Kwara’s transition to people’s government

THE mood is joyous. It is expected after the very peaceful general election and the prospects of a new government. The State of Harmony is yearning for a change as the new beacon of hope for millions of for the people of Kwara State at home and abroad, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, begins the monumental task of re-engineering the 52-year-old state.

The governor-elect is set to receive the report of the 81-member transition committee assembled last month. The choice of intellectuals, professionals, politicians and former civil servants had been widely applauded as a delicate mix of the ‘best and the brightest’. The methodology applied in their work and the outcome will certainly gladden the heart of the in-coming governor.

Abdulrasaq, at the inauguration of the committee on Thursday, April 4, had said, inter alia: “The huge margin of our victory at the polls suggests that our people are fed up with the status quo and want a new approach to governance. We therefore have a historic duty to serve them faithfully.

“We cannot work blindly into government and believe to succeed. We must understand the current governance structure in the state: as we all know a single group of people have been controlling the affairs of our state in their own style without proper account to Kwara people in the last 16 years.

‘’We have to know how much is the actual debt of the state, the present condition of the education, health and agricultural sectors. Moreover, it will also guide us on how the current system works so as to know where to begin, what current policy would be retained and what policy must go.”

The governor-elect also charged the transition committee to discharge its duties in a way that would help the new government to serve the people.

The committee went to work immediately and broke into 10 sub-committees, namely,  Government Finance and Account; Real Sector; Energy, Transport and Water resources; Roads, Housing and Construction as well as Commerce, Hospitality and Tourism. The rest are Education, Information, Youth Development, ICT, Culture and Norms; Healthcare, Women, Population and Environment; Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; Security and lastly, Government Business. Each committee had a chairman and a deputy. They were all guided by officials of Philips Consulting Limited, the consulting firm which provided a veritable template to ensure harmony and focused discourse.

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The sessions were business-like and engaging with members displaying a deep sense of mission and patriotism. During the first week, each committee analysed the state of affairs in the state, weighing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of its assigned portfolio.

The outcomes were revealing, intriguing and surprising! While the incompetence of the outgoing administration was writ large, many were horrified on the monumental rot and brazen actions of both key and inconsequential elements of the dying dynasty.

The guiding principle was: ‘let the work begin’. And members, from septuagenarian Chief Elisha Ojo, a teacher of teachers and a consummate educationist, to core politicians as the indomitable Musbau Esinrogunjo, who defeated the Sarakites at their home in Ilorin West Local Government Area, the mood was vivacious and industrious at the same time. Sessions often run from 10 a.m. to six p.m. as members read through documents supplied by government officials and concerned people of Kwara State at home and abroad.

Not carried away by the hype on the status of the committee, members were not oblivious of their roles: the fact that they were privileged to be chosen and that the committee had no powers to peddle influence or promise any form of appointments in the in-coming administration. The pronouncement of Aminu Logun, the transition committee chairman, was resonant all through.

At the inaugural, the amiable but stern industrialist had spelt out the task:  the team is to discharge its duty diligently to enable the in-coming government run smoothly from inception. “The composition of the committee indicates that a new sheriff will come to town soon”, he said and urged members to be “truthful, loyal and honest” in their assignment.

He nevertheless emphasised that the committee does not have powers to recruit staff for the in-coming governor. “Its duty is technical and advisory to ensure a seamless transition,” he explained.

After combing through hand-over notes for two weeks, members interacted with the team from the government side, interviewing and seeking clarifications from top government officials; many willing to offer requisite information even as a few were recalcitrant. The reports are loaded and the people should be ready for tales best described as the good, the bad and the horrible!

Nevertheless, the governor-elect is chewing his onions deliberately, rolling his sleeves for the task ahead. He has vowed to run a people-driven government. The era of ‘mi fun e’ (I dash you) is gone for good. The in-coming government has promised to be people-oriented, in policies, programmes and actions. Already, Alhaji Abdulrasaq is walking the talk. The size and composition of the transition committee is a deliberate method to run an all-inclusive government from inception.

Going forward, the governor-elect, after consultations with key stakeholders, gave nod to an expanded forum of ‘policy thinkers’. No fewer than five people drawn from each of the 16 local government areas in the state joined members of the transition committee in the last two days of its sitting which featured specialised workshops on key sectors of the economy, specifically agriculture, water resources and solid minerals. Further discourse centred on women and youth empowerment; power and energy; sustainable development and management of the environment.

Yes, it was one ‘huge classroom’ of men and women of diverse interests, inclinations, beliefs and orientations. They were however united in one mission: to lift Kwara high through purposeful governance. Indeed, they were passionate in dissecting all submissions made by various resource persons, even as they offered suggestions on best practice methods.

The expanded platform provided a win-win situation for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state as all its executive members and elders, led by the chairman, Bolarinwa Omolaja, were present at the workshop. Omolaja applauded the forum and the quality of presentations and contributions as the ‘palatable taste of the pudding’ for the people from May 29.

Former speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Honourable Ezekiel   Benjamin, described the committee as unique for two reasons. “This is the first time that such a number of people with character, competence and intelligence are brought together in the history of Kwara State to work for the common good. The readiness of the transition committee members to interface with the government committee is commendable compared to what happened in 2003 where a similar committee was unwilling to interface with the then outgoing government.

Chief Fagbemi said the composition of the committee provided a wide perspective in unearthing the rot that had characterised governance in the state in the past 16 years and expressed optimism that the governor-elect will find the findings and suggestions of the body very handy.

Dr Abdulganiy Baki said the committee paraded some of the best materials in all fields specially assembled to brainstorm on the past, present and future of Kwara. He was optimistic that the in-coming administration would find the committee’s report quite useful. “A new Kwara that will be good for all is about to be established”, he averred while describing the two-day workshop as “educative and instructive.”

Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim was thrilled by the passion displayed by committee members. “I saw a group of passionate Kwarans, who worked selflessly to initiate a process that will help the incoming administration to spring into action after its inauguration. The workshop was quite insightful and the recommendations, if carefully considered, could point policy makers in the right direction,” she said.

As the transition committee submits its report to the in-coming governor, the entreaty of Mr Olalekan Olohungbebe resonates. At a dinner and award night hosted last month in Ilorin by the Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq Movement for Positive Change, he said, inter alia: “Politics is about sharing. The new government shouldn’t be deliberately oblivious of the principles of fairness; the need for inclusiveness and the cliché of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Kwara should be in front in the comity of states in Nigeria for any community not to adopt the attitude of the winner takes all.

“The expectations are high, and they should be. You told us you would run an all-inclusive government. You told us you would listen to our plights and consider our aspirations. Your party said you will be approachable. You may not be largely axed if a larger percentage of your promises are kept. Kwarans are reasonable people. Be reasonable too. Run a participatory government as promised.”

The people have spoken; the in-coming administration is listening. Kwarans are set for a new deal. In the words of Abdulrasaq, let the work begin!

 

  • Kareem, a public communication expert, writes from Abuja.
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