INTERVIEW: AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq: How Lai Mohammed Dehumanised Me (I)
In his first media interview, the usually reticent Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, opens up on the decay he was confronted with when he assumed office, his durable efforts to change the state of affairs that are beginning to yield results as well as the reason he cannot share the same political space with the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the humiliation he suffered in the hands of Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha bring the excerpts
Q: From most of our interactions with some of your aides and ordinary folks around the state, everyone agrees that you are very humble. Some of them are concerned that you may be taken for granted or at worse, come to some harm. Do you share this concern?
A: No. Really, I don’t share the concern. I think we have to go back to the context of the political environment, where we’re all coming from; where we’re going, our perception. In politics, everybody has his personal interest. What is propelling you? That is me. I am not making it up. It is who I am. If it is a veil, it will be removed one day and people will find out the real you. Those who take me for granted discover late that they made a wrong judgment about me. I have no reason to think I will come to any harm. From who? If your dealings with people are fair and transparent, you have no reason to be afraid. However, it is foolhardy to attempt to please everyone. There will always be those who do not see anything good in you. The important thing is to be true to yourself. As far as the office I occupy is concerned, I took an oath to serve the people of Kwara State. I am focused on service delivery to the greatest number. To serve well, you have to be a good listener and that is one of my strongest attributes. I talk less and listen more. It takes a humble person to listen, but I am not doing it for the cameras. This is who I am.
Q: What are some of the challenges that confronted you on assuming office?
A: I started with the Fourth Republic in 1998. We were in the Peoples Democratic Party then. Everybody else (in Kwara) was in the All Nigeria Peoples Party with Saraki. At that time, nobody would go against him politically. Even as of today in government, those of us that did not play Saraki’s politics are not more than 10. Most of the people that are with us, are persons who have either never been into politics or were on the other side.
The interesting thing about this administration is that in our House of Assembly, only one person has been in politics before. In the cabinet, only one person. So, it’s like a new awakening. We have a lot of lapses because we’ve not been in government. It has been a huge challenge to train civil servants. Yes, they have the zeal to do the work, but there was lack of investment in them. The salaries were not being paid or were paid in percentages and were late. Pensions were not paid, gratuities were not paid, running costs of ministries were not paid. Therefore, morale was totally down.
Even if I say it myself, we have tried, but it is politics. We’re not shouting about what we’re doing. So that’s why it’s like we’re not doing anything, but the people are feeling the impact. I started with where we’re coming from.
The last administration was very good with the media, exceedingly good, the best in Nigeria. I can tell you that they were the best in Nigeria, when it comes to media, because we did our manifesto and programme, thinking we were coming to inherit something good. What they were saying was not what was on ground. We were not allowed into schools and hospitals to campaign or see what was going on, so we really didn’t know the depth of the challenges. It was when we now got in that we found out that the manifesto is useless.