I need to work twice as hard as my male counterparts – Kwara commissioner

Aisha Ahman Pategi is the Kwara State Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs. In this chat with ENE OSANG, she harps on the need to channel appropriated funds to the right projects to enable development of local governments.

What is your background and how did you join politics?

I am a professional business manager with long-standing experience in communication strategy, investment and financing consulting; as well as marketing and motivational leadership.

I am also a serial entrepreneur known to possess a contagious passion for excellence and innovation with great resource skills in research, government and Public relations.

How has it been working as a commissioner?

As a former Senior Special Assistant to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Strategy and Communication and also having worked on a non-profit called Project Coach Foundation as an Executive Director, being a commissioner is an extra call by Almighty Allah to serve the people with a passion for improving their livelihoods.

So, I will say it has been challenging but very insightful. Alhamdulilahi. 

What would you say is responsible for the lack of development in most local governments?

Well, for me, it’s all about organisation; shift in mindset and focusing on the bigger picture of the needs of the people. It’s about appropriate leadership joining hands with the people and working for the common goal of the people. However, there has always been a mismatch. 

Do you agree that absence of autonomy hinders performance of local governments and what is the situation in Kwara state?

Autonomy is relative; it depends on where you stand on the divide. With the right leadership, trust, and transparency, issues would be resolved once all these ingredients are available.

We all just need to come to the table with the same objectives. It is where there is no trust that autonomy becomes the sing song. You will agree with me, autonomy or not, it is all about the people.

Despite funds local governments get project execution remains highly unsatisfactory, what are you doing to change this narrative since you assumed office?

It’s about channeling the appropriated funds to the right projects, reducing wastage and leakages, and identifying the required sustainable projects that the people require (with their input, of course).

An example is the borehole projects currently being put in place. This becomes more effective with a constant liaison with the people which we have initiated with mini town halls to meet the people, listen to and help them understand what they truly do require.

Finally, it is about having the right people in the right positions. We have also ensured that we regularly engage our royal fathers for their input, abiding with the principle of democracy which is government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

So we have tried to engage all parties towards the development of our communities.

So, would you say development of local government areas in Kwara state is commensurate with the revenue generated?

Well, I am sure you will agree with me that there is never enough but we believe in making do with what we have by investing appropriately and of course, productively.

What strategies do you have in place to raise internally generated revenue in Kwara state?

To start with, we are currently identifying all the initiatives that generate revenue whilst working with the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) and all 16 local governments. Irrespective of this, we are currently working on creating additionally generated IGR initiatives, although stalled at the moment due to the pandemic. I am sure we can do better given time.

Patriarchy is a major barrier to women’s participation and growth in Nigeria as a commissioner have you had any peculiar challenge?

Interesting question! It is expected, but fortunately, the narratives are changing. As an educated female and a politician, I know I will need to work twice as hard as my male counterparts.

It is challenging, and I understand I always have to create space for myself at the table, keeping in mind that it’s a male-dominated arena.

Your state governor has received accolades for being gender-sensitive following appointment of women. What are you on part to realise gender equality and empower women?

With so much respect to His Excellency Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and all the glory to Almighty Allah, it is a challenge that posterity will affirm.

So far, we have through the same principle of listening to our people, opened a channel not only for the female gender, but also for the males to rise up to their responsibilities as a people because we believe that “whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it diligently”.

For interested and engaged females, we are working with them on several initiatives to make them even better at what they do and let the whole world acknowledge their contributions.

Have you considered gender balance regarding chieftaincy and local government leadership in the state?

Absolutely, it is all about the people and their choices. Whoever the people choose, we will support and promote such. However, we will never be part of imposing a leadership on a people, that is not who we are.

What would you want to be remembered for when you leave office?

I would like to be remembered as someone who contributed her quota to humanity and the universal consciousness, through inspiring, guiding and empowering all. By and large, I want to be remembered as Aisha Ahman Pategi.

The world is currently under the siege of the coronavirus pandemic, what palliatives are in place for local government dwellers?

With thanks to His Excellency Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq the palliatives have been orchestrated for the needy and with the team on ground.

We will work assiduously to ensure that the right people get what has been earmarked through the different tiers of government.

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