By Abdullah Abdulganiy
It started like a beer parlour gist. Two commissioners in Kwara State reportedly spat venom at each other’s face. “It was a very big fight that led to the use of uncouth and coarse languages,” witnesses to the ugly scene said. This time around no gender inequality like in the case of Pantami-Dabiri kerfuffle at the federal level. It was a female versus female fight. “Ojoro kansu,” as my people would put it. WWE: Madam Aisha Ahman Pategi Vs Mrs Florence Oyeyemi Olasunbo.
“What is causing the matter?” observers asked. One of them, Pategi, would later come out to confirm the incidence, saying it was just a “little misunderstanding”. Not the usual “owo obe” in this case. Praise the Lord! She also dismissed the rumoured fisticuff between them, noting that it never happened.
Hear her: “We might have had some little disagreement (sic) which is normal in any democratic setting but never did we exchange blow (sic). The rumour is false and should be disregarded in its entirety. My lawyers have been notified to watch out for anything contrary to the truth as I have stated.”
Yes, Pategi is very correct that disagreements are very normal, not only in democratic settings, but also in the larger society. Even family members disagree. Indeed, when we disagree, we agree. Even when avoidable conflicts such as this cause a great embarrassment to the administration, they are still inevitable. Therefore, this is no big deal. The commissioners can take their fights to “oju olomo oto” next time, so that they can fight to finish. No qualms!
Where the issue lies, however, is on the alleged cause of the open confrontation. And it’s very pathetic that despite how enormously indicting and tainting it appears to the image of the present administration, deafening silence has been the order of the day from the government quarters. The commissioner who was accused has not come out to place the records straight. Her employer, if she was acting in accordance to an “oga-at-the-top” instruction, has also not come out to clarify the issues that involve tax payers’ money to the public.
A source privy to the commotion narrated what led to it to the National Pilot, and the medium puts it as follows.
“A source who was privy to the incident but who craved anonymity as he was not officially permitted to speak to the press on the issue because of its sensitive nature, said the former Commissioner for Local Government became furious after she discovered that over three hundred million naira belonging to local governments was secretly being withdrawn and kept by Mrs. Oyeyemi for an undisclosed reason for the past 7 months.
“That Wednesday, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Aisha Pategi shortly before the commencement of the allocation meeting visited Mrs Olasumbo in her office in order to be briefed about the finances of the local government. Although they spent over thirty minutes together, the former never told her about any withdrawal unaware that she has made her findings and was armed with bank documents to embarrass her at the meeting.
“It was some officials of the ministries who were apologists of Olasumbo and aware about Hajia Pategi’s findings that called her out of the pre allocation meeting with Pategi and informed her about the discovery. She was then advised to announce the withdrawals during the allocation meeting.
“However, Oyeyemi’s announcement infuriated the former Commissioner for Local Government, and the issue degenerated to use of abusive languages among them.
“Before now, she had been complaining that she will not continue to sit in an allocation meeting that only issues of workers, pensioners and staff salaries will be discussed without any other community projects that will benefit the people who voted for them.”
This is the real issue that the government or the warring sides are expected to clarify to the public. Whether or not they exchanged blows is none of our business in the real sense of it. Was over three hundred million naira tax payers’ money, belonging to the local government withdrawn “secretly” by the Commissioner for Finance as alleged? If yes, why? Kwarans should know. What has happened to local government autonomy mouthed by the governor? Are local governments not in control of their funds again as purported? And many other questions begging for answers in between.
The governor himself had earlier expressed concerns about the financial buoyancy of the local government. When he agreed to pay the 30,000 naira minimum wage, for instance, he said he could only vouch for paying state workers, adding that local governments, according to his observation, may not be able to pay.
The question, therefore, is: why secretly draw a huge sum belonging to the financially incapacitated local government as reported? Kwarans need explanations. Why was the former commissioner of local government not carried along? Only shady dealings are done in secret. Is there more to this than meets the eyes?
This is another major instance for the AbdulRazaq-led administration to put paid to insinuations from some quarters that the government is not transparent enough and is running an occultist system. The public should not be kept in the dark regarding sensitive issues like this. It is our right to know how public funds are being managed. I hope the government will come out clean on this in no distant time.
Unfortunately, the House of Assembly that should weigh in on issues like this has turned itself into a House of Oligarchs of sorts. It does whatever pleases its self-serving “Honorable Members” alone with in-your-face disregard for public outcries.
FOI Bill championed by a CSO consisting well-meaning Kwarans is yet to attract its attention. Pleas to repeal eternal jumbo, unpatriotic pension for ex-governors and their deputies fell on their deaf ears. All these advocacies have been spanning into several months. When will our “constituted authorities” in the Assembly be ready to save these public bills from garnering more dust and cobwebs?
AND ONE OTHER THING…
Hurray! Kwara gets COVID-19 testing centre
What the Kwara State government seemingly lacks in transparency and accountability, it’s making up for in sterling performances and actions. In the last one year and still counting, old and decaying public structures are being renovated. Waterworks are being resuscitated across the three senatorial districts that make up the state. Health centres are being equipped and well-funded. Civil servants needn’t have their sweats dried up before getting what’s due to them as and when due. And many other mouthwatering strides.
As an added feather to the suffusedly decorated cap of the AbdulRazaq-led administration, Kwara State now has a testing centre for COVID-19 certified by the NCDC. This is a very cheering news. Finally, there will be no need to transport samples as far as Ibadan before getting results. Nearby states can also test with us.
The Governor made the announcement of the new testing centre through his Facebook page. He wrote: “Kwara State now has a test centre for COVID-19 that is certified by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The centre is at GeneXpert laboratory, Sobi Specialist Hospital. We made efforts to upgrade this centre so as to quicken COVID-19 testing for our people.”
This development will also hopefully end the inconsistencies in COVID-19 figures reeled out by the NCDC against the state government over time. Also, cases that need quick attention can easily be tested and cared for with no delay. It will reduce the span of staying in isolation for suspected cases and to an extent, reduce COVID-19 casualties. Thumbs up! It’s good here in Kwara!
Abdullah is a sociologist and writer. Email: olamilek[email protected]. Twitter: @halarho123. Contact: 08090637356.