An article with the above caption went viral on some social media platforms a few days ago, written by Mr. Tunde Mohammed. Mr Mohammed, a senior journalist, is one Otoge campaigner we respect because of his own contribution to the Kwara struggle. We continue to respect him and other Kwarans, old or young.
However, with due respect to him, his view about Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s cabinet picks doesn’t show he understands the enormity of the historical challenge before our state or the direction the Governor is headed. He also appears to be stuck in the old, often unhelpful belief that cabinet positions should be dictated by, reflect and protect the interests of, political powerhouses — rather than it being a guide to the future we envisage or a reflection of our society in terms of its demography.
But before looking into Mohammed’s dismissal of the cabinet, it is important to say that this Governor has no kitchen cabinet and there was no point attacking what does not exist. What we have instead is a team of brilliant, disciplined, and forward-looking individuals giving their all to lift Kwara out of the doldrums.
In trying to write off the cabinet, Mohammed wrote that “critics see the assemblage as the governor’s inchoate understanding of the enormity of both the economic and political challenges facing the state and drained of any philosophical, ideological and even practical foundations to move it to a desired level.”
These lines, rather than being an attack on the Governor and his cabinet, rather underpin the writer’s misreading of the challenges ahead and how Kwara would cope in a world now defined by disruptive ideas, new priorities, and deliberate steps to bridge generational and gender gap in governance.
The people of Kwara voted for change. The 100% APC victory meant that the people want a clean break from the past that Mohammed himself admitted was sordid.
The Governor has shown excellent appreciation of this charge — whether with his carriage as a public officer, his attitude to public finance, nonpartisan approach to governance, and a deliberate attempt to break new grounds even in the face of opposition from quarters long used to the status quo.
Rather than make Kwara a mortuary of abandoned projects as was often the case when you have a change of government here, isn’t it refreshing and statesmanly to have a Governor who is passionate about completing projects left by his predecessors since public funds had been sunk into them?
The Governor’s cabinet picks, which Mohammed sought to run down, are a potpourri of brilliant and experienced professionals with strong ties to and understanding of their local communities; tested politicians with a rich history of being successful at what they do and wide appeals among the masses; respected women entrepreneurs and professionals, and adventurous and promising young people.
Mr Mohammed can be forgiven to claim that these cabinet picks don’t belong to his own political camp. But his attempt to say that their choice did not enjoy wide support or cannot propel the state to a greater height is far-fetched . Like every leader with an eye on the future, the Governor rightly spelt out what he wanted to the party and Kwara thought leaders who then recommended to him persons they felt met the criteria.
In other words, the commissioner-designates mostly enjoy the support and mandate of their respective communities. At the same time, they meet the criteria of being truly representative of a new Kwara that the Governor desires while also taking care of reasonable and relevant political interests at all levels.
Perhaps what the Governor did differently, which I dare say comes under the kind of change Kwara wants and deserves, is to resist attempts to force nominees down his throats. This tough decision makes him beholden and committed only to the masses who have given him their mandates for the next four years. And, so far so good, whether measured by tangible or intangible criteria for good governance, the Governor has scored many firsts and etched his name in gold!
Apart from breaking new grounds in terms of his approach to governance, prudence, unique emotional connection with the downtrodden and verifiable improvements in service delivery to the public, the Governor has put Kwara on the global map as the first national or subnational government in Africa with the highest number of female cabinet members (56.25%). Figures don’t lie. Again, the seemingly lack of hegemonic attachment in the choice of most of the cabinet members offers a refreshing hope to the ordinary Kwaran. That is what defines transformative leaders. They do things nobody expects them to do. They challenge the status quo to achieve greater good.
The cabinet is also a practical demonstration of how a leader can change the story of his people, with roughly 50% of its members being below 40 years. They are young, futuristic, intelligent, adventurous and energetic — as the screening clearly shows. The Governor’s choice of a 26-year-Joanna Kolo as cabinet member is deemed in some quarters as trivialising governance.
Mohammed seems to share such view with some of his innuendoes. We beg to differ. That decision again stands him out. It in fact shows he’s a leader with an impressive understanding of global trends and developmental issues. The average age on the African continent is 19.4 while the average age of the African leader is 62. Africa has the youngest population in the world today but it ironically is governed by people aged between 60 and 70. How best can one explain the disconnect between the leaders and the led?
Kolo, a worthy nominee of her political constituency, rightly represents the people of her age bracket. Critics say she has no working or administrative experience. Lies. She comes to the cabinet with the unique insights and the exuberance of her #NotTooYoungToRule community who interestingly constitute the greater percentage of our society. She’s like a barometer to gauge the sentiments of her crucial constituency. Her nomination is a lifetime opportunity and a symbolic gesture for young people to prove their mettle.
The Governor not only surpasses the 35% affirmative action suggested by the Beijing Accord, he also satisfies the Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If we agree that women have long been neglected despite being so crucial to national development, is the writer suggesting they should have been given lesser prominence even when they had not a single person as elected official?
With due respect, Mohammed’s attempt to second-guess the performance of a cabinet yet to be sworn in amounts to putting the cart before the horse. This cabinet is to be inspired by a Governor whose sincerity of purpose, energy and commitment to a greater Kwara are not in doubt. His focus on infrastructure, SMEs, agriculture, and human capital development shows the direction he’s headed.
Mohammed is a party man and statesman. But we are afraid that his choice of words — such as his comment that the Governor was pandering to his ‘base instincts’ or is reclusive — is offensive. While he reserves the right as a citizen to critique the government and do so in the open rather than exploring several openings of internal engagement as a party man, we believe he can still do so without name calling or putting down anyone.
Finally, we would like to state that Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq fully appreciates the historical significance of his election and would do everything to justify that public trust by transforming Kwara State and making it a force to reckon with in not just the northern region but across Nigeria.
Ajakaye is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor
Kwara State Government
Kwara State Government House,
Ahmadu Bello Way, G.R.A Ilorin