By Ibraheem Abdullateef
If politicians are plotting your downfall, you must waiver. You must have taken issues with their unholy interests, objecting access to the public funds. You will then hear them say “that is the beginning of the end”. Only a lionhearted Governor AbdulRazaq looks them in the eyes and stays the course. “No, my people first.” And he lives by it.
It was that gentle and unassuming man standing on Tuesday before the members of the House of Assembly to do a rather serious business of governance: presentation of 2021 budget estimate.
Laying of the fiscal proposal for every year by the executive before the legislature is a tradition in democracy. It is done to ensure that public funds are planned, allocated, and spent in manners that reflect the yearnings of the people. The members of the legislative house would then read and critique its appropriateness for approval.
Going by the optimism the budget has generated across the strata, AbdulRazaq did his homework, the estimates are encompassing, and it is being scored high to take the state further up the ladder of growth. But this is not sudden. It took plans and foresight.
How did we suddenly become a state with an exciting budget?
“Democracy is all about people. It is meaningless when the people are shut out of the processes of governance, which in fact revolves around them and their wellbeing. This is the reason we have called this meeting to allow you to make inputs into the budget process,” AbdulRazaq said at a town hall meeting on citizens’ engagement in the budget process in Ilorin on 10th December 2019.
On that day, he was setting a record. He held the first-ever citizens’ engagement on budget. Thought leaders, religious and community leaders, groups, CSOs were called to make contributions to the budget. One of the benefits was the eventual record of 52% implementation of the capital expenditure component and 98% of the recurrent expenditure of the 2019 budget which financial and economic analysts said shows the difference between a people-driven budget and a mere executive wishlist we used to have in Kwara State.
But like fine wine, Kwara is primed to get better and better under AA. The budget process for the 2021 estimate didn’t only give room for people’s input; it made them wholly own it. How!? AbdulRazaq allowed town hall meetings held in all the three districts. By implication, no people are being left behind or denied fair access to development.
So, if you observe that people are happy with the 2021 estimates proposed by the Governor, the reasons are not far-fetched. It is their budget. Their wishes were being captured. Their voice being respected. Who doesn’t like to be genuinely respected and valued? No one. But only a true leader makes his people feel so.
With all the COVID-19 economic and health wahala which ravaged the world, a preponderance of the available evidence points to brilliant management of the pandemic on all fronts by this administration. Kwara recorded minimal deaths and contained deadly spread. Despite a drop in the federal allocation and internal revenue, governance never suffered. Roads. Schools. Water. Healthcare centres (including the ones turned to party secretariats by those people) were being fixed.
What amazes people the most was that salaries didn’t delay a bit, too. Not that it could not have happened or that some states didn’t suffer that fate, what set Kwara apart (away from the economic indices) is AbdulRazaq’s prudence and compassion. He lives by the books and not above it. And would do all within his best to put a smile on the faces of the civil servants. It is not ‘audio.’ You know this yourself.
What is my point!? I mean to say that if COVID-19 and the dwindling oil prices didn’t stop Kwarans from having a good first complete year with O’ to ge Governor in accordance with the available resources, with the 2021 budget proposal, we can even have a better time.
“The 2021 fiscal plan is built on the modest successes of the outgoing year, with strategic emphasis on reforms and inclusive growth. However, its fundamentals are dictated by the global economic realities, low revenue projections, and a need to prioritise the basic needs of the people as we recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19. I will therefore be laying before you a budget estimate of N123,091,307,468. That is 7.35% bigger than the revised 2020 budget,” the vintage Governor read before the House.
There is an adage by our people; “oun to n dun ni nii po loro eni.” It can be loosely translated thus; a man’s priorities determine his actions. From the set aims, it is obvious Kwarans are having a good deal.
On workers’ welfare, the state is prioritizing payment of the new minimum wage, cash-backed promotion for workers, among other packages to further delight the civil servants.
KWASSIP has been a success this year. Social investment for the vulnerable continues.
We will be having tech-driven reforms in the education sector through our KwaraLearn initiative. Also, in the area of youths’ development, KwaraPreneur is coming. It is an investment in the ideas of youths in line with the mandate of Governor AbdulRazaq to gainfully empower the Kwara youths.
Cottage industries, rehabilitation of sporting facilities, completion of ongoing infrastructure projects would be funded. This is as the courtrooms get a facelift and the health facilities are to be upgraded. Also, the highly commendable Innovation Hub, Visual Arts Centre proposed to be the biggest in North central would be starting in the same next year.
Agriculture, one other area this administration has done well, especially with the Tractorization scheme, remains top priority as part of the strategies for food security. Irrigation system, purchase of fertilisers, and farm implements are part of the holistic agric revolution to be done with the soon-to-be-unveiled Agric masterplan. On the one hand, another 10,000 rural women are to benefit from the Noiler programme the state is keying into.
These are some of the blessings the new year is coming with. But what does it mean to us as a people? Let us count them together one by one;
Minimum wage. More roads. More schools. Food security. Improved healthcare facilities. Plans for qualitative and accessible education. Launching of tech-driven initiatives like KwaraLearn. And KwaraPreneur for the youths. Continuation of social investment programmes like Owo Isowo, Owo Arugbo, and Ounje Ofe for the people. KPK!? It is plenty. I say it is plenty.
Let me take a brief pause to explain what power to the people means. It is beyond the slogan one party brags with. Or what is in a slogan when the party rather alienates the people from making input in governance!? Tell those people to change their slogan to ‘power to the few’. Giving power to the people means respecting their opinions, striving for their wellbeing. That is what AbdulRazaq has begun with the new budget. Along the line, he may make more enemies, more noisemakers. But only the people reigns supreme. As he has shown thus far, only the people’s welfare should matter absolutely. God’s willing next year is for berekete happiness. Make our people jolly dey go.