The Peoples Democratic Party Chairman in Kwara State, Alhaji Babatunde Mohammed, in this interview with TUNDE OYEKOLA says the opposition party will cash in on the crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress fold to ride into power
The Independent National Electoral Commission has lifted the ban on political campaigns. When is your party starting its campaign?
The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council has been launched in Abuja and all the party leaders were there, so the campaign committee in Kwara State will soon be constituted and inaugurated. We are working seriously on the composition of our campaign committee, and it will soon be made public.
What preparations are you making for the 2023 elections?
First and foremost, I want to say that the PDP in Kwara State is coming out stronger in the 2023 election by the grace of Almighty God and with the support of the people of the state. The party members and the electorate are working hard to ensure that the PDP takes over the governance of Kwara State in 2023.
What is your advice to the people of the state as the election draws near?
My advice to the people is to remain calm and peaceful during the campaigns and the election proper. Our campaign is going to be issue-based.
I want to appeal to the people of Kwara State to behave in an orderly manner. We don’t want thuggery in this forthcoming general election.
You have been a major player in this democratic dispensation in the state, having been a councillor and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, can you tell us what has changed in the state between 1999 and now?
So many things have been achieved in the state. Late Governor Mohammed Lawal served as our governor for four years, from 1999 to 2003, and Dr Bukola Saraki took over in 2003 and served until 2011.
I was an elected member of the state Assembly first as the Chief Whip, later the deputy Speaker and then the Speaker.
Dr Bukola Saraki used the funds of the state to change Kwara for the better. I can tell you that before his tenure, we had about four hotels in Kwara but during his tenure, we have had numerous 5-star hotels and hospitality businesses in the state. We have the cargo terminal at the airport; we have the Metropolitan Square, which is a replica of Eagle Square in Abuja, the overhead bridge, and Kwara State University, Malete.
There is massive road construction across the state, there is an overhead bridge at the General Post Office, Ilorin. There is also Aviation College, a replica of what is in South Africa.
Also, Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed ruled the state between 2011 and 2019 and embarked on some essential projects, which included road infrastructure, health facilities, including the diagnostic centre, as well as the overhead bridge at Gerin-Alimi. All these have attracted many people and businesses to the state.
These have grown the state’s economy unlike what is happening now where the present administration is constructing a one-kilometre road and calling it a state project. It is very appalling that the present administration has not utilised the huge resources of the state, including about N50bn in loans taken to develop the state. He should come out and tell the people of the state what he has done with all the funds.
For the past 36 months of the present administration, there is no meaningful projects executed in the state and that is why I went on the radio to challenge the governor on why he has not invited the President or Vice President or any of the governors to come and commission projects in the state.
How do you rate the performance of the state government in the last three years?
I will rate his performance very low, about 30 per cent. Even with the non-conduct of local government elections, the 30 per cent performance has gone down. Unfortunately, a governor could be elected in Kwara state and kill local government administration because for over 36 months now, there is nothing like a local government election in the state, it has never been like that before.
The governor only appointed Transition Implementation Committees in all the 16 local government areas which should not have lasted for more than three months and can be extended for another three months if the government is not able to conduct local government elections for one reason or the other and after six months, they regarded as illegal occupants of the office. As I’m talking to you now, the people of the 193 wards in the state would have been enjoying the dividends of democracy through their elected councillors. We should have had elected chairmen who should have been overseeing the administration and finances of the councils.
The governor should explain to the people of the state where he kept the local government funds which have been coming from the Federal Government for over 36 months. He’s supposed to come out and tell the people what he is doing with the money and where he’s keeping it because no projects are going on in the local government now.
Don’t you see any tangible projects that the APC government has undertaken?
Kwarans are not fools, we have what we call internally generated revenue, the governor is yet to come out and tell the people what he has been doing with it in the last three years, and ditto for the monthly allocations he’s collecting on behalf of the people.
The APC government has also cashed in on the failure of past administrations to access the fund. So, the governor should tell the people what he has done with the fund now that he has access to it. Even an NGO, EnetSud has come out to allege that the contract was on the high side.
The APC came in 2019 with a campaign slogan, “O to ge” Do you think the party’s campaign manifestos have been fulfilled?
The campaign manifestos have not been fulfilled. Remember that seven different groups came together in 2018 and came up with the slogan “O to Ge.” They used propaganda to deceive the people of Kwara State and used what was happening in neighbouring Kogi and Osun states, and they promised the people that they would replicate those programmes in Kwara. But after winning the election, it was difficult for the governor to manage the people in the party.
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