NGF Chairman should learn political inclusion and tolerance from President Tinubu

NGF Chairman should learn political inclusion and tolerance from President Tinubu

By Sa’ad Abdullahi

The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, has proven time and time again that he is not a unifier. One of the attributes of a good leader is the ability to unite people irrespective of their socio-cultural backgrounds, political affiliations and religious inclinations. However, since the beginning of his first tenure as the Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2019 up till now, all the NGF chairman has done is witch-hunt his political rivals. Even members of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) are not spared.

As soon as he took over the mantle of leadership, Gov. Abdulrazaq made it a duty to send those who worked for his emergence into political oblivion. The political relegation which started from the state chairman of the party, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB), eventually trickled down to the bigwigs within his party. The party became so fragmented that in the run-up to the 2023 general elections, a sizeable number of members of the APC decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Young Progressives Party (YPP). Not only did the NGF chairman develop the winner-take-all syndrome, but he also adopted the authoritarian approach to governance.

One of the things the NGF chairman did after his emergence as governor was to remove the democratically elected Local Government (LG) chairmen and install his puppets as chairmen through a Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) arrangement. Since March 2021, the TIC chairmen have been piloting the affairs of the 16 LGs of the state with little to show for it. All the allocations accrued to the LGs are being controlled by the Abdulrazaq-led Kwara State Government, thereby, rendering the LG redundant despite being the third tier of government.

To show his vindictive nature, the NGF chairman started his administration by demolishing Ile Arugbo which was a legacy of the Late Dr. Olusola Saraki. Instead of focusing on the daunting task of governance, the governor made it a duty to sponsor propaganda against the politicians in the opposition party, especially the former Senate President, Bukola Saraki. While all these were going on, the bigwigs within the APC didn’t caution the governor. But as faith would have it, tables have turned and it is the politicians within the APC that are now lamenting. In an open letter to the governor, Moshood Mustapha, a notable APC stalwart and former governorship aspirant, accused the governor of threatening to demolish his properties in Kwara if he decides to drag the government to court over its breach of contract and decision to renovate Kwara Hotel for N17.8b. That serves MM right. He was one of those who championed Otoge to dislodge the Saraki dynasty and now, he is reaping the reward of supporting the governor. Everyone knows Abdulrazaq does not reward loyalty. At some point, even the radio crusader, Iyiola Akogun, also had a taste of the bitter pill of betrayal.

Tired of Abdulrazaq’s intolerance and non-inclusiveness, many prominent Otoge promoters such as Prof. Oba, NNPP; Akeem Lawal, SDP; Yaman Abdullahi, PDP; and Yakubu Gobir, YPP, contested against him during the 2023 governorship election. Many other prominent Otoge members left the party because of the way the governor ran the system in a non-democratic way.

In the aspect of governance, inclusiveness has been thrown out of the window since Abdulrazaq became the governor. Kwarans no longer have a say in how their resources are being utilized. Contracts are awarded to friends and cronies without due process and projects are implemented without input from the masses. Unlike during the past administration where allocations and IGR were made public, everything is now done in secrecy. The NGF chairman deliberately refused to sign the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to keep the public in the dark about government expenditures. To worsen the situation, public opinions are met with stiff resistance and those whom the government find to be too critical of its activities are either threatened to silence or arrested. The media is the worst hit by this situation. Over the last 4 and half years, several journalists in the state have had the cause to sleep in a cell. This government is laying a bad precedent that might later hunt it in the future. By May 29, 2027, another government will be sworn in. Those who are supporting the crackdown on the media and critics of this government today may become victims of the same tomorrow. Silence is not golden.

It’s high time the NGF chairman had a rethink and understudy the leadership style of President Bola Tinubu. The political inclusion adopted by the president is quite impressive. Tinubu did not only foster unity in the APC but he also extended an olive branch to the opposition leaders. The president has displayed a rare leadership quality by appointing members of the opposition party as Ministers in his cabinet. He has also embraced his ardent critics despite the unprintable things they had said about him in the past. A perfect example is Daniel Bwala who was the spokesperson for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Today, leaders of the opposition parties are playing key roles in Tinubu’s government. In July 2023, Anambra State Governor, Charles Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was appointed to chair the Technical Working Group on Minimum wage following the removal of petroleum subsidy. Soludo has also been named as the representative for South-East in the National Minimum Wage committee while his counterpart in Osun State, Governor Ademola Adeleke of the PDP will be representing South-West in the committee. These are a few examples of the several instances where Tinubu has given a voice to the opposition.

This is not surprising because Tinubu is a Democrat to the core. If it were someone like Gov. Abdulrazaq who lost out in his home state during the presidential election, he would have cracked down on all those who stood against him. Bode George and others would have had their properties in Lagos demolished and the media would have been gagged from his first day in office. Fortunately, Tinubu is not Abdulrazaq. He is tolerant of opposing views and he builds people rather than destroy them.

There is still time for the NGF chairman to retrace his steps and emulate the sterling leadership qualities of President Bola Tinubu.

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