid a financial and independent financial base for the development of the state, such projects as the soon to be completed diamond underpass, the Ajasse Ipo international vocational and enterpreneurship centre, the light up Kwara, various road and health projects, kwara State University School of Engineering and other satilate campuses of the University bear indelible testimonies to Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed’s years.
While Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed is still working, I wish all the aspirants success but caution that fear of God and love of the people be their consciences. Political slander and mudslinging will do no one no good. *Oba can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org