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A Decade After Leaving Govt House, Saraki Still the Issue in Kwara Politics

I like to share at the moment, the words of Ernest Benn, who saw Politics as the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

As I read the article authored by Mallam Rafiu Ajakaye, the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor titled, “A Note on the Kwara Journey”, this humorous definition of politics came to mind. The author must have known an Ajakaye in his days, an identity and character which informed his definition of politics.

Again, I find it hard to fathom why the Saraki dynasty remains the hot topic and response to all issues. For naysayers, it’s obvious their obsession with Saraki will degenerate so much that one day, they’ll ask why some did not get married and they’ll unabashedly whip it around the name Saraki again.

Let me restate this unarguable fact that former President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki since 2019, chose to stay aloof and allow the ruling AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq APC-led government prove its mettle. It was a deliberate action. He apparently wanted to avoid a politically saturated Kwara atmosphere at the time, and wanted to avoid being tagged a distraction for the present government. It takes an exceptionally mature creature and outstanding to do this.

Had the political juggernaut wanted to, he could have started by challenging the questionable poll that ushered in the incompetent crop of office holders, many of who rode into power, leveraging on a seeming political coup d’etat against a single soul who is obviously larger than life. Many would have stayed back and stirred the hornets’ nest, but not Saraki. He chose to do otherwise; he congratulated the so-called winners and stayed away from Kwara for more than a year, before he was compelled to return to the State for his late father’s remembrance, at a time he received an heroic welcome.

It’s hilarious to see the excitement in Ajakaye’s voice as he reeled out unverified figures and statistics. He has, however, forgotten that his principal’s government is not the brain behind those innovation and ideas.

The Internally Generated Revenue, IGR which they fritter away is a breakthrough made possible by the ingenuity, hardwork, resilience and perseverance of previous administrations. That concept was widely acclaimed such that former Governor Abdufatah Ahmed was invited to share with other state Governors, the Kwara success story in IGR.

Ahmed, Saraki’s protege and successor, in 2015, had a clear direction of what his administration will do for the next four years. Within 100 days in office, he was able to set up a framework for generating revenue for the state and stimulate the economy. In June 2015, the governor signed into law the bill establishing the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) and set a target towards increasing IGR from N700m to N2b. The government surpassed it!

Before that revenue boost in Kwara, the state government had to rely solely on the allocation coming from the federal government. Yet, they could execute several capital projects that today serve the people. The Ahmed administration did not just raise IGR at the time, it created a system that gave room for the figure to grow. In his final year 2019, the state generated N30.7 billion, but this dropped to N19.604 billion in 2020, a 56 per cent decrease under the AbdulRazaq government. Nothing has been initiated by the present administration to expand revenue base, other than to dissipate.

I giggle everytime this government brandishes statistics in the health sector and claims to have met nothing on ground. Suffice to say that the state health insurance scheme, KWHIS was a brainchild of the Ahmed administration. Pioneered by Dr Jetawo Winters, the bill when signed in 2017 was part of the Government’s commitment to Universal Health Coverage, Human Capital Development, with quality health care service and functional education as main components. That the World Bank or PharmAccess contributed to the scheme were already part of its components. Nothing to gallivant about.

If I may ask, what is the fuss about how many registered at inception? What the government did at the time was to build on the existing Community Health Insurance Scheme – which covers 10 local government areas of the state – to provide a state-wide health care service. Was it not natural that more and more people be onboarded annually? May we remind Ajakaye and his confederate that Government anywhere around the world is a continuum. That you have chosen to take advantage of the predecessors initiative is good; but to try to snatch the glory with no scintilla of shame as to give credit to the initiator is insensitive, unprofessional, highly covetous and egocentrically irresponsible. Come to think of it, the same Saraki dynasty he refers to still contributed to the success recorded so far. Just on Dec 19, 2021, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki (the nightmare) onboarded 1000 indigenes on the scheme. For the man Saraki, it is not about the government or person in power, it’s about the Kwara people.

Ajakaye wanted us to believe that Kwara is performing wonderfully well in the health sector which truly can only be substantiated on paper. His claim is a derision on the sensibilities of Kwarans who witnessed how workers in the ‘perfect sector’ embarked on consistent open protests. Kwara nurses and midwives continue to clamour for engagement of more personnel, better welfare and facilities to work with. This, Ajakaye forgot to mention in his sensational article.

The work required in the health sector is huge and far more than renovation which has become the hallmark of this government. This administration’s only policy in the health sector was a disaster from the word ‘Go’. It’s still fresh in memory how this government ran from pillar to post, struggling to defend the outcry that greeted its dubious plan to privatize medical laboratories in state hospitals, and take health service once far from the reach of the common man, against the doctrine of Universal Health Coverage.

A civil society organization, Media Advocacy and Technologies Centre (MATEC), imagined that, “This is coming in the light of the fact that laboratory services in the hospitals have suffered serious neglect with gross under staffing, at just 16 medical laboratory scientists in a state of more than 2 million inhabitants.” Employing health workers was not the concern of the present government. Its concern was how to hand over an essential arm of the health sector to proxy companies and milk the Kwara people dry. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

It beats every sane imagination how and where Ajakaye got those figures he highlighted. Who did the poor statistical analysis for him and where are the sources? What are the policies and measures that led to such reduction in mortality rate? What parameters did the government set and what were the projections for the achieved result?

The whole falsehood comes crashing when you remember that 2020 was a year that witnessed a remarkable time in history with the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the effects of Covid-19 pandemic was the total reduction in hospital patronage, hence, a huge distortion in getting reliable rate in mortality. There was a huge deficiency in health records of patients, as many refused to report ailments in the hospital for fear of coronavirus links. We challenge the government to publish the Data Triangulation on health indices during the previous administrations.

I’m surprised Ajakaye could again attempt to take the glory for the water reticulation project to Kwara households without due credit to previous administrations. It might be imperative to ask how much the Abdulrazaq administration expended on the reticulation project across the state? Ajakaye shouldn’t be clever by half. He needs to at least be truthful to reveal what they met on ground that gave way to the magic which produced water in various homes since they came on board.

With mischief in mind, he failed to acknowledge the huge investment that went into the project which started in 2009 under Saraki’s administration. It takes a visionary government to embark on such a project, which involves tertiary, secondary and primary work categories. With no attempt to rubbish their effort, all that was required as at when this government came to power was the repair of some age-long street pipes and channels to homes. The Ahmed administration renovated not less than 17 water works across the state in his bid to ensure that water was available to the people. This, I like him to dispute if he can.

The CPS article is nothing but a literary charade, no doubt another act of deceit to garner sympathy vote from Kwarans to cover up for the failure and nonperformance of his boss, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. Rather than concentrate on governance and channel energy towards resolving the deepening crisis within the Kwara APC due to the poor leadership style of the Governor, the APC-government still feels jittery of the Saraki influence, his accomplishment and cult followership. Saraki sneezes in his Abuja home and the Abdulrazaq government catches cold in the Kwara Government House. Who will stop Saraki? No one stops God’s ordained.

*Abdulganiyu Abdulqadir is the Press Officer on Local Matters to Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki

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