13 mins read
I will like to thank all our younger compatriots associated with FRESH INSIGHT, on this occasion of their 5th Annual Summit. It is quite remarkable that they have kept this going for so long. The fact that they deliberately choose themes that speak to the good of society, annually, is a reflection of their commitment to the betterment of our society. I have always believed that positive endeavours from young people must be supported and continuously encouraged. Our society has become a very young one. And with our country’s population having outstripped 200 million people, and 75% of that population being under the age of 35, it is clear, that young people have become the most precious section of our national life. The future of our country, of our state, is therefore directly related to endeavours such as the one that brought us all together today, because it is the younger people, that will write the new pages of our history. So what the FRESH INSIGHT collective is doing, is giving us a peek into our future, with their commitment to this Annual Summit.
I have been told to speak on: “KWARA: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW”. This is a very broad canvas indeed. But that is what the historical method of apprehension of phenomena teaches: to know the present, examine the past; and to understand the future, study the past and the present. Let me state from the beginning, that I have not written an academic paper for this audience. I have not even written an article for a newspaper column, as I used to do for years. What I have here is an emotional tour-de-force, as a citizen of Kwara state; a citizen that feels a tremendous gratitude to our state and all the opportunities Kwara state gave me, to be educated; to work, and to become a professional in the media, as well as to begin to impact upon life.
The story of our state started on May 27, 1967. I am very lucky to have lived through the entire history of our state. I have lived through some of the most impressive phases of the development of Kwara State; periods that spoke to a genuine commitment to the development of the structures of our state as well as of its various peoples. The Kwara State that I grew up in, was certainly different from the rump that we now have. Our old Kwara State extended from Borgu through to the old Igala Divisions of Ankpa, Dekina and Idah.
That was the part of the old Kwara, that was nicknamed “KWARA OVERSEAS”, because to get to the Igala Divisions, travellers had to cross the River Niger by ferry services. I recall tales of dread, when people were transferred to work from one end of the state to the other. They seemed to be really long distances, while the state had a far more complicated mosaic of ethnic groups: different Barba sub-groups; Fulani; various Yoruba groups; Nupe; Okun; Bassange; Ebirra; Ebirra Koto; Oworo; Igala; Ogori; and so on.
Yet, there seemed to be a kind of harmony that was associated with the effort to develop and bring all our communities into modernity. There were remarkable strides in infrastructural development; in education especially, as we enjoyed an educational system that was fully funded by the state, and which had a rigorous platform of discipline; commitment and successes rate that was measurable, especially in the quality of our schools; the incredible know how of our teachers and the commitment of the state itself to the overall development of the community.
There was no area of development that was not witnessing incremental development, in those early years of our state. Health care facilities were opened all over; agricultural programs inherited from the old Northern Regional government were not only maintained, but improved upon. There were services we enjoyed then, that would sound like fiction today. The state even maintained the old Northern Regional Veterinary services, and families carried their animals to the government clinic; sick animals were admitted and days later, one could go collect them hale and hearty! The backbone of these development strides was a competent crop of top civil servants, that re-located from Kaduna to the new state capital, Ilorin.
They had been cultured in a tradition of service, which made commitment, hard work and honest as the pillars of work. They gave their all, and from sports; urban renewal to rural feeder roads; water supply and other endeavours that signalled development, Kwara state was making significant progress. I think my own life and those of my contemporaries, reflect the possibilities that were so generously opened up to us by a state, which was in every sense a Developmental State, in its philosophy of development. The people were at the heart of all endeavours and that showed in everything around us. Let us remember that most of those early years were under military rule; nevertheless, there was a pattern of development and commitment, that became the backbone of all that has been lofty in our state’s history.
Colonel David Bamigboye, Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo and Colonel George Innih, will always be remembered for the pioneering efforts that they put into giving our state a development backbone that has not been surpassed. They created most of those landmark institutions: Kwara Polytechnic; Kwara State Colleges of Education; Kwara Hotel; Kwara State Stadium Complex; Adewole Housing Estate; Asa Dam; and so many more! Twelve years into the history of Kwara State, in 1979, Nigeria began its experience of the 2nd Republic and civilian administration.
I think that on balance, the Adamu Attah administration of 1979-1983, made its own mark in a non-spectacular manner. But despite the fact that the Igala Divisions were severed from the original Kwara State, by General Murtala Muhammed in 1975, there was still a relatively complex mosaic of ethnicities, which obliged the new political elite that inherited power in 1979, to carefully work out a consensus of governance. The political leaders were many, and they all had a clout, which did not offer opportunity for any individual to become too powerful.
When one surveys the landscape of the Second Republic, there were giants all over the state: Dr Olusola Saraki; Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin; Dr. POA Dada; Chief Babajemu; Chief Oni; Alhaji AGF Abdulrazaq; Alhaji Haliru Dantoro; Chief Sunday Awoniyi; Chief S.B. Daniyan; Alhaji Abdulrahaman Okene; Alhaji Ado Ibrahim; Alhaji Adamu Attah; Alhaji Alhaji Shehu Usman; and so on. The politicians knew that consensus building was vital to the quest for power; for the survival of the political system and ultimately, it was also the guarantor of the development agenda.
I think that the breakdown or inability to faithfully implement the consensus platforms, became one of the grounds of weaknesses that led to the second coming of the military by the end of 1983. We entered a long period of military dictatorship. Many factors were beginning to underscore Nigeria’s development process. The military, especially the Babangida administration, had made a fateful choice in the political economy of Nigeria, with the beginning of the implementation of IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP). It devastated Nigeria and was the beginning of three decades of neo-liberal reforms, that has continuously devastated Nigeria, till today.
The unending transition program of the Babangida administration, was also a deliberate process of re-engineering our politics. The banning and unbanning of politicians, especially those that had historical links to the original political platforms of the First Republic, served the purpose of throwing up, the so-called “New Breed” politicians. These have very tenuous or no organic political legitimacies and so depended on the structures of military dictatorship. They peopled the parties that the military administration nurtured, as platforms of elongation of military rule by devious means. But nothing lasts forever!
The Nigerian people increasingly became fed up with the excesses of military dictatorship, at a time when the international conjuncture had also rejected military rule. The world capitalist system was caught in the euphoria of the defeat of the world socialist system, in the ideological battle. Democracy and market economies were being promoted as the only route to development in the contemporary world. Nigeria was not immune to these developments. And when military rule ended in 1999, Kwara state was affected in ways that constitute the present that we are living through today. Our state lost Borgu to Niger state, and the remaining parts of the Old Kabba Province went to be constituted into Kogi state.
So by 1999, the Kwara state that we have was a far cry from the state that was originally created in 1967. It was smaller; it had a different configuration of peoples; the demography had also evolved, and because the years of the military had re-engineered social, economic and political life in Nigeria, the 1999 transition, offered the beginning of the consolidation of the dominance of a single political family in our state. Governor Muhammed Lawal, is now with hindsight, being appreciated better today, years after his death, as actually fighting the consolidating hegemony. I think it has taken the sixteen years, from 2003 to 2019, for most people to walk the shores of hindsight, to learn to appreciate the late Muhammed Lawal.
And with that hindsight, we can now recall that Governor Lawal did not attempt to sell off our patrimony. On the contrary, he tried to reclaim what had been lost and also made the conscious effort to empower people, including local contractors. There was a trickle down which benefitted the local economy. Unfortunately, the forces of history and their political manipulation, as well as some of Governor Lawal’s own mistakes, allowed the incipient hegemony, to mobilize historical emotions and the powers of the Nigerian state, to remove him to power. As I said earlier, if we had looked carefully, there were undercurrents which should have given early indicators, that we were in for a vicious type of dominance that would spell disaster for our society. The Saraki hegemony, arrived, rumbling like the monster that it really was, and it was a dominance, the like of which we all probably did not envisage would hold us down for 16 years.
When Bukola Saraki emerged as governor in 2003, many of us were supportive. We thought that a young man who could make a difference had come to power. Most people were willing to overlook the fact that the chap had practically no links to the values of our state and its peoples. We were living with the hope that somehow, he would still nevertheless see his position as a unique privilege, as well opportunity to serve. It turned out, as the years passed, that we had in power, an individual, whose attitude and personality flaws, did not allow him to see service to the people as a great opportunity. He became deluded in his sense of entitlement.
The structures of the state, that used to be put at the service of the people, under his watch, became a basis to serve personal ends. Some of the greatest crimes committed against our state over the past sixteen years, are already being laid bare in the public space, but they included the systematic running down of every aspect of our life: schools; healthcare facilities; water supply chains; the roads infrastructure; the distortion of the urban landscape; the frightening patterns of sales of patrimony; investment in white elephant projects; the authoritarian pall that was cast upon our state; the spoils system; the creation of an ambience of dependency, thuggery and the institution of a culture of violence; the Kwara state of the past sixteen years, seemed to have severed the umbilical links with the state that I grew into, as a young adult.
The Kwara state that gave me the opportunity to become a broadcaster from the age of 16; and which laid up a plan for me to grow professionally, as well as offered me opportunity to be educated academically, too. You probably noted that I did not separate the two governments: Bukola Saraki from 2003-2011 and AbdulFatai Ahmed, from 2011 to 2019. They made it easy for us, by constantly reminding us that one was a continuation of the other. So there was no looking for a difference between six and half a dozen!
But in this general pattern of analysis, we must also be honest to point out, that there were individuals, who honestly served with a modicum of honesty and commitment; these were individuals whose sense of duty and of loyalty to the best interests of our state, was never in doubt. Unfortunately, they served a hegemonic system, which took us very close to perdition. Statistics are not easy to come by, but the World Data Atlas, had entries up to 2018, and what it said of our state, 15 years, into the hegemonic rule was as follows: 21.1% unemployment rate; 67.3% of the total population of 3, 192, 893, were poor (using statistics from 2010); and adult literacy rate was put at 48.1%, again these were figures of 2010.
Sixteen years of the Saraki Hegemony laid bare the negatives associated with having an individual or family or a political group, taking up an almost total control of political power. They invariably inflict so much damage, and none more than the effort to re-engineer our state in their image; not to talk of the struggle we had to wage to keep memory alive. The hegemony was not comfortable with tales of remembrances of life in our society, before they took over. Because our society’s demography had radically evolved, and most of those around are too young to remember, or were not born, to be able to know the great efforts of development in the past, life became just what the hegemony did, and whatever it served.
But in the long run, deceit could not win forever. It was clear as daylight, that from 2011, if the hegemony had nine lives like a cat, it had actually expended them all. This is because Dele Belgore did not lose the 2011 elections; he was rigged out! And in 2015, President Buhari got more votes than Bukola Saraki in Kwara Central! What these points showed was that the hegemony was actually playing its endgame. They ran out of all lies just as a movement of liberation was gathering momentum. It is almost clear to all now, that it was inevitable that the Saraki Hegemony was going to be defeated in the 2019 elections. But what no one could have predicted was the total rout it suffered in the hands of our people!
The grand coalition that routed the hegemony, was built on anger at the depredations of 16 years and a huge mountain of expectations, which is the cross that the new administration carries today. And I think governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, appreciates where we are today and the expectations of the people. They want a better state; the restoration of the hope that things can get batter and that government can be dedicated to their wellbeing, and could work with dedication and without arrogance, while restoring the values and infrastructure that sixteen years of hegemonic rule, literally set to naught!
When I read reports of Abdulrahman’s visits to the School for the Handicapped; or some forgotten community in the most neglected parts of Kwara North; or see pictures of him meeting the Works Minister, to discuss the opening up of the Kosubosu-Kaiama-Bode Saadu road, or those meetings with Kwara state students and the solutions proffered in respect of payment of the bursaries of thousands of these students; not to forget the unannounced visits to hospitals, where midwives use lights from their phones to take deliveries of babies, etc. These tell stories of where we are today, as well as where we would have to use as points of embarkation into the future of our state.
So what does the future hold for our dear state? Again, I will answer the question by going back to my point of commencement of this talk. I am a living example of the entire history of Kwara state so far, from its creation in May 1967. Like everyone that belongs to my generation, we have lived through the very good early years of the history of our state, with all the opportunities our state gave us. We saw the dedicated labours of our founding fathers and the commitment with which they husbanded the resources that belonged to us all.
They made the state, and the powers of the state, to serve the interests of the people. We loved our state, took pride in its leadership and these developments made us the people we eventually became. But we have also experienced the past sixteen years, from 2003, under a hegemony, that devalued our lives, took us for granted and turned state institutions into vehicles to serve personal interest. This is the dialectic that we have inherited, a genuine unity and conflict of opposites.
The lead to the 2019 elections brought an impressive unity of purpose and action to Kwara state. But central to the unity of purpose was the action of the young people of our state: educated, as of 2009 statistics, 85.8% of youth in the state was literate, in any language; this is according to KNOEMA, the World Data Atlas; incredibly savvy with social media platforms, and able to connect with like minds around the country, as well as within the state. They were the shock troopers of the process that led to the electoral route that our state witnessed this year. But that is just a beginning.
We have the opportunity to set the right tone for the future of our state, in the choices that we make today. The central platforms, should be the most rigorous understanding of the challenges that we face now. These range from the infrastructural deficits of a huge scale: rural roads are broken, therefore, efforts to improve agriculture and to commodify its outcomes remain a challenge.
Younger people are abandoning the rural areas, in search of opportunities, in the urban areas. But we must devise ways to retain them in farming communities, to practice modern agriculture. Our state has the opportunity to produce several products, ranging from beans, through to cassava, cocoyam, cotton, groundnut, guinea corn, maize, melon, rice and yam. We must also fix the broken educational system, and put massive investment in human capital development; and thankfully, I noticed that our governor, underlined this issue in the address he gave at the retreat for his commissioners-nominees, this weekend.
We possess all kinds of mineral resources that we have not started tapping, and thankfully, these are spread all over the state. But the central issue is that poverty elimination and resourceful development of entrepreneurial endeavours are all tied to the levels of human capital development, in any society. It is the educated that can take up the opportunities, in the world of work of the Twenty First Century. That is the challenge that we face today and it is how we resolve this, that will define our future.
Our state has tremendous opportunities for development. We have seen that before. The location of Kwara state, confers tremendous opportunities. We can become the hub for several development projects, by leveraging on the advantages of our location and the generally welcoming disposition of our people. What we must not allow to happen to us again, is the type of the hegemonic rule that we suffered from 2003 to 2019. The most relevant outcome of the struggle we waged, to eliminate hegemonic dictatorship, was the consciousness that has now been generated amongst our people, about the importance of their vote, in the making and unmaking of political leadership.
I think no one can take that away now. And the fact that the population of the young is so overwhelming in our society, is also an insurance for the future of our state. Am I hopeful about our future? Absolutely! I think that on balance, the factors of progress weigh far more positively than those of reaction. And in my lived experience as a citizen and son of our state, I have seen enough; lived through the crest and the trough; to insist that our future can only be bright. For this assertion to become a definitive marker of our existence, we must work collectively, removing every and all forms of discrimination, to be able to build a genuine State of Harmony!
Thank you very much for your attention.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.