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OPINION: Dear Saraki, Kwarans Are Not Foolish

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Bukola Saraki, immediate past President of the Nigerian Senate and former Governor of Kwara State has learnt nothing from the Otoge movement that crumbled a dynasty whose foundation his father, Dr Olusola Saraki laboriously laid long time ago. Kwarans don’t pray he learns though because in it lies their continued freedom from the shackles of fiefdom which the Saraki dynasty he superintends represents. So, they are saying never again to the dynasty.

Before Otoge happened in 2019, the Sarakis called the shots. Bukola Saraki determined who gets what, when and how. All the elective posts in the state were in his grip. Then, over the years something led to something, and to Otoge which completely uprooted the Saraki dynasty.

If there was any lesson from the Otoge movement, it’s that of humility. This, many observers thought the proud Saraki would have internalised long after the revolution. But a leopard does not change its spot. You cannot feign humility. Saraki, as many scenarios have confirmed and continue to confirm, is anything but humble.

He was therefore in his true colour when on Tuesday, October 27, 2021 he granted an interview to Arise TV. Very condescending, he talked down to Kwarans. Asked what he has learnt from Otoge, Saraki said the Otoge movement taught him that “elections have to do sometimes with sentiments or propaganda.”

According to him, “If you come to Kwara today and talk to people, you’ll find that a lot of them will tell you that ‘we were sold lies and propaganda… We have made certain mistakes in following up the issues’ and that at the end of the day, they were better of then than now.”

Sir, Kwarans are not daft. This attempt to revise the narrative and guilt-trip the people is dead on arrival. The import of the Otoge revolution is not lost. Everyone was clear about the motive of the movement: to send the feudal lord and his acolytes packing, thereby ending decades of misgovernance and impunity, enslavement of the masses, tokenism, amongst others.

It’s the height of disrespect and revisionism for Saraki to then come out and say Kwarans were sold lies and propaganda to provoke the Otoge movement. By this, he is unwittingly insulting the sensibilities of the Kwara populace, saying they are gullible. Kwarans are not foolish, please. We were wise enough to see that based on the realities on ground then, our state deserved better. And there was no need for anyone to sell lies or propaganda. The demarketing factors were all there for everyone to see.

Basic education was in a shambles. The administration of AbdulFatah Ahmed, Saraki’s sidekick got a facility from UBEC to upgrade and enhance basic education in the state. The facility was diverted, leading to UBEC blacklisting the state for several years. This took the state aback as a large number of schools across the three senatorial districts of the state are nothing to write home about in structure and facilities.

Despite the humongous funds voted to tackle the problem of water in the state under the Saraki dynasty, the current administration of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq inherited a decripit water system where major waterworks were already dysfunctional and as such many homes cut from getting water; a basic necessity of life. Workers in the water corporation were already on strike over unpaid salaries and entitlements.

The tale at the health sector too is sordid. Many health facilities were already in a state of dilapidation across the state. Important health materials and equipment were not available despite evidence of funds allocated for them. In the heat of the COVID-19 virus, Kwara had no single ventilator. How we were able to push through, emerging one of the best sub-nationals that responded well to the virus is thanks to the good governance style and efficient resources management skill of Governor AbdulRazaq.

The sad story is the same for the agricultural sector. The present administration did not inherit a single functional tractor in the whole of the state. Political farmers had a field day and were incentivised by the previous governments. All these are a microcosm of the failed system Bukola Saraki in his rude remark said Kwarans were better of with. I have not added the ill-treatment workers got under the dynasty. Their salaries were not paid as and when due; at the local government level, civil servants were getting percentage salaries. No promotion, and when there is, it is not cash-backed. The morale of workers was at an all-time low. These are areas, basic, basic ones, where the Saraki dynasty failed woefully.

So, what has changed? A lot. This AbdulRazaq government brought Kwara out of UBEC blacklist, clearing the backlogs owed to the federal government commission. Basic education is now getting optimum attention. Schooling facilities are being upgraded across the state. About 600 basic schools were drafted for facelift and renovation. And for the first time in recent history, Kwara had a recruitment process of teachers that was clearly merit-based and objective. In the past, recruitment forms were distributed at political platforms, paving the way for misfits in such a sensitive sector.

Otoge has led to the resuscitation of our major waterworks. Staff of the water corporation have been paid their backlogs. Water pipes are being properly channeled and replaced. And the tankers we saw yesterday, we are seeing them no more. So many health facilities have got a facelift under this administration. New specialist health centers are being built. Kwara now has ventilators. Our oxygen plant is back to life after years of abandon. The present administration has procured new tractors for the use of farmers.

Civil servants are getting their pay as and when due, both at state and local levels. Several backlogs owed by the previous administrations have been settled and are being settled. Civil servants are now getting promotion, cash-backed promotion. These and more are what have changed. Is this a move forward or backward? So what does Saraki mean when he said Kwarans were better off under the failed system led by his dynasty than now?

If he had really learnt anything, Saraki was expected to have wholeheartedly used the medium to apologise to Kwarans for dragging them aback and denying them the most basic things, not opening his buccal cavity to talk down to the people. It shows he’s yet to be humbled.

Abdulganiy writes from Ilorin, Kwara State

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Principled Political Choices are not Betrayal

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I have seen a statement made by me, many years ago, to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu making the rounds. Yes I did make that statement. And more of such will come in my autobiography. We, together, have seen good days and bad days.

 

Bola Tinubu and I have come a long way and we have been there for each other. So let no one use my acknowledgment of his good deeds and my refusal not to support him in his bid for Nigeria presidency to portray me as a betrayer.

 

Tinubu remains my leader and I will forever cherish him and the contributions he made to my Organisation during our fight against the military.

 

He however knows I don’t follow the herd. I make my choices based on very rigid parameters . He will tell you I am very Independent in my actions and ways.

 

As a third year university student my dad chose to be in NPN. I never considered the fact that he fed me and paid my school fees to join him in a party I despised. I went to UPN and became a youth leader.

 

Tinubu will tell you that whatever and whoever Ojudu is committed to is in for 100 percent commitment. Reasons I did rather faced torture and possible death in General Sani Abacha’s detention than reveal certain things they wanted me to reveal about him.

 

The idea that everyone who has related with Tinubu and disagrees with him on this Presidential bid is a traitor and a betrayal is puerile. Many of us, his associates, were not made by him as you also want the world to believe.

 

We were already made before meeting him and in the cause of relating we gave one another a helping hand. As far back as 1992 when I came to know him I was already one of the editors of a popular news magazine with a good standing too in the civil society.

 

I walked out of my job when our billionaire publisher (Chief MKO Abiola) requested I and my colleagues to apologize to General Ibrahim Babangida over a story critical of the regime. That was 1992.

 

When I left that job, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, a man whom I was indebted to greatly (gave me a scholarship in my school days alongside King Sunny Ade) invested in my publishing platform (The News, publisher of PM news). The same one that was consequential in the battle to bring democracy back to Nigeria.

 

At the conclusion of that struggle, Chief Fawehinmi insisted we seat out politics. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu disagreed with this notion, and I did as well.

 

Against an obvious choice to blind loyalty, I went along with Senator Tinubu even serving severally in critical roles as he assumed the Governorship position. My actions angered Chief Gani so much he asked that I repay his investments. Guess what? I gladly did.

 

So if my principled stance against NPN, against IBB and against “siddon look” was not betrayal of my father, Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi respectively, why would my principled stance against our leader present ambition be?

 

So, on this matter of 2023 I wish him well but I cannot in good conscience give him my support or cast my vote for him in the coming primary. It is my right.

 

I am above 60 years of age for God sake. I almost died seeking this inalienable democratic rights, held up in detention and severally tortured. Your god is not my god.

 

Let no one think he can browbeat or blackmail me to do what does not go with my conscience or my ideals. Enough of your phone threats and embarrassment of my family members.

 

I know Tinubu. I respect and adore him. Many of his latter day supporters do not even know him. If they do, they won’t resort to emotional and physical blackmail.

 

When Tinubu decided to go against Afenifere and the Yoruba elders in 2003 by not supporting President Olusegun Obasanjo, he wasn’t betraying the Yoruba nation or a traitor to Afenifere. He made a choice and history has been his judge.

 

Let history be my own judge too. When he supported Chief Olu Falae against Chief Bola Ige , our respected leader, who for him to emerge candidate of Alliance for Democracy in Lagos, no one shouted betrayal.

 

For the irritants who have been sending threat messages or calling to abuse me for not supporting Tinubu, do know that is not democracy.

 

It is something else. I spent my youth years fighting autocracy and intolerance of the military and I am still willing and ready, even now, to stand up for what I believe , even if it will cost me my death. Enough said.

 

Senator Babafemi Ojudu writes from Abuja

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AFCON: Remembering Babami Raimi Atanda

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Everyone who knows me right from when I was a kid would attest to how much I don’t like to watch football, even though I grew up playing the popular ‘kaka’, ‘leather ball’, ‘panke’ and ‘felele’ in the streets of Dopemu Agege, Lagos State, and on the corridors of Otta, Ogun State, but I don’t like watching football.

 

Also, growing up, I admire the England’s Manchester United team of 2006s, during the era of Carlos Tevez, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes. I admire Nani in particular, infact I was nicknamed Nani due to my obsessive love for the Nani’s number 17 red coloured jersey then. I washed it almost every day because I wore it almost everyday too (I know my LRB, she will start calling me Nani, Funny girl).

 

Later I developed interest in Barcelona too because of my love for the Spanish team during the 2010 World Cup which saw the team clinch the title. The star-studded team of Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, Busquets and Pedro were all playing for the Barcelona team at the time.

 

I shared so many things in common with my very delectable LR-B; She’s excessively bibliophilic, she discusses national issues and politics, she loves long walks and vacations, she loves eating beans too (a hobby I’m also trying to emulate), her love for Chelsea and following updates about the team is where we draw the line.

 

Readers would have been wondering how I knew the Man Utd and Spanish teams so much and yet claim I don’t like football; That’s where my late father, Raimi Atanda comes in.

 

In his lifetime, he never had a preferred club but he had a preferred national team which is the Nigerian Super Eagles, he’s so passionate about the team that he never missed any of their football matches, be it the World cup, continental clubs or friendlies.

 

During every Africa Cup of Nations, Babami is always carefully analysing the fixtures and squad, analysing performances and cheering them up behind the scenes so passionately.

 

Babami’s love for the Eagles was so infectious that we developed same too and began to watch them. The most interesting and one which I can never forget in a hurry was in 2013 when Nigeria won the African Cup of Nations, he was so happy that he bought drinks for everyone in the house.

 

There were times that we has to stay awake to watch some of the Eagles’ matches, he would never sleep nor blink an eye throughout the match. He was so patriotic.

 

When Babami died last year, he took along with him the remaining interest in football in me.

 

I knew how happy he would have been yesterday seeing the Super Eagles crush the Pharaohs of Egypt in their opening match at the tournament. If truly the dead could look back, I know he would be beaming with smile hailing the Eagles.

 

Babami will be two years gone in three weeks. May almighty Allah continue to bless his patriotic soul and grant him the highest place in Jannah.

 

Rest on, Babami Raimi Atanda, Okunrin Meta!

 

 

Bagbansoro Uthman Olamilekan

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Education Sector: CPS Rafiu Ajakaye replies Samurai of the Saraki dynasty

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On Monday morning, December 20, the social media was awash with an article titled ‘It Does Not Take 15 Years’. It was written by a leading samurai of the Saraki dynasty, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi.

Abdullahi, author, former editor, minister and commissioner, qualifies to be called a public intellectual by any fair standard. However, there is this thing called intellectual dishonesty. It is defined, per wiki.c2.com, as a ‘failure to apply standards of rational evaluation that one is aware of, usually in a self-serving fashion. If one judges others more critically than oneself, that is intellectually dishonest. If one deflects criticism of a friend or ally simply because they are a friend or ally, that is intellectually dishonest.’

For Mallam Abdullahi to be exonerated of intellectual dishonesty, then he would in turn be charged with ‘wilful ignorance’. Neither fits the persona he seeks to portray even as a member of the Saraki political dynasty. Having once read an article by the same fellow in which he dissected the reasons he thought they lost in 2019, it is only fair to charge him with intellectual dishonesty, not wilful ignorance. In that interview he granted Premium Times, he admitted that they truly dropped the ball and stopped short of saying they deserved all the humiliations that came with the 2019 shellacking. The volte-face he attempted in his ‘ _It does not take 15 years’_ passes for a survivalist attempt to warm himself into the heart of the emperor who holds the key to his political future.

The basis for his diatribe against Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq was because the Governor said it would take the next 15 years to fix the gaps in the education sector. I struggled to understand his grouse with that statement. Circa 2016, the former administration put funding requirements for the infrastructural gap in the state at N255bn. How much of that deficit — along with the deterioration in social and physical infrastructure that took place between 2016 and 2019 when they left — was bridged? Add the fall in the value of the naira to the mix.

In the newly launched Kwara State Sustainable Development Plan (2021-2030), deficits to be fixed in the social sector (education and health) are estimated at approximately N2trillion. That is 42 percent of funding requirement for the N4.7tr plan. Let’s work with the revised 2021 budget figures of N169bn and see who truly understands the dynamics of the issues. At 25% allocation to education and 7% yearly budgetary increase, for example, it will take a minimum of 15 years to meet the goal.

Since the Governor was speaking about fixing the deficits and putting basic things in place, his mention of 15 years gap-bridging window was in fact conservative and ambitious.

The former minister attempted to play down the link between physical space and (classroom) activities in educational development. This is quite embarrassing to come from a former education commissioner. As one of the thinkers of the dynasty, could this thinking that decent physical space (for learning) is largely irrelevant to be responsible for why they left public schools like penitentiaries? Scholars of pedagogy have written extensively on the dynamic relationship between educational space (physical structure) and (learning) activities. This is particularly truer for little children who are seriously impacted by the aesthetics of their environment. I implore Mallam Bolaji to humbly update himself on this serious topic. If he doubts the serious impacts of environment in how humans grow and behave, I recommend Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography to him.

In his flowery discussion on the politics of UBEC counterpart funding between federal and subnational governments, he cleverly sidestepped the critical issue. The crime the dynasty committed was not so much about not accessing the funds. As he rightly argued, states do not have the same capacity. Some states (read Kwara) also preferred arming urchins to sinking any funds in the future of its children. The crime the dynasty committed was the criminal diversion of the funds given by the UBEC. That was what led to the shameful black-listing of Kwara for seven years, three years shy of a whole generation. Think about it. I read my predecessor Wahab Oba sweating to explain that they sought to pay back the diverted N450m in 2019. They diverted money in 2013. Blacklisted from 2014. They sought to pay back in 2019 after losing an election wholesale. Is God not great? You sef think am nah! What Mallam Bolaji and other stake-seekers in the dynasty’s prebendal politics do now is pure ‘ego defense’, that psychological reaction to uncomfortable truth. What they did not do, this administration did. We paid N7.1bn counterpart funds to receive the grants for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020. The effects of such action across Kwara State are glaring to the blind. Priority.

Mallam Bolaji boasted about his achievements as education commissioner. Why not? But there is hardly any appreciable fact to link those initiatives to improved education outcomes in the state. That is the ultimate of any education policy. In fact, many of those reforms were never carried through. They existed at best on papers. Whereas a certain education official himself allegedly failed a serious emotional intelligence test by slapping a teacher, recruitments done under the former commissioner’s watch were never merit-based. Teaching slots were part of political largesse under his watch.  One expected him, an advocate of good education, to at least issue a statement to congratulate the incumbent Governor they love to hate for recruiting 4,701 teachers without a shred of political interference. It takes courage and leadership to do that. On laurels, this administration has won several of them. But what truly matters is how the Kwara child fares, not any awards. Posterity will take care of that.

Regardless of Bolaji Abdullahi’s chest-thumping, two major developments exposed the underbelly of the rots in their system in 2019: the WAEC hammer on several schools in the state for widespread examination malpractices and JAMB’s report which raised the alarm that most UTME candidates from Kwara could not cope with its computer based test platforms. This pointed up a serious gap in functional education in the state, contrary to the grandstanding of Bolaji Abdullahi.

This administration does not pretend that all is well with the sector. Nor does it sit on the challenges. While we believe that fixing the physical space is key in educational development, we are convinced that that is not enough. That the Governor divorced politics from teachers’ recruitment, especially in an environment where job placements serve to burnish a politician’s credentials among your followers, underscores his statesmanship and deeper understanding of what is at stake. Besides, this administration recently held an education summit —  to which Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi was invited as a former sector player, though he declined. This gives the lie to his gratuitous claim about anyone having an ‘adversarial mindset’ and speaks loudly to the maturity and large-heartedness with which the Governor handles state matters. Honest Kwarans can tell the past from the present, particularly viewing things from 2003.

A major outcome of the education summit is the Kwara State Education Transformation Agenda, a fruit of which is Kwara State Education Trust Fund Law, which seeks to bring in more stakeholders into the sector. Another is the Kwara Leading Education Achievement and Reform Now (KwaraLEARN). Planned to begin early next year, KwaraLEARN will transform all government primary schools across the state into powerful public institutions using an innovative technology and data-driven platform, coupled with high-quality learning materials, effective training and ongoing coaching for teachers and school leaders, and technology-enabled support teams to create 360-degree support for learning outcomes. It is a five-year programme the administration plans to lead Kwara to inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic growth and mobility. In place of physically abusing a teacher, the Governor in turn plans to use technology to deepen a mutually-beneficial regime of accountability in our schools.

One understands that politicians are back to their game ahead of the next ballot. We expect that the dynasty and its foot soldiers will play dirty. They will seek to rewrite history. But hard facts await them, irrespective of their sophistry. What the Governor did was to speak to the reality of Kwara. He will keep saying it, while working hard to make things better. While he does so, he is not unmindful of the sayings of Lee McIntyre that ‘deniers and other ideologues routinely embrace an obscenely high standard of doubt towards facts that they don’t want to believe, alongside complete incredulity toward any facts that fit with their agenda’.

• Rafiu Ajakaye is CPS to the Governor

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