On January 3 of this year, I published an article ( A Note on Kwara’s Journey ) detailing the miles traveled by Kwara under the humble servant of God AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq over the past three years. It was a chronicle of facts and figures with sources, unassailably pulling at the web of lies and conjecture about the administration. In response, elements of the opposition wrote at least 10 hagiographies to keep a myth standing. I didn’t write any back because, as a social psychologist aptly observed, “A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he walks away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he won’t see your point of view.
The January 3 article covered the results of several administration interventions in the areas of health, water, education, and safety nets, among others. A lot has happened since: for example, the prevalence of malaria is now 20% in Kwara, three points lower than the national average of 23% and seven points better than our 2019 ranking.
But the most enduring feature of the past three years is the inclusive growth Otoge has brought to Kwara – in governance and politics. In the 2023 poll, political parties in Kwara will field the largest number of female candidates in its recent history. This is a direct result of the Governor’s efforts to foster inclusion.
It is more pervasive in governance. If you had a comorbidity and suffered from kidney disease, chances at Kwara General Hospital were that you would be referred elsewhere for your dialysis. The hospital was concerned that your dialysis might contaminate the two machines there. Complications from delays and stress have resulted in fatalities. This is no longer the case. The hospital now has two additional new state-of-the-art machines, thanks to this administration, which allow doctors to treat different patients with different backgrounds without fear of such contamination. People had to go elsewhere to fix their failing eyesight because Kwara had no facilities to take care of them. This is no longer the case. The new eye center is now equipped with machines that can only be found in the national eye center in Kaduna. And so it is in dental care.
In the space of three years, AbdulRazaq has given the bookmakers enough impactful initiatives, legislation, projects and programs to document history: KwaraLEARN, massive school renovation projects, the Trust Fund Act special for education; the establishment of the Office of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) to revitalize small businesses; a five-year agricultural transformation plan, preceded by the injection of 15 new tractors and two bulldozers, BETA Yield and FADAMA programs that support thousands of farmers; Kwara State Sustainable Development Plan 2021-2030, the third since the establishment of Kwara; Ilorin (capital) Master Plan, the second since 1976, a project to decongest and strategically expand Ilorin for sustainable habitation; the pioneering Gender Composition Act of Kwara State in Nigeria, which commits 35% of all appointees to either gender; Kwara State Investment Promotion Agency Act; the Executive Order on the Ease of Doing Business and other confidence-building measures such as granting the long-awaited certificate of occupancy to conglomerate BUA and near-zero right of way for telecommunications companies; and Kwara State’s social investment programs which directly benefited at least 104,000 poor people; among others.
AbdulRazaq is gradually exploiting the strategic location of Kwara in Nigeria to commit another “Seward’s madness” – a term coined after former US Secretary of State William Seward who signed the deal that bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. The media called the affair a mess until 1869, when large deposits of gold were discovered in Alaska, followed a few years later by a very huge reserve of oil. In a bid to build an economy around tourism, hospitality, entertainment and technology, the governor is building a huge international conference center with a four-star hotel and a visual arts center equipped with a Dolby studio which will be one of three such in West Africa. Both of these facilities will put Kwara on the continental map for good reason. A few meters from the Visual Arts Center stands the imposing Innovation Centre, itself sitting next to the Kwara Hotel, which is gearing up for substantial investment and upgrading. The quartet, straddling government ministries and departments, is certain to transform Ahmadu Bello Way into a sprawling business district with ripple effects for economic growth and job creation.
Add to that the recently completed intensive care unit, new eye and dental facilities, investments in sports facilities like Nigeria’s first eight-wing squash court, repairs to the Olympic swimming pool and indoor sports hall. , the revival of Kwara United Football Club, and the soon to be built cancer center and the Kwara capital is ready for the world.
It is completing the two campuses of Kwara State University in Osi (Kwara South) and Ilesha Baruba (Kwara North) to open up the state, a vision supported by dozens of ongoing road projects that bring farmland closer to town centres, as well as other social amenities that reduce rural exodus and make life more worth living. There are at least 34 ongoing road projects across the state including giant projects like Kishi-Kaiama Road, Ilesha-Gwanara Road, Osi-Obbo Road, Ile-Ire District Road, Yebumot-Al-Hikmah-Adeta-Oloje and Overview of General Tunde Idiagbon. More than 100 other routes, including locked routes, have been completed, while the Gbugbu International Market is nearing completion with its big deals.
Under him, Kwara secured one of six AfDB-funded agro-industrial zones in Nigeria, valued at $59 million. Combined with the multi-million naira garment factory, tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be created across the state. The past three years have seen an increase in business activity in the state, despite the covid-19 outbreak and its effects on the global economy. Kwara was one of eight Nigerian states, including FCT, that attracted foreign direct investment in 2021. This is all due in part to an improved political climate that supports business, tolerates divisiveness, improves service delivery public services and discourages undue political interference.
The progress of the past three years speaks for itself — in governance and policy. While the administration doesn’t claim to be perfect, as they usually admit, they are undoubtedly proud of their accomplishments and how far Kwara has come since Otoge. The gains are as big and clear to fair-minded people as the new Kwara Television brand, and unique in their reach to every corner of the state.
Ajakaye is Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Kwara State