Recent utterances by Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq about the reality of the financial situation of the State seemed to have justified former Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s position about Kwara’s allocation writes HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM.
Funny how time flies is a popular cliché that is mostly used to explain a contrasting situation of how things have changed for good, better or worse.
In Kwara State, such phrase has become a reference point of comparism between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by the scion of the Saraki dynasty and former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who emerged as the recipient of the Federal Government backed onslaught against Saraki with the collaboration of many opponents of the dynasty many of whom decided to converge outside the political structure to challenge the status quo.
Away from the hyped O to ge narrative that defined that period, the opposition latched on to the biting economic situation prevalent in the country to sell an agenda to the public that highlighted Saraki as the major black sheep in the financial predicament facing the state. It was a period that they succeeded in wearing the former Senate President robe of another colour, accusing him of living off Kwara resources despite not being part of the government in the state. There were also allegations of state graft levelled against him by the (EFCC) which went all the way to the Supreme Court but crumbled like a pack of cards at the end of the day.
All the challenges being faced by the state then like salary arrears especially for the Local Government workers and other state owned tertiary institutions were laid on the doorstep of the former Senate President. The accusation was even taken to the lowest ebb at the height of the campaigns for the last general election with the story that Saraki even “escorted” the State allocation of the state which peaked then at N3.3bn down to Kwara in a flight, after the money has been released by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
However, following the conclusion of the last general election that thrust the opposition finally onto power, leading to the swearing in on May 2019, the expectation of the people that the new governor has the magic wand and has a quick fix solution for every problem bedevilling the state almost evaporated. According to the proponents of the new government, it is too early to compare the 16 years of the PDP leadership in the state and APC which is just less than two months old under the government of Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. The reality however was brought to the fore by no other personality than Governor Abdulrazaq himself when he said in a speech that the state is barely left with a little over one billion naira to confront its infrastructural challenges after meeting the salary wage bill of N2.5bn from the about N3.5bn that accrued to Kwara from the federal allocation. Similarly, it was another point of note especially for many supporters of the PDP and top chieftains of the dynasty in the state to see the attempt to indoctrinate Kwarans that all state owned companies were actually owned by Saraki evaporated in the face of the dissolution of over seventeen boards of parastatals.
Some leaders of the APC in the state like Iyiola Oyedepo and Hon Yekeen Alajagusi among others, further amplified the narrative through their radio programme that Kwara’s allocation of over N3bn averagely is more than enough for the state but for the alleged tight grip of the former Senate President on the state finances.
Governor Abdulrazaq was reported to have said, “…we received N3.2bn as allocation for the month of (May) and salary alone gulped N2.2bn. Only one billion naira was left to embark on projects (which is grossly inadequate). There’s no money but we will manage our resources….”. But critics have been quick to remind the government that this was the same song that was rendered by former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed which the then opposition cried foul over. It should be noted and it is commendable that the Governor has decided to fully exploit the funds due to the state from various local and international grants by paying the state’s counterpart funding. Speaking on the issue, former member of the House of Representatives and a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Hon Abraham Ashaolu, said “Well, there are those who feel that the current administration is a one chance and it is difficult to resist such notion. During their time in opposition, they used to say the inflow to the state was more than enough to pay salaries and turn Kwara to an Eldorado but because of embezzlement. Now that they are on the chair, they are talking of inadequacy. This is contradictory.
“They even said the money is enough to pay the new minimum wage with enough to make everybody happy. What the government is saying now is not in tandem with their campaign statement and allegation against those in government then. The unfortunate thing is that because of our level of education, most people fell for it. It’s all deception. I think Kwarans are watching and hearing especially during a periods we got some bolster in the tax refund and considered as one of the most buoyant periods for the state in recent times. But unfortunately the government narrative is not commensurate with the reality on ground.
“If you say those state companies belong to Dr Bukola Saraki, how come the boards are being dissolved and engaging in some immediate intervention in their activities. It’s just an admission that they were lying before and now the truth has dawned on them. It will amount to a lie if they say these things were owned by Bukola but now admitting by their action that such is no longer the case.
Also, a member of the seventh State House of Assembly, Hon Kamal Fagbemi while rejecting the dissolution of the boards of parastatals and agencies in Kwara noted “Honestly, I don’t know where we are heading to (in Kwara). Before, they were saying it was Saraki who owns Harmony Holdings, Aviation College and Kwara Diagnostic Centre among others, but now they said they have dissolved the Harmony board and 17 others, Is Saraki no more the owner? They are misleading the people and I think the press has a duty to let the people understand these issues”, he submitted.
It is however interesting to note that the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki despite all the accusations and insinuations coming from the opposition about actions as a two-term former governor and political leader in the state has remained unperturbed about the whole issue with a body language that suggests he wanted the new government to rule the state to provide the people with the opportunity to compare and contrast between his leadership style and theirs.
And true to this assertion, investigation revealed that Saraki has even dissuaded some of his supporters and loyalists who felt aggrieved by the incumbent government with the manner of their sack or dissolution of some statutory boards, from seeking redress at the court of law.
While reacting to his electoral defeat shortly, Saraki in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu had wished all those who emerged victorious against him and the dynasty best of luck despite the “inadequacies” in the election.
“However, whatever the outcome of the election, I wish the candidates that have emerged all the best in their attempts to serve our people. It is my prayer that the good people of Kwara State will always have the best from any government both at the state and federal levels. As a product of a family and a political structure that is, from its foundation, devoted to the service and development of our state and its people, it is my wish that our people will always have a good deal at all times. The new development will even provide the people the opportunity to compare and contrast. After all, the people who have emerged from last Saturday’s election are not my enemies. They are fellow Kwarans”, he added. Saraki’s apologists have therefore argued that such statement and body language is not synonymous with somebody who has something to hide.