In this piece, SUCCESS NWOGU takes a look at the war of words between the ruling All Progressives Congress and opposition political parties over the use of revenue which accrued to the Kwara State over the last 10 years.
The use or misuse of federal allocation estimated to be N491.906bn over the last 10 years has been a source of acrimony between the ruling All Progressives Congress and opposition political parties in Kwara State. Although the APC only became a registered party less than one year ago, its leader in the state, Senator Bukola Saraki, ruled the state on the platform of the PDP for eight years before handing over to his political godson, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed. Saraki’s movement from the PDP into the APC alongside Ahmed changed the political landscape of the state.
The opposition PDP threw the first salvo during a recent retreat it held for its members in Ilorin, the state capital. A leading member of the party, Mr. Bamidele Oyedepo, in his presentation at the event, claimed that the state government earned a staggering N491.906bn beginning from 2003 till date. According to him, the amount represents what the state received from the Federation Account, Internally Generated Revenue, grants and disbursements; sundry refunds and loans; Value Added Tax and excess crude oil. He alleged that there was nothing to show for these huge allocations.
Oyedepo told his audience, “Do you sincerely think the achievements of this government from 2004 is anywhere near the over N491.91bn which has accrued to it? The N491.91bn is made up of annual allocations of N19.18bn in 2004, N266.77bn in 2005, N29.27bn in 2006 and N39.74bm in 2007. N58. 01bn in 2008; N53. 50bn in 2009; N42.85bn in 2010; N72.33bn in 2011; N77.59bn in 2012 and N72.63bn in 2013.”
But Ahmed’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said the state government earned about N340.3bn between 2003 and 2014. According to him, contrary to the claims by the opposition, the administration received the said amount as its total revenue which includes statutory allocations and Internally Generated Revenue within this period.
Oyedepo argued that the huge amount which accrued to the state during the period under review was more than sufficient to have turned the state economy around. “But what do we have? A dilapidated and moribund economic, industrial and commercial sector policies and practices that have killed the earlier vibrant and growing industries instead of growing new ones and promoting those inherited,” Oyedepo added.
The opposition PDP is not alone. The state chapter of the Labour Party, in its recent state congress, accused the APC-led administration of profligacy. Leading opposition figures in the state which include, Chief Joel Afolabi; Kwara State PDP Chairman, Mr. Iyiola Oyedepo; Deputy National Secretary, LP, Mr. Isa Aremu and a state LP stalwart, Alhaji Abdulhakeem Amao, deplored what they termed bad governance in the state. Afolabi prayed for a new dawn in the governance of Kwara State.
According to Afolabi, upon the death of Kwara political father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, people felt that a new trend would emerge. He, however, expressed disappointment that his heir decided not only to continue where his father stopped he also decided to “wear the face of a tiger.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Kwara PDP chairman said the politics being championed by the APC in the state was retrogressive. He predicted that its end was in sight. He compared the present administration to an old cracked wall, which he said a mere push could pull down. He said, “When governance is reduced to billboards and bogus claims, you should know that the end of the regime is around the corner.”
On his part, Aremu deplored the ubiquitous display of billboards of political personalities in the state and what he called stratification and glorification of persons. Amao alleged that the infrastructure claimed to have been provided by the state were shoddy jobs passed off as genuine.
He said, “What they are doing is no development at all. The basic necessities of human beings such as food and shelter are not being provided. You are rounding off all our investments in the name of privatisation.”
While critics of government decry what they call lack of human and infrastructural development, the state government and its supporters dismiss critics as those who are trying to play the ostrich.
A former aide to Saraki on Political Matters, Alhaji Sulyman Yusuf, said most critics of Saraki and Ahmed’s administrations were products and beneficiaries of the Saraki political dynasty. According to him, their allegation that the state lacks development is untrue. He said many of the critics played prominent roles during the Bukola Saraki-led administration, adding that they were only complaining because they had fallen out of favour with Saraki political dynasty.
Yusuf defended the records of the administrations of Saraki and Ahmed. He said, “We know how Post Office, Ilorin, Unity Roundabout, Asa Dam and Airport Road looked like. Today, we see monumental development in Kwara. Even during military regimes, in housing for instance, Saraki was the one that first built housing estates for local governments outside Ilorin. All other past administrations, military or civilian, concentrated in Ilorin, the state capital.”
Yusuf, an APC chieftain, stated that many rural areas which lacked good roads had all been linked with good road network.
Speaking in a similar vein, Akorede said Kwara State of 2003 bears no resemblance to Kwara State of 2014, claiming that the positive transformation was obvious to all. He argued that those who were just returning to the state after being away for so long could testify that the state had witnessed rapid infrastructural development, socially and economically. According to him, it is clear that the monies that have come into the state have been put to judicious use.
He also revealed that about 70 per cent of federal allocations to the state go towards paying salaries and wages of workers in the state.
Akorede equally listed some projects which he claimed were testimonies to the administration’s prudent management of state resources. Some of them include the state-owned university, rural roads as well as housing schemes.
He maintained that even opponents of the administration could not deny the fact that it had done well for the state in spite of its limited resources and the challenges posed by political interference of detractors. The state government, he posited, opened up rural areas and made development inclusive. Akorede reiterated that government’s reforms had transformed primary and secondary education through curriculum upgrade and teacher training, which has also been enhanced with the Education Resource Center, Ilorin, where science teachers are trained.
This, he said, was in addition to the upgrade of teaching and learning facilities in schools across the state. The Senior Special Assistant said more than 500 communities were also enjoying electricity supply courtesy of the state government because of the administration’s investment in the power sector. His list of the administration’s achievements extended to the health and sports sectors where the state has remained competitive in terms of manpower and basic infrastructure.
According to him, it was to the credit of the administration that the state has the second lowest level of unemployment rate in the country. This, he said, was in line with the official figures released by the Federal Office of Statistics.
“In the last four years, government has employed 10, 200 youths including 2, 000 civil servants through KWABES and another 500 employed directly by the Civil Service Commission,” he said.
But political observers insist that Kwara State still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of development. Those in this school of thought argue that the state which has a lot of potential in terms of agricultural development requires more than sloganeering to attain the required height.
Although currently a senator, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the scion of the late strongman of Ilorin politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, still has a vice-like grip on the politics of the state.
His decision to defect from the PDP on whose platform he ruled the state for eight unbroken years has pitted him against political interests at the state and federal levels.
For now, Saraki still dictates the political tunes in Kwara State although members of the opposition political parties have vowed to stop him and his political godson, Ahmed, from continuing in governance.
How far they are ready to go remains to be seen because the 2015 general elections, which will determine who has the last say, is barely seven months away.