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EndSARS And The Gift O’toge Gave Nigerian Youths

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By Ibraheem Abdullateef

Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq received on Thursday a three-volume report from the Justice Tunde Garba-led Panel of Inquiry on #EndSARS protest, promising to set up an implementation committee on its recommendations. With that development, Kwara joined the dry list of states whose Panels of Inquiry have turned in their reports, and arguably the most consistent in Nigeria to granting victims of police brutality justice.

We all know about the #EndSARS — the civil rights movement against police brutality and bad leadership which cut across the nation tail end of 2020. It was led by youths who were rightly disenchanted with the Nigerian police system and united in purpose to demand an improved deal from the government.

The protesters held on for weeks, defying force and other entreaties, to press home their demands which included that F-SARS should be disbanded; inquiry into cases of alleged brutality to punish culpable officers and compensate the victims, review of police officers salaries, among other irreducible points to sanitize the police system and make the nation homely to the common man.

Alleged delay in response from authority and poor coordination on the part of the organizers, made arguably the biggest protest in the nation’s history become violent and destructive, costing many lives and properties.

However, the agitation eventually got the President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari to ban F-SARS (in place of SWAT), and many State Governments announced the formation of panels of inquiry to investigate claims of police brutality to dispense justice to victims.

While some states have managed the issue shabbily, the nation must take notice of the commitment of Governors Babajide Sanwoolu and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Lagos and Kwara respectively not only to implementing but amending the leadership inefficiency #EndSARS debacle unmasked in the nation.

AbdulRazaq, especially, is an unsung hero who stands head and shoulder above his contemporaries. Right in the heart of the protest, he dived in to walk with the protesters to the police station in solidarity, an act that pacified the restless youths. This was about the time his contemporaries elsewhere were allegedly unleashing security agents on weak, armless protesters in Oyo, Rivers, and Abuja.

In the wake of the violence which eventually brewed across the nation which was triggered by suspicion of the authority to be hoarding palliative amidst the pandemic, public and private properties were looted in Kwara. What did he do? He condemned the act, warned criminal elements to stay off his state, before visiting to sympathise with affected private business owners.

It was in that light he announced a recovery fund of #500m grants to relieve them and save their businesses from the doldrums. For fairness and accountability, a committee that included representatives of business owners and CSOs handled the programme, only inviting professional loss adjusters to evaluate the claims, to guide the government financial decisions. Due to the help, the Kwara Mall whose ruins reminded one aftermath of the post #EndSARS looting what became of the Owu kingdom, after a combined military force of Ife, Oyo and Ijebu invaded the city as described in Femi Osofisan’s Women of Owu, has cut a new look with all the stalls opened back for business. It is confirmed that 49 affected shop owners (including eight security guards attacked by hoodlums) got between N100,000 to N17,000,000, totalling N180, 775, 000.00 only.

What that means is Kwara Governor AbdulRazaq averted the death of businesses, a rise in the unemployment rate, and the consequences of hunger in thousands of Nigerian families. These are the effects of the post #EndSARS debacle many state governments have not adequately tackled. It is also the right message to send the investors in the business community. It won’t be a surprise if the State of Harmony rises to become the investment hub of North Central Nigeria in the coming years.

The meat of the piece, however, is his commitment to seeking justice for the powerless. It is most heroic he keeps his courtyard clean, making the youths see others’ who continue to speak tongue in cheek to respect for life and liberty. While some panels have not sat or have even forgotten to resume proceedings, welcoming the report which was based on various petitions bordering on alleged police brutality and other violation of fundamental human rights at this time, strengthens the principles of democracy and public accountability Nigerian youths seek to uphold.

Now that he has received the report, I must urge him to hasten with the implementation of the recommendations, which includes granting support to victims of identified cases of police brutality among other points to improve the living conditions of serving and retired police officers. Other Governors should also emulate him.

From walking with protesters to careful management of the anarchy that followed, giving prompt financial support to the affected businesses, and, now poised to implement the #EndSARS demands, no governor in Nigeria has demonstrated better responsiveness and respect to Nigerian youths dead and alive in recent years. AbdulRazaq, who is also the first and only leader in Africa to form a 56% gender-inclusive cabinet (including Nigeria’s youngest commissioner), is proving to be the gift O’toge gave Nigerian women and youths.

Abdullateef is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty

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Governor AA: A reference material in Nigeria’s journey towards statehood.

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By Basheer Luqman Olarewaju

31st March, 2021

A distinguished oil magnate, an accomplished politician, a sports loving leader, a youth supporting governor, a successful businessman and philanthropist with special focus on the poorest of the poor and persons living with disabilities, a symbol of excellence and an epitome of strength, caring, charming and a witty man blessed with an open mind. His kind-heartedness is legendary with high administrative capacity and capability.

Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq believes in this wise quote and he exhibits it daily as the executive governor of Kwara State, “Life is not about competing, it is about complimenting each other”. He is a man dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. He is an impeccable man who set excellent standard, a wonderful and indomitable executive who never mind how long it takes him to execute his projects as far as they are impeccable. He is a servant leader, the kind of leadership that Kwara State needs and even our dear country Nigeria needs his kind plus he is a noble leader and pride of Africa as a continent.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is in a class of his own with distinct credible character traits. He is intellectually wealthy and uniquely confident in the affairs of steering wheel of fortune to the state. His commitment towards staging the state of harmony enviable amongst others is without a gainsaying an achievable dream as one would have envisioned his remarkable landmark achievements. Even at a point where the coast seemed unclear and tides and waves of unrest raised to high altitudinal crest and trough, he adopted the saying of Martin Luther King Jnr. “Constructive, non-violent tension is good for growth”.

AbdulRazaq is a renowned and well known philanthropist, public servant and a man of peace. In view of his versatility, ability, agility and organized ways, Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been announced as the chairperson of the National Project Steering and Deployment Committee (NPSDC) for innovative strengthening of smallholder farmers capabilities in Nigeria. The committee’s mandate includes strengthening smallholder farmers’ capabilities towards productive land restoration amid COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Mallam AbdulRazaq has overtime built resilient communities and ensuring food security which was unarguably a pointer to lead the strategic committee. The setting up of the committee came amid the growing stature of AbdulRazaq owing largely to his commitments to issues of sustainable development goals (SDGs) such as education, health, gender equality, climate action, and eradication of poverty, sustainable agriculture and food security, among others.

The developmental strides in the state cut across all sectors, institutions and units which are parts of his blueprint strategy to drive growth and accelerate implementation of innovative projects to improve livelihood of all Kwarans’ capabilities in accordance with the National Development Plan of Nigeria. This administration foregoing layouts would ensure the application of multi-sectoral approach for the deployment of innovative land restoration and energy access to accelerate food security, renewable energy access, land restoration, digital literacy, socio economic impacts, climate resilience, create jobs, and improve the standard of living and human wellbeing.

It is a truism to say that Mallam AbdulRazaq has been a very well known name in public discourse in view of his humility, efficiency, excellence and versatility. In other words, his prolific interventions and interjections constitute a body of discourse which can be used as a reference material in Nigeria’s journey towards statehood.

Moreso, there are certain personalities and authorities that are irresistible to historians, biographers or chroniclers of certain significant epochs either because of the circumstances of their birth, their life or because of their specific and strategic impact of their contributions to their society. His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is known for this. Unarguably, he is a man of impeccable credentials and many qualities rolled into one and highly focused, reasonable and intelligent, performing his duties with utmost diligence, transparency and accountability.

Great philosophers often say that attaining the position of leadership is without doubt a burden bearing in mind that not all leaders possess all that it takes to bear the leadership burden successfully. If a person emerges as a leader in an exceptional circumstance, such a person by whatever standard is without doubt not out of the way. One of such in Nigeria today is, the incumbent executive governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, he was born in Ilorin West Local Government. AbdulRazaq is the son of Alh. A. G. F. AbdulRazaq SAN., the first northern lawyer in Nigeria.

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Hijaab In Kwara: Bad News Doesn’t Get Better With Time

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Rafiu Ajakaye writes;

‘Bad news doesn’t get better with time’ is an expression from the famous Black American five star General Colin Powell’s book _It Worked For Me. In the opinion of Powell, a problem (challenge) will not disappear by anyone simply ignoring, abandoning or pretending it does not exist. He feels that challenges, however unpleasant and tough, are better confronted and dealt with, with everyone first admitting it exists and taking steps to solving it. He feels that anything short of it amounts to kicking the can down the road. This quote fits the hijaab controversy in Kwara State and it (also) explains the unpleasant yet a no-or-yes choices before the government. The first choice is to feign ignorance of the pent-up anger in the Muslim community about the refusal to let their girl-child wear the hijaab in public schools and the attendant humiliation the girls face each time they made such attempts. The second is to take a position to allow the girls to wear their hijaab (and possibly regulate same in such schools) in compliance with Section 38 of the Constitution, which speaks to her right to freedom of religion and her freedom to manifest same. This section has repeatedly been interpreted by the Court of Appeal in favour of the Muslim schoolgirl. Either of the two has implications for the polity as Kwara has seen.

About four weeks ago, a video footage emerged showing a Muslim schoolgirl at St. Barnabas College Ilorin alighting from a motorcycle and quickly removing her hijaab and tucking same in her school bag. The bike man who took her there asked why she did so and the student said she is not allowed to wear the hijaab within the school compound. The bike man goaded the girl to wear her hijaab. The poor girl hearkened to the voice of the okada man and entered the school with her hijaab. True to her fears, a teacher ordered her to remove it, and there started a shouting match (between the bike man and the teacher). The domino effect of the St. Barnabas incident was quickly felt in far-away Baptist School in Surulere suburb of Ilorin. At the Baptist School, the Muslims in their hundreds said they have had enough of ‘this humiliation’ and the Christians insisted there was not going to be hijaab. Both sides stood their grounds. Tension was at fever pitch. Bloodshed was imminent. Myself, the Permanent Secretary (Education), and the two Special Assistants to the Governor on Religion (Islam and Christians) had a hard time convincing the Muslims to vacate the entrance of the Baptist College. They finally left with a condition: these schools will not open unless their children are allowed to use their hijaab as had been proclaimed by the court. Those who questioned government’s decision to shut down those schools a few weeks ago clearly missed this point or were playing cheap politics with a serious matter of state.

St. Barnabas and Baptist School are two of the schools acquired through the Yakubu Gowon Decree of 1974 and run by the state government. They have the same antecedents as the Ansarul Islam Secondary School Ilorin. Both had their roots in faith-based organisations. However, both, like others in their categories, are categorised as public schools and are subject to the laws of Kwara State. Per the judgments of the two courts of record, their names do not, in the law of Kwara State, suggest ownership. Rather, the names keep the fond memories of their founders. So the education law of Kwara State makes them (public schools) pluralistic in nature, mandated to admit students and have teachers from various backgrounds. They are ordinarily disallowed from having discriminatory rules. Their teachers are recruited, promoted, disciplined, and paid pensions and gratuities by the government. Yet these schools had certain rules that are deemed inconsistent with the law, fuelling resentments and pent-up anger as the two incidents above typified. One of those (informal) rules dating back to 2008 is the one implicitly banning hijaab. A major takeaway in the Lagos hijaab judgment was the position of the judges (including three Christians) that no government rules or circular shall supersede the provisions of the Nigerian constitutions.

There are several theories about the intention of the unidentified bike man who stoke the fire at St. Barnabas. However, his action, the reaction of the teacher at the school, and the reverberating effects it had elsewhere in Ilorin pointed at a town waiting to explode unless an official position is taken. This is especially important in the light of recent court judgments concerning the hijaab. A coterie of former government officials have gloated about how they smoothly managed the hijaab situation without a rancour. A few clarifications: as of 2008, the Christians had not gone to the court to seek return of ‘missionary schools’ and ask that court should disallow hijaab in the schools. The Muslims, in principle, had no judgment to hang onto. In the case of former Governor Ahmed, there was a judgment of the High Court rejecting the position of the Christians on school ownership and declaring the hijaab as a fundamental human rights of the Muslim schoolgirl. The administration did nothing. It simply balked at the issue and postponed the evil day, of course fuelling anger. The matter went to the Appeal Court, which upheld the position of the lower court on school ownership and the hijaab right. The Muslim community felt the administration was being unfair and irresponsible to deny their children the enforcement of the judgment of the Appeal Court. They cited the declaratory nature of the hijaab judgment and a need for the government to implement the law, particularly in the face of the developments at St. Barnabas and Baptist School.

Precedents across Nigeria do not favour government refusing to take a position on the hijaab question. Contentions about status quo on the question of hijaab have since been resolved in the Lagos case. Despite having a pending appeal at the Supreme Court, the Lagos government had since approved the use of the hijaab in all its schools in compliance with the 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeal. In a circular referenced ED/DISTVI/CCST/HI/14/I/63 and issued by Tutor-General O.A. Olukoya, the Lagos State Government graciously stated: ‘Since the case of the use of hijaab in Lagos is still pending in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the status quo should be maintained to avoid contempt of court. That is, students should be allowed to wear hijaab on school uniforms.’ So those asking the government to maintain the status quo are invited to note what it means on the hijaab.

The government is unhappy at the turn of events with tensions on both sides and our people almost having a go at one another. Nonetheless, the hijaab question had become a bad news that would never get better with time — and the recent tension has shown just that. Pretending it does not exist or it does not matter is simply postponing the evil day. The difficult decision of the administration to allow the hijaab for any willing Muslim girl child is a matter of law, human rights, diversity, personal choice, and mutual respect. Anything short of that is simply playing the ostrich. It is only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

The reopening of the school on Wednesday was a necessity for our children not to miss out on the registration for the external West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The deadline is Friday March 18, although the government has now written to the WAEC to grant it extension. This was made clear to all the stakeholders, with appeals made for them to consider the children.

Notwithstanding its two court victories on the ownership of the schools, the government has similarly acknowledged the request of the Christian leaders for a return of schools acquired in 1974. In the statement announcing approval of the hijaab for any willing Muslim schoolgirl, the government said it would set up a panel to consider the request alongside different models adopted elsewhere and then weigh same against Kwara peculiarities before a decision is reached. That option is sincerely still on the table and a win-win outcome is always within reach, while the government continues its peace talks with all the sides.

The hijaab decision was definitely not an easy one for the government to take. It was taken after weeks of peace talks, stakeholders’ meetings with all the sides, and daily consultations with religious and interest groups hosted by the Governor himself. This position was taken with the long-term interest of all of our people fully considered and to disallow a conflagration that will not discriminate between Christians and Muslims. This is why the government continues to appeal to every side to see the bigger picture and not fight over personal choice. And as far as this is concerned, there is no victor or vanquished.

•_Ajakaye is CPS to the Governor of Kwara State_

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Gobir Foundation: Going ‘DEEP’ To Build A Better Kwara

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By Abdulwahab Tajudeen

Every society has its patriots. They are those who gave their yesterday for our today. They sacrificed their time, energy, and other hard-earned resources to build our nation.

In Kwara State, the name Gobir cannot be supplanted for another. The Gobirs are known for patriotism. This trait can be seen in the life of the first Waziri of Ilorin, Alhaji Muhammad Ajeigbe Gobir, and his children, such as Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir, Ambassador Abubakar Garba Gobir, and of course, Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir. The last three Gobirs were amongst those who contributed greatly to the creation and sustenance of Kwara State in 1967.

It is therefore not surprising to see one of their scions, Waziri Yakubu Gobir, committing himself and resources to the stability, peaceful co-existence, growth, and progress of the State.

Long before showing interest in politics, Waziri Gobir had established a reputation of being a nation-builder. Most would recall the huge financial support he gave to IEDPU in 2015 and the total rehabilitation of the Okesuna Primary School.

There was a time when life in Kwara State was calm and peaceful. Kwara State was the ‘State of Harmony’. There were no thugs, there were no ‘good boys’ extorting money from the citizenry, and crime was minimal.

Ilorin was for many years a place of great tranquillity. It was so peaceful that it became a destination for people experiencing unrest in other parts of the country, who began to settle in droves. That is why Ilorin is referred to as a sociocultural confluence point and the abode of tranquillity.

However, as time progressed, the unchecked influx of people of questionable character became an issue. The apathy of successive administrations to respond to this and the neglect by parents of their wards compounded the problem. Political thuggery, gang membership, and organised crime soon became rife.

This trend became pronounced in the second republic when the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria, at the state level was factionalized. The dangerous trend reared its ugly head again following the political crisis that erupted in the early 2000s. The neglect of the education and youth development sector by successive state governments also fuelled the disruption of peace and progress of the State. Right now, extremely high youth unemployment and attendant restiveness is a ticking time bomb.

There is a whole generation of youth that have not been properly educated, trained, or gainfully employed. They have become social outcasts. They are frustrated, angry and have sought refuge in drug abuse and resort to crime to sustain their drug addiction. With heightening insecurity in the country, they could be willing tools in the hands of people bent on destabilizing Nigeria.

Our youth are “at-risk”. Without timely intervention, we could lose a whole generation that should be contributing positively towards the future of this great nation. However, it is not too late to salvage the situation.

One concerned Foundation is now poised to help at-risk youths, who are ready to help themselves. The Gobir Organization Foundation, which is already well known for the Gobir Health Fund (GHF), Gobir Funds (GO Funds), Gobir Farmers’ Support Programme (GFSP), is about to launch the De-radicalization, Education, Empowerment Programme (DEEP) for at-risk youth.

Ten selected youth – both male and female will be extensively trained and empowered for the first batch of the programme, in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC) of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin.

What is the long-term impact? Experts believe taking at-risk youths off the streets will bring great relief to the society and would be a win for humanity.

As the Press Secretary of the Gobir Organization Foundation, I had the opportunity to meet with some of these at-risk youth during the selection process. Their individual stories are touching. Personally, this experience has changed my perspective on life, and I am more grateful for what Allah has done for me.

Never judge a book by its cover. Most of these youngsters are victims of peer pressure, family issues, stereotyping, bad governance; lack of formal or vocational education, and poor parenting. What is amazing is that most of them are eager to change. They have been yearning for a way out, but love and attention are things they have rarely been shown in their lives. Their’s is a harsh dog eat dog world of trying to survive on the streets.

“I cannot express my joy in words. I have been jobless for years, and there is no help forthcoming from anywhere. Poverty made me angry with myself and the society. I am indebted to the Gobir Foundation and its Chairman for this opportunity they are about to give me. I promise to make the best use of it,” said Kazeem Hanafi, a potential beneficiary.

Now, imagine a peaceful Kwara as we once knew it. Imagine the Gobir Organization Foundation taking these ‘good boys’ off the streets, one at a time. That is what we mean when we say, “our vision is to build a Kwara, that is made of Kwara men, women and youths who are successful, self-sufficient and prosperous, and are themselves stronger agents for propelling community advancement, national growth, and social development.” That is what we represent, and that is why we are going DEEP in building a Kwara we can call our home.

Tajudeen is the Press Secretary of Gobir Organization Foundation

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