For the people of Kwara state, this year’s democracy day is a twin celebration. The state is marking the 50 years of its creation and also second year anniversary of the administration of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.
Created on the 27th of May, 1967, alongside 11 others by the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon(rtd), Kwara state has so for been governed by 19 military and civilian governors.
Of this figure, 13 were military governors posted to the state while the remaining six were civilian governors.
The emergence of the current president of the senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki is one of the new chapters added to the History of the state after his father, Dr. Olusola Saraki had served in similar capacity as former senate leader in the Second Republic.
The scion of the Sarakis political hegemony is also the first civilian governor to have ruled the state for two terms (2013-2011) coming after the late Rear admiral Muhammed Alabi Lawal of blessed memory.
The incumbent governor of the state, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed is also serving his second term and by the completion of his tenure in 2019,he would also be making history as the second executive governor to have ruled the state for two terms after his political god father and predecessor.
Ahmed’s second year in office is coinciding with the 50 years anniversary of the creation of the state.
As part of activities lined up to mark the anniversary, the state government had set up a 31 man member committee which had equally rolled out number of programmes to mark the anniversary in ‘‘a low key’’.
The Secretary to the State Government who doubles as chairman of the anniversary committee celebration, Alhaji Isiaka Gold at a world press conference to herald the golden jubilee activities, said 50 distinguished kwarans who have contributed to the development of the state in various spheres would be honoured with awards that have been designed in 8 different categories.
Founding fathers aspirations
Reflecting on theme of the celebration, Gold said that Kwara would celebrate peace and sustained tranquillity that had bound the state together over the years which he said were the wish of its founding fathers.
“When Kwara State was created, we happened to be alive at that time and we are not small. At that time, we know what the state was and today, there is one thing we can take in this state and be proud of.
“Our founding fathers wanted united people, a peaceful environment. Today in Kwara, if you are talking about anything, we are more united than any state in the country.
“If you are talking about women or people in other places, people migrate to Kwara than any other state either in the South or in the North.
“In terms of security, Kwara state is more peaceful than any other states. So, I think we have been able to meet the yearnings of the founding fathers”.
Agitation to rename Kwara
Another issue generating debate among kwarans as the state is basking in the euphoria of its 50 years anniversary is the agitation to rename the state .
Those calling for such renaming of the state argued that the name Kwara was derived from a river before some new states were carved out of namely Kogi and Niger.
But the SSG while responding to the agitation said there was never a time when a group or section of the state called for the braking up as such renaming the state does not arise
“The naming of Kwara is a big river, and the big river we have is River Niger. That is where we derived Kwara. We have River Kaduna, River Niger and River Benue and so on. If you are talking about naming, that was how we got our own. Those ones clamouring for change of name, I don’t know what they want again. But I think Kwara is Kwara and we have cause to celebrate’’.
While listing the achievements recorded by the state, the SSG said “despite the fact that we are diverse in terms of tribes, religions, we are more united than any other states in this country. If in the last 50 years, we want to go back, we will say in this area, we have achieved.
“If you go down to other states, you will see within a community two different tribes fighting themselves. In Kwara today, we have the Barubas, the Ibolos, the Yorubas, the Hausas, the Fulanis and the Nupes and so on. Unity in Kwara, that is our greatest achievement..
“Another thing is that in 1967, before the creation of the state, we knew how the state looked like but today, we can boast of many universities including federal, state and private. We have colleges of education and polytechnics”.
In the last few days of his second year tenure in office, the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has also embarked on various projects across the state.
To close the gap in infrastructural deficit in the state, the Abdulfatah Ahmed’s administration has instituted Kwara Infrastructural development fund IF-K where N500 million is being committed every months from the proceeds of its improved Internally Generated Revenues.
As a way of ploughing back the generated revenue to the development of the state, Governor Ahmed in the last few days has flagged off various capital projects while some were also slated for commissioning as parts of activities lined up to commemorate his two years
As part of ways of utilising the funds, Governor Ahmed has awarded contract for the construction of the two campuses for the Kwara State University, Malete located in Osi, Kwara south and Ilesha Baruba in kwara north.
Also flagged off is the ongoing construction of Gari Alimi Diamond Split under- pass, dualization of Kunlende- UITH-Oke-Ose road while the Light Up Kwara project t (LUK) would be commissioned.
In addressing transportation challenges in the city, the state government has purchased six buses to operate it mass transit scheme for designated routes in the state.
‘Kwara under siege’
Disagreeing with the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) government in the state, notable opposition figures under the umbrella of Movement for Genuine Change (MGC), last weekend convened a colloquium to reflect on the state of affairs and governance in the 50m years old state where they passed a different verdicts.
The movement during a colloquium held at Acasanta event centre Ilorin, with the theme ‘‘Kwara Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’’, regretted that successive administration from 2004 to date have subjugated the legacy of past heroes of the state and subjected the masses to ‘‘extreme poverty’’.
Those who presented papers at the summit included renowned human rights activist Mr. Femi Falana Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Barrister Ayo Opadokun and former National Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Issa Aremu.
Notable opposition figures at the summit included former governorship aspirants under the plat form of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in the state, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem , Alhaji Lasisi Kolawole Jimoh, factional Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in the state, Barrister Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo ,former deputy governor of the state, Chief Joel Afolabi Ogundeji among others.
While delivering his address, chairman of the movement Dr .H Oyedepo said the movement would not join in celebrating the state at 50 because doing so ‘‘will certainly offend the sensibilities of the average Kwaran, who believes and, may be rightly, that there is nothing to celebrate. The hopes and aspirations of the founding fathers, have not only been thwarted, their industry, objectives and focus to see Kwara state developed have been re-directed to wrong directions that benefit only those involved in the re-engineering of the State for private and personal gains. The result is where we find ourselves today. This has made the fact that we belong to the first generation of States created in Nigeria, a mere fact of history, with nothing to show for it’’.
His address set the tone for the paper presentation as speakers after speakers took turn to appraise the level of development in the state.
For Falana , whose paper was titled ‘‘Politics, Leadership and Accountability: The Role of the People’’, challenged the people of the state to struggle for economic power and take the political destiny of the state in their hands’’.
The human right activist observed that the purpose of creating the state which was to make government closer to the people has not been met.
He lamented ‘‘few powerful individuals have privatized the state and cornered its resources to the detriment of the people’’.
Falana submission was corroborated by the keynote speaker, Ayo Opadokun Esq ,in a paper titled ‘‘Dynastic politics and Challenges of a Modern State’’.
From the organised labour came the submission from comrade Issa Aremu that for the state the political class must cut wasteful spending of public office holders and be more committed to selfless service lamenting that Kwara is not on duty’’ .His paper was titled ‘‘What Hope for Kwara From 50’’.
At the end of the summit, the movement in a communiqué issued and jointly signed by Dr. Bolaji Afolabi ,Alhaji Mohammed Abioye, and Alhaji Tunde Muhammed concluded that the ‘‘current socio-economic development of the state does not justify the fifty years of our existence as we are under the siege of socio-economic, cultural and political slavery’’.
Those ones clamouring for change of name, I don’t know what they want again. But I think Kwara is Kwara and we have cause to celebrate