By Rafiu Ajakaye
Soft-spoken, easy-to-admit his human frailties, and not given to noisemaking, Kwara Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq speaks only to give a message or deliver a blow of maximum impacts to the target. That’s what he recently did when he flagged-off the campaign for Turaki Ngeri and APC senatorial candidate for Kwara Central, Mallam Saliu Mustapha (MSM) in Ilorin. Remnants of the arrogant dynasty are still reeling from the blows, many of them wishing they had not put their hands in his mouth.
The governor speaks with facts, verifiable and relatable facts. He garnishes same with interesting political anecdotes for impact. At the event, he mentioned how his administration is spending billions of naira to clear gratuities and pensions dating back to 2009 and 2010. That’s a fact of history with living witnesses. The governor said the former administration embezzled billions of naira of UBEC funds meant for school development. This is not open to any debate. The details of the fraud are gorier and messier than imagined. Very dubious withdrawals of UBEC counterpart funds were made by the former administration, including a N1billion withdrawn in cash on 14th January 2015, provoking the federal agency to place immediate embargo on the account. There is no link whatsoever between what was withdrawn and education. This was a clear violation of the UBEC Act 2004, and an offence for which someone stood liable. There were several other cash withdrawals from the SUBEB account between the 14th January through June 1, 2015. The purpose of such withdrawals remains dodgy till date.
Again, various communications from UBEC to KWSUBEB; UBEC to Skye Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank; and Skye Bank to the Chairman KWSUBEB dated 8th June, 2016 detailed the degrees of unholy transactions from KWSUBEB matching grant by the previous administration. Beyond grandstanding, no man born of a woman would stand to deny these hard facts. Where did the money go to?
A former Finance Commissioner, Ademola Banu claimed there was nothing special about not accessing UBEC grants. He was probably right. Judging from the state of infrastructure in the schools and the welfare of teachers, it was clear that basic education was never their top priority. But there is a big deal in diverting funds as documents have shown. That those who committed that crime (against the state and humanity) walked free supports the governor’s position about someone somewhere blocking prosecution of their lackeys. This roguish behaviour had started since 2013. The infraction of 2015 was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, with UBEC demanding a refund of its matching grants illegally withdrawn from 2013 (see a letter referenced UBEC/FA/SUBEB/KW/193/V.III/87). It was this messy situation they left in 2019. Facts do not lie! Some people have asked why the government has not prosecuted the culprits in the face of the weight of evidence against them. This is neither out of cowardice, negligence, nor complicity. Governance is about priorities. The priority of the Otoge administration is to fix things as much as resources and the environment may permit. Our records in key sectors like education, health, water and workers’ welfare, rural-urban development, among others, attest to this. Occasional talks about the past are either borne out of a need to set the record straight or to put the arrogant, loquacious old order in their place. The governor understands clearly that he now ‘owns the sheets’ in the wise words of the late General Colin Powell. At any rate, a number of these issues are before different anti-graft agencies.
One of the most decorated lies of this republic was that the former administration could not pay salaries because of low allocation. It is a fake history! No government has all the resources it requires to do everything at the same time. However, paying workers their monthly wage should be a top priority, while other things may wait till things improve. The governor recently stirred the hornet’s nest when he said that what the former administration got in federal allocation (FAAC receipts) between 2015 and 2019 is more than what this government has received between its inauguration in 2019 and December 2022. He was right, per official documents verifiable from the Federation Account/Federal Ministry of Finance. While the former administration got a total of N209,456,454,555.75 monthly allocations between June 2015 and May 2019, the Otoge government has only received a total of N203,113,105,761.03 to date. Full disclosures: These figures exclude other revenues for the two administrations, such as internal revenue, Paris Club Refund, Budget Support, PAYE Refund, or SFTAS receipts.
Even if you consider every kobo so far earned, including FAAC receipts, loans, budget support, grants or reimbursements, internal revenue and other incomes, the Governor is right, still. Between June 2015 and May 2019, a total sum of N383,068,089,151.25 accrued to the former administration. Conversely, this administration has received a cumulative total of N338,302,769,544.20 (including the bond and bridge financing facility) between June 2019 and December 2022. That is a difference of N44,765,319,607.05. Kwarans may well ask the opposition vuvuzelas where they got the half a trillion naira claim they parrot around, including in their official statements.
There is an irony here, nonetheless. This government has paid more in salary, pensions, and gratuities, among others, than the former administration in the period under review — just as it has done a lot more and better in provision of basic amenities for the people. In April 2019, the former administration spent N2,526,268,389.21 for salary-related expenditures across the civil service, teaching service, pension, gratuities, SUBEB, judiciary, legislature, traditional rulers, parastatals, sports, among others. For the same categories (and more not paid for by the former administration such as Council of Arts and Culture, KWARTMA, Kwara Rehab, Kwara United, Water Corporation, KWEPA, Hospital Management Bureau, among others), the new administration paid N3,337,427,162.68 in November, 2022. That’s a staggering difference of N811,158,773.47. This is due in part to the full implementation of the new minimum wage as it is to new obligations. For instance, while the former administration expended a paltry N50millio on gratuities monthly, the new administration commits N100million to same every month — representing 100% rise in its commitment to retired workers.
The achievements of the new administration are self-evident and relatable. In his well-received speech at the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) over the weekend, the governor spent a quarter of his time on the podium listing projects that his audience could instantly relate with in their immediate community and they nodded in agreement to his factuality. These include the Old Yidi Road through which they had all passed; the new Yidi Road; dualisation of Yebumot/Oloje Road; Adeta-Pakata Road; Pakata/Oja Oba Road; the eight-winged new squash court; several interlock access roads; visual arts centre; innovation hub; General Tunde Idiagbon Flyover; Ilorin International Conference Centre; garment factory; improved water supply; and many others in Ilorin alone. Several projects are also scattered across Kwara. The administration is not building castles in the air; so the governor speaks to issues and projects that an average person can confirm, including how salaries were owed pre-June 2019 and how prized public properties were sold to cronies for pittance. These are facts of history!
Propaganda clearly has its roles in political communications. But it must be built on relatable realities and deployed for the right audience. Outright lies that the administration owes salaries, does not pay or promote SUBEB teachers, has not improved the lot of teachers at the teaching service commission, has no projects to commission, or that Oloje area has no public water, and all such funny concoctions, are mere tomfooleries not propaganda in the right sense of the concept. These are things that cannot sink with the average person in Kwara, which is the theatre of play. Propaganda has its audience, usually people who are far removed from the realities you want to paint. Woe betide you, and your client, if you get the audience wrong.
The futility of the social media mobs, the (radio) jock-shocks, the samurais of Ile Loke, and the Lord of the old order (by their own confessions) wanting to lie their way back to government is therefore apparent. Victims of their reigns are not in Rwanda, Accra, or the Bahamas; they are still living here, and they constitute the bulk of the voting population and influencers. They are all entitled to vote.
A victory for the unrepentant and entitled old order under such circumstances will be the classic example of the Stockholm syndrome. It is certain that majority of Kwarans do not suffer from such. For the people of Kwara, today is not perfect. Tomorrow will not be perfect. But yesterday and today are light years apart, the latter being a lot better, dignifying, and progressive.
• Ajakaye is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor