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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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Abdulrazaq: A Mid-term Report

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By: Raheem Adedoyin

He is already on a projects commissioning mode; so, you can’t claim ignorance of the achievements of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in Kwara State in two years.

The decision to go public with the projects the AbdukRazaq Administration has executed since getting elected in 2019 is commendable. It, at least, lowers the temperature on the often manufactured negative news on the state of affairs in Kwara.

If you go by the recent press and social media reports, you will be forgiven to think that Kwara had been on a roller coaster of non- governance since the last government was sent packing in 2019 in a gale of electoral tsunami.

The crisis in the rulling All Progressives Party (APC) in the state, the Hijab in school controversy and other negative news trended faster than the methodical execution of programmes and projects across the state.

Well, Kwara is working; Kwara is making progress; Kwara is a model for good governance. All politics are local; If you live in Kwara, you would know all this. Mercifully, the Government Communication strategy is getting better and getting more coordinated.

Kwara APC scored an own-goal by mismanaging the goodwill that came with routing the 20-year old (not 16-year old) hegemonic leadership in the state. So unfortunate, so troubling.

As an insider, I know the genesis and dangers of the party crisis. The Governor as the Party Leader does not sit well with some respected political leaders who wear the toga of _OtoGe_ Godfathers.

They want the Governor to surrender or share his executive authority with party leaders even when the opportunities and leveraging they have at the federal level have been self-serving.

The ambivalence of the party’s national leadership has not helped matters. The National leadership deals officially and publicly with Abdullahi Samari as State Chairman but they have not publicly announced that Bashir Omolaja Bolariwa (BOB) had ceased to be Chairman. They should speak out.

I applaud the reconcilatory moves of well- meaning leaders. The formation of a new executive committee of tge party at all levels should bring the much-needed peace if reconciliation is prioritized and pursued genuinely.

The party crisis has obscured the administration’s sterling performance on basic good governance and infrastructural development. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) has lately regained some of its fractured gait but the real opposition to the state government is not PDP but the aggrieved APC leaders whose cyber bullies have let loose their arsenals on the Governor and the Administration. They are destroying the party, not the Governor.

I love that the Governor is commissioning some of his signature projects- from the North to the Central and to the South.

My Oro District in Irepodun Local Government, is already in celebratory mood. Our flagship educational heritage, the iconic Oro Grammar School (OGS) has been given a complete face lift (rehabilitation, renovation, new classroom construction and new equipments). Complementarily, the Ijomu Oro/Okerimi Oro Junction –NITEL Junction (strategically linking the two wards in Oro District) is now an alphart-lay road, courtesy of the AA Government. This road project is so significant to us because all entreaties by Oro people since 1958 when OGS was created for that project to be undertaken, were unheeded. Until AA came to our rescue. Thank you, Mr. Governor.

The Governor’s mid-term report in the public space is very good. The political space, however, needs greater attention as the next two years will be battle royale politically.

Happy Anniversary, Mr Governor.

Raheem Adedoyin is a Journalist and APC Chieftain.

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How Governor Abdulrazaq Rescued The Civil Service From The Doldrums In Kwara State

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Dr. Ghali Muhammed

Empirically, civil service is the life wire of any government. It is the nucleus of planning and implementing government policies. Former Vice-Chancellor of Germany Otto Von Bismark says “With bad laws and good civil servants, it is still possible to govern. But with bad civil servants even the best laws can not help.”

Looking back into the history of Nigeria, one major proud enduring institution which saved Nigeria from collapse particularly during the Civil War in the early ’70s was the civil service. Testifying to this was no less a person than the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.

Speaking at a public lecture in honour of late Professor Adebayo Adedeji, a distinguished diplomat and international civil servant, General Gowon recalled proudly that it was in full appreciation of the detribalised, selfless and patriotic services rendered by the civil servants to stabilise the Nation and ensure oneness of purpose that the Udoji award was introduced in the ’70s.

Be it yesterday, today or tomorrow, the civil service remains the most critical institution and system that guarantees effective service delivery and implementation of government policies and programmes for the overall wellbeing of the entire citizenry.

In place of the critical institutional role of the civil service, it is worth our time to recall how frustrated, disoriented and un- dignified the civil service was before Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq took over the mantle of leadership in Kwara State. In doing so, it is instructive to note that any civil servant denied up to 3 months’ salaries becomes as wretched, ridiculed and outcast as a destitute! How short and failing are human memories? No. We won’t forget this history.

How could we have forgotten that civil servants in the State were owed salaries for years at a time the Federation Account Allocation ( FAAC) was not only steady but robust as the crude oil was selling at $100 per barrel? It was also the time when the Kwara State Government received several bailouts in billions. At the time the same government mortgaged the future of Kwara children with un-justified loans running into billions. At the local government, it was even more scaringly disorienting with un-printable stories on the pitiable lives of local government workers, teachers and headmistresses. Not even at the level of Colleges of Education was life better as virtually all the 3 Colleges of Education were owed over 15 months’ salaries with all their workers on strike, taking a plunge into riskier ventures such as selling their property to become Okada riders and petty traders. At the parastatal or Corporation level such as Radio Kwara, the workers there were at the precipice of losing their jobs and joining the (unknown) labour market as they were already off the air with no hope! How short and failing are human memories?

Many establishments died and some were merely on dialysis due to lack of funding. Even the MDAs had no running cost. It was in the old Kwara we saw best how not to have a visionless Governor. Before the state was run aground, the civil service had to give way. Due to this biting insensitivity, some fathers became employed beggars; mothers recalcitrant; children impoverished; homes restless; streets dry and rough; and society could have cracked the more on that dangerous lane if hope had not come. No society survives on such banality.

The foregoing was the disorienting circumstances faced by the overwhelming majority of the civil servants in Kwara State before Governor AbdulRazaq came in on a rescue mission to restore dignity into the lives of the civil servants putting smiles back on to their then grim faces and their loved ones.

In one full release, the Governor approved and released over #700,000,000.00 to pay all the outstanding salaries of all teaching and non-teaching staff of all the 3 Colleges of Education; Ilorin; Oro; and Lafiagi! Since his inauguration in May 2019, no civil servant at both State and Local government levels failed to receive his or her monthly salary every month as and when due! As of today, no civil servant in both State and Local government levels earns less than the #30,000.00 minimum wage!

In addition, the State Civil Service Commission in 2020 conducted and effected promotion for over 1000 civil servants in the State. Working environment for civil servants has improved across the board including restoration of monthly running costs for all MDAs. Permanent Secretaries as accounting officers of their ministries bear full responsibility for the implementation of their budgets. Indeed, in view of the demonstration of commitment to transparency, accountability and good governance, Governor AbdulRazaq’s Administration has been identified and lauded by relevant national and international budget monitoring NGOs as one of the States with the best record of budget implementation .

It is an established fact that at all levels of government in Nigeria today, recurrent: focusing largely on payment of salaries, pension and gratuity account for close to 80% of government total income and resources; Kwara is not an exception. This is despite the negative but concomitant consequences of Covid 19 such as drastic reduction in FAAC, IGR, economic recession etc. Notwithstanding, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq never wavered in his avowed commitment to ensure that civil servants in Kwara State at both State and local government levels received their monthly salaries not only in full but as and when due. What more, pensioners who cut sorry sight in the days of the immediate past Administration now smile to banks and homes with monthly regular payment of their pension and gratuity. Within just 2 years of his Administration, it is a public secret that Governor AbdulRazaq has paid close to #20 billion naira as pension and gratuity to retired civil servants in the State. How short and failing are human memories?

Upon the outbreak of COVID-19 and the critical lockdown to curtail transmission, the civil servants both at the State and the local government stayed home for over 6 months, yet Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq did not falter in ensuring that they still got their full salaries as and when due. Since the World woke up to the pandemic, many states even with far richer FAAC allocation and IGR have cut salaries of both their political public office holders and civil servants to half to date, yet Governor AbdulRazaq ensured a dime is not removed from the full payment of the salaries of all the civil servants. It is mostly in the time of adversity outstanding leaders show they are miles and word apart from the pretenders. He has shown this with the management of COVID-19, EndSARS, and the hijab crisis. We had no such monumental circumstance and instances abound where teachers became the laughing stock of the public with a few stealing foods at Oja Tuntun Market, yet the public, instead of lynching such poor lots became sympathetic in view of their pitiable status they had acquired under the immediate past governnent and traders would start giving little offers to such hopeless guys of the inglorious past era.

While the civil service in some states is still grappling with instability under the overbearing weight of less magnanimous leaders, AbdulRazaq is using the lean State resources to please Kwara State civil servants and the people of the state. A recent example is the case of over 70 Staff phased out of Kwara Express who instead of being retrenched were retrained, reorientated and reabsorbed into the Kwara State Transport Agency and proudly doing great in ensuring effective traffic management on our major streets.

Conscious of the urgent need to deflate the labour market, restore hope of the unemployed youths, he moved extraordinarily to employ close to 5000 teachers in SUBEB and TESCOM. The recruitment exercise has been acknowledged by all patriots and stakeholders home and abroad as the most transparent, non-discriminatory, non – partisan and detribalised in the history of Kwara State! In addition, the civil service is currently concluding arrangements for recruitment of additional 1000 civil servants the same way. Medical practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, community health officers and other health officers have also been employed to boost health services in the State.

On 18 November, 2019, AbdulRazaq presented 27 new operational vehicles to the state civil service, including the State Fire Service, saying the gesture was to strengthen efficient service delivery and conducive working atmosphere. On that day, he said these historic words and he has continued to live by them: “We present these to them to make their job easier. Civil servants are entering taxi and okada to perform their duties. That is not good enough. This will boost their performance capability. We saw that there is a need to mobilise them and make them more functional.” Do you not feel the vision and passion?

As the State marks the 2nd year anniversary of Governor AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq exemplary leadership, there is a high expectation among the overwhelming majority of the populace for civil servants at both the State and local government levels to reciprocate the kind gesture of the Governor through prompt payment of salaries, pension and gratuity, taking close to 80% of available resources to the State by rededicating themselves to selfless, patriotic and exemplary service delivery and focused implementation of government policies and programmes to the overall advantages of the poor masses. Doing so is the only best way the civil servants can join hands with Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in his avowed commitment to make Kwara State one of the 3 best governed States in Nigeria.

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The Impactful Twenty-Four (24) Months Of Stewardship Of His Excellency, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq; An Herald of Progress

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By Engr. Taye Hassan, MIAE

Two (2 )years in and chronicling the progressive strides of H.E Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Executive Governor of Kwara state is an astonishing story of how a humble and dedicated leader could seamlessly draw forth impactful achievements despite the daunting times and scarce resources. As it is today, we could draw inferences based on facts and figures that H.E Abdulrazaq’s performance are sterling, excellent and most importantly conspicuous.

For Ipinle Kwara, 29th May 2019 would always be noted as a herald of progress, as God Almighty smiled on Kwara by blessing her with the leadership of one of her Best Sons; an empathetic and people-oriented leader whose smack for productivity is unmatched and his plight to bring succor to the ordinary Kwaran is a topmost aspiration that is seeing the light of day, for many Kwarans it has never been this good.

With an impressive resume of achievements cut across all sectors and evident in all the nooks and cranny of Kwara State, H.E Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has been able to carve a niche in the space of leadership excellence and this has drawn unequalled admiration from all and sundry as he is highly revered by counterparts, admired by the youths and entrenched as a dear son in the hearts of the elderly. A feat achieved through 24 months of impactful service to humanity and country, some of which are delved into in this chronicle.

Despite the many impediments occasioned by the Corona Virus Pandemic that took away almost half of the time under review, the excellent performance of this Hero of new Kwara wasn’t deterred, rather further highlighted as was evident in his prudential efforts in managing the pandemic, his preparedness in combating the virus during the early days of the outbreak in Nigeria and his foresight in proper planning for the revival of economic activities.

Worthy of note is his interest in the Next generation of leaders as age no longer tops qualifications or capacity in Kwara State. Governor Abdulrazaq’s involvement of youths and women in governance is second to none on the continent. Young people in Kwara are no longer worried with the fear of being used and dumped, they are now a decider of their own faith as their drive and creativity are sought after in managing the affairs of various agencies and commissions. Indeed, you cannot talk about the Next Generation of Leaders without capturing the unending efforts of the captain steering this ship; Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, as he keeps onboarding more young people into governance by each passing day while also preparing them for greater responsibilities.

The Kwara State Government’s program on social interventions and investments is another laudable and commendable stride of this administration; From Tradermoni to Owo Arugbo to the School feeding programme to K-Power, Governor Abdulrazaq uses every opportunity to showcase his empathy by relieving various persons and group through impactful social services. Most recent of his empathetic gesture was seen during the Pandemic, where his government dished out non-stop intervention packages and supports, such as that given to those affected by the violence perpetrated by hoodlums that hijacked the #EndSARS protest, support grants running into Millions to business owner whose shops were looted and grants to Private School owners among others, all this was in a bid to ameliorate the untold hardship those affected were facing.

He did not rest on his laurels as Education was equally not left out. It is an open truth that the state of education before this administration came on board was so abysmal; the teachers were owed salaries, Universal Basic Education had blacklisted Kwara state for breaching their operational rules, Colleges of Educations barely received allocations thus causing substandard provisions that saw courses not being accredited. This amongst many other menaces crippled the education system in the state. Lo and behold, this present administration has resolved all the issues faced. UBEC has lifted their ban on Kwara State after the payment of all the outstanding counterpart fund, our colleges of Education are now working and their courses accredited, the tertiary institutions in the state have now gotten back to their feet and students can now pursue their academic career without any fear of strike due to non-accredited courses amongst others. Despite the dwindling allocation from the Federal Government, the state is not owing it’s teachers, rather the state is looking for means to improve their take home so as to boost their moral and consequently improve their performance in class.

Youth employment is number one on the scale of preference of His Excellency as seen in all facets of his governance, despite having over 70% of his political appointees below 45 years of age, job opportunities are also a top order of the government. At the behest of the Governor, recruitments exercises have been carried out by the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service-KWIRS, the Civil Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission and the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board and this has seen the engagement of over 5000 young people. The beauty of all this is the process around it which has not being receiving favoritism or political colouration. Ordinary Kwarans are now getting appointments without affiliations.

Not also forgetting the glitz and glamour private business are characterized by, life is being felt in public business and startups keep springing up by the day, all this are a testament to the enabling environment the government is brewing.

In the provision of social amenities, The Governor Abdulrazaq’s government has equally performed excellently well. Over a hundred new roads are already constructed and in use, hundreds of transformers have been procured with some already supplied to support the steady provision of power by the Discos. Water projects are equally not left out as most communities now have industrial drilled boreholes. All these amenities are evenly distributed across the sixteen local governments of the State ensuring that all Kwarans feel the beauty of a people and project-oriented government.

Apart from all the aforementioned strides of the Government, the Governor is still very humble and easy going without any iota of arrogance, his openness and transparency style is what brought about the ease in social auditing by civil society organizations who seek to query and ask questions on projects going on across the state.

Indeed, Kwara youths are fortunate to have Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as the Governor of the State and we are hopeful and confident that the remaining two years will bring more dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of Kwarans.

As we look ahead into the promising term ahead, our people will always say that “A good Friday is known from Thursday” it is evident that better days are ahead for Kwara and Kwarans with Governor Abdulrazaq in charge.

Congratulations to His Excellency for a Successful, Prosperous and Productive two years as the Governor of Kwara State.

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