Kwara Speaker: Why Crisis Persists Between Gov. AbdulRazaq and Lai Mohammed
By The Nation
Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, engineer and Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, represents Ilesha-Gwanara Constituency. He spoke with reporters on the Legislative/Executive relations and the rift between Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq and Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, and other partisan issues: Excerpts:
You are one of the youngest Speakers in Nigeria. How are you able to manage the House, despite being a first term lawmaker?
Firstly, I have been handling the affairs of the House with the fear of God. I see and carry myself as just the first among equals. We relate as brothers, colleagues and compatriots who have a duty to the people of the state who have entrusted us with their mandates. In everything we do, I go for consensus building and we all look after one other. This has been the secret. I am always grateful that we place the interest of the state above group, sectional or personal interest. This has made us thick as a team. I don’t see myself as superior to any of my colleagues and I try to act as their chief servant. Many of them treat me as their little brother who must succeed. I cannot thank them enough.
What would you say have been the achievements of this House?
This 9th Assembly is a unique one. It is unlike any other Assembly in the recent history of the state because of the peculiar nature of our emergence. We came through a political revolution called Otoge. What we have done is to ensure that we work with the executive and the judiciary to deliver on the mandate of our people. First and foremost, the Assembly has been a strategic partner for success to the executive. We cooperate without jettisoning legislative independence, engendering mutual respect and synergy. This House has passed 18 bills, 39 public spirited motions. Many of our bills have direct impacts on the wellbeing of the masses and equitable distribution of wealth. An example is the Kwara State Social Investment Programme Bill, which we worked on. Today, tens of thousands of our people are being lifted out of poverty. Apart from this, we conduct adequate oversight functions to ensure judicious use of public resources. In doing this, we are mindful of the fact that this is a young as administration led by a very sincere and committed patriot, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who is very passionate about the well-being of the people. Of course, this is glaring in the achievements across various sectors like health, education, water, social development, road, and others. We have also worked on some bills that will really transform Kwara State. Take the Kwara State Education Trust Fund, which has also been assented to by the Governor. By the time the Trust Fund becomes operational, public education will never be the same again. The Kwara State Sports Commission Bill is another milestone. Same for the Geographic Information Service (GIS) Bill which has also become law and will soon go into full implementation after some other preliminary works have been done. Our members remain very close to the grassroots.
The Otoge tsunami in Kwara was one of its kind in Nigeria in 2019. Would you say the APC administration has justified the confidence reposed in you?
Except for those who want to play politics, there is no part of Kwara State where the programmes and activities of this government is not being felt. It has never been so before. There is no local government you won’t find one or two projects in various sectors. Currently now, there is massive rehabilitation or remodelling of schools across the state. This has never been so. This is coming just a few months after our people benefitted hugely from a very transparent, child-focused teachers’ recruitment process. It is the best we have ever seen in this state. Go and ask anyone. There is no ward where you will not find beneficiaries of the social safety programme of the administration. In Baruten where I come from, we have never had it so good. In the next few weeks or so, the government would have completed and possibly Commission a brand new radio station. It is the first radio station in the whole of Kwara North senatorial district. Before now, we relied on radio from Benin Republic. The region has never had benefited from public water interventions as we have seen under this administration; it is same for health facilities. The results are glaring. The popular 33km Ilesha Gwanara road is now undergoing construction up to asphalt level. This is a road that had been abandoned after over N1bn had been stolen under the last administration. I can go on and on. It is important to note however that the Otoge revolution goes beyond the great things we are seeing in the area of basic amenities. It is also about the dignity of the human person. Kwarans are no longer subservient to anyone. We are no longer referred to as slaves to any political warlord. Every politician now knows that the people matter.
Senator Saraki said a few days ago that the people of Kwara State have regretted their decision on Otoge. What do you say to that?
He was actually insulting the people of Kwara State. Senator Saraki himself does not believe what he was saying. He knows there is a clear cut positive difference in the Kwara of 2019 and Kwara of today. In 2019, Kwara was a pariah state on many fronts. I’m sure you have heard the story of how we were humiliated out of UBEC because the government that Senator Saraki inspired diverted money meant for the development basic education. We were blacklisted. When he was leading Kwara, workers at the Colleges of Education were being owed 30 months in salary arrears. The schools had all lost accreditation. In fact, the norm in those days was for your relatives in the civil service to beg you for money because they were not being paid. They were still owing workers even when they got bailouts from the Federal Government. Things were really bad. Everything has collapsed under them. People had lost hope. We no longer have half salary as we had it under his reign. We have breathed life back to Kwara. I believe Senator Saraki was just playing to the gallery on the national Tv. In fact, the people will respond to his comment that they were gullible and unreasonable to vote him out. He will get his response at the right time.
Your name came up in a recent interview by the governor and in the reply of the minister. The minister said he funded the whole election and all of you beneficiaries of his sweat have been ungrateful to him. What exactly is happening?
See, I have been with the Governor since 2010 as one of his foot soldiers. He has always been a front runner in the struggle of kwara people to end the political slavery. He had always been at the trenches. As for the claims of Alhaji Lai Mohammed over election funding, I make bold to say here that Alhaji Lai did not fund my election. I think I can speak for 21 other members of the Hobourable House and our senators. I am aware that the Governor not only funded his own campaign, he spent his personal fortunes to support other candidates. Alhaji was nowhere to be found. We went to the farthest places in Kwara North during the campaign with the Governor. Where was Alhaji Lai at that time? He was not a factor in our election as such. It is better to just ignore those outrageous claims because everyone knows them to be pure lies. How can somebody that we didn’t see before, during and after election claim to fund the same election?
How would you describe the developments in the Kwara APC?
For me, there is more noise than substance in the noise about so-called crisis. Some lousy minorities are the ones making so much noise because they want to be recognised. They are using all sort of blackmail just to portray crisis. I will urge such persons to join hands with the Governor and other sincere stakeholders to build the party to a greater height. For me, what I see is sheer blackmail and red herring to seek undeserved attention. I’m sure the National secretariat of the party has seen through the gimmick during the party registration. There is really nothing to fret about. All you hear are mostly contrived noise to seek attention.
Do you see all the warring parties coming together again?
Absolutely. Especially for those who seek development of the state and not selfish gains. Whatever our differences, which is normal in any human environment, we are stronger together if all we seek is development. Democracy itself encourages debate and I must commend the Governor for his statesmanship and patience despite provocations. He has really done well to tolerate a lot of excesses. We know what happened elsewhere. He has been very accommodating, in spite of obvious disrespect to his person and office. He is what a good leader should be.
What are the chances of your party in 2023, given the infighting , the Saraki factor, and of course some defections that may happen?
Whatever our differences, which I believe will be resolved in favour of party discipline and accommodation, the chances of our party are very bright. We have nothing to fret over. As for the former Minister, he is just pursuing his personal gains. His defection has nothing to do with the collective good of our local government, Kwara North, or the state. Apart from the unprecedented level of development we have seen in our region, the Minister is one of the direct beneficiaries of this administration because his daughter is a leading light of this government. Yes it is often said that the more the merrier in a democracy, but I do not fret whatsoever over his defection as the entire Kwara North and especially Baruten where I come from remain solidly behind the APC and of course the administration of the Governor who has really done well.