To them, they did a lot of borrowing- internal and external debts- What did they do? They borrowed with the left hands and they sit down somewhere and share with their right hands

Perhaps it is trite, but a basic tenet of journalism is to diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing. It is the season of conflicts, but probably not yet. The character and flow of Kwara State politics make it inevitable. Emboldened by the crisis within the ruling All Progressives Congress and what the opposing Peoples Democratic Party have identified as a lackluster performance by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, including allegations of fleecing the state, the party, by the act drew the first blood. And so, we sought government’s response, at least in relation to issues raised in our last interview with a member of the opposition. The Governor’s Special Adviser Political, SAPOL, Mallam Abdullateef Gidado Alakawa offered to straighten the record. A scion of the late famous grassroots politician, Alhaji Abdulraheem Gidado Alakawa, is indeed a chip off the old block.

A Masters degree holder, he was also a two-term PDP  Secretary as well as former State Vice Chairman (Kwara Central) in APC as well as former Special Adviser on Strategy in the state.

Also at the interview was veteran journalist and the governor’s Special Adviser on Political Communications, Bashir Adigun. Alakawa in this two-part interview speaks on diverse issues ranging from the APC’s intra party crisis, through the criticisms of the opposition and on to the sectoral performance of the Abdulrazaq administration. Excerpts..

You made an assertion recently on TVC that there are no more tendencies, to mean that there are no more factions within the APC in Kwara State. Can you clarify this?

Thank you very much, I do not know the context of those who have that assertion. But  my view of tendencies was the  one  which came up at the  very earliest stage of our merger, people coming from  the right  left and centre, coming together  to form what is currently known as the APC in Kwara State. And  tendencies  ended ideally  the  moment  when the party in the state was one united APC to campaign and of course, all our candidates won elections  from the state  assembly,  national and guber  and the  president  also cleared it very  largely in Kwara State.

After the election, it is not very correct for anyone to talk about tendencies because we became one united APC. What  was  known as  tendencies include the  Hon. Minister into and  Culture,  Hon. Minister of State (Transport) and His Excellency  the Executive  Governor  of Kwara State and of course, Barrister  Iyiola Oyedepo, all of us  came together and became APC. Regardless of what you call that tendency, those arrowheads have been very well compensated and carried along through the collective victory we had as APC, not as tendency. Today, Hon. Minister, Information and culture,  Alhaji Lai Mohammed is returned as minister, courtesy  of that  wonderful victory  that  we all came together to achieve, ditto for the Hon. Minister of State for  Transport, the  Executive  Governor of Kwara State, whom many saw as Fagbemi tendency, who is the  Governor of the State, and  of course   a large chunk  of those of us from  Akogun. I was the  secretary of the State PDP when  Akogun was the  State  Chairman, and in that  Exco I was the  senatorial chairman  for Kwara Central Senatorial District of the Party. Today, I am the Special Adviser, Political Matters. If you talk about  politics,  and somebody who is not  from that tendency you call the government’s tendency is the  adviser  in charge  of political matters,  that tells  you we are operating a single umbrella, we are operating a single wheel  that is driving  everything,  under the  supreme  leadership of the Governor, who is  carrying  everyone along. So for me, the idea of tendencies is long dead, long dissolved, everybody who is a true members  of the  party continues to emphasise what  unites  all of us, which is the umbrella party, and whoever is talking  about tendencies today is probably still living in the days of our merger and  coming together. Today, this is 2021 ending, and the era of tendencies started in 2018 when the parties came together to form the APC. So, what we have today is APC under the leadership of Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq. And he is not a unilateral leader. This is what the Governor has always emphasized. There are leaders, but there must be a mouthpiece; somebody must be the hub around which everything revolves and that is what the Governor represents.

Do we then say the merger rears its head in factions because there are factions claiming to be APC and having parallel executives?

Well in a democracy, it is expected. Politics sometimes is about allocation and appropriation of resources. But when you talk about interest, people will use different negotiation tactics to get what they want. And people always do that to always seek attention to actually get what they consider as their fair share of their own contributions. But for me and in reality, appearance and reality are normally not the same. If you look at the reality of it, we are a united APC. But of course, certain perceptions of reality must be created by some other people. So, those who are doing that are not running out of context in democracy. They must continue to refer us to where we started, probably that will also draw the attention of the leadership to say okay let us consider some elements. And let us  not make a mistake, the  governor  has never said at any point  that we are already  at our  destination, but the  consensus  everywhere is that we have  travelled far away from where we were, so, there is room for us to do more. The governor is willing to do more, the leadership is willing to accommodate and integrate as many as possible interests.  

So, what we have now are not really tendencies; not really factions, but interests and it is elastic and the system is open to such, so if anybody is talking about factions, such a person may be working against the party. But if you talk about interest, it is elastic and always coming and being taken care of as opportunities come up. For me, we do not really have factions in the real sense of it. What we have is what is allowed and accommodated in every democratic system which are interests. So this is what we still have, not factions.

So, how comfortable are you today facing the opposition at an election?

Well, no politician should take the people for granted-anywhere. Nobody should say this is where the election will go. But if you look at certain statistics, why was the last administration, the party that controlled the last administration, why was it not returned? And if  you look at  every minus  that the last  administration had vis a vis their party, and you want to look at where  we are today in the  area  of their own disadvantage and  what we  have done in those areas. If the reason that administration was  voted out  and you now come back to see how  fine this  present  government  has performed  at a very  geometric  dimension,  then you can go to say that  if the tendencies are the same, if the odds are the same,  if the reasons  and statistics  are the same,  then  for this  government, election will be a walk over. That is my response to that.

Shortly after the emergence of Prince Sunday Fagbegmi as APC Chairman for Kwara State, a reconciliation committee swung into action on the crisis in the party. How far has the committee gone on this?

I think it is important to also clarify that. There are a lot of misconceptions about what really happened.  The moment Prince Fagbemi was elected, because he is  veteran and has  been part of the  system who understands the enormous task ahead,  expectedly he hit the  ground running to get  everybody  on board, to open the system  up to accommodate everybody and  in doing that, in politics, sometimes in top  bottom approach, you want to look at  every personality of  influence  that can  help you achieve one thing  or the other and to  redefine  what the  APC in Kwara represents  in the eyes of the people. I want  to believe  that that was what took Prince Fagbemi to the Chief  of  Staff, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari,  on a familiarization tour and  to the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu to brief  them on our congress and where  we are;  our intention  and, what we intend  to do, how open we are, how the  governor is not suffocating  the party,  how the governor  is giving  them the  free hand to do whatever is right, to ensure  that the party becomes stronger. That was what happened with the visits by Prince Sunday Fagbemi.

It was entirely on the initiative of the party’s leadership-elect to go and introduce themselves, familiarize themselves with the leadership at the top. Of course, the other group also went. You know in a democracy, there is always room for the other side of space. You see, all of us, so that nobody will come and think that we have issues  with whether  we are in the party or not,  that the party in Kwara is still the same APC, regardless of what  you read or perceive  outside,  as whether  people are  fighting  or not. What they went to validate was what prince Fagbemi had earlier gone to do- to say we have one party in Kwara, that nobody is leaving the party and that anybody that is leaving the party is not a member of our party. And for those of us who probably may have a few areas of disagreement, whatever our disagreement notwithstanding, we all still belong to the same party. So, both the  first and  second  group went with the  same  message  that APC  is our party and  we are all willing and open to whatever we need to do to make sure  that we  reconcile  and  the party moves on as one indivisible party. So, there was no formal composition or constitution of any committee it just tells you how eager every interest block within the party is willing to come together and ensure that we do not go back to Kwara of yester years. 

Have you mended the fence now?

Well, it is a work in progress.

One remembers that among Governor AA’s campaign promises was to make the local governments work, but two years after nothing is working.

We need to understand where the local governments were and the context under which Governor Abdulrazaq made that statement. We are talking about the time when local government administration was in comatose; when nothing worked at the Local governments. When what became a sociolect -gerigedi- in joint account, when local governments were suffocated. That was the norm and practice of the then administration. And that was the context the governor said no, we are going to ensure that the local government administration, which is the closest to the people is restored to perform its constitutional functions and roles. If you are going to ten, you must begin your counting from one to get to the next. Today, people should very gladly ask this question. Why is it that the same local governments that could not pay hundred percent minimum wage of N18,000 that this government came and it is  not owing any local government staff? What has happened? Nobody can tell us that there is a kind of increase in what they are earning that is coming to them. That is the part of change the governor promised he was going to bring to the local governments administration.

Of course, I don’t know within the eight years of the last administration when any of the local government embarked on any project. In the last five or six months go and  check around the 16 local government  areas in the state, you will see that is happening everywhere.

That is what the governor promised. That at the local government  level, we are  going to make sure the local government  is returned  to the people, their overhead and everything that is their  constitutional and traditional responsibility of local. And that is what you find going on everywhere today. Every Local Government is developing at its own pace, executing such projects considered necessary. 

Why is it impossible for government to put in place elected local government officials instead of TIC?

 You know it is a constitutional matter to have democratically elected people in the local councils. And it is also a constitutional matter that you must follow the due process of the law. That KWAISEC must be in place and certain other things. And if as we speak today,  there are issues around the  constitution of  KWAISEC, there  are certain encumbrances legal issues  around it and you cannot break one door  because  you want to defend  the other that is why  I called it a process. I am aware that certain persons are in court on the legality and or lack of it of their dissolution.  And until such is resolved, you cannot build legality over illegality and nature itself harbous vacuum. So, there must not be vacuum and that is why you talk about people having their own at the local Government levels. But the people currently running the local governments are not strangers to them, except that they are not people democratically elected. The democratic process is ongoing and one of the first thing we have to do is to ensure that the contentious issues in court are resolved.

How soon?

Well, you know we don’t determine such issues. The judiciary is independent, they work at their  own pace. But  then the government  is also  committed  to a lot of  political solutions to make sure  that such  is fast-tracked so that in the best interest of everybody, what  the present  government  is in a hurry to do is to ensure  that the people elect their  own representatives at the  local government level. Much as we want that, that cannot happen without this first problem being solved.  But sometimes I wonder why the opposition are quick to cry about the local government not being run by democratically elected people. They are not also coming out to tell the public that they are the ones in court.  If truly  they love the people,  they should have helped the  people by  making sure  that matters  are taken   away from  court, to make sure that KWAISEC is properly constituted, then go to  the court of people  to contest to see whether people  really want you to be in care of their  patrimony. So, until all of those things are resolved there is little we can do. But I assure that government  is doing  everything- legal,  constitutional and political to make sure those issues are resolved  and ensure  that at the end of the day, a credible  and valid  elected  local government  councils  are put in place  to ensure  that the people have a say in who governs them at that  level.

Does political solution of the issues include out of court settlement?

You know it is allowed. It is not out of it. It is part of the options on the table. Government  has done  so much and appealing  to the  parties  involved that  in the best  interest  of democracy, in the  best interest   of the people  and Kwara  Progress. All of us must come to a consensus at times- a little here, a little there. Let us meet at the middle and make sure the people are always placed first so that we can have elections.

You just glossed over some of the administration’s achievements. Yes, they are fantastic, but the opposition is saying that some of your projects, like the overhead bridge in Tanke, which you have committed yourself into should not be a priority. What would you say to this?

Well, the opposition must be seen to be saying something and of course, the best way they can say this is in the media. They cannot go to the court of public opinion and say that. For an administration that was here in 16 years and had all the opportunity – within these 16 years, Kwara had the opportunity to be the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum; Kwara had the opportunity to a lot of funds and resources; Kwara had the opportunity of being the Senate President - and we cannot find the expression of all those things in our infrastructure. It was under these 16 years of administration that education collapsed under their watch. Every gold that the opportunity gave the administration turned to stone. Not precious stone. Every gold that was given to them turned to stone! And Kwarans came together to pass a vote of no confidence on them by uprooting them 100 percent; in a way that had never happened in most part of the world.

You see, it is this same arrogance of assumption that they are failing to forgive Kwarans for their judgment. It was an administration that did so much in its arrogance, in its distaste for the people’s welfare, so much that humanity was reduced to its lowest ebb, that civil servants were practically becoming beggars under their watch and these people were living larger than life, as if others were not created.

For an administration that is challenging the appropriateness or otherwise of a particular project, we should look at what they did. You saw the underpass that they did at Gerin Alimi Rounabout. At a point people were calling it Adagun Megida (Megida Stream). That is one project that has continued to gulp money from the state government on day to day basis to ensure that it is maintained.

Even now?

Yes, till now. Even as I speak. See what they have at the Post Office. Go and see the design and see what was implemented. They had the whole of 16 years to show us how it should be done and, it is the reason of how best they know how to do it that Kwarans revolted democratically against. We would not go back to that. This is an administration that responds to people’s wishes.

Let me tell you this: this government does not embark upon a project because we feel it is next important project. This is a government that interacts and draws inspiration from people. This government that announces to communities to bring their needs. It is a government that include the people in the budget making processes and, it is a government that embarks on a project based on the concrete benefits of such projects, not based on whether the governor likes the face of the area or not. No, it is about the people. If you see the caliber of those who are talking, they are the actors of the last administration, who are not happy and who have also not forgiven Kwarans.

Let’s not forget this: because they feel that Kwarans should have remained quiet while they were left hungry and while salaries were not being paid. They are willing to come back to continue with such situation. They have not forgiven Kwarans, even Ilorin, as a sacred, religious environment that we are. That was an administration that wanted to sell the Eid ground. They have not forgiven Kwarans that the Muslim Ummahs in Ilorin, who came against them and brought in administration that had given C of O to guarantee a permanent ownership of the place by the Muslims in Ilorin. They are not happy. They are coming back with that venom. They want to come back and vent these on the people. So, they cannot see anything good in what this administration is doing.

For us, the Tanke overhead bridge project is very dear to us. In due course, you will see it. It has a lot of economic benefits to open up that area, decongest the area and allow proper connection that will ensure that the economy of the area is improved. These are what they are not happy about. You see, in opposition politicking, and I see that this is the first time they are going into it, they must come up with alternative policy options. If they say that is not the priority, what are they bringing as options?

They said farming and agro business.

The type they did in Shonga? This government will never do that kind of farming.

But they also raised issue of the impropriety of this administrations taking over 50 billion Naira loans in over two years

They should put this into context. Opposition, in doing their job may not see anything good in it because it is not in their culture, while their 16 years of retrogression lasted. It was not part of their culture to make sure that government borrow money to invest in the future of the state. What I think they are saying is not the borrowing they are seeing as being improper, it is the allocating of the borrowing to the future of Kwarans that they are saying is not proper, not the borrowing itself. To them, they did a lot of borrowing- internal and external debts- What did they do? They borrowed with the left hands and they sit down somewhere and share with their right hands. What they are saying in essence is that how do we borrow, unlike what they did and put in infrastructure and development. If you are borrowing money in people’s name you invest it in their future so that the state becomes more viable to pay. Tell me what state is viable today in this country that has not borrowed to invest in development. Even Lagos State. Go and check the debt profile of those states and see where they are. When you look at the advanced economies, look at America’s debt profile. Every economy must go into that because what we currently have cannot guarantee the kind of investment we need. So, it is about a government that is looking at the future, that is not looking about now, that is looking to develop infrastructure, so that the tradition of Kwara State being a civil service state and the instrumentality of hand-to-mouth, which the O to ge mantra has come to save the people from. Our people also have the right to a kind of development that other states created within the same period. So, that is what the people are not happy about. If they are saying it is not proper, then what alternative options are they proffering? What they are offering is for us to also share money like they did. This government will never do that.


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