Kuranga Idowu Omomeji was a onetime chairman, All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Public Schools (ANCOPSS), Kwara State chapter and a retired principal of Baboko Secondary, Ilorin. In this interview with our POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, KAYODE ADEOTI, he described the achievements of the state former Commissioner of Education, Mallam Bolaji Abdullah as factor to consider for his 2019 gubernatorial ambition
Being a civil servant who served under the leadership of Mallam Bolaji Abdullah when he was Commissioner of Education of Kwara State, can you shed lights on some of his achievements?
Mallam Abdullah is an enigma, for the period he served as commissioner in the state, there were remarkable changes in the education sector. Honestly, before he came on board, education was already in doldrums, it was like he had prepared for the task before becoming the commissioner, this is because he came out with quite legendary reforms. These reforms stood the test of time in the history of education in Kwara State. The fact is, teachers, principals in secondary schools had lackaisical attitude to teaching, and however, someone coming into such sector must be firm, committed and above all, must be interested in change. He had everything that required to turn the face of the sector for the better. In fact, one of the reforms he carried out was one on Arithmetic and English language which he called ‘Every Child Counts’. The reforms were in categories, we have the one of primary 1-3 and primary 4-6. Within the period of this reform, we saw in children’s’ attitude particularly in their spoken English, great improvement. Before he took over the commissionership, there were examination malpractices in the state, but his emergence made all school principals to sit up. He also improved the quality of learning; he introduced what is called, ‘Service Bureau’. This Bureau became a weapon which was used by teacher to monitor, supervise and control students even outside the class rooms. Also, there was another system which he created which was anti-lottery movement. It was manned by the Ministry of Education, this system made students roaming on the streets a taboo. For the fear of this innovation, many schools wake up and begin to do what is needful. During his time, we had school of tailoring, welding, computer education and many more. Students were encouraged to pick one of these subjects. Another area he improved upon was on examination malpractices. The teachers and students who refused to toll the line of honours were shown the way out. When I was the ANCOPS president, I was very happy of all the developments because they were working for the good of our children. Within three years, the whole system has changed, that is Bolaji for you.
How do you see his antecedents affecting his chances to secure the PDP gubernatorial ticket?
It is a hope raised and I pray God will make it come to pass; he is a seasoned administrator, a technocrat, journalist and educationist because his record in all the fields he had served were unmatched. He is an achiever because he always wants result in whatever he chooses to do. This is the type of man we want as governor in Kwara State. Our governor has performed well in the past four years but I think we need more, we pray God should come our aide. This man has done a lot for our students and I believe he will be replicating same for our children if elected governor of the state. I actually want him to work hard on the youths and I am happy one of his cardinal projects is youths’ empowerment.
Do you see the existing political structure and arrangement favouring him…?
It will, definitely, Abdullah is a step higher than any other aspirants in the race with him. Apart from been education minister, he was a minister of sport. He performed creditably well. Up till now, no minister has been able to beat his achievements in that sector. The nations’ cup which eluded Nigeria for about 19 years, Mallam Bolaji won the cup back to Nigeria and other reforms which he carried in that ministry has made it to continue waxing stronger till date. Whoever wants to be governor of the state today must have worked well and gather the kind of his experience? Mallam Bolaji knows the nooks and crannies of the state by his palm and I believe he knows our problems because he is from the grassroots.
He is coming under the not-too-young-to-run policy…? (Cut in)
He is a breach builder between not-too-young-to-run and the elders. He demonstrated this attribute when he was commissioner in the state. There was a committee comprising ANCOPS, PTA and NUT. The youths and the elderly were in this committee and he was able to carry everyone along all through the period of his service as commissioner.
Following his relationship with members of the public, would you describe him as a grass rooter?
Honestly, I will describe him as one, in Ubandawaki ward where he comes from, we know him, in Ajikobi and many other wards, they know him including our own ward, Ibago ward which is not even within his enclave. In Kwara North, Central and South, nobody will say he doesn’t know him because during his time as he had of the state education sector, he re-jigged the sector and everyone felt the impacts. Up till now, I have never seen him staying in Abuja for one month, he goes from one community to the other, and he is not the type that comes around once in a blue moon.
How do you attend to the clamour that a particular Senatorial district must produce the next governor?
I want to appeal to PDP stakeholders to look for merit. We want merit, somebody who will deliver. In the time past, some people who are forced to become governor have done badly and we are leaving witnesses. Mallam Bolaji is a goal getter, that is the type of person we want. If we want victory in the state, government must be given to someone who is ready to listen; who will take the state to a better height after he might have repackaged it. Kwara State is not where we expect it to be today and we believe Mallam Bolaji will reposition it.
Mallam Bolaji was formally in the ruling government, but now with the opposition party, would you say this may affect his chances in the poll if actually given the party ticket to run for the governorship seat?
Federal Government still remains his government even if he is no longer in the ruling party, the issue is that, his love for his own state comes first. If federal government is in another party against his own, he is an intelligent person who knows how to wangle his way to ensure that the state fairs better
Vote buying has become serious issue in this present democracy, how best do you think it can be managed?
The federal government can make a law against this development. If the givers and the buyers are punished, people will desist from the act. Mallam Bolaji is a disciplinarian, he will not want to win just for winning sake but he will want victory on a good note, I will want to equate his level of integrity with that of President Muhammadu Buhari, he has high dose of it. When he was the spokesperson for the APC, he resigned his appointment when he discovered that his principal had chosen another path, not many Nigerian will do that. This is the man that has total loyalty for his political structure.
If eventually he did not get the governorship ticket, what do you envisage he will do?
He will work with whoever gets the ticket, and I believe whoever loses too will join hands with him to paddle the ship of the state that is how it is supposed to be, he will not work against anyone.