Kwara: What They Met on Ground

By Mustapha Babasale

Last Friday was the first anniversary of Mr. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq as Governor of Kwara State elected March last year under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As expected, he struggled to give an account of his achievements in government. Even before yesterday, his spokesman, Rafiu Ajakaye had first written an epistle on the last one year of the ‘O to Ge’/APC government in the state of harmony. 

What I found curious is that both Ajakaye and Abdulrazaq concentrated on “what we met on ground” more than “what we have put on ground”. The import of their message is to continue to blame the past government on their non-performance and their inability to deliver on their boastful campaign promises. The repetition and emphasis on ‘what they met on ground’ as opposed to telling the people what they put on ground became so boring that it demonstrated the apparent lack of capacity, foresight and clear thinking in the government 

No wonder, the Kwara State APC chairman, Hon. Bashir Bolarinwa in a radio interview a week before the first year anniversary told the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq government that it would score far lower rating than the previous governments except its members learn to put their thinking caps on and think out of the box.

However, my position is to join the government and its leader, Abdulrazaq in further espousing on the theme “what they met on ground” by examining the reaction of the government to certain situations and asking whether what they met on ground shaped their attitude to due process, respect for judicial authorities and rule of law.

Is it ‘what they met on ground’ that made the APC-controlled Kwara State House of Assembly to refuse to respect the judgement of the Court of Appeal that Hon. Jimoh Agboola is the rightfully elected candidate to represent Ilorin South State Constituency? 

This particular case has demonstrated the Kwara Government’s utter disrespect for the rule of law, judicial decisions, due process and organized system. The detail is that Hon. Agboola, was declared the rightfully elected candidate by both the Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal which is the last court of resort in elections into the federal and state legislature. The Court of Appeal also gave a consequent order that Agboola should be sworn in by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Salihu and admitted as a state legislator. The copy of the judgement and consequent order were served on the speaker. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had as a result issued a certificate of return to Agboola.

Immediately after the judgement, Abdulrazaq issued a statement congratulating the ‘new legislator’ and urged him to work alongside his colleagues for the benefit of Kwara State. One would have thought this Governor-son of a renowned lawyer had done the best thing. However, many in Kwara State said the statement was unlike the Governor they knew, that he was only playing politics and playing to the gallery. They added that except the man has changed, the statement did not reflect his mind and his predilection. 

At it turned out, these pessimists were right. More than seven months after the statement, Agboola is still battling to get the court order complied with. He had returned to the Court of Appeal and got a fresh order to compel the Assembly to swear him in. You may wonder why the contempt of court committed by the House is being blamed on the Governor. 

The belief is that the Governor, after his press statement, also went behind to encourage the speaker to disregard the court order. It is also known that as the leader of the ruling party, if the Governor so wish, Agboola would have been sworn in. Those who know the Kwara helmsman very well said he is a master of subterfuge. He says something in public and do some other things privately. As the chief executive, he is superintending over a state where court judgement is being treated with contempt and the sanctity of judicial pronouncement is being rubbished. I am not sure the Kwara State Government can rightfully blame ‘what they met on ground’ for this lawlessness. 

The Governor has refused all entreaties to him to prevail on the Speaker to do the right thing and give effect to the judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction. Meanwhile, on all other issues, the Governor gets his way easily with the State House of Assembly. The Assembly has been a willing tool as the Governor moves against his opponents and arm-twist perceived enemies. Up till this moment, the man whose election has been nullified by the courts remains in the House earning salaries and participating in making laws that are used by Abdulrazaq in governing the state.

Another area to question the ‘what they met on ground’ philosophy and the aversion of the Kwara State Governor to due process was the demolition of Ile Arugbo (Old Peoples Home), the place being used by the Saraki family to dispense social benefits to aged women. The place had existed for over four decades and suddenly around the last Christmas period, the Governor remembered that the original purpose of the land was to build a state secretariat. He then rushed to “revoke” the right of the Sarakis over the land. Even though he claimed the late Olusola Saraki never had any right over the land, one wonders if anything other than an existing right can be “revoked” with respect to land matters.

Within days of the announcement of the  “revocation” when the Sarakis had headed for the court, the Governor ordered a demolition squad to visit the land on New Year Day in the middle of the night and pull down the structures on the land. The Governor did not wait for the statutory notices to be served on the present occupant as provided for by the Land Use Act of 1978 which now forms part of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. 

In the process, the old people and youths who had been holding night vigil on the land since the governor made his curious revocation announcement were brutalized. The demolition squad consisting some security personnel attached to the Governor shot sporadically into the air for hours and used tear gas canisters on the old people. In the morning after the midnight demolition, many of the residents of Ilofa Road GRA where the land was located found empty shells of bullet and teargas canister in their compounds and homes. Did they also ‘meet this on ground’?

Which government executes demolition of structures in the middle of the night and on New Year day? It was an official action taken in a gangster manner. Another instance of the Governor’s aversion for due process, global best practices and rule of law. The Governor’s supporters, both on television  and social media, further cemented the image of a man with no tolerance for the judicial process when they argued that the swift and clandestine demolition was done to prevent a situation where the Sarakis would lock down the property for years through often prolonged court case. 

So, the demolition was a pre-emptive action taken to damage the res in an envisaged court action and to create a cul-de-sac situation that would tie the hands of the court. What a reasoning where the son of a prominent lawyer is the chief executive. Sure, this could not have been part of ‘what they met on ground’.

Also, the arbitrary sack of six permanent secretaries without resort to the Civil Service Commission is another subversion of the due process. The Governor simply wanted to get out the permanent secretaries who he consider loyal to his predecessor and promote his own loyalists. Unfortunately, those loyalists he promoted to replace the sacked perm secs are people who earlier on failed promotion exercise. It was a decision that elevated mediocrity in the service to an art. It also disregarded the fact that the post of these sacked top bureaucrats has statutory flavour and can only be duly terminated following the rigorous and elaborate process. Yet, Abdulrazaq ignored all the rules and sent the top civil servants packing. Definitely, that action was not based on ‘what they meant on ground’.

The government did not also meet on ground the act of promoting family rivalry and petty jealousy to an art of governance. His penchant to destroy and reverse all honour done to late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki is enormous. Apart from destroying Ile Arugbo, he plotted with the subservient House of Assembly to reverse the naming of Kwara State University (KWASU) in honour of the late politician. What he did not know is that the name of such a kind philanthropist is etched more in the hearts of people than on surfaces like a sign post or letterhead of a university.

Since he has been taking such odious decisions, he too has not taken any action that brings honour to him or his family. And this is because he did not meet such pettiness and little mindedness on ground. His frequent battle with all the Generals and foot soldiers of his ‘O to Ge’ campaign shows him as a queer character. Such ingratitude was not part of ‘what they met on ground’.

Overall, Abdulrazaq is perhaps the only Governor who came under such un-rebutted, incontrovertible and ceaseless attack on the day of his first anniversary in office, such that he was so sad and threatened to sack his entire media team on Friday evening. Well, a man who is so buried in the theme of ‘what we met on ground’ cannot suffer less indignity.

Babasale writes from Okelele, Ilorin.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on our opinion page are those of the writer and do not represent the position of NEWS DIARY NG or any of its reporters/editors.

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