By Abdulganiyu Abdulqadir
Isn’t it paradoxical that the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye is guilty of his own words? Right from the first paragraph of his article titled, “Of Yaman’s debt gaffe and PDP’s shock-jocks, I couldn’t but ask myself why the CPS chose the opening line of his article: “Believing one’s own lie — a kind of cognitive bias — is about the worst singular thing to happen to anyone.” It’s the greatest self-deception I’ve witnessed in recent times. As Leonardo da Vinci opined, the greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
One will empathize with the CPS though, because of the circumstance he found himself. He as the Governor’s mouthpiece must have thought to himself: “Rafiu, you must pen something down, even if it is beautiful nonsense to rationalize your portfolio.” If you must know, some hangers-on must have been calling or sending him messages via his hot line, asking if he was aware of the remarks from the opposition’s camp. They are all imbued with the victim’s mentality and view any uncomplimentary genuineness as a jab. In their stock in trade, they must fire back a salvo and the ‘devil’s workshop’ in the state house is the media aide. Poor Ajakaye; You’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of time.
As regards the bone of contention which is the astronomically rising debt profile of Kwara state, I chuckle every time I remember the promise by the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led government not to borrow a dime in office. One year into the administration and Gov Abdulrazaq had started visiting creditors’ doors both within and outside the shores of Nigeria, with cap in hand. Funny how some so-called leaders pledge heaven on earth, and before you could say Jack Robinson, they ended up eating their words unabashed.
I understand Ajakaye is conscious of the faux pas. This is one singular reason why he, on behalf of his principal must justify the decision either by hook or crook. Regrettably, it’s not always a suitable approach. As a matter of fact, sometimes, it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.
That, however, is a talk for another day. The crux of the matter at the time is another senseless attempt to drag Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki in to this. As much as the man has in all sincerity chosen to stand aloof and watch them ‘perform wonders’ with their magic wand, the present government in its disparagement continues to tie everything to the name Saraki. The most recent is this attempt to dance around its unjustifiable decision to secure humongous loan without any insightful purpose. It’s so simple; the petty man is eager to make boasts, yet he desires that others should believe him. And so, he enthusiastically engages in deception.
Let’s cut to the chase, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki’s administration as Governor was the birth of evolution in Kwara. Offering transformational leadership, he obtained loan at a time the state yearned for sweeping rebuilding, remodelling and revamping. Yes, he obtained the loan and invested it judiciously in the transmutation plan. The evidences are mega projects dotting the three senatorial districts that are today visible to the blind and makes Kwara what it is today. No visionary leader would have sat down at the time paying salaries, believing that’s all governance entails as being done today. I am particularly delighted in Ajakaye’s admittance that, “There is nothing bad about borrowing to build social and physical infrastructure that improves life’s chances for the people.” Again, this explains the mantra: good debt and bad debt.
Come to think of it, the former Governor served the people of Kwara in that office for 8 years during which the said loan was obtained. The Abdulrazaq government had only being in office for just three years and has accumulated such huge debt. I leave Ajakaye to do the math the way he did in his last article. It is crucial to also school Ajakaye and his cronies that government is a continuum and how governance was when you took office – an inkling of which you have had as an observer – hugely dictates how you approach governance. The Saraki government, well grounded in governance and management, studied the debt profile of the state at the time and realized the low debt stock gives room for his administration to obtain loan for impactful projects. It is not just about how much these institutions generate for the state today, it’s about how it has positioned Kwara as a go-to. Imagine the fame and recognition that the Kwara State University, Malete, the Diagnostic Centre, the Aviation College and Shonga farm alone have brought to Kwara? Suffice to estimate the direct and indirect jobs that the projects have created and is still creating for the state. This is an organic means of job creation that sustains itself in productivity and not the aggrandizing employment of civil servants that only bloats the state expenditure with no commensurate productivity.
Former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed assumed office and continued from where his predecessor stopped. He inherited the debt and adopted the repayment mechanism already designed by the Saraki administration. This, coupled with his financial acumen made it uncomplicated for his government to offset the N17billion bond collected by Dr Bukola Saraki as at September 2014, a fact which Ajakaye mischievously chose not to mention – “a kind of cognitive bias,” in his own words. Governor Ahmed did not just do a yeoman’s job in managing the Kwara treasures entrusted in his hands, but built on the legacy with several projects too. He went a step further to conceive the idea of internal revenue generation and ingeniously bore the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service, KWIRS. That, today is what Governor Abdulrazaq is enjoying effortlessly. Of course, ex-Gov Ahmed obtained loan as well, but took into cognizance, the debt size at the moment. This is what Governor Abdulrazaq has failed to do; to take cognizance of what he knew before taking office, what he met on ground and let that inform his government policy and programmes.
Coming into power at a time his predecessors had made the sacrifice, it is unexpected that the Abdulrazaq administration will only focus on taking advantage of the infrastructural gains and revenue pool, but expected to expand it to manage the state. With a total revenue generation of over N376 billion from FAAC and IGR as at March 2022, there is frankly no reason to incur an additional N45.1b domestic debt in just 3 years in office. Ajakaye in his self-deceit takes delight in stating that his principal inherited debt, but failed to mention the prepared meal that he met in office and only had to consume. He finds it soothing to calculate the debt percentage, but had no human feeling to highlight what the loans were spent on. He takes pride in justifying loan by Gov Abdulrazaq, but failed to evaluate if it was a financially prudent decision by a manager, considering the subsisting loan profile and the advantage of revenue sources he inherited. He made loan sound like a fashion parade where all models are expected to show off. It smacks of a lack of insight to obtain loan because others did. Besides, I thought the present administration came to rescue Kwara with its ‘O to ge’ crusade. Nothing else would have been more ingenious than to crash the state debt profile and expand the revenue base as being done by some other state Governors. Laughable how this government takes pride in its own ineptitude and shallow justification.
One can go on and on, but there are more pressing issues to attend to; Kwara Must be Rescued. I’ll leave the APC government and its apologists to sincerely brood and respond to this poser: Saraki obtained loan and expended it on symbolic projects that has changed the fortunes of Kwara for good, same with his immediate successor, a ration of which they repaid in their combined 16 Years in office. It is now his 38th month in office and by May 2023, his tenure of four years will elapse. What visible thing has Gov Abdulrazaq done with the huge loan he has obtained and the flowing revenue he did not work for but inherited in office? We are waiting.
Abdulqadir is the Press Officer on Local Matters to Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.