Kwara and its many secretariats
THERE is a resurgence of articles in the newspapers aimed at re-writing the narratives on the illegal demolition of Ile Arugbo (Old People’s Home) which the late Dr. Olusola Saraki used to cater for the aged and needy during his life time, a tradition that has been sustained by his children. This propaganda blitz is in spite of the out of court settlement directed by the High Court, Ilorin, in which the government and representatives of Asa Investments are to meet for amicable settlement over the ownership and use of the land on which the illegally demolished Ile Arugbo was.The sponsored narratives is to the effect that the midnight demolition of Ile Arugbo during which hundreds of old women and youths were brutalised was a result of public policy executed in order to restore the land on which Ile Arugbo stood to a state where it could be used to build a secretariat for the workers of Kwara State.The government seeks to exploit the old propaganda theory of repeating a lie through many sponsored articles in the newspapers and online to the point that it will be believable. However, the government forgot to reckon with the fact that anybody familiar with Kwara State will see through the lie. Ile Arugbo’s demolition is no public policy and will not lead to the building of any secretariat. It is simple petty politics and personal score settling elevated to the point of state policy.Anybody who knows Kwara very well knows that the present secretariat in use located beside St. Anthony is not being fully utilized. Also, in the last year of the immediate past administration of Abdulfatai Ahmed, the government built a new secretariat located around Challenge Roundabout.
The new, expansive complex was completed and only required little finishing touches and furnishing. Just a few weeks before the state government started stoking the fire of Ile Arugbo demolition, the governor himself publicly and happily announced that the contractors working on the new secretariat built by the last administration gave a bill of N400 million to complete the secretariat and get it ready for use. He said he negotiated the money down to N350 million and paid the money. If the governor talked glowingly about the new secretariat which will be ready for completion in a few weeks, who needs a third secretariat to be built on Ile Arugbo? How many secretariat does Kwara require to function? Apart from these secretariat complexes, many government ministries in Ilorin have huge office complex which are being maintained with public funds. Examples of these ministries are the Ministry of Finance, opposite Police Command Headquarters, Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Kwara State Inland Revenue Service, located opposite DSS Office, Governor’s Office opposite Sharia Court and many others. It will be good to know if the Government of Abdulrazaq is planning to recruit more workers who will utilize the numerous secretariats that are about to be proliferated all over Ilorin. The governor himself told State House correspondents in the Presidential Villa last month that 75 percent of the revenue accruing to Kwara State goes into payment of salary of public sector workers. Earlier this week, the government also told the Kwara State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) that if it implements the new minimum wage, the percentage of government revenue to be devoted to salary payment will jump to 85 percent, leaving only 15 percent for infrastructure development. If all these figures are true, then, is the Abdulrazaq government still planning to invest the remaining 15 percent in employing more civil servants whose salaries will take the remaining 15 percent?
For a government with such poor statistics on revenue generation/ recurrent expenditure ratio, is the building of an entirely new secretariat which only serves as prestige project or what is known as ‘monumentalism’, the next thing? Let us not forget that Ile Arugbo occupied only three plots of land: Plots 1, 3 and 5. So, who builds a viable Government Secretariat on three plots of land, even if the land is located in the Government Reservation Area? Or is the governor planning to acquire more land on Ilofa Road where Ile Arugbo is located? Those who are helping to spin the narrative that the demolition on Ile Arugbo was borne out of good public oriented policy should advise the governor to also watch when he speaks about his plans.
The governor and his ‘O to Ge’ crowd claimed the state was not functioning because Abdulfatai administration was diverting huge sum of money into the pocket of Dr. Bukola Saraki. For the past eight months that he has been on the saddle and the problem in Kwara is getting worse, why did he not divert the saved money into development projects? Today, Abdulrazaq is confronted with the reality of governance. That is why many believe all his fight with every key stakeholder in Kwara is a diversionary tactic. The earlier the governor faces the facts and starts working to deliver his promise on infrastructure development, youth employment, provision of social services, wealth creation and development of agriculture, the better for the state. Nobody will judge him on the number of people he fought to a standstill. He will be judged on how well he delivered on the ‘O to Ge’ promises.
Abdulrasak writes from rin. Tanke, Ilorin