Says change takes time to come
Says Nigeria needs restructuring
Believes Buhari would implement 2014 National Confab report
Governor Abdulfattai Ahmed of Kwara State is so passionate about the development of his state that he recently travelled to China where he succeeded in attracting $ 56 billion investments for Kwara.
But the investments seem not to give him concern as the crisis in Nigerian does. And without fear of contradiction, the governor, in this interview in Abuja, said Nigeria needs restructuring even as he denies that President Muhammadu Buhari has jettisoned the report of the 2014 National Confab. Excerpts:
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
As a governor on the platform of All Progressives Congress, how would you evaluate APC government in the last one year?
Yes, the promised change has come. Is it short of people’s expectation?It isn’t short of people’s expectations because it would be unfair to begin to create assessment without looking at where you are coming from, where you are and where you want to be.
Where are we coming from? We are coming from a process where democracy has been on ground for the last 16 years. The president came in last year to meet a baggage of huge problems on ground and it isn’t about APC, it is about us as a country to truly move this thing forward.
Yes, APC came with a mantra of change to let people see that we need to do things differently for us to begin to make things different and these changes won’t come overnight.
We have seen changes in areas of corruption eradication because we know it is part of ensuring good governance. We have seen changes that are also coming in from infrastructure deployment.
The government is coming up with deploying infrastructure in energy, road and water at national and sub national levels; but of course, the challenges are enormous. So, that is why the changes are slow. But I want to let you know that except we truly sit down as a country and agree that we have to jointly move forward, it is not an APC thing or a PDP thing, it is a collective responsibility.
This idea of thinking a section of the country or a part of the country would move us forward is not doable; it is a collective responsibility. Let us put our heads together and agree that we have a set goal of where we want to be at a point in time and put our resources together to take us to that level.
Homogeneity in religion
Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed
That is where we are today as a country because we have seen it severally in different parts of the world that homogeneity in religion, homogeneity in race, and homogeneity in language doesn’t guaranty success.
What guarantees success is the ability to organise ourselves under set rules and allow ourselves equity and fair play that would take us to the Promised Land and that is what we need to do as a country and luckily we have a leadership with the will and that is ready to take us to that level.
Some people are calling for the restructuring of Nigeria. What is your take on this?
Certainly, Nigeria needs to be restructured. When you are using a process that hasn’t translated into benefits, you change it. But each time when you talk about restructuring, people fear that it is a way of backwarding the country.
No. It is a way of reviewing things. If it hasn’t taken us to the promised land, what new ways do we need? For instance, if you look at our restructuring in the past, it has largely been political. That is why the economic impact isn’t felt.
We need to restructure on economic lines which might also require geo political restructuring but the most important thing is the economic line.
We need to identify economic strength and put our energy in those strength with specific ends in mind and allow those economic ends to truly begin to transform into human capital development and into wealth creation.
That is the kind of restructuring I think Nigeria should go through today and that is what will give everyone a sense of comfort without necessarily relying on a section of the country for support because every section of the country has one potential or the other.
So, the restructuring will bring potentials to the fore and allow everybody to contribute to human capital development and economic growth and at that level you begin to see that we are not threatened by any section of the country taking laws into their hand and allow for the situation we are faced with.
But President Buhari has said that he would jettison or at best archive the 2014 Confab report?
We are not aware that the president is going to jettison it. He said he is going to put it in the cooler and the reason is very simple. You can only fight a battle at a time.
There is high level of insecurity. There is a huge economic downturn. There is a low level of human capital development. There is infrastructural deficit. You can’t be fighting these and say you want to restructure the country at the same time.
You need to bring the country to a basic minimum level where we will begin to see implementation of whatever has been put in the conference. So, I think the president isn’t incorrect by saying that.
School feeding programme
There is a minimum level we need to stand on before we begin to talk about implementation. The challenges we have at hand, for instance, security challenges are enormous and we are now having economic challenges which are now becoming security challenges.
Is your state planning to key into the Federal Government/Osun school feeding programme?
Of course, we hope to key into the school feeding programme as we move on. Don’t forget it is largely a federal government supported programme and states will only key into that to show their support so that it has an overall desired impact. As a state, we are also desirous of joining the school feeding programme and we are working out the funding capacity within the state to see how it can truly fit into what the federal government is doing. The sweet thing about it is that it is a double egde thing; it will simulate the local agric scheme because the food stuffs are produced within that environment which automatically stimulates demand in that sector from that section of the country.
So, it allows us to stimulate agriculture and get it used for feeding at the basic level is a fantastic one. So, we would look at it and we will also key in it as a state.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose has disassociated himself from the programme saying it was a campaign promise by the APC and the APC is turning around to involve other state. What is your take on this?
Joining the scheme is by choice and if any state feels it has an alternative programme it could come up with it to do so, but for us, it is not a campaign thing.
Human capital development
It is a thing that has been thought out properly, structured and currently being implemented to meet up with our current support for education sector in our human capital development programme as a party and as a government.
Tell us about your directive last month on payment of verified workers and pensioners in Kwara state
Naturally, when you are faced with the kind of challenges we are faced with as a country and as a state whereby your revenues are seriously reduced, the first thing you want to do is to cut your cost and what cost are we looking at? The cost of running governance, overhead cost and personal cost and we are all aware that we have had series of over bloated database for our various workforces.
So, it is only normal for us to come up with a data that will suit the desired database and as we are carrying out this programme, we are ensuring that nobody is left out at getting remuneration as at when due.
Those that have been cleared have been asked to be paid. If anyone has any outstanding, it is probably, because there are one or two areas required to ensure that you duly deserved to be enumerated.
We are still working on it because it is more than just going through the biometrics. You see, this abnormality has being going on for a period of 15, 20, 30 years. So, you can’t just get it cleared up in one fell swoop programme.
Verification will eliminate the first level, then you still have to go into document verification which is the next level and, of course, it isn’t something to be done almost immediately.
It is a thing that has built up over a period of time and we need to clear it over a period of time when we would be able to get an adequate database that will truly reflect the workforce and will enable planning for their remunerations.
But it is affecting the immediate payment of salaries at the end of the month…
It is not unexpected. You see it is like surgery. When you have a small wound and you don’t treat it, it becomes a major wound that requires surgery and no matter how, surgery comes with pain.
There is no way we would carry out this thing without getting people who would have one or two problems like this because when you allow things to decay over a period of 15, 20, 30 years, you can’t get it cleared in one swoop.
It is over a period of time. The most important thing we require in Nigeria now is patience and determination. You must be patient to carry out the process and determination to ensure that it is taken to fruition level.
It requires careful handling too and a lot of human factors are still in the process of even verification. Don’t forget, when you are carrying out programmes like this, there are people who are beneficiaries of inefficiency.
They will always try to impede the progress but we are determined to get it done against all odds. So, these are the challenges we are facing but we want to ensure that at the end of the day everybody is properly enumerated and remunerated accordingly.
Is your state among those against the N90 billion funds set aside by the federal government for states to borrow to come out of the current economic crisis?
What happened is that the federal government has created a window to enable states augment their budget needs.
Don’t forget that the budget itself is a plan on an assumption that falls within the flow to support budget execution and with the trends at which revenues are flowing into the country now, it is becoming obvious that states will not only be unable to meet up with their budgetary needs but also going through a lot of challenges in supporting their current expenditure based on budgetary provisions.
So, the federal government in its wisdom has created a window for states to augment their budgetary needs and it is, of course, based on need bases. States that feel they are required to augment their inflows to truly execute the budgetary provisions have requested to access this fund.
As a state we have seen it that we also require to access it because the inflow as captured in the budget are shortening because the inflow from the crude oil isn’t meeting up with our expectations and the only way we could truly support it is to get this kind of window that has been provided by the federal government which is a fantastic one.
Level of stabilization
I want to commend the Federal Ministry of Finance for this initiative because it will help to create some level of stabilization for us between now and when oil price will stabilize and get to a level that will meet the budgetary expectations. So, for me it is a fantastic window for us to carry out our budgetary expectations.
Five states have completed the process. Is Kwara state among the five?
We are in the process of putting our documentation in place and we will meet up with the expected deadline before the month runs out.