A good government wears a human face – Razak Atunwa

Hon Razak Atunwa is the former gubernatorial candidate of the Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election. In this interview, he talks about the last governorship election, his assessment of the APC government and relationship with former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, among others. Excerpts:
The way you and your supporters left Kwara after the 2019 elections gave the impression that you are no longer interested in Kwara matters. Then you gave a statement on the 29th of May. What is the true situation?
Far from it. We are people that have invested lots of efforts, energy and goodwill into Kwara. Our passion for the state remains constant. What happened after the election is that we took out time to pause and ponder. The elections of 2019 have come and gone and some other set of people are now in government. We have to allow them run the government and assess them based on their performance and governance. That is the only way we can determine if we actually could have done better and if we actually did better. As such, if we are not talking, it is not that we are not with our people, it only means we are watching with keen interest and assessing objectively. And we are looking at how we can make the most of the situation.
So how will you assess the government in place now? Performance wise, how will you rate the government of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq?
They have constituted their government and we have to allow it run. However, on May 29th, I wrote a critique on the government. To that end, we are playing our part and we will continue to play our part. When we are to criticize, we will criticize and when we are supposed to applaud, we shall applaud. That is our role constitutionally and that is what we doing. What I am driving at is that we will gladly make comments here and there when there is need to do so. The guiding word here is that we have to be constructive and not to peddle conjunctures as we saw in the past.
As I said in my appraisal of the government on the 29th of May, this government has failed abysmally so far. I use the word abysmal with all emphasis. It is my hope and prayer that they will not continue to fail.
Many will think your appraisal is unkind. They will say you are unkind to those who defeated the hegemony you represent. What will you say to them?
I will sympathize with them and tell them that we don’t necessarily have to be unkind to those in government. I will let them know that we wouldn’t have failed if we are in government because we know what and what to bring together to avoid failure. Boldness to take necessary decisions in the interest of our people is one step we would have taken. I understand that governments the world over have to wear human face. That is one of what we would have applied. I know that Kwara is a Civil Service state. That tells me that the state workforce which is the civil service and the civil servants are the ones that can help you reshape our economy. That is the mainstay of our economy. I would put my money where my mouth is by ensuring that I go the extra mile if need be to pay the minimum wage. I am sure that our people still remember that I was the only candidate in the last gubernatorial race that signed a memorandum of understanding to pay the new minimum wage which, in any case, does not translate to doing the workers any favour. On my own volition, I put pen to paper to agree that I will pay because I happen to know what the multiplier effect of paying the minimum wage will be on the state economy. Like I said earlier, Kwara, being a civil service state, will experience an enhanced economy once you pay the minimum wage. The workers will buy stuff from the open market; they will patronize local artisans and meet all their needs with the money we pay them. Those they patronize will in turn meet their needs with the money they pay. That way, the economy keeps improving.
I hear what is going on now about the minimum wage issue and I marvel and wonder if those in government know anything about the potential benefits of paying the minimum wage.
In concrete terms, what are those things you would have done which this government is not doing?
Don’t you think it will be a good idea to share your vision with those in government for the state to move forward?
I haven’t heard anything concrete being said about agriculture by those in government. What I hear are plans which are mostly blurred. What are they doing to get more people back on the farms? I haven’t heard anything concrete being said about SMSE. In fact, I have heard nothing at all on this. I find myself wondering why the government finds it difficult to create a scheme that the people can key into at minimum or no cost so as to better their lots.
I hear them talk about infrastructure and I wonder where the feeble and piecemeal attempts they are taking will take us to. Our vision was focused on doing large scale infrastructural development but there is no way we can force our vision on anybody. Surely, many of us were around during the administration of Governor Bukola Saraki and we all saw the manner and approach the administration took in the area of infrastructural development. That was part of what made tax operation easier then.
As I said in my appraisal of the government on May 29th, this government has failed abysmally. I pray they realise this in good time and retrace their steps for the sake of our state. They should remember that the first thing a government should do is to put on a human face.
With all these ideas, it appears you have not jettisoned your aspiration to govern Kwara. Do we expect to hear ‘Atunwa for governor’ again in 2023?
2023 is a long time from now. Only the Creator can tell what will happen tomorrow. There are many factors that will determine what happens before and after 2023. As such, it is safer to leave that to the Creator.
Let’s talk about your relationship with the leader of your political group, Dr Bukola Saraki. What is your unbiased assessment of him as an individual?
Dr Bukola Saraki is a God-fearing person, a generous person like his father. He is a meticulous person who believes in merit and insists on merit. Nobody can drive others with merit away from him. Bukola Saraki believes in two way loyalty, as such if you are loyal to him, he stays loyal to you. He believes in project Kwara and in project Nigeria. Some of us came into the Saraki political family through his late father, our revered Dr Olusola Saraki. Still we became part of Senator Saraki’s team. I found out that Bukola Saraki has a good sense of healthy competition and there was healthy rivalry around him. It is still there. Around him, there were those in the inner circle and those out of it. He opened himself up to everyone such that what you can contribute is what stood you out. He will ask you to come forward and contribute your own quota as situations arise. I hear tales about people preventing those with genuine ideas from coming close to him. Much as I am sure he did nothing to promote that, I cannot tell for sure if some of our people did or did not dabble into that sort of behaviour. But those of us close enough to him ensured we stood guard against such attitudes. We still do so.
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