By Abdullah Abdulganiy
A section of people is wont to posit that we should forget about the past. It is however my view that we cannot and indeed should not forget about the past because it shapes our future and gives us the yardstick by which we judge our present. I feel the appropriate advice is that we should not be engrossed by the past so that we can quickly move forward. Yet, we must not forget the past.
For Kwarans and residents of Kwara, we must never forget the Saraki days. The days of misrule, the collapse of governance/system and anything goes. Even when some people forget, others who remember should see it as a responsibility to refresh their memories. I am a bonafide member of that latter category. This way we won’t be jeopardizing our future by sheer misjudgements. Kwara must never again slip into that era of kakistocracy. We’ve been taken aback for so long. We say never again.
So, for those who forget easily (since we are an-Naas, the forgetful ones), the Oyun waterworks is another reminder of how grim governance was in the Saraki days. The Bukola Saraki days lasted for a period of 16 years: 8 years of his gubernatorial tenure, plus 8 years of his sidekick’s gubernatorial tenure where he held the position of the ‘Governor-General’. Those 16 years, as many observers have come to agree, remain the worst in the history of Kwara. Kwara, a state that was always at the forefront, started taking the back seat. It made headlines for several wrong reasons. Governance became redefined as a platform for enriching a few individuals, settling personal scores, tokenism and mediocrity.
The Saraki days represent a total collapse of system where needs that are as basic as water, primary education, health were left unattended to. The Oyun waterworks was neglected for 7 years, and the attendant consequence was that the people of Oyun, Offa and their environs had limited access to water. There are similar stories in all the 3 senatorial districts of the state. At some point in the state capital, tankers were what the previous government resorted to despite appropriating some billions of naira for the water question. And they say water is life. What a shame! Those were the Saraki days. The present administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is however changing the narratives. Within the short space of 2 years, several waterworks have been fixed, including that of Oyun which got attention recently after 7 years of reckless abandon. That’s what we know to be ideal governance.
Some persons have said that the neglect suffered by the water sector in Kwara State may not be unconnected to the political scores Saraki did settle against the former Governor Muhammad Alabi Lawal. Yes, that may be part of it, especially when one considers that one of the core areas of strength for the deceased former Governor is water and many of his giant projects in water were left to rot. However, there’s a bigger picture to it. The bigger picture is that there was a deliberate, conscious effort to decimate Kwara during the Saraki days. Or how does one come to terms with the fact that basic necessities of life were not catered for? In education, with several schools in a shamble and UBEC funds diverted. In water, with several waterworks recklessly abandoned. In health, with several basic health facilities decayed and lacking important facilities. When COVID-19 came attacking, Kwara had no single ventilator. Our oxygen plant had been abandoned for years. These are the reasons why Kwarans must not forget the Saraki days.
As the 2023 electoral cycle draws nearer, we have the responsibility of reminding Kwarans of the Saraki days, what has changed, and how Kwara has moved and is as a matter of fact moving miles away from where it used to be. Kwarans have the duty to choose whether to remain with an administration that is taking pains to clear the mess of the past or return to the Saraki days where critical needs of the people were recklessly neglected. The Oyun waterworks is a case in point.
Abdulganiy writes from Ilorin, Kwara State.