APC should tell Kwarans whereabouts of LG funds – PDP chairman
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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.
As I’m talking to you, APC in the state is divided into six groups. A larger percentage of the gubernatorial aspirants in APC in 2019 have pulled out of the party. Some of them are with us in the PDP, some have gone to the Social Democratic Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party, or African Democratic Congress, and others have gone to the Young Progressives Party and other political parties.
Is the crisis in APC a plus for PDP in the state?
Of course yes. We are going to capitalise on that weakness during our campaigns and the elections.
With your low rating of the APC government, how many local governments do you think the PDP will win in the next year’s election?
We are going to win all the 16 local governments in the state. With the support of God and that of the people, we are going to win in all the 193 wards and all the local governments, the governorship, the 3 Senatorial seats, 6 House of Representatives seats and 24 House of Assembly seats. We are winning the Presidential election in the state. Let me also assure the people that if we win the governorship election, we are going to conduct the local government election in the first six months of the tenure of our administration.
Your party zoned the governorship seat to Kwara North for the 2023 election, what informed this decision?
It is very simple. In all political arrangements, you have to be fair. Kwara Central Senatorial zone represented by late Alhaji Mohammed Lawal and Dr Bukola Saraki was there between the year 1999 to 2011 and Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed from Kwara South was there for eight years, 2011 to 2019, therefore, it is the turn of Kwara North Senatorial district to have a slot in the governorship in the state. That is why we picked our gubernatorial candidate from the zone.
You claimed that the present APC administration in the state is corrupt while APC also alleged that past PDP administrations were corrupt, how do you defend that?
I’m not in a position to speak for former Governor Ahmed. I think one of his aides came out yesterday to defend him. But I want to tell you that the present governor came in 2019, and since then, he didn’t mention the issues of N11bn which he mentioned two days ago. Politicians are very clever, and I believe the governor did that deliberately to divert the attention of the people of Kwara State to cover his non-performance.
What about the committee set up bythe governor and headed by Senator Sulaiman Ajadi which alleged that the past administrations headed by Saraki and Ahmed sold Kwara State government properties to themselves? What can you say about that?
Yes, it is that simple. If the governor has evidence that some of those who served in the two administrations bought government properties illegally and without payment, he should prosecute them instead of seeking cheap popularity.