On the minimum wage by labour, how were you able to ensure compliance?
||Kwara State is the best in Nigeria-Gov. Abdulfatah
Pioneered health insurance scheme in Nigeria
Ensured all roads are properly channeled
Scored first on youth empowerment initiatives
Cares for the aged & elderly
Sets to convert dumps into energy
Says “The last 100 days is a miniature representation of what Kwarans should expect in four years”
Why state remains the most peaceful in Nigeria
Hails the press for quality reportage
To donate 15 vehicles to the police for security control
Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, Executive Governor of Kwara State is a detribalized Nigerian, technocrat per excellence, intelligent, articulate and visionary. He is a workaholic, whose desire to impact positively on the lives of Kwara indigenes in the last 100 days have attracted a lot of encomiums from the electorate and Kwara indigenes in the Diaspora. In a media chat at the Governor’s office, this highly-cerebral and youthful-looking leader bared his mind in a 70 minutes exhaustive interview on his achievements, award, challenges and on-going projects for the ‘State of Harmony,’ in the last 100 days.
GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/Editor-in-Chief was there.
We are the state to beat. I can assure you that we are the first state that began the implementation of the minimum wage throughout Nigeria. So, there is no reason to unnecessarily go on strike in a bit to ape some other states that earlier made lots of noise in the media, but are presently in labour crisis. Labour movement began from here during the time of Pa Micheal Imodu several years ago. It is on record that we are the best state that caters for the welfare of our workers in the most conducive environment. It is only through collective bargain by way of constructive dialogue that labour issues are resolved not through strikes. Let me add here that the press is very critical to any government because it educates the people on the progress reports of every sectors of the economy. They (the press) should be treated like the Ministry of Finance, since the ministry services every sectors of the economy with funding on projects to have considerable impact on the lives of the people.
How about your plans for the physically challenged people of the state?
We have created the school of the ‘Special Needs,’ to cater for the physically challenged children in our society. They (these children) must be given access to quality education, skills acquisition, optimal health care facilities and capacity building, by creating enabling environment for them, even in terms of sporting activities. And we have a lot of supports in this area which has strengthened their reading curriculum, to ensure that our maiden edition of this project is the success.
How about your health policy for the electorate?
We are particularly interested in catering for the health needs of children, pregnant women and the elderly (aged) so that they may enjoy un-interrupted long life span. In essence, we do not want people to move more than 500 meters, one meter of which we have extensively covered by our performance in the last 100 days, to have access to quality primary health care system in all our local governments in the state. We pioneered health insurance scheme in Nigeria so as to give the people dividends of democracy. This is why an award on health was presented to this state due to our performance in the last 100 days for investing in the health sector insurance scheme.
Can you take us through the critical pointers of your administration?
One of the critical areas of our administration is: human capital development. Our plans, already on-going is to improve on human capital development to make life more meaningful for the people. This leads us to issue of economic and infrastructural development. Under human capital development, we are looking at improved capacity to develop into entrepreneurs and to ensure the viability of the youth sector of the society.
What about your plans for youths’ empowerment?
I have discovered that 70 percent of our population are youths. We believe with proper planning our youths mainly not below the age of 18 will be empowered. We are taking the issue of youth development seriously. We realized that we needed to zero on the success of the last administration to empower our youths by empirical method. We plan to generate a database of our youths that will aid us in effective planning. We have resolved to set up Information Communication Center (ICT) for the youths to create a bridge between unemployment/employment and youths’ empowerment. We have in our plans to engage a minimum of 2,000 youths for employment, being a test case for this administration. The rules of engagement will include Government at the federal, state, local levels, private sector; manufacturing sector or private individuals who will readily absorb Kwara youths with skill acquisition centers. We will be setting up a vocational training institute in Ajase, being the first of its kind. There our youths will not only be trained or self-employed, but they will be employable. We plan that technical schools in Ilorin TBS and Erinle will prepare our youths to be self-reliant and job creators. After that, we will form other models from these technical schools. A large chunk of them will be further empowered through funding on the skills acquired to become entrepreneurs. And due to the rising wave of youth unemployment in the country, we have put a laudable programme in place to create a platform for the youth employment, as in-road into the development scheme in the state. Through this initiative, we came out with perfect policy thrust to support the state in terms of health, water, education, roads, rural infrastructure, energy; solid minerals and tourism. We have put in place capacity building for our youths by way of skill acquisition in technical colleges in the state. By the time we drive these initiatives and policies to the next level, which we are already doing, prospective investors readily identifies with us. It is our intention to see that these policies change our youths’ lives from being job seekers to job creators, where they are reliant and independent.
How did you ensure that this economic initiative is not solely limited to public-sector driven perspective?
We have started with infrastructural development. And we believe that through Private and Public Programme collaboration, our dream of consolidating on the success story recorded in this short while is a reality. For instance, we must take up education beyond the formal education to skill acquisition. We are presently reviving our technical colleges and setting up vocational training institutes. This administration is assuring you that this skill acquisition by our youths will enable them have access to funding that will eventually make them entrepreneurs. All of these have been modulated into a-4 year programme, with specific milestone to achieve the desired targets within limited resources available.
But how were you able to come up with these noble policy thrusts of governance?
It was in view of all these positive initiatives that my cabinet went on retreat in Lagos for six weeks and critically examined the policy thrust that is critical to drive government policies. In the retreat we were able to look at areas that we needed to consolidate on and those that desired changes. We were able to articulate and agreed that within the available resources in our care, we are certain to deliver dividends of democracy to Kwara indigenes. We were able to identify true performance index to identify this policy thrust. Within 4 years, going by the strategy we have put in place, we saw through the 100 days snapshot what we will achieve in the long run.
How about your plans in the area of agriculture to develop the economy?
Agriculture is a key sector we took up from the last administration as a major platform to changing the economic environment in Kwara State. We pioneered the setting up of a public/private partnership to support agriculture. Our farmers today are happy with the tremendous feat recoded in our agricultural sector. We are making roads available to almost every farming community and all agric market in the state.
What plans do you have for a permanent dump site for refuse bins in the state?
There is a dump site we have put in place already, which we are completing soon. Our plan is to convert dumps into energy from proper collection of the refuse bins. This will further generate higher electricity for Kwara indigenes. We are making sure that every community will ultimately have access to electricity connected to national grid.
Can you take us through some the challenges you had to overcome in achieving this rare feat in the last 100 days?
There is hardly any human endeavour you don’t have challenges. Being a state in the bottom on resource allocation, we have set in place an effective template to ensure that our Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) will be able to sustain our various initiatives to give quality life to the people. We rely on the strength of our resourcefulness, not resource that is, funding to build infrastructure. Another challenge is the energy, a national problem. We are happy the Federal Government has taken this up through power privatisation.
How will you describe your experience in the last 100 days as an elected governor on the driving seat of governance?
Like they say, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ It is never easy here if you really want to work. I must say the last 100 days is a miniature representation of what Kwarans should expect in four years. We must approach governance for optimal performance through proper planning.
How have you being able to sustain the peace that pervades Kwara?
Well, I give effective attention to the security agencies in ensuring that modern vehicles are made available to them to make their job easy. We are donating 10-15 vehicles to them soonest to aid them pro-actively to prevent crime. I give thanks to almighty Allah for making Kwara the most peaceful state in Nigeria.
What message do you have for Kwara indigenes in the Diaspora?
Nigeria is a great country and we must sustain the progress we have made so far. I am using this medium to tell our indigenes in the Diaspora that Kwara will be second to none, driven by political-will to impact positively on Kwarans.