Abdulrazaq: The Game-changing Zaria Boy Governor of Kwara
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State was born in Zaria, Kaduna State on February 5, 1960. Un-disputably, Zaria is a pivotal educational centre of Northern Nigeria, hosting the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), founded in1962, with its associated institutes of education, economic and social studies, administration, and health.
This ancient city is also hosting the Institute for Agricultural Research and Special Services (1924), the Leather Research Institute of Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Training Centre and a branch of the Katsina College of Arts, Science, and Technology. It has a commercial institute, a fine-arts school, and a school of pharmacy.
This Northern Nigeria city that shaped the formative years of Governor Abdulrazaq is a major collecting point for cotton, tobacco, groundnuts, shea nuts, and hides and skins. Cotton, peanuts, and shea nuts are processed locally and sent by rail to Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria that is 690 km away for export. There is an important market for sorghum, millet, soybeans, brown sugar, onions, locust beans, baobab leaves and fruit, beans, kola nuts, cloth, cattle, sheep, and goats.
Cotton ginning became Zaria’s chief economic activity after the opening of the railway in 1910, but leather tanning and cotton weaving and dyeing are traditional crafts of its Hausa and Gbari inhabitants. Other significant industries include railway repairing, furniture making, cloth printing, cigarette and cosmetics manufacturing, and basket making.
Historically, the first Northern Nigerian Hausa newspaper, Gaskiya Ta F: Kwabo (“Truth Is Worth More than a Penny”), was launched in Zaria in 1939.
Currently, Zaria has four main areas- the old walled town, inhabited by Hausa and Fulani peoples, which has numerous Islamic schools; the residential areas of Tudun Wada, which handles the old section’s overflow and Sabon Gari, the “African strangers’ settlement”, which were established early in the colonial period, and the township for the non-African community.
Zaria which is on the Kubanni River, a tributary of the Kaduna, is also the headquarters of the Zaria Local Government and the traditional Zaria emirate.
Family Lineage & Education
The governor’s late father, Abdulganiyu F. Abdulrazaq (SAN) was the first lawyer from the North. He held the prominent traditional titles of Mutawallin Ilorin and Tafidan of Zazzau (Zaria).
Following his exposure to the dynamic commercial activities in Zaria, and its humane social relations, Governor Abdulrazaq was transformed into an acclaimed businessman and philanthropist.
He attended Capital School Kaduna between 1966 and 1968, Bishop Smith Memorial School Ilorin between 1970 and 1971, and Government College Kaduna, where he sat his West African School Certificate Examination (WASC). He did not further his education beyond secondary school, as he opted to become an entrepreneur.
As a successful businessman, he was attracted to politics. His father was a prominent statesman who took part in the fight for Nigeria’s independence. He was a First Republic minister in 1965. The governor’s sister, Khairat Razaq-Gwadabe, represented Federal Capital Territory in the Senate from 1999 to 2003.
In October 2018, he swept the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial primaries to emerge the party’s flag-bearer for the March 9, 2019 governorship poll that made the dominance of Kwara politics by the Sarakis history. He took charge of the state on May 29, 2019.
On that fateful day, Abdulfatai Tomori, a freelance researcher and editor based in Ilorin, the state capital, said something ‘strange’ happened. ‘’We never see such in the state, a governor to be sworn-in drove himself to the Council Chambers of Government House for his inauguration.
‘’Abdulrahman decided to do away with fanfare that always comes with the inauguration of a new government. He had insisted on a modest swearing-in ceremony. What of his inauguration speech? Very brief and straight to the action point!
‘’Since that day, Governor Abdulrahman has changed the face of governance in the State of Harmony. He has brought governance closer to the people through his inclusive way of running the government’’, he said.
In an opinion article titled, Abdulrahman’s 365 Days in Office: So Far, So Fair, So Hopeful, Tomori, points out that Governor Abdulrazaq has since been showing impressive skills of a prudent manager of scarce resources in his day-to-day efforts towards running the affairs of the state.
According to him, ‘’he has set an example in prudence, accountability, and transparency. He has consciously reduced all the paraphernalia attached to the office of the governor. This might be to enable him to conserve limited resources for the good delivery of dividends of democracy to the populace. He has reduced the number of official vehicles that usually accompany the convoy of the governor.
‘’Try inviting Abdulrahman to an occasion, he will be there before you! No African time in his dictionary. He is always punctual at events and other official functions. It is a complete reversal from what had become the culture of men of power.
‘’Apart from the fact that he sees governance as a collective responsibility, his style of leadership is turning the fortune of the State around. Governor Abdulrahman has shown panache for competence in the office with his careful approach and understanding of the problems of the state. He has established a style of governance that reduces bureaucracy.’’
New Lease of Life
Continuing, Tomori says in his determination to keep faith with his people whom he promised a new lease of life, ‘’Governor Abdulrahman has, in his one-year in office, been braving the odds of the financial crisis the state is facing, to execute several people-oriented programs. In the last one-year of Gov. Abdulrahman, has completed some of the ongoing projects he inherited from the past administration. Several new ones are coming up. The schools are being put to shape. Roads are ongoing.
‘’Portable water is now running from our taps. The Radio Kwara AM which nearly collapsed before he took over is now functioning. New FM station is springing-up in Baruten Local Government Area. The health sector is wearing a new look.
‘’Kwara United Football Club is back in the Nigeria Professional League. Not only that, but he has also revived the Kwara Sports Festival after 15 years of stagnation. Besides, Gov. Abdulrahman has contributed in no little way to poverty reduction, job creation, and Kwara development in the past one year of his administration.’’
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrazaq, Rafiu Ajakaye, in his chronicle of his principal’s achievements says, ‘’whether in the media or on the streets, the preponderance of public opinion is that Kwara State is now led by a man with eyes fixed on changing the narratives of the north-central state for the right reasons. He is seen, and correctly so, as a man with the singular intention to make the masses happy and make Kwara live up to its age. Kwara, for the record, is not yet an eldorado. No such state exists.’’
Adding, he said, ‘’but the administration inherited and has rescued a state that once tottered on the brink of collapse — at least in the area of human capital development indices. Basic healthcare was comatose. Children were no longer getting a vaccination to curb deadly diseases, including polio because the state was not fulfilling its obligation in the national campaign.
‘’The state held the trophy in child malnutrition in the north-central. Kwara had also been blacklisted from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) after funds meant for primary education were mismanaged, coming last in the UBEC ratings.
‘’The Colleges of Education (COEs) had been run aground, with their workers owed several months in salary arrears. The schools of nursing and midwifery had lost their accreditation. Access to potable water was mainly through rickety tankers.
‘’The state-owned broadcast stations were off the air. Kwara ticked all the wrong boxes in the World Bank ease of doing business ratings, while pensioners could hardly recall the last time they were paid. Another mark of its pitiable condition was the fact that no college graduate — having been told of the horrible state of its orientation camp — wanted to have their national youth service in Kwara.’’
According to Ajakaye, ‘’just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully changed the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which have brought back development partners, and taking the state off the UBEC blacklist, Abdulrazaq is taking steps to stabilize and reposition the state for growth. In the health sector, the administration began with injecting N232m to tackle malaria, maternal death, and malnutrition. On January 19, 2019, Kwara embarrassed Nigeria with the recording of Africa’s first vaccine-derived polio case.
‘’To end this, the new government returned routine polio vaccination across the state after many years. The administration has invested hugely in counterpart funds so much that by December 2019, Kwara has received N8bn worth of vaccines, drugs, and technical support from the Federal Government and development partners who had earlier left the state when basic obligations were not met by the previous regimes.
“Equipped with state-of-the-art ICU facilities like defibrillators, patient monitors, ventilators, Kwara for the first time now has a five-ward air-conditioned isolation center for infectious diseases. The administration has recently purchased five new military-grade ambulances with the capacity to manage fragile patients on the go.
‘’Apart from training for health workers, the administration was about the first in the country to pay mouth-watering allowances for medical workers managing COVID-19 patients. The long-dead oxygen plant has now been revived. Kwara, which used to buy oxygen for its hospitals, is today self-sufficient and can sell oxygen to neighboring states and private hospitals.
‘’The era of medical workers lacking decent shelter to stay at the specialist hospital in Sobi is gone with the renovation of 15 units of three-bedroom staff quarters at the hospital. The eye center at the Civil Service Clinic, long comatose, is back with ultramodern facilities. Neglected since 2012, the College of Midwifery in Ilorin has been revived and re-accredited. Renovation is ongoing at the College of Nursing Oke Ode, while a 300-capacity ICT center has been erected and equipped at the College of Health Technology Offa, where four blocks of three classrooms have been built along with a new access road. The icing on the cake is that the school has regained its accreditation — thanks to the N40m the administration released to make it happen.
Legacies in Educational Sector
“Kwara had a few nice-sounding higher educational institutions. But it lacked basic schools conducive for quality learning while attention to quality teaching was low. This is evidenced in the recent ratings the state has had in elementary education. WAEC recently slammed a N30.5m fine on several public schools over exam misconducts under the past regime. The new administration is rehabilitating 31 schools across the state, seven of which are undergoing a complete overhaul. The seven are Oro Grammar School; Government Unity Secondary School, Kaiama; Government Secondary School Share; Patigi Secondary School; Government High School Ilorin; Ilorin Grammar School (awarded); and Government Secondary School Lafiagi. These renovation works are to gulp N1.7billion.
“Apart from paying the WAEC fine, the administration has begun gradual retraining of teachers, including sponsorship of their participation in the UNESCO programme. Having taken Kwara off the UBEC blacklist, the administration has begun the long-drawn processes for accessing the over N7.00 billion trapped there.
‘’Indeed, the 2020 budget contains N2.3billion meant to access part of the funds, underscoring the passion of the administration for basic education. Free exercise books were produced for schoolchildren even as exchange students are now being catered for. Many classrooms at the school of special needs have been renovated, with teaching aids, special software, and computers with internet access made available to the children there. 10 more staff, including teachers were newly engaged for them.”
The governor’s spokesman explains that ‘’before then, for the first time in years, the government established various nurseries which have raised 50,000 cocoa seedlings, 10,000 cashew seedlings, 200 citrus seedlings, 3,000 oil palm seedlings, 200 pawpaw seedlings, and 200 guava seedlings. Apart from renovating the juvenile correctional home, the children reception center, and paying counterpart funds for the World Bank-funded community and social development projects (CSDP), the administration has recently launched its social investment programme (KWASIP) which targets the aged, the unemployed, petty traders, and little children who would be fed in school.”
The Abdulrazaq administration is said to be ensuring the payment of bursary award to over 8,304 final-year students of Kwara origin across the nation’s tertiary institutions, to boost their academic pursuits and assist their parents, while 89 law students currently at their various law schools in the country were given a bursary to help them pursue their programme with ease.
On her part, Education Commissioner, Hajia Fatimah Ahmed, a trained teacher, commends Governor Abdulrazaq for the giant strides which include settlement of outstanding arrears of N55,077,00.00 feeding allowance of exchange students owed before the advent of his administration, sponsorship of 1,000 brilliant indigent students of the state for 2020 UTME/JAMB at a cost of N5 million, payment of N30.5 million imposed by WAEC as fine over examination in some schools among several others. She also commended the governor for his giant strides in the sector, including the establishment of an ICT Centre in the School for Special Needs.
The convention of an inclusive health summit in the state was borne out of the facility visit of the governor to health care facilities in the state. The health summit in partnership with other health stakeholders in the health sector had allowed the administration to fundamentally improve the standard of health care delivery services in the state.
Well implemented, the summit report will assist the administration to adapt to the use of telemedicine, better funding, and autonomy for the state’s hospitals to serve as the launch-pad of the 21st-Century medical technology. The governor has also unquestionably demonstrated exemplary leadership since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) by unfolding proactive containment and suppression strategies to ensure that the viral pandemic disease does not endanger the state.
In an adroit policy/administrative move, Governor Abdulrazaq administration committed the N263, 327,800 recovered from looters to revive an oxygen plant and buy ventilators to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. According to the governor, the cash came in handy against the backdrop of dwindling revenue and allocations arising from the global oil crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state has recorded a 40-percent increase in public hospitals’ patronage, courtesy of the focused measures the current administration has deployed.
By redefining the governance templates with which to drive the transformation of the education and health sector development of the state, Governor Abdulrazaq has sent a clear warning that the lukewarm narratives previously associated with both crucial sectors are changed for good. With the passion he has invested in governance Governor Abdulrazaq and audacity he has adopted in key human development sectors of the state, it hardly requires a seer to predict the future of Kwara State under the watch of a Zaria boy.